WICKLOW

From Atlas and Cyclopedia of Ireland (1900)

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Description of County Wicklow | Vale of Avoca | Glendalough | Bray Esplanade | Powerscourt Castle | Avondall | Wicklow Map

NAME.—The old form of the name is Wykynglo or Wykinlo, which is Danish. The native Gaelic name is Kilmantan, the church of St. Mantan, one of St. Patrick's companions, to whom the ancient church of the place was dedicated.

SIZE AND POPULATION.—Length from Bray to the southern corner near Ballingate House, 41 miles; breadth from Mizen Head to the boundary near Dunlavin, 31 ½ miles; area, 781 ½ square miles; population, 70,386.

SURFACE.—It may be said that the whole of Wicklow is a mass of mountains, subsiding into low hills, ridged land, and small plains, along the seacoast south of Bray Head. Wicklow contains a smaller area of level land than any other county in Ireland.

MOUNTAINS AND HILLS.—The Wicklow Mountains do not run in chains, but are thrown together in groups, knots, and clusters; or rather the whole may be said to form one great group; and in many places the mountain masses are intersected in a very remarkable way by long ravines, mostly straight with very abrupt and often precipitous sides. The culminating summit of the whole group is Lugnaquillia (3,039), standing a little to the southwest of the center of the county, a great flap-topped mountain, the highest in Leinster, precipitous on some of its sides, overlooking the Glen of Imaile on its western side, Glenmalur on the northeast, and the Glen of Aghavannagh on the south. One mile southwest of Lugnaquillia is Slievemaan (2,498), beside which, a mile to the south, is Lybagh (2,053). Four miles west of these is the fine detached mountain of Keadeen (2,145), separated from the preceding by Ballinabarny Gap.

The following mountains are on or near the north margin. Kippure (2,473), on the boundary of Dublin and Wicklow, overlooking Glennasmole on the north or Dublin side, Glencree on the east, and the valley of the infant Liffey on the west. On the boundary also are Seefingan (2,364), northwest of Kippure (but its summit is in Wicklow), and east of Kippure Prince William's Seat (1,825), standing on the north side of Glencree. Along the south side of Glencree are Tonduff North (2,045) and Tonduff South (2,107), near each other, and Maulin (1,869). On the south side of these again winds the long valley of the Dargle River; this valley has on its south side these remarkable mountains: War Hill (2,250); Douce (2,384), with a great carn on its summit, overtopping all the mountains round it; Long Hill (1,073); Great Sugar Loaf (1,659), a beautiful detached cone commanding from its summit a landscape of surpassing loveliness, including Bray and the beautiful line of coast toward Dublin; beside it Little Sugar Loaf (1,120). The last spur of this series is Bray Head (793), hanging directly over the sea. The road running between the two Sugar Loaf Mountains traverses, about a mile further south, the Glen of the Downs, a deep defile, quite straight and a mile in length, with its sides luxuriantly wooded.

In the northwest of the county the road from Dublin to Blessington and Baltinglass traverses a long valley, overtopped on its southeast side by a number of lofty mountains. Beginning at the north: Butter Mountain (1,469) stands near the Dublin boundary; and near it on the west is Dowry (1,060). Further south are Sorrel Hill (1,975) and Bulbaun (1,190). Southeast of these are three great mountains in a line, forming the highest part of the separating ridge between the basins of the Liffey and the Avoca; Gravale (2,352), Duff Hill (2,364), and Mullaghcleevaun (2,783), the loftiest of all the mountains in this district. A little west of Mullaghcleevaun is Moanbane (2,313); and further west Slievecorragh (1,379) stands over the village of Holywood; a little south of which is Slieve Gadoe or Church Mountain (1,791), the western spur of the ridge that separates the basin of the Kings River and the Liffey from the basin of the Slaney.

Over Glendalough, in the center of the county, is Lugduff, towering over the Upper Lake, Mullacor (2,176)—(this latter midway between Glendalough and Glenmalur)—and Derrybawn (1,567), all three south of the glen; and to the east is Trooperstown Hill (1,408), standing nearly detached. North of the glen is Camaderry (2,296); and 2 miles north from this is Tonlegee (2,684). The road running westward from the valley of Glendasan to the valley of the Kings River attains its summit level (1,569 feet) midway between these two mountains; this remarkable mountain pass is called Wicklow Gap. In the south of the county, Croghan Kinsella (1,987) stands on the boundary between Wicklow and Wexford.

COAST LINE: HEADLANDS: BAYS AND HARBORS.—Except at Bray Head and Wicklow Head the whole coast is low, with a fine sandy strand the whole way, occasionally interrupted by a low projecting spur of rock. It is a most inhospitable coast, containing no harbor where vessels might shelter, except those of Wicklow and Arklow, which can scarcely be called harbors at all; what is called Brittas Bay lies north of Mizen Head. At Wicklow there is a long narrow shallow inlet called Broad Lough, separated from the open sea by the long grassy spit of land called the Murrow; but it is useless for navigation. Bray Head is a fine rocky promontory rising straight from the sea to a height of 793 feet; and Wicklow Head, another rocky projection, is 268 feet high. Mizen Head, rocky but low, lies south of this.

RIVERS.—The Avoca, falling into the sea at Arklow, drains most of the middle and east of the county, and is the most important river of Wicklow. The Avoca is formed by the junction of the Avonmore and Avonbeg; and the point of confluence is the well-known beautiful spot, the "Meeting of the Waters." Halfway between this and Arklow the Avoca is joined from the west by an important tributary, the Aughrim River; the point of meeting is usually called the Wooden Bridge, and often the "Second Meeting of the Waters," and it vies in beauty with the principal Meeting 4 miles higher up. From the principal Meeting down to Arklow the Avoca flows between high wooded banks, presenting a succession of lovely quiet landscapes; this is the beautiful glen so well known as the "Vale of Avoca." The three main branches of the Avoca, the Avonmore, and the Avonbeg, and the Aughrim, have a number of smaller affluents which traverse many of the finest glens in Wicklow. These three rivers, with their affluents, are described in detail in the three following paragraphs.

The following are the chief headwaters of the Avonmore:

The Annamoe River rises near Sally Gap, within about half a mile of the source of the Liffey, falls into Lough Tay in the valley of Luggela, and two miles below Lough Tay falls into Lough Dan; issuing from this, it flows southward by the hamlets of Annamoe and Laragh, after which it takes the name of Avonmore; and traversing the lovely vale of Clara, it passes by Rathdrum to the Meeting of the Waters, 3 miles below the town. Between Lough Tay and Lough Dan, the Annamoe River receives the Cloghoge Brook, rising in Gravale Mountain; and into Lough Dan falls the Inchavore River, rising in Duff Hill. Three fine glens converge on the village of Laragh; first Glenmacnass, traversed by the Glenmacnass River, which joins the Annamoe River beside the village; secondly, the vale of Glendasan, through which flows the Glendasan River, rising in Lough Nahanagan; and thirdly, Glendalough, traversed by the Glenealo River; these two last rivers join at the Seven Churches, and the united stream falls in to the Annamoe beside Laragh.

The Avonbeg rises in Table Mountain and in the Three Lakes, and not far from its source forms the fine Ess waterfall, on the side of Table Mountain and at the head of Glenmalur; it next traverses Glenmalur, one of the grandest mountain valleys in Ireland, about 10 miles long, straight and narrow, and walled in on either side by rocky, precipitous barriers; after which it joins the Avonmore a little beyond the mouth of the glen.

The Aughrim River is formed by the junction of two head streams, the Derry Water and the Ow; which latter rises in Lugnaquillia and traverses the Aghavannagh valley; the two meeting at the hamlet of Aughrim; lower down the Aughrim River is joined by the Gold Mines, from the northern slope of the mountain Croghan Kinsella.

The Vartry rises in the valley at the eastern base of Douce Mountain, and after flowing southward about 5 miles is caught by an artificial embankment at the hamlet of Roundwood, so as to form a reservoir, which supplies the city of Dublin with water; that portion of the river that escapes from the reservoir traverses the Devil's Glen, a splendid ravine, narrow and winding, with lofty precipitous sides well wooded to the top; after which it falls into the sea inlet of Broad Lough, beside the town of Wicklow.

The Dargle River rises high up in the valley between War Hill and Tonduff, and after running east about 2 miles, tumbles over a cliff between 200 and 800 feet high, forming Powerscourt Waterfall, the finest in Wicklow; then passing through the beautiful valley of Powerscourt, it traverses the Dargle, a lovely winding narrow gorge, clothed with oak on both sides; and finally falls into the sea at Bray, where it is called the Bray River; it forms the boundary with Dublin for the last mile and a half of its course. Halfway between Powerscourt Waterfall and the head of the Dargle glen, the Dargle River is joined by the Glencree River, which traverses the wild valley of Glencree, about 5 miles long, with Kippure towering over its head, and walled in by the Tonduff Mountains and Maulin on the south, and by Prince William's Seat on the north. At the head of this valley, near Lough Bray, is the well-known Glencree Reformatory, which was originally a military barrack, erected in 1799. The Cookstown River, which comes from Dublin, passes by Enniskerry, and joins the Dargle River below the Dargle Glen.

The Liffey rises in the glen at the south side of Kippure, 13 miles in a straight line from Dublin city; flowing at first westward, and receiving from the south a number of its early tributaries from the three mountains, Gravale, Duff, and Mullaghcleevaun, it flows by Blessington; then forms for 2 miles, near Ballymore Eustace, the boundary between Kildare and Wicklow; while flowing on the.boundary it forms the fine waterfall of Pollaphuca; and half a mile lower down it enters Kildare. A little below Blessington the Liffey is joined by the Kings River, which rises at the south side of Mullaghcleevaun, and which, before its junction with the Liffey, receives the Douglas on the left bank and the Cock Brook on the right. At Kilbride, a little above Blessington, the Liffey receives from the north the Brittas River, which rises in Dublin.

The Slaney rises high up on the side of Lugnaquillia, and flows westward through the Glen of Imaile, one of the grandest valleys of the whole county; then turning south near Stratford, it flows by Baltinglass, and 3 miles further south enters the county Carlow. In the Glen of Imaile it is joined by the Little Slaney, which also rises in Lugnaquillia. The Derreen rises in the mountains of Lybagh and Slievemaan, and flowing southwest crosses a corner of Carlow, then forms for 5 miles the boundary between Wicklow and Carlow, when it finally enters Carlow, and 2 miles lower joins the Slaney. The Derry River joins the Slaney in the county Carlow, near Clonegall; it comes from Wicklow (drawing some of its headwaters, however, from near Hacketstown in Carlow), flows by Tinahely, and takes the several names of Greenisland River, the Shillelagh River, and finally the Derry.

On the east coast, south of Wicklow, these small rivers fall into the sea: the Three Mile Water; the Potter's River, into Brittas Bay; and the Redcross River, a little north of Arklow.

LAKES.—On the Annamoe River are Lough Tay, in the lovely vale of Luggela, and Lough Dan, 2 miles lower down. Southwest of these are Lough Ouler and Lough Nahanagan. In the vale of Glendalough are Upper Lake and Lower Lake; the former a mile in length, and overhung by precipices that rise from the very water's edge; the latter very small. At the head of Glencree are the two small lakes Lower Lough Bray and Upper Lough Bray, both on the side of Kippure; the former a very fine mountain tarn, black as ink, and overhung by gloomy precipices.

TOWNS.—The following are on or very near the coast: Bray (6,535, of whom 2,148 are in that part of the town lying in Dublin), at the mouth of the Bray River, the finest and the most favored watering place in all Ireland; it lies under the north side of Bray Head, has a fine strand, and in its immediate neighborhood there is an infinite variety of the loveliest scenery. Wicklow (3,391), the assize town, near the mouth of the Vartry River, lies at the north side of Wicklow Head; this is also frequented as a watering place, and like Bray it has lying near it several beautiful localities. A mile and a half inland from Wicklow is the village of Rathnew (630). Near the southern extremity of the coast, at the mouth of the Avoca, is Arklow (4,777), in which herring fishing is carried on to a considerable extent.

The following are inland: Baltinglass (1,151), on the Slaney, in the west of the county, near the boundary of Kildare. Eight miles north of Baltinglass is Dunlavin (615); and on the Liffey, in the northwest of the county, is Blessington (332), both of these also near the Kildare boundary. Rathdrum (733) stands on a high ridge over the Avonmore, three miles above the Meeting of the Waters. In the extreme south, beside the boundary of Wexford, is Carnew (701); near which on the north are the villages of Shillelagh (194), and Tinahely (458).

MINERALS.—There are lead mines at Luganure (on the north side of Camaderry Mountain, between Glendalough and Lough Nahanagan); on the hillsides at the head of Glenmalure; and on the slope of the hill over the north side of the head of Glendalough. There are copper mines at Ballymurtagh and Ballygahan, on the right bank of the Avoca, as you go from the Meeting of the Waters down to the Wooden Bridge; and at Cronbane, Tigroney, and Connoree, on the left bank, near Castle Howard. Gold has been found in considerable quantities in the bed of the Gold Mines River, flowing down the north slope of Croghan Kinsella to Wooden Bridge.

ANCIENT DIVISIONS AND DESIGNATIONS.—The old territory of Cualann or Crich-Cualann included the north part of Wicklow and the south part of the county Dublin; from this territory the Sugar Loaf Mountain was anciently called Slieve Cualann, the Mountain of Cualann. Glencullen, in the Dublin hills, and Cullenswood, at the south of the city, still preserve the old name. The Glen of Imaile preserves the name of the old territory of Hy Mail, which was taken possession of by the O'Tooles after they had been driven out of their original territory in Kildare. (See Kildare.) Hy Mail was also known by the name of Fortuatha. The district possessed by the O'Byrnes after they had been driven from Kildare was called Crich Brannach, or O'Byrne's Country; it was situated in the east of the county, and included the whole of the barony of Newcastle, and the barony of Arklow as far south as the Redcross River. A sept of the O'Byrnes called the Gaval Rannall also possessed the territory lying round Glenmalur. This territory was from them called Gaval-Rannall or Ranelagh; their chief had his residence at Ballinacor in Glenmalur, from which the two baronies of Ballinacor were so called. The old name is still preserved in that of Ranelagh, one of the south suburbs of Dublin.

The valley of Glendalough lies about eight miles northwest of Rathdrum. It is about three miles in length, surrounded by mountains except at the east side, and in several places overhung by precipices. The Glenealo River, tumbling down a steep ravine at the head, traverses the glen and expands into two lakes, from which the whole valley has its name—Glen-da-lough, the glen of the two lakes. The Lugduff Brook, which falls into the Upper Lake through a deep ravine at the base of Lugduff Mountain, forms the pretty waterfall of Pollanass, near where it enters the lake.

Considered merely in reference to the beauty and singularity of its natural features, Glendalough is the gem of Wicklow; but the natural attractions are infinitely enhanced by the historic associations of the place, and by the interesting ecclesiastical ruins scattered over the lower part of the glen. In the early part of the 6th century, St. Kevin, who, like St. Columkille and many other Irish saints, was a member of a princely family, founded a monastery here, which became a great center of religion and learning. After St. Kevin's death the reputation of the place increased, so that it attracted not only a large number of ecclesiastics, but also a lay population; and a town grew up, some remains of which are still to be seen near where the river emerges from the Lower Lake.

The principal ruins are as follows:

A Round Tower, 110 feet high, wanting the conical cap, erected probably in the 7th century. Our Lady's Church, near it, which contains a beautiful and characteristic example of an , ancient Cyclopean doorway with sloping sides; there is reason to believe that this is the very church erected by St. Kevin when he had come to settle in the lower part of the valley. Near these two stands Cro-Kevin, or St. Kevin's House (popularly called "St. Kevin's Kitchen"), which served the founder both as a residence and and as an oratory; it has a small round tower belfry on one gable. Near these is the Cathedral, coeval with the round tower. All the preceding are inclosed by a cashel, or stone wall, of which there are still some portions left, and the original entrance archway remains in good preservation.

A little lower down, on the same bank of the river, is Trinity Church.; and lower still, on the opposite bank, the Priory of St. Saviour, a most interesting ruin. Higher up in the glen, on the south side of the Upper Lake, is the Reefert Church, which St. Kevin built while he lived at the head of the valley, and before the erection of Our Lady's Church. Higher up still, in an almost inaccessible spot on the shore of the lake, under the great precipice of Lugduff, is the little church called Temple-na-Skellig, of which only a small part remains. There are also several stone crosses and other monuments in different parts of the valley. A crevice in the face of the perpendicular cliff over the Upper Lake, difficult of access, is well known by the name of "St. Kevin's Bed."

The preceding ruins are commonly known by name of "The Seven Churches of Glendalough."

Description of County Wicklow | Vale of Avoca | Glendalough | Bray Esplanade | Powerscourt Castle | Avondall | Wicklow Map

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