A romantic break in The Garden of Ireland
Wicklow is referred to as The Garden of Ireland, which is quite the accolade when most tourists use the term Emerald Isle for our lush green country. Where better for a 48 hour romantic break with your partner to reconnect and relax?
But when you have the likes of Powerscourt Gardens and Mount Usher Gardens within a few kilometers of each other you can get where the name came from.
The Sugar Loaf
But after spending just a few days exploring the county we discovered that these two magical locations are just the start of what the county has to offer.
Like something from a fairytale the Sugarloaf mountain looks across all of Wicklow and South County Dublin.
It's even visible from some parts of North County Dublin such as Howth, and once you climb to the top the views are simply one of the best in Ireland.
There are 2 hikes that you can take to get to the summit. The 1st being a more serious length of 7.5kms and the easier is the 2kms more direct ascent.
I toyed with doing the more scenic route of the 2 but given it was our 1st stop on our itinerary I was cautious not to spend too much time on one activity, so we went for the 2km direct route.
In the end I was kind of thankful as the climb was not a stroll and there are some genuinely steep sections, so wear good climbing boots or sports shoes particularly if there has been any rain recently, (also, I wouldn’t recommend it for kids under 5 years old).
But the huffing and puffing is just so worth it as the 360 degree view gazes over Powerscourt and the Wicklow hills to the sea and south county Dublin. It’s a great way to start your Wicklow adventure.
After the climb we felt we deserved a guilt free luxurious brunch and that’s exactly what we had at the historic and newly renovated ‘Horse and Hound’ gastropub in Delgany. Quality locally sourced ingredients served in luxurious surroundings of the sun trap of a terrace was the perfect pit stop. It was actually hard to leave!
However the lure of a winery right in the heart of Wicklow tempted us out of our comfort and back on the road.
Wicklow Way Wines is the passion project of Brett who makes his range of high quality award winning wines not from grapes but rather from Irish fruits such as Raspberries, Strawberries and Blackberries. He gives a passionately told overview of the process followed by a tasting with dark chocolate and cheese in his tasting room.
Dinner and Rest...
With our palettes buzzing we headed to our hotel, the wonderfully warm and cozy Glenview Hotel that must rank in the top 5 hotels in the country for its location.
Overlooking the breathtaking ‘Glen of the Downs’ and with most of it bedrooms taking full advantage of that view you could simply lose yourself in comfy couch in your room looking out of the large window that transports you to middle earth or some other fantasy woodland scenario that you only see on the big screen.
The fact that there is a really cute spa and health club that comes with a pool and outdoor hot-tubs makes this hotel a wonderful retreat.
However, it’s the hotel restaurant perched above the canopy of the trees that makes it really special.
Our dinner was faultless and the view from our table was truly the most magnificent that I know of in Ireland.
Immersed in Nature..
The next morning we just wanted to see more of the forest that we gazed at as we ate the night before.
The Glenview Woodlands Walk is located at the bottom of the Hotel car park and it takes you on a meandering stroll along streams and through some of the most majestic and tranquil romantic woodlands you will ever see.
Forest bathing is the latest wellness therapy and here you will find out why as you listen to birds and running water and very little else.
From the tranquility to the challenge of the Irish sea. Our next stop was the Fad Foil Sea Sauna in picturesque Greystones.
Situated at the Rise at the Cove cafe this experience mixes hold with cold. A 15 minute sauna followed by a dive into the Irish sea.
Sea swimming is something that I have been doing for years but not everyone is convinced, especially my partner John.
However, the heat from the sauna gave him a sense of comfort that disappeared the minute he dove into the water at Greystones bay.
However there is no denying the exhilaration that you feel, so much so that he was straight back to the sauna followed by another dive into the ocean.
We followed this fantastic revitalizing experience with some fabulous coffee and warm pastries at the cafe.
History is both fascinating and frightening. The Wicklow Gaol definitely straddles both but sits more in the latter category.
Located in the centre of the town it is a chilling reminder of our country's history.
The virtual reality headsets transport you back hundreds of years to witness the sights and sounds of the horrors that happened right where you are sitting 300 hundred years ago, when neither woman nor child were spared the sin of being too poor to pay rent.
It truly made me feel unwell for a time and it set the tone for the rest of the tour. However by the end my appetite had returned and I was able to enjoy a great fish n chips in the aptly named Jailers Rest cafe located in the main museum.
Trees & Flowers
After the darkness of the Wicklow Gaol we thankfully had the tranquility of the botanic gardens in Kilmacurragh to look forward to.
The lakes and beautiful walks along the famous rhododendron lined avenues was just what the mind needed and once again all was right with the world!