Wonder at witches and weddings in saint-laden lands

Route:

Wicklow to Kilkenny, via Kildare, Carlow and Laois


Features:

Glendalough, Rock of Dunamase, Brownshill Dolmen, St Canice's Cathedral and Round Tower

Journey Overview:

These lands are filled with torrid tales of marauders and monks, witches and wanderers, and topped with mansions and megalithic tombs. Weave through the wilds of one of the most picturesque parts of Ireland as you rub shoulders with 12th century lords, marvel at ancient monuments and discover the stories of modern legends. This three-day tour has compelling written all over it.

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Day

Day 1
One of the grand rooms at Russborough House

Day 1

  • 1 hr
  • 5 mins
  • 52 km
  • 32 miles

Route:

Wicklow to Kildare


Points Of Interest:

Glendalough Visitor Centre, Russborough House, Museum of Style Icons

Journey Overview:

Walk through Glendalough’s glassy lakes, wooded valleys and silent ruins and it’s easy to see why St Kevin was drawn here in the 6th century. The saint lived as a hermit in solitude and prayer in this pastoral wonderland, before establishing a vibrant monastic settlement that still survives today. Read more

The Round Tower, cathedral and priests’ houses made the “valley of two lakes” a bustling hub – and a natural target of merciless Viking raids. Make sure to walk up to the Poulanass Waterfall before you leave – it’s pretty as a picture. The stunning landscapes continue as you drive on through Glenealo Valley towards Russborough House, a masterpiece of Palladian architecture. Bought by Sir Alfred and Lady Beit in 1952 as a place to hang their magnificent art collection, the house has played host to a glittering list of celebrities from Fred Astaire to Mick Jagger. But it’s had its fare share of drama, too, with four high-profile art thefts over the years. After a quick lunch at the award-winning Ballymore Inn in Naas – it’s off to Newbridge for the Museum of Style Icons. Iconic clothing worn by everyone from Grace Kelly to The Beatles is on display here – including Audrey Hepburn’s original Little Black Dress from the film Charade.
 

If you have more time

For a family-friendly day out, the Irish National Stud and Japanese Gardens is TripAdvisor's top pick for Kildare. Alternatively, Kildare Village Designer Outlet Shopping Centre is Ireland’s biggest outlet designer destination, with up to 60% off a massive range of designer labels.

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Day 2
Taking in the view on top of the Rock of Dunamase

Day 2

  • 1 hr
  • 35 mins
  • 85 km
  • 53 miles

Route:

Kildare to Carlow via Laois


Points Of Interest:

Emo Court, Rock of Dunamase, Shackleton Museum

Engage With The Stories:

Ger Loughlin

Ger Loughlin

Sail away with Ger from Bargetrip.ie in Sallins, County Kildare, as he reveals how life was lived along the Grand Canal.

Journey Overview:

Half-an-hour's drive from Newbridge will bring you to Laois and the late 18th century Emo Court. This grand neoclassical mansion was one of the few private homes designed by James Gandon (architect of the Dublin’s Custom House), but it fell into decline in the 1920s before becoming a Jesuit novitiate. Today, the house is beautifully restored and wrapped in sprawling gardens, complete with arboretum, majestic sequoias and rare flora.

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Next up looms the Rock of Dunamase – originally an early Christian hill fort, once plundered by Vikings. A gift to Norman Lord Strongbow in 1172 upon his marriage to Aoife, daughter of the King of Leinster, this has got to be one of Ireland’s more impressive wedding presents. As legend goes, there’s even buried treasure lying beneath the castle – guarded by a fearsome hellhound… After an organic feast at the Georgina Campbell-recommended Stradbally Fayre Café, it’s time to pay homage to one of Ireland’s greatest explorers at the Shackleton Museum in Athy. Born in 1874, Sir Ernest Shackleton was destined for pastures far beyond the lush fields of Kildare: he went on to become one of the principal figures of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.
 

If you have more time 

Just 20 minutes from Emo Court is Harte’s of Kildare. You only have to try the confit pork belly with pistachio and serrano ham to see why this is a darling of the Irish Restaurant Awards. Ten minutes in the other direction is Treacy's Bar and Restaurant, a thatched pub that's been run by the same family since the 1780s.

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Day 3
Man resting against Brownshill Dolmen, County Carlow

Day 3

  • 1 hr
  • 0 mins
  • 53 km
  • 33 miles

Route:

Carlow to Kilkenny


Points Of Interest:

Carlow County Museum, Brownshill Dolmen, Castlecomer Discovery Park, St Canice's Cathedral & Round Tower

Engage With The Stories:

Pat Tynan

Pat Tynan

From burning maids to greedy merchants, follow the trail of some of medieval Kilkenny's most colourful characters on Pat Tynan's walking tour.
 

Journey Overview:

There are great tales of local life at the Carlow County Museum, where grisly artefacts such as the original gallows trapdoor from the county gaol await. It was through this trapdoor that Lucinda Sly was executed for murdering her husband in 1835. Just 20 minutes’ drive through Carlow’s heart takes you 5,000 years into the past at the Brownshill Dolmen – an awe-inspiring Neolithic tomb with a 100-ton capstone – the heaviest in Europe.

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Surrounded by quiet green fields, it’s the perfect place to marvel at the ingenuity of Stone Age man. Next up enjoy 80 acres of woodland and two lakes at Castlecomer Discovery Park – an ideal spot to blow off some steam. Try out ziplining, boating and even a leafy Tree Top Adventure Walk, all set against the beautiful backdrop of woodland and a 17th century stone bridge. From here, follow the River Dinan south to Kilkenny City. Take a stroll through the Butterslip – an old haunt of medieval butter vendors – en route to St Canice’s Cathedral. Known as Kilkenny’s Sacré Coeur, this is a Gothic masterpiece of stained glass and marble, not to mention home to the ghost of Alice Kyteler, Ireland’s first accused witch. Finally, from the summit of the 30m-high round tower, take in the panoramic views of Kilkenny countryside and wave goodbye to Sacred Ireland.
 

If you have more time

You'll taste the Michelin star in every bite at Campagne, County Kilkenny. Wild Irish venison, Hereford beef, roast scallops: bliss.

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