Our plan was to visit Glendalough and Powerscourt on the same day, my concern was timing and being unable to fit both in. No problems though, all worked well, we had ample time to explore and get a flavour of each of these wonderful places. It only took half an hour to drive from one to the other, an early start at Glendalough meant time for a late lunch at Powerscourt and the whole afternoon to check out the gardens and waterfall.
Ireland has some fabulous gardens, Wicklow makes a notable contribution to this boast with the gorgeous gardens being the main attraction at Powerscourt. They took two decades to create in the time of the Victorians, stretch over 45 acres and are a glorious blend of formal gardens, sweeping terraces, ornamental lakes and secret hollows.
The whole Powerscourt Estate set in the Wicklow Mountains is very impressive. It was once a castle, then they turned it into a magnificent mansion between 1731 and 1741. A fire badly destroyed the building in the 1970’s but it was renovated and restored in the 1990’s. The house is now a whole series of shops and a luxury hotel – bit of a shame in my opinion but it certainly draws the tourists. Incredibly busy when we pulled into the car park there were tour buses galore and barely a parking spot to be had. We braved all that, headed inside first for refreshments at the Avoca cafe and then a peek in the shops. I couldn’t resist, Husband and Son were not so keen but in the end it was them who left with purchases. I was empty handed.
The gardens though were the real reason we had come to Powerscourt. Strangely despite all the crowds in the car park and shops the gardens were blissfully empty – I didn’t get that but I wasn’t complaining. It was nice to wander and have the place almost to ourselves.
The map at the entrance had a walking trail that seemed to take in most of the gardens, we decided that would be our plan for exploring. It worked very well, allowed us to see everything and was highly informative. Our walk took about 1.5 hours – we didn’t rush.
Just outside the mansion are the Italian Gardens and the most spectacular view. I loved it – the landscaping is great but it is that view beyond to Sugar Loaf Mountain that just takes your breath away. Supposedly one of the best views in Ireland, I would not argue with that.
Son loved the pair of life sized winged horses on the lake, apparently they form part of the family coat of arms. The fountain on the lake is spectacular too – based on the Piazza Barberini in Rome.
We strolled through Tower Valley with its magnificent trees – over 250 varieties planted over the years.
Son headed straight for the Pepperpot Tower and climbed to the top. It is quaint and quirky, apparently modeled on a pepper pot from Lord Powerscourt’s dining table. He was an avid fan of the scouting movement and encouraged troops to camp in the grounds. He stood at the top of the tower to survey the scout camps.
We loved the Japanese Garden, found a pagoda and a trickling stream under some lovely Japanese bridges.
Son was intrigued by the grotto. It dates back to 1740 and is made from fossilized spaghnum moss. The sound of the water trickling down those moss covered walls was hypnotizing.
The Pet Cemetery was another interesting place and all the headstones had personal inscriptions. The family seemed to have a variety of well loved pets which were buried here including several ponies and a Jersey cow. We thoroughly enjoyed reading all the inscriptions in this, the largest pet cemetery in Ireland.
Back up to the mansion via a wonderful rose garden and we had finished our garden explorations. A lovely afternoon in a gorgeous setting.