Powerscourt, Guinness and Saint Kevin

We had a day of some diversity, thanks to a tour we took of out of Dublin to County Wicklow, starting with a tour of the Powerscourt Estate gardens. The house, originally a 13th-century castle, was extensively altered during the 18th century starting in 1731, and following a fire in the 1970’s, it was renovated in 1996.

In 1857, the 7th Viscount Powerscourt embarked on an extensive renovation of the house and created the new gardens. Main attractions on the grounds include the Tower Valley, Japanese gardens, a pet cemetery, a walled garden, the Triton Lake, winged horse statues, Dolphin Pond, Bamberg Gate and an Italian Garden. The Pepperpot Tower is said to be designed after a favorite pepperpot of Lady Wingfield. Really lovely garden rooms.

Inspiration for the garden design followed visits by Powerscourt to ornamental gardens such as Versailles, and it is ranked third behind Versailles and Kew Gardens as grand formal gardens. The garden development took 20 years to complete, in 1880, but someone is keeping it up quite nicely.

Not a bad start to the day! We then took off into the Wicklow Mountains, and saw some very lovely wild country, with only sheep wandering the hills. Movies like Braveheart, The Escapist, Reign of Fire and The Vikings were shot here, since it’s great for those wild mountain scenes. Also, young ladies on the van were hysterical about a small bridge which figures in P.S. I love you. Not in our repertoire, so we weren’t as moved.

All those scenes are part of the Guinness family estate, which features a large lake often compared to a glass of Guinness. What amazing views they must have.

Then it was on to Glendalough, a monastic settlement begun in the 6th century, and lasting until 1398, with a few hardy souls hanging on till 1539, when the monasteries were dissolved. The holy man around whom the monastery was founded, St. Kevin, still inspires a lot of loyalty.

The remains include the original stone gateway, with a cross carved into the sanctuary wall, and a round tower that must have been defensive. (Those Vikings were frequent visitors.)

The ruins of the cathedral show that it was centuries in the making. It sits next to what is called St. Kevin’s Cross, ten feet tall and carved from a single piece of granite.

The prettiest remaining structure was a small church with a small round tower. And all around are graves old and new of those who wanted to be close to Saint Kevin and his followers.


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