To join your exciting Wicklow, Avoca and Glendalough Tour, you should make your way to Connolly Station, Dublin, by 0920h (09:20am). The tour operator’s representatives (wearing yellow jackets) will be waiting for you beside the information desk. They will check you in and show you to your reserved seats on the train. A dedicated host will be available on the train to assist you and may also act as a guide on sightseeing tours.
After leaving Connolly Station on the train to Rathdrum you will cross the River Liffey. You will see the late 18th century Customs House and views up river to O’Connell Bridge and beyond. The train then passes through Ireland’s oldest train station – Pearse Station, dating from 1834. The world’s first commuter rail service operated from here to Kingstown – present day Dún Laoghaire – and began on 17th of December 1834.
You will head south through the inner city, passing under the west stand of Lansdowne Road rugby stadium – the world’s oldest purpose-built international rugby ground. At this point you are passing through Ireland’s most expensive real estate.
Soon Dublin Bay comes into view and you continue along the coast until Dún Laoghaire – the main ferry port for Dublin to Holyhead sailings. At Dún Laoghaire you turn inland for a few kilometres and return to the coast at the spectacular Killiney Bay – home to many international celebrities and pop stars, such as Bono (of U2), Van Morrison and Enya.
The Victorian seaside resort ofBray is the first stop. Tourism began to flourish here when the railway arrived here in 1853. The promenade (visible after you leave the station) was modelled on the one at Brighton in England. From here to Greystones, the railway runs around Bray Head via a series of tunnels and bridges, with spectacular views of the Irish Sea.
Feel free to move around inside the train to get the best views of the sea cliffs. At Greystones the line returns to sea level and runs alongside the beach from there to the county town of Wicklow. The name Wicklow comes from Old Norse, Vikinglo, or Viking Meadow.
Here the line swings sharply inland and enters 'The Garden of Ireland', the title by which the county of Wicklow is known. You will arrive in Rathdrum station at around 1330h (1:30pm) after crossing a 30m high viaduct over the Avonmore River.
On arrival at Rathdrum, you will be shown directly to your specially chartered coach. It is essential that you use the ladies and gents facilities onboard the train before arrival at Rathdrum to ensure a swift transfer from the train to the bus.
From here you proceed to Avoca, sometimes known as ‘Ballykissangel’ because of the successful BBC television series of the same name. This pretty little village is home of Avoca Handweavers (the oldest hand weaving mill in Ireland, dating from 1723) and you can watch the weavers at work.
You will have about 90 minutes to explore the village and we recommend starting at the Avoca Handweavers, where there are excellent restaurant and shopping facilities.
Walking from the Handweavers down the village you pass the church, as well as famous FitzGerald’s Bar – both seen in the ‘Ballykissangel’ TV series. Avoca would be a good place to have lunch (payable direct), as there will not be enough time for a meal at the second stop – Glendalough. Your host will give instructions on the time of departure from Avoca. Please make sure that you are back at the bus at the time directed.
Leaving Avoca/Ballykissangel you proceed north and pass the old copper mines, which closed in 1982. The mines were the principle source of employment before the coming of tourism to Avoca in the early 1990s. You also pass the Meeting of the Waters – immortalised in poem and song by 18th century poet, Thomas Moore – and if time permits the tour may stop here.
Leaving the Meeting of the Waters you continue north to Rathdrum and will see splendid views of the Wicklow Mountains to the left. You will pass through the narrow village streets, with its many pubs and shops and will see the church as you leave the village.
From there the coach takes the road to Laragh and Glendalough past the smallest community in Ireland – Clara. It has one school, one church and two houses! But does it have a pub? Your host will solve this puzzle for you! You then arrive in the village of Laragh (pronounced ‘larra’) and from here proceed to the second attraction – Glendalough.
Glendalough is a National Park and is famous as the valley of two lakes, from which the place takes its name. Your tour goes past the lower lake and there will be time for a visit to the upper lake – your host will advise you of the exact details. The other attraction that you visit in Glendalough is the ancient monastery. There has been a settlement in this location since the 6th century when the monastery was founded by St. Kevin.
There will be time (about 2 hours) to explore the ruins and again, your host will advise you of the exact time to return to the bus. Please ensure that you are at the bus at the stated time. Glendalough (pronounced ‘glendalock’) has long been a place of pilgrimage and the present ruins date back to the 12th century.
The Protestant Reformation led to the closing of the monasteries in 1539 by the English Crown, and Glendalough was abandoned around this time. There is also an ancient round tower at Glendalough, which doubled as a bell tower and a landmark for visiting pilgrims. Round towers are an Irish phenomenon and Glendalough is said to be the finest example in existence.
Celtic Crosses – in abundance in the cemetery – are another Irish phenomenon and the circle and cross were a blend of the old pagan religion and the new Christian religion.
On leaving Glendalough the bus will take you back to Dublin. You pass through the village of Annamoe, the adopted home of two-time academy award winner, Daniel Day Lewis. You also pass the town of Roundwood, which, at about 200 metres above sea level, is the highest in Ireland. From here you continue north as far as the Sugarloaf Mountain and make the descent towards the N11 – the main road to Dublin. You should arrive back in Dublin by 1830h (6:30pm) at the latest.
The tour ends back at Connolly Station.