Bray to Wexford Harbour

ByRoute 1.1 Co. Wicklow – Co. Wexford (E)

Mizen Head & Ballymoyle Hill (Co. Wicklow / East)

Mizen Head is a good place for diving and snorkelling, although there can be strong currents, especially when the tide is changing. This is also a popular spot for shore fishing, especially at night. Erosion is a considerable threat to this stretch of coast, and it may be that the highly rated European Club golf course will help to keep it in check. However, the club has fenced off access to the shoreline, provoking strong protests from locals. (Feedback required, leave a comment please?)

Mizen Head & Ballymoyle Hill

Ballymoyle Hill (240m) is the location of a 200ha Coillte forestry plantation with unmarked trails and a picnic site. From the summit there are remarkable views of the Arklow area and the Wicklow coastline, and on clear winter days even the snow-topped peaks of Snowdonia in Wales are visible.

Ballymoyle Hill is not very far from Avoca on ByRoute 1.

Shelton Abbey

Shelton Abbey, long the seat of the Earls of Wicklow, is about 3km NW of Arklow.

The land north of the River Avoca was acquired from the Countess of Ormond in 1658 by Robert Hasells, whose wife named it after a place in England. Their daughter Dorothea married John Howard, a Jacobite sympathiser who gave shelter to King James II as he fled southward from the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

shelton abbey

The “Abbey” was built in 1770 at the behest of  Ralph Howard MP, the future Baron Clonmore and later 1st Viscount Wicklow, whose remarkable widow Alice (née Forward), the Dowager Viscountess,  was made Countess of Wicklow in her own right  in 1793.

The mansion was remodelled in Gothic style by Sir Richard Morrison in 1819, and had wings added later in the century (one, jokingly called “the nunnery” when used as a nursery for the 4th Earl’s daughters, was so atmospheric that two of the girls converted to Roman Catholicism and entered a convent). The Library was considered one of the finest in Ireland. The grand staircase, stained glass windows and elaborate internal plasterwork are still intact.

The 8th and last Earl, William Cecil James Philip John Paul Howard,  aka Billy Wicklow, a Dublin “character” and friend of Evelyn Waugh’s, opened the mansion as a hotel in 1947, but was forced by financial difficulties to sell the entire property to the State in 1951.

The mansion and grounds have since been used as an open prison and forestry school, reportedly without significant damage.

The wooded demesne is particularly noted for its 2mi long rhododendron-lined driveway.

The Arklow Bank

An underwater reef, about 2.5km wide and 27km long, situated 13km offshore in St Georges Channel; it has been the watery grave of innumerable ship’s crews over the centuries, and is the location of about 300 identified wrecks.  Since 2004 it has also been the site of the Arklow Offshore Wind Power Plant, the world’s first application of offshore wind turbines over 3 megawatts in size. The first 7 machines were installed in 9 weeks, but the second phase of 200 more has been delayed. The Plant is currently operated jointly by Scottish and Spanish energy companies.

The coast north of Arklow features over a dozen deserted coves; some close to the road and some only accessible by climbing over rocky outcrops, or even only from the sea. Although within walking distance of Arklow, these isolated strands can feel as remote as distant Connemara.

Seabank beach used to be known locally as “The Virgin Beach” because it was so untouched, but has unfortunately been discovered by the hordes. Nevertheless, it is a beautiful and rare beach with one of the few remaining undamaged sand dune systems on the East Coast.

Arklow’s North Beach is a pleasant place for a stroll, neighbouring the Arklow Ponds Wildlife Reserve, good for birdwatching.

Arklow (Co. Wicklow / South)

Arklow (An tInbhear Mór – “the large estuary”) (pop. 12,000), situated at the mouth of the River Avoca, is an attractive seaside town, rapidly expanding as DUBLIN commuters settle locally. To many music fans, the town is best known as the title setting for Van Morrison‘s evocative 1974 song Streets of Arklow.

The stone Nineteen Arches Bridge links the south or main part of the town with the north part, called Ferrybank, an old fishing port with a working harbour full of colourful fishing boats, although few are making a full time living from fishing these days. (Photo by David Quinn)

The Norh Quay is the site of a modern Marina.

Arklow port hosts ocean going ships, including those of Arklow Shipping, the largest Irish cargo shipping company. The port, formerly home to one of the biggest fishing fleet in the Irish Sea, was also long famous for its shipbuilding yards.

The first lifeboat station in Ireland was established in Arklow in 1826 and is still in operation.

In addition to is maritime heritage, Arklow has a tradition as a centre of industry. The River Avoca was long held to be one of the most polluted rivers in Ireland as a result of early mining operations and more recent chemical industries, but has been cleaned up consieravly in recent years.

Arklow History

Arklow was founded in the early C9th by the Vikings, who called it after their chieftain Arknell.

A Norman castle was built here c.1170, and in 1172 King Henry II granted it to Theobold FitzWalter, Chief Butler of Ireland, who founded a Cistercian monastery for monks from the Abbey of Furness in Lancashire. A Dominican foundation was established in 1264 in the area now known as Abbeylands.

The O’Byrne and O’Toole clans burned the town in 1315, and were later defeated by Edward Le Boitleir. The Manor of Arklow fell under the control of the MacMurrough clan after the death of the 4th Earl of Ormond in 1452; but eighty years later Muiris McMurrough Kavanagh returned the lands to his nephew Piers Butler, 8th Earl of Ormond.

In the 1641 Irish Rebellion the castle was taken again by insurgents and the garrison were put to the sword. In September 1649, Oliver Cromwell seized the castle and demolished it before marching southwards to sack Wexford. The First Battle of Arklow in November of the same year saw Lord Inchiquinn‘s Royalist cavalry decimated on a local beach by highly disciplined Parliamentarian troops under Major Nelson.

Arklow was heavily involved in the 1798 Rebellion, and fighting took place all around the town after members of the Antrim Militia burned down two Roman Catholic chapels and murdered the parish priest in his bed.  The town was evacuated before the advance of the Wexford rebels led by Billy MacManusAnthony Perry and others, and reoccuied by Crown troops under General Needham, who defeated the insurgents with difficulty at the Second Battle of Arklow, on 9th June 1798, killing Fr. Michael Murphy and about 1000 of his followers; 60 soldiers also died. The battle effectively ended the uprising in the area.

During the Great Famine, Arklow fishermen were forced to pawn their boats, but were enabled to redeem them with money raised by local Quakers.

In 1884 Charles Stewart Parnell rented Big Rock townland from his cousin William Proby, Earl of Carysfort, and commenced quarrying. The Parnell quarries closed in the early part of the C20th.

In 1908 the first motor powered fishing vessel in the British Isles was launched at Arklow.

John Tyrell‘s boatyard, opened in 1864 and active until almost the end of the C20th, constructed Gypsy Moth III, the yacht that Francis Chichester sailed to victory in the first solo transatlantic yacht race in 1960, and Asgard II, Ireland’s national Tall Ship, sunk in August 2008 in the Bay of Biscay.

Kate Tyrrell (1863-1921), one of the most renowned women in Irish maritime history, owned and frequently navigated the Denbighshire Lass, the first schooner to fly the Irish tricolour, and scandalised society by insisting on keeping her maiden name after marriage.

A large munitions factory, Kynochs, employed several thousand workers during WWI but closed shortly after hostilities ended. 17 workers were killed in an explosion in 1917.

A long tradition of Arklow ceramics ended when the Wicklow Vale pottery closed in 2002.

The Arklow Maritime Museum in the Bridgewater Centre on North Quay houses an “unvarnished” miscellany of curiosities, from old uniforms and navigational instruments to a shoe worn by a passenger on the ill-fated Lusitania and other WWI and WWII artefacts.

The Parade Ground in the centre of Arklow was long part of the local Barracks, which played an important role in the 1798 Rebellion and again in the 1918-21 War of Independence.

Vestiges of Ormonde Castle are still visible beside the Town Hall and local Courthouse, and the old Abbey Cemetery contains a fine collection of memorials dating back to 1712.

Ss Mary & Peter’s church (RC) was designed by Patrick Byrne in 1840. A statue of Fr. Michal Murphy stands in front of the church (and a model reconstruction of the Second Battle of Arklow at which he was killed can be viewed at the V.T.O.S. Centre).

St Savior’s church (CoI), founded by the 5thEarl of Carysfort in 1895, was in the news in 2005 when the rector spent 12 hours on the roof to raise money for repairs.

Arklow also has an active Prebyterian church (1915) with a Youth facility rather unfortunately named SNYFFF (“Sunday Night Young Fun & Food Fellowship“).

Arklow Fine Art Gallery on Main St., an exhibition centre for contemporary artists, was the brainchild of local resident Marion Van Eesbeck.  (Feedback required, please leave a comment.)

A Farmers’ Market is held every Friday morning at Abbey Lane, and Arklow’s Country Market takes place in the Pigeon House at Castlepark on Saturday mornings.

There are several good pubs and places to eat in Arklow, notably Kavanagh’sJK’s, Murphy’s, Kitty’s, the Park Restaurant and the Riverview Bistro, which also holds regular art exhibitions.

Arklow Sea Tours use an 8.4m Stormforce Rigid Inflatable Boat to run regular nautical excursions along the coast, north to Wicklow Town and south to Courtown Harbour (Co. Wexford), and can also be hired for scuba diving. (Feedback required, please leave a comment.)

Arklow hosts the annual Sea Breeze Festival of folk music every July and a Maritime Festival at the end of August.

Arklow is within easy reach of Avoca,Woodenbridge and Coolgreany(Co. Wexford) on ByRoute 2

Glenart & Kilcurra

Glenart was once a vast Estate, granted by Prince John in 1185 to Theobald FitzWalter, Chief Butler of Ireland, and held by his descendants for over 500 years.

The land south of the Avoca River was demised in 1713 for “lives renewable forever at [an annual rent of] £380 and two fat beevers [sic] or £3.00” by James, Duke of Ormonde, along with the Manor of Arklow, to Lord Allen, notoriously satirised by Dean Swift. In 1750 the heiress Elizabeth Allen married John Proby MP, who was raised to the peerage in 1752 as Baron Carysfort (taking his title from his former “Rotten Borough” constituency, the village now known as Macreddin).

Kilcurra Castle was built around a former hunting lodge c.1750 by the future Baron; it was later expanded and renamed Glenart Castle by his descendants, the rather unfertile Earls of Carysfort, including a General and an Admiral, who used it as their Irish residence. William Proby, the 5th and last Earl, who took his duties as principal landlord and Senior Magistrate of  Arklow very seriously, died childless in 1909.

The family were assiduous in commemorating their names, titles, possessions etc. in various parts of Ireland (especially on their property in the Blackrock district south of Dublin), Britain and around the globe (e.g.Glenart Castle was the name of a Royal Navy hospital ship notoriously torpedoed by a German submarine in February 1918).

The mansion was partially burned by patriotic arsonists in 1920, and subsequently restored by a religious order. As the  Glenart Castle Hotel it developed a decidedly wild reputation, and seems to have gone out of business.

Glenart Wood is a Coillte reservation with forest walks in a scenic narrow valley with a small stream flowing into the AvocaRiver, a spectacular rhododendron drive, a picnic site and a viewing point over the Vale of Avoca. There is a fine stand of Western hemlock around the car park. Other species include Sitka spruce, grand fir, beech, ash, oak, Lawson cypress, Scots pine and birch. The oak dates back to 1820. Here you will find fox, rabbit, badger, stoat and hare.

Arklow’s South Beach is the site of a windfarm. The Cove is an artificial lagoon popular amongst locals for swimming.

The Beehive, a well known landmark at Coolbeg Crossroads on the  N11, is one of the oldest pubs in County Wicklow. Founded in 1780 as a coaching inn, the family-run establishment still provides good food and accommodation for travellers. (Feedback required, please leave a comment.)

Clogga is a townland with a couple of good bathing strands, overshadowed by dramatic cliffs at the northern end, and separated by a rocky outcrop that is accessible enough for walking and fishing.

Kilpatrick Beach is known for its very rare sea shells and unusual stones and pebbles. It can seem bleak and isolated, especially in winter, but the rocks, seaweed and abundant sea life make it an interesting place to snorkel and dive in warmer weather, and there are plenty of crab-filled rock pools to explore. This beach is also a very popular spot for fishermen, with a lot of good vantage points among the rocks.

Kilmichael Point marks the frontier between the coasts of Co Wicklow and Co Wexford.

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