ByRoute 2.1 Co. Wicklow & Co. Wexford

Mount Kennedy, a mansion commissioned in 1772 by General Robert Cuninghame (who became the 1st Baron Rossmore in 1796), was the first of many Irish Big Houses to be designed by English architect James Wyatt, and is considered one of his best. Construction did not commence until 1782, under the supervision of Thomas Cooley. The interior features superb plasterwork by Michael Stapleton. The demesne, long one of the most picturesque and unspoilt in Ireland, has been threatened in recent years by a proposal  to develop a business & technology park. (Photo – www.irishtimes.com)

Newtownmountkennedy & Killisty (Co. Wicklow / East)

Newtownmountkennedy (Baile an Chinnéidigh – “Town of the Kennedys”) (pop. 2800) is now primarily a growing DUBLIN commuter dormitory community.

The village used to be on the main Dublin – Wexford road, but is now bypassed by the N11. It has been a popular tourist destination since the C19th due to its picturesque location, surrounded by scenic hills, valleys and woodlands. (Photo by Diaz)

Newtownmountkennedy was founded in the late C17th by the judge Sir Richard Kennedy, Baron of the Exchequer, and his nephew Alderman Robert Kennedy, who was made 1st (and last) Baronet of Mount Kennedy in 1665. The initial settlers came from nearby Newcastle, destroyed by the O’Toole clan clan in 1667 after King Charles II had refused to compensate them for land losses during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.

The Battle of Newtownmountkennedy 1798

The Battle of Newtownmountkennedy was a crucial episode during the 1798 Rebellion.

It began at 01:00 on 28th May, when insurgents led by The Manran of the Downs approached from the north, and the Newcastle United Irishmen attacked the southern end of the village. Michael O’Neill of The Grange led an unsuccessful assault on the military barracks, whle the Ancient Britons led by Captain Burgandy set fire to the square to create a smikescreen for a counter-offensive; the Yeomanry also intercepted rebel reinforcments led by “General” Joseph Holt from Roundwood, preventing their participation in the main scene of fighting. The arrival of the Kilcoole United Irishmen under Thomas Maguire at 4:00 came too late, as the battle was over. The village had been largely destroyed.

Many of the wounded and exhausted rebels withdrew to Dunran and The Devil’s Glen, where the local Yeomanry set fire to the surrounding woods. Approximately 170 insurgents perished in the conflagration.

Michael O’Neill was captured in Newcastle and executed in Newtownmountkennedy. The Manran was hanged in Wicklow Gaol, while Thomas Maguire was captured while attempting to flee to France months later, and was executed in Newcastle.

St Matthew’s church (CoI) was built in 1836, but not officially consecrated until 1895. It contains several interesting memorials and an unusual old carved oak altar, said to have been used by the English bishop Nicholas Ridley, famously burned at the stake in Oxford in 1555. A long-serving early rector was the Rev Irwin, three of whose sons became missionaries to mining communities: Edward in South Africa, Henry in British Colombia (where he is affectionately remembered as Father Pat), and Philip in Florida (where he was once tarred and feathered for befriending black people). A stained glass window commemorates Dr Thomas Wrigely Grimshaw, who persuaded Dublin Corporation to install an underground sewerage pipe system in the city. (His great grandson,  Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, is a famous English architect).

St Joseph’s church (RC) was built in 1865 to serve the local community instead of Kilmurray church, burned down in the disturbances preceding the 1798 Rebellion (a replacement provided by Lord Rossmore of Mount Kennedy is now a ruin in Kilmurray cemetery).

Warble Bank is a fine old house with three centuries of history. The beautiful garden is open to the public in May, June and July. (Photo by Wicklow Tourism)

The former schoolhouse has been transformed into Fishers, a fashionable country sports clothing shop with an exceptionally good eatery called the Buttery Café.

The corporate headquarters of Coillte, the Irish forestry board, is located in an interesting large modern wooden building in the local forest.

Newtownmountkennedy claims to be the longest English-derived place name in the world, and is in fact the second longest toponym in Ireland. It can be sung gratifyingly to the air of Giuseppe Verdi’s La donna e mobile.

Newtownmountkennedy is within easy reach of Kilpedder, Kilcoole and Newcastle on ByRoute 1, and is connected by the scenic R765 with Roundwood on ByRoute 3.

Wrenswood in Kiltimon, on the road towards Killiskey, comprises an attractive mixture of broad-leaved woodland, garden and valley meadow, with shady paths by streams and drystone walls. There are giant oak trees on the valley walk, and a wide range of rare plants in the surrounding area. Wrenswood also boasts the largest Ring-Fort in County Wicklow.

Killiskey is a rural district described by Lewis (1837) as “chiefly celebrated for the variety and beauty of its scenery“, comprising “numerous deep glens and mountasin hollows, which, accordingly as they have been improved by art, or left in a state of nature, either excite emotions of pleasure or of awe and apprahension“.

Dunran Glen is a very deep rocky valley dominated by a mitre-shaped boulder known as The Bishop / Bishop’s Rock. The lush vegetation planted by Lord Rossmore on the facing slope was greatly admired by Lewis and other C19th writers, who raved about the beautiful views of the winding lake beyond the bend in the valley from a spot known as the Spy Rock, and the coastal panorama visible from the top of Dunran Hill.

Dunran Demesne is private property. Dunran Castle is the name of both the mid-C19th Italianate mansion and the ornamental folly in the grounds, originally a Tower House built in 1547.

Nun’s Cross church (CoI) was built in 1817 by local landowner F Synge. A plaque commemorates a donation by C. Tottenham of Ballycurry for the safe return of his son from the Boer War in South Africa.

The Devil’s Glen

 

The Devil’s Glen is a steep winding gorge formed by the crystaline waters of the Varty River, cascading into the valley down a cliff of nearly 100ft into a rocky channel. These beautiful waterfalls are the scenic highlight of the valley, justifying the rather grim grandeur of their approach: at one point the path is overhung by a natural rock arch reminiscent of scenes from The Lord of the Rings, while “the Robbers’ Caves” are not exactly cosy and inviting. (Photo by JP)

The Devil’s Glen Forest Park is a Coillte reservation with a well-marked Nature Trail and signposted tracks through the mixed woodland. The predominant Scots pine, Norway spruce, Western hemlock and grand fir trees are interspersed with beech, Spanish chestnut, ash, laurel, rhododendron, heather and ferns, with interesting lichens and moss to be found on exposed rock surfaces. A wide range of funghi grow here, especially in autumn, when the deciduous trees are at their most colourful. This is home to many forms of wildlife, ranging from birds and insects to red and grey squirrels foxes, badgers, otters and Sika deer.

Sculpture in Woodland, a unique collection of contemporary sculptures by Irish and international artists, is located in this forest.

From the Nature Trail, the privately owned Ballycurry Estate can be seen on the far side of the Glen.

 

The Park was formerly part of the estate attached to the nearby Glanmore Castle, an C18thmansion fashionably crennelated in 1804 by Francis Johnson for F. Synge, ancestor of the playwright John Millington Synge (1871 – 1909), who also lived here in his youth. It was later inhabited for some time by the Nobel poet Seamus Heaney, and has since been restored to serve a variety of functions, including a Norwegian restaurant in the late 1970s.

 

The Devil’s Glen Holiday Village has a number of self-catering cottages, apartments and bungalows, beside a Racing Yard run by Danny Miley. The former Equestrian Centre appears to have been discontinued.

Killiskey is on the scenic R764 connecting Ashford with Roundwood on ByRoute 3.

Ireland and it's history, culture, travel, tourism and more!