ByRoute 3.1 Co. Wicklow & Co. Wexford

The Ow River Valley

The Ow River Valley features splendid moorland scenery, partially covered by forestry plantation. This vast and apparently empty place is rich in wild plants and animals. (Photo by Joe King on www.everytrail.com)

The sheer cliffs of Lugnaquilla’s South Prison form an impressive amphitheatre at the head of the valley, where peregrine falcons breed intermittently, and ravens are a fairly common sight.

Hybrid red / Sika deer are usually found grazing in small groups in the upper part of the valley near Kelly’s Lough or high on the Carawastick Ridge. Signs of badgers are plentiful and there is a badger sett high on the slopes of Lybagh, which forms the western arm of the valley. Foxes range widely over the area in daylight due to the relative lack of disturbance. Wild hares and rabbits abound.

Dippers, herons, and grey wagtails breed along the River Ow, which plunges over several small ravines. April sees the migrations of thousands of frogs down through the wild orchards towards the riverbed.

Aghavannagh & Askanagap (Co. Wicklow /South)

Aghavannagh / Aghavanagh is a tiny village near the confluence of the Ow River and the much smaller Aghavannagh River. It is so remote that inhabitants say that “Aghavannagh is the last place God made”.

The name probably derives from “achadh mbeannach” – “hilly field”. One of the earliest mentions of the place is a note on “Aghavanny” in the 1623 Calendar of Patent Rolls of King James I, followed by later references to “Aghamanagh” and “Aghamannagh”.

1798 Rebellion

Aghavannagh was the site of an encampment of about 300 rebels led by “the screeching general” Anthony Perry during the 1798 Rebellion.

According to local legend, Edward “the Walking Gallows” Heppenstall, a notorious 6 ft 7″ tall member of the Wicklow Militia (doubly hated as the only company to serve in their own area) announced that he would “clean the rebels off Aughavannagh“, but “he and his two whipper-ins {assistants} were shotand the fellows went and put mud in the “Walking Gallows” mouth; he was after doing such cruelty they had a horror against him and put a nettle in it, if you please, and they left him there.” (Mrs. O’Toole of Ballycumber, Co Wicklow, recorded in July 1934 telling her family’s version of the events of 1798 for the folklore journal, Bealoideas).

However, according to the Irish Magazine of January 1810, Heppenstall died in his bed at his brother’s house in 1804, of “the shocking distemper; his body was literally devoured by vermin.”

So local legend passed on what “should have happened“, rather than what actually occurred, which was that the rebels captured another member of the family, George Hepenstall of Rosnastraw, in company with John Myers and George Twamley of Coolaney and Twamley’s teenaged son Robert. Hepenstall and Richard Twamley were promptly piked to death as “Orangemen” by John Carney, but Garrett ‘Banogue’ Kavanaghmanaged to prevent the execution of young Robert Twamley before Perry’s intervention put a stop to the bloodletting. This intersession was not without hazard for Kavanaugh who braved threats ….. before Perry reprieved the surviving prisoners. Perry lacking writing materials to issue safe conduct passes which forced the men to remain with the insurgents and accompany them into Meath the next week. There were ’40 holes in the shirt of Rich[ar]d Twamley’ when his body was recovered….” (The Rebellion in Wicklow by Ruan O’Donnell).

Aghavannagh Barracks, one of a series built along the Military Road c.1806, was used by Charles Stewart Parnell’s grandfather as a hunting lodge, shared with up to 50 RIC men. John Redmond bought the property upon Parnell’s death, and An Óige used the building as a particularly austere youth hostel until 1998. It is now almost totally derelict.

Lugnaquilla House Hostel is a pleasant modern facility, popular with hill walkers and climbers.

Aghavannagh is very near the Iron Bridge marking the original southern end of the old Military Road; however, an extension climbs over Slieve na Mann to the Glen of Imaal on ByRoute 4.

Askanagap / Askinagap (Easca na gCeap) is where one of the few fatal avalanches in Ireland’s history occurred on March 23rd 1867. A couple and their four children died when their house was covered in snow.

The local GAA Football ground belongs to the Ballymanus club, nicknamed “The Billies” in honour of Billy Byrne, a charismatic local hero of the 1798 Rebellion, born in nearb Ballymanus House (a popular C19th ballad, Billy Byrne of Ballymanus, is sung as far afield as Australia and Oregon).

Askanagap is connected by another scenic road to Moyne, also on ByRoute 4.

Craffield (Creamhchoill), has an interesting name, at least in Irish: coill means woods or forest and creamh refers to wild garlic, anciently esteemed as both a medicinal and seasoning plant.  In Christianised Gaelic culture, clan chieftains’ deis (“clients” or “inferiors”) were obliged to provide their lords with an annual crimfeis, a meal of wild garlic, cheese and milk, sometime before Easter. Variations on the placename, Cremchaill in Old Irish, are quite common all over Ireland (Cransfield, Craanford, Crankill, Crawhill, Craughwell, Aghacramphill, etc.).

Craffield is connected via the even tinier hamlet of Sheeanamore to Greenan on ByRoute 2.

Aughrim & Macreddin (Co. Wicklow / South)

Aughrim (Eachroim – “Horse ridge”) (pop. 1300) is beautifully situated, surrounded by wooded hills at the point where the rivers Ow and Derry join to become the River Aughrim, notable for its brown trout and an unusual millrace. Traditionally a mining community and known as the Granite Village, its handsome granite Courthouse, Town Hall and Forge, together with a number of unusual granite terraced houses, were built under the patronage of the Earls of Meath.

The Rednagh Bridge south of the village was the site of an engagement between Crown forces and insurgents during the 1798 Rebellion, commemorated by a striking monument in the village.

A plaque on the main bridge commemorates Anne Devlin, an employee and friend of Robert Emmet, hanged for his leadership of an aborted revolution in 1803.

Aughrim is nowadays an important agricultural, horticultural and timber processing centre and an increasingly popular tourist destination, especially for walkers, and has several good hostelries, notably Lawlor’s Hotel.

The Sean Linehan Way provides pleasant woodland and riverside walking.

Macreddin / Moycreddin / Moycredyne (formerly aka Carysfort) almost ceased to exist in the C19th, but has made an unlikely comeback.

Macreddin History

Macreddin is named for a local Gaelic chieftain called Creddin, said to have died and been miraculously brought back to life by Saint Kevin of Glendalough.

The locality was appropriated in the C13th to the Priory of All Saint’s, Dublin, and King Henry VIII later granted it to the city itself.

Carysfort Castle was erected in the 1620s “in order to check the turbulent septs of O’Toole and O’Byrne“, but in 1641 “the garrison being withdrawn to Dublin on a case of emergency, and the castle being left in the custody of a few unarmed Englishmen, it was surprised and taken by the O’Byrnes, who had intercepted a supply of arms and ammunition sent for its defence“.

By a charter granted in 1628 by King Charles I, the town hosted regular fair days, highlights of the local social calendar, on Whit-Monday, 12th November and 26th December. The Corporation of the Borough of Carysfort enjoyed the privilege of returning two representatives to the Irish Parliament, which they continued to exercise until disfranchised by the Act of Union 1800, when £15,000 solatium was awarded to John Proby, Earl of Carysfort.

By 1837, when surveyed by Lewis, the town has dwindled into a small village, consisting only of a few houses, although a Royal chartered school that had barely survived since its creation c.1630 suddenly got funding from the Board of Education to finance  “a large and commodious school-house, with comfortable apartments for the master and his family” and was attended by more than 100 children.

The Great Famine and its aftermath virtually destroyed the community, and the village was no longer shown on most maps by the early C20th.

Macreddin has come back into fashion as an upmarket residential area and holiday destination, with the rather artificial atmosphere of an American “gated community”.

Brooklodge Hotel & Wells Spa has well reviewed luxury accommodation, restaurant and equestrian facilities, Turkish baths, Finnish saunas, mud and flotation chambers, expert masseurs etc. and also oversees other local amenities such as a pub and high class food, wine and tableware shops, plus the inevitable golf course.

Ballycreen Brook across the village green is spanned by a charming old stone bridge.

The C17th graveyard above the village contains headstones worked by sculptor Dennis Cullen of Monaseed (Co Wexford).

The area is a popular for walking and boasts amazing views of the surrounding countryside from the summit of Cushbawn Hill.

Clone House

Clone House is a large early C19thhouse in an idyllic setting of lawns, trees, a stream, a pond and a waterfall, beautifully set against the Wicklow Mountains backdrop. Nowadays it is a friendly Guesthouse run by Jeff Watson, a well-travelled American, and his Uruguayan-Italian wife Carla; the cooking is terrific, but the accommodation facilities have received mixed reviews.

At the time of the 1798 Rebellion the original Clone House was the residence of Charles Coates, who gave shelter from the Hacketstown yeomen to his Roman Catholic neighbour, the posthumously famed Billy Byrne of Ballymanus. Clone House was later burnt by the rebels, and Coates family tradition has it that Charles’s elderly wife refused to leave her bed, whereupon Billy Byrne had her carried down carefully in her bed and deposited on the lawn.

Curraghlawn has fine views of Croghan Mountain.

Aughrim and Macreddin are connected by road to Ballyclash and Avoca, both on ByRoute 2. In addition, Aughrim is just off the scenic riverside R747 linking Woodenbridge on ByRoute2 with Tinahely and Carnew, both on ByRoute 4.