Donard (Co. Wicklow / West)
Donard (officially Dún Ard – “the fort on the hill”) (pop.200) is a tranquil village at the foot of Table Mountain and the mouth of the Glen of Imaal, with some handsome Georgian and Victorian houses, two shops, two pubs and a National School.
The triangular market area in the middle of the village has been landscaped with plants, a statue of the BVM and a C5th Ogham Stone found in nearby Avoca, 1.5m high and bearing an inscription interpreted as “IAQINI KOI MAQI MUC..”
Donard is believed to derive its name either from one of several local hillforts or from Domnacha Arda – “the church of the high field”, thought to have been an edifice erected c.431 AD on the westernmost summit of the Wicklow Mountain range, Church Mountain / Slievegad / Slieve Gadoe (Sliabh an Chodaigh – “mountain of the covenant”)(544 m /1785 ft) by the pre-Patrician Saint Paladius and / or his companion Saint Sylvester, who was reputedly buried there. The mountain is still crowned by the remains of a C12th chapel within the ring of an ancient cairn / passage tomb.
George Petrie, “the Father of Irish archaeology”, recorded in 1808 that on Lammas Day (1st August) every year hundreds of people would ascend the mountain on their knees and a priest recite prayers from the altar, but the practice had ceased after the 1798 Rebellion. His friend, the professor of antiquities GN Wright, wrote in his Guide to the County of Wicklow (1827) of the chapel ruins on the summit “where numbers of pilgrims and penitents are constantly to be found, engaged in acts of devotion” and also mentioned a Holy Well “whose surface is only two feet below the highest point of the mountain, and the spring continues to flow the whole year without much increase or diminution; the water has rather an unpleasant, astringent taste, resembling bog-water, although it is perfectly clear”.
The 1798 Rebellion saw Donard burnt by insurgents: Lewis (1837) reports that the inhabitants were driven to seek refuge in Dunlavin, while “the church was garrisoned by the yeomanry ……. which greatly injured it, and it has since become dilapidated“.
Heighington burial ground, believed to have been an ancient monastic site, contains the atmospheric ruins of a medieval church and headstones dating back to the mid-C18th.
Donard church (CoI), a handsome edifice with a pinnacled tower, dates from 1835.
The church of the Holy Trinity (RC), a quaint little white structure set in landscaped grounds, was built as a chapel of ease for Dunlavin parishioners, like the charming church of Our Lady of Dolours & St Patrick (1877) in nearby Davidstown.
Donard House, built c.1830 for the Marquess of Waterford‘s land agent, is reached by a long avenue through lovely parkland grounds. It is available for holiday rentals, as are two small estate cottages.
The Chrysalis Holistic Centre, run by Ann Maria Dunne, occupies an elegant old country house with beautiful grounds, including a Zen Garden with purpose-built hermitages.
Donard Equestrian Club runs the annual National Long-Distance Equestrian Race, which attracts riders and mounts from all over the world, and hosts a scenic local ride-out on the last Sunday of every month in aid of selected charities.
Donard is quite near Stratford-on-Slaney on ByRoute 5.
The Castleruddery Stone Circle near Donard, featuring a pair of sizeable white quartz portal stones, is a particularly fine specimen, one of several stone circles providing evidence of Neolithic settlement in the area between 2600 and 1800 BC.
The Glen of Imaal & Lugnaquilla
The Glen of Imaal (pronounced Ee-mahl) / Imail (Gleann Uí Mháil), ringed by the Lugnaquilla massif and its foothills, including Table Mountain and Keadeen, is widely regarded as the most impressive of all County Wicklow’s valleys. The best view of the Glen is from the Donard – Davidstown road.
Lugnaquilla / Lugnaquillia (925m /3035 ft), historically called Lugnaculliagh (from Log na Coille – “hollow of the wood”) and affectionately known as “Lug”, is the highest summit of the Wicklow Mountains range, the highest in the province of Leinster, and the 13th highest in Ireland. Variously classified by climbers as a Furth, Hewlitt and Marilyn, it is a bulky mountain, with a large plateau-type summit, bounded on two sides by steep glacial corries called “North Prison” and “South Prison”. Views from the top extend on clear days across the Irish Sea to the mountains of Snowdonia in Wales, and southwest to the mountains of Munster.
Lugnaquilla: North Prison. (Photo – wicklowpaths)
Fenton’s Pub is the start and/or finish of several approaches to Lugnaquilla, the most popular being via Camera Hill. Some hill-walking experience is advisable, and an ascent of the mountain should not be attempted alone, nor when there is a possibility of dense fog.
The Coolmoney Artillery Range, used by both British and Irish military forces since 1900, occupies part of the valley; excursionists should watch out for red flags / warning signs and beware of unexploded shells. Military training in the area also includes regular tactical exercises involving Armoured Personnel Carriers and Irish Air Corps helicopters. The nearby Army Information Centre provides free maps.
The gruelling Ring of Imaal Marathon is organised biennially by An Oigé, who also run the regular Imaal Walking Festival. The Glen also has a challenging Equestrian Trail.
The Glen of Imaal Red Cross Mountain Rescue Team was formed in the area in 1983. It continues to serve this area and County Wicklow in its entirety in partnership with the Dublin-Wicklow Mountain Rescue Team.
The Glen of Imaal Terrier is a sturdy local purebred, aka “the turnspit dog” for its agility on the treadmill traditionally used to turn meat roasting over the fire, and regular champion of the Teastas Mór and Teastas Misneac contests requiring terriers to prove their gameness in unearthing badgers.
Derrynamuck, at the top of a grassy lane off the road between Donard and Rathdangan, overlooked by Kaedeen Mountain, is the site of a traditional whitewashed thatched dwelling built with local stone, popularly known as the Dwyer-McAllister Cottage. It was here that, having held out long after the 1798 Rebellion had failed, Michael Dwyer and Sam McAllister (originally a Loyalist smallholder from Roundwood) fought a gun battle with encircling British troops in 1799; McAllister died when he drew enemy fire to allow Dwyer to escape over the snow-covered mountains into the wilderness, where he survived for a remarkably long time. The cottage was later destroyed by fire and lay in ruins for almost 150 years. It was restored to its original form in 1948 as a monument and again extensively repaired in 1992.
Derrynamuck is within striking distance of Aghavannagh on ByRoute 3.
Rathdangan & Kiltegan (Co. Wicklow / West)
Rathdangan is where the Missionary Order of St. Patrick, aka the Kiltegan Fathers, train their African recruits.
Jas. Byrne’s pub is a friendly old-fashioned place for a good pint.
Rathdangan is quite close to Aghavannagh on ByRoute 3.
Kiltegan is a pretty estate village.
William Hume (d.1815), MP for County Wicklow, lived in a fortified C18th house when in 1803 he negotiated the surrender of Michael Dwyer, who emigrated voluntarily with his family to Australia, where he became a constable.
Humewood Castle was built on the site of the old house by his grandson William Wentworth Fitzwilliam Hume Dick (1805 – 1892), also MP for County Wicklow, who in 1867 commissioned “an occasional resort in the summer recess or the shooting season”. The architect, the London-based William White, got a bit carried away, resulting in the famous lawsuit Kimberley v. White & Dick, won by the plaintiff builder.
Hume Dick’s granddaughter Mimi Weygand referred to the 60,000 sq ft 15-bedroom house as “a family mansion not above the average size.” Humewood and its its 427-acre estate, including woods, private lakes and stables, along with three staff cottages and three gate lodges, remained in the family until the death of the last descendant in 1992.
Restored by German-born Renata Coleman, a passionate polo player, the castle and lodge provided accommodation costing over €11,000 per day. Guests included pop singers such as the Spice Girls and Hollywood (USA) actors Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston, John Travolta and Winona Ryder. Rock star David Bowie was regularly accused of seeking to buy the estate.
Having purchased the property in 2007 for €25m, John Lally‘s development company Lalco embarked on a €250m project to build a large hotel next to the mansion and lodges in the estate grounds, an indoor golf facility, an 18 hole golf course, tennis courts and other outdoor pursuit amenities, all in order to create what it calls “an integrated tourist destination“.
This plan was abandoned due to the ongoing recession, and in 2012 the stately home and estate were bought for a bargain €7.225 million by Connecticut-born billionaire John Malone, the largest landowner in the US with 2.2 million acres, who has family roots in Cork, and is chairman of Liberty Global, a listed company with cable TV and telecoms investments across the world. It is understood that he plans to refurbish the property.
St Peter’s church (CoI), a handsome edifice with an embattled tower and spire, was built in 18’6 and enlarged in 1826. The current rector of Kiltegan parish is the Reverend Lady Stella Durand.
Knockannana (Cnoc an Eanaigh – “the hill of the marsh”) is a village near the source of the Derry River, famous for its brown trout.
Kyle’s Farmhouse, a Guesthouse / B&B popular with hillwalkers on the Wicklow Way, is highly recommended for its evening meals.
Rathdangan, Kiltegan, and Knockanannana are all within easy reach of Hacketstown (Co. Carlow) on ByRoute 5.
Moyne, once a picturesque hamlet with a prosperous Church of Ireland congregation and even a Congregationalist minister, dwindled in population over many years, but is now growing again. The original southern terminus of the Wicklow Way walking route in 1966, it commands superb views of the Blackstairs Mountains.
The 1st Baron Moyne was Walter Guinness, a member of the wealthy brewing family with extensive property nearby. A British politician, he achieved notoriety when he was assassinated in Jerusalem by Zionist fanatics in 1944. The 2nd Baron and Diana Mosley were the parents of Desmond Guinness of Leixlip Castle. The title remains extant.
Sebastian Barry, playwright, novelist and poet, lives locally.
Moyne is connected to Askanagap on ByRoute 3.