Avondale was one of our favourite and most visited places during my childhood and we had heard great things about the new walk
When I was a child, my mother used to take myself and my brother and sister out on great adventures around Ireland. She was obsessed with the outdoors…mountains, seas, trees, flowers, not to mention country houses and any sights on offer to us throughout our glorious country. I carried on the tradition with my own children, and now that they are grown up, I thought, it’s time to take my mother around with me instead and return the favour.
I recently heard about the Wicklow Passport. It’s a passport that can be ordered on-line at www.visitwicklow.ie for €5 or picked up in many locations around county Wicklow for €2 per person. If you collect 15 stamps, you can claim a Wicklow Ambassador Certificate and the collector’s pin. That sounded like fun!
We began at the Arklow Bay Hotel where we got our passports from reception, and our first stamp. We got chatting to the very friendly manager, Dick who happened to be on reception at the time and he gave us some great pointers on where to go. We decided to get some fresh scones, jam, fresh cream and some hot drinks, which were all delicious, while planning our route before we started out for the day.
When our bellies were sufficiently full, we headed out to Avondale to do the “Beyond the Trees” walk and a guided tour of the house and collect our second stamp of the day. We were both very excited to do the walk. Avondale was one of our favourite and most visited places during my childhood and we had heard great things about the new walk.
We weren’t disappointed. First impressions when we arrived were amazement. The new buildings are so beautiful, airy and spacious and the wood used throughout is nothing short of spectacular. They have a lovely café, shop and playground and the whole place is geared towards the inclusion of everyone. The walkway is really wide to accommodate wheelchairs and even the information signs along the way have a tilted version so that they can be read by those users.
There are lots of interesting and fun things to do along the way, like optional tightrope type walkways (above heavy mesh), information boards that have information about the local birds, trees and the history of the forest around us. It was so thrilling to see the forest from above as we were always so used to looking up while walking through. My mother was in her element, and I couldn’t keep up with her.
The gradient is so slight going to the very top that you never feel like you’re climbing, but when you reach the top it’s like being on top of the world. The views were breathtaking! Unfortunately, my mother was adamant that she wouldn’t be sliding back down, so she hadn’t taken a mat at the bottom to carry up to slide down on…. I did…. and what a thrill! It was so much fun.
Following that we went for the guided tour of the house. It has been beautifully restored and maintained. My mother was really looking forward to this as the house had been closed for many years. The guide was very relaxed and informative, and we were both impressed by his storytelling and the wonderful rooms with many original pieces within.
Hunger had hit us again, so we decided to go to Ashford to get some lunch. Along the way, we stopped off in Rathdrum, Hidden Valley caravan park to get our very important stamp on our passports. We got another stamp in Mount Usher gardens in Ashford and after a quick bite to eat, headed to Wicklow Gaol.
My mother had never been here before, so I was very excited to take her to a new place. We had great craic here as it feels a little scary. We got our stamp from reception where the staff were so friendly and helpful. Each cell inside the Gaol tells a story of different prisoners or of methods of cruelty that took place, and many of them have audio-visuals or recreated characters within.
The dungeon had the story of the local hangman and up on the top floor was a replica coffin ship. We could really feel a sense of the torture and injustice that had occurred within the time and working life of the Gaol and of course, my mother took great joy in getting my head in the pillary. Luckily, she had no guillotine to hand. This was something different to do and we both enjoyed it thoroughly.
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