Heritage hot spots: History, nature, art, environment

 

Powerscourt Gardens What is it?The gardens at Powerscourt Estate in Enniskerry, Co Wicklow, are among the most visited in Ireland. Popular with day trippers and on many tourists’ must-do lists, the steep terraced main gardens are a fine example of 19th-century Italianate design. The Great Sugar Loaf, which provides an exquisite backdrop, was the focal point for their layout.

Why visit?

Why now?Now spring is here, it’s a great time to get out and about. You can take walks of varying length in the formal gardens and, if you’re feeling more adventurous, travel to Powerscourt Waterfall, which at 121m is the highest in Ireland. (Six kilometres from Powerscourt Estate, it’s an hour’s walk along narrow, winding roads, so driving there is best.) The area around the waterfall, which has tables and barbecue areas, is perfect for river walks and picnics. A robust playground, with great slides, roundabouts and swings, is very popular at the weekends but quiet on weekdays.

Sadly, the 18th-century Wicklow granite mansion at Powerscourt was badly damaged in a fire in 1974 and never restored to its former glory. You can take a tour of the ballroom on Sundays from 9.30am to 1pm throughout the year and, between May and October, also on Mondays from 9.30am to 1.30pm. Tara’s Palace, a 22-room doll’s house built to a scale of a twelfth of the size of Ireland’s 18th-century mansions, is open to visitors with separate admission ( www.taraspalace.ie).

The Avoca shops and cafe are also popular; diners get a view of the gardens from the outdoor terrace without paying an entry fee. A programme of gardening and children’s workshops kicks off next month.

How do I get there?If you’re driving from Dublin, follow the M11 south and take the exit for Enniskerry, Greystones and Bray South. (Powerscourt Gardens is also on the signpost.) Turn left at the clock tower in the centre of Enniskerry village; the entrance to Powerscourt Estate is a few hundred metres on the right. You can also reach Enniskerry by bus from central Dublin: take the 44 to the village, or take the Dart to Bray and then catch the 185 from the station. Powerscourt Gardens are open from 9.30am to 5.30pm daily; the waterfall has slightly shorter opening hours. Entry costs €6.50/€6/€3.50 for the gardens and €5.50/€5/€3.50 for the waterfall.