County Wicklow lies immediately south of County Dublin, along the east coast of Ireland.
Its topography is unusually diverse for Ireland; containing a beautiful mix of rolling mountains, ancient woodlands, cascading waterfalls, sparkling glacial lakes and golden sandy beaches.
All the natural scenic treasures of this region have earned this largely rural county the title “The Garden of Ireland“.
Hidden around every corner are rich and interesting attractions including charming villages and towns, the 6th century monastic site of Glendalough, Wicklow Mountains National Park and some of Ireland’s most magnificent historic houses and gardens. There is more than enough to see and do in County Wicklow to keep a visitor busy for several weeks. The wilder part of County Wicklow… Kippure Estate is situated in West Wicklow, an area of rich culture, traditions and natural beauty. Our estate adjoins the Wicklow Mountains National Park and the fledging River Liffey.
- Landscape – the Wicklow Mountains are the largest mountainous area in Ireland – surpassing Kerry, Connemara and Donegal. They are made up of a mass of granite, which was forced up to the earth’s surface when the ancient continents of Europe and America collided 400 million years ago. The molten granite crushed and baked the surface sedimentary rocks (slates and schist), forming mica-schist, much of which has now been weathered away. The boundary between the granite and mica-schist holds high concentrations of lead, tin, copper, iron and zinc, which were mined in various parts of the county during the 19th century.
- The last Ice Age, which finished about 10,000 years ago, had an enormous influence on the character of the Wicklow landscape, not only through the resulting erosion when it finally melted, but also in what it left behind. There are breathtaking examples of glaciated valleys and glacial lakes, all testimony to the mighty force of nature. Another legacy, often valued by sheltering walkers, are the huge scattered boulders “Erratics” deposited by the melting ice.
- Peat, which turns Wicklow’s mountain streams a golden brown, is an integral part of the Wicklow landscape. Known as Blanket Peat, its soil is made up of organic matter produced from partially rotted plant remains, which have accumulated on top of each other in waterlogged places for thousands of years. The water content of Blanket Peat can be as high as 95%. Peatlands originally covered more than 17% of the land area of Ireland – a higher proportion than any other European country with the exception of Finland. Peatlands, together with their unique assemblage of plants and animals, are a seriously endangered western European habitat. Most countries in Europe have exploited the majority of their peat resources for fuel. Ireland is one of the few countries where a wide range of peatlands still exists in a near natural state and much of it is still being utilised for turf fires.
- Animal Life – a large population of hybrid Deer occupy the open hill area of the Wicklow Mountains, where the introduced Japanese Sika Deer have inter-bred with native Red Deer. Other native mammals include the Irish & Mountain Hare, nine species of Bat, Badger, Red Squirrel, Pine Martin, Otter, all of which are protected under the Habitats Directive 1992 and of the course the opportunistic Fox. Also a tenth bat species has recently been discovered in Wicklow, the Brandt’s Bat, a new species to Ireland. Feral goat with long shaggy coats and curved horns can be seen in small herds on remote cliffs and valleys.
The Wicklow Mountains provide a variety of habitats for at least 100 different species of bird, both resident and migratory. Resident Birds of Prey include the Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, Kestrel, Buzzard, Sparrow Hawk and Hen Harrier. The scree slopes of Glendalough and the steep cliffs throughout the Wicklow Mountains offer suitable nesting sites for Raven and Ring Ouzel. The Wicklow heathlands are an important habitat for the threatened Red Grouse. Meadow Pipits, Skylarks, Stonechats, Whinchats, Wheatear, Snipe, Curlew and Golden Plover all inhabit the bog and heatlands at different times of the year. The mountains many streams and rivers provide ideal habitats for the Dipper and Kingfisher, feeding on trout, stickleback and minnow.
Two species of amphibian, the Smooth Newt and the Common Frog and Ireland’s only reptile, the Common Lizard, thrive in the habitats of the Wicklow Mountains.
Woodland & Plants – Wicklow County is an annual blaze of colour. As the April sun warms the valleys, dazzling yellow Gorse brightens the hills, and when other flowers fade, heather colours the mountains with a warm purple hue before winter snow. Peaty soils and blanket bogs support upland vegetation, dominated by Ling Heather, Fraughan and Bilberry, although Bell Heather is also common.
17% of County Wicklow is covered in woodland. This is the highest proportion of any Irish county. Much of this forest is Sitka Spruce in the ownership of Coillte (Ireland’s largest forestry company). Many of the old estates contain extensive areas of deciduous and native trees, including Scots Pine, Oak, Ash, Birch, Rowan and Yew.
The Wicklow Mountains National Park contains important areas of semi-natural Oak Woodland, mainly around Glendalough and parts of West Wicklow. In the springtime, the Oak-Wood floor is carpeted with a fabulous display of Bluebells, Wood Sorrel and Wood Anemones.