If you are planning on heading out of Dublin for the day then you must try some of these
How I love Kilmacurragh.
Its glorious scenery. Its peaceful pond and streams.
Its meandering paths and towering trees.
Its mysterious stone walls, wrought-iron gates and wooden bridges.
No matter the season or the weather, every visit with the acorns follows the same itinerary. It all starts with some climbing in the large thicket, in the middle of the wildflower meadow, followed by some splashing in the stream by the pond, and a raucous game of hide-and-seek that takes us all the way around the enchanted gardens.
From the M11, take Exit 18 to Kilmacurragh National Botanic Gardens, then follow the brown signs.
Dogs allowed on leash only.
Few places are more beautiful than Powerscourt Waterfall on a sunny autumn day. Ireland’s highest waterfall (121m/398ft) has become a kind of pilgrimage for us – twice a year at least, we visit the stunning parkland at the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains.
Part of the Powerscourt Estate, the waterfall deserves a visit in its own right. But you need to be ready for a wet and wild adventure!
Overflowing wellies, dripping waterproof trousers, and soaking wet clothes – this is how most trips to the waterfall end up. Oblivious to the temperature, the acorns go wading in the Dargle River.
Climbing, and slipping, over the mossy rocks;
plotting their way, and losing their footing, across the river;
crying (a bit), and going straight back in.
And when they’re finished, they still go for another play on the fabulous playground.
From the M11/N11, take Exit 8 to Kilmacanogue. Then take the R755 signposted for Glendalough andRoundwood. At the fork in the road, turn right onto the R760, signposted for Powerscourt Waterfall andGlencree Drive. At the next junction, leave the R760 on the right and continue straight ahead onto a minor road, following signs for the waterfall and Glencree Drive. Follow this narrow road all the way to the gate for the waterfall.
Since we set foot in the 17th century gardens for the first time a few years ago, we have found it impossible not to go back to Killruddery as often as possible.
There is something about the squishy softness of the lawns underfoot, the splendour of the ancient trees, and the serenity of the estate, nestled among the rolling Wicklow hills at the foot of the Little Sugar Loaf.
On warm days, the acorns enjoy playing in the large sandpit beside the picnic area. But they love just as much walking around the formal gardens, climbing trees, blowing dandelion clocks, playing hide-and-seek, and observing ducklings. The woodland play area and the rockery are firm favourites.
From the M11/N11, take Exit 7 signposted for Bray (south) and Greystones (north), and follow the signs to Killruddery House & Gardens, located off on the right of the Southern Cross Road.
The estate is open to the public from April to October only, with a rich programme of events. The Killruddery Farm Market runs all year round on Saturdays 10am–4pm.
A nature reserve located just outside Enniskerry, Co Wicklow, Knocksink Wood spreads along the slopes of the Glencullen River valley. In the shade of the mightly oak trees, numerous springs and streams can be heard and seen. In spring, the forest floor is covered in a fragrant carpet of wild garlic, spreading as far as the eye can see.
The acorns love playing in the river, throwing stones and small boulders to make as big a splash as possible.
Further upstream, a small brook crosses the footpath, with a simple wood bridge thrown over it. Only a few metres up on the left, the water cascades down the hillside into a small pool. Higher up the slope still, a waterfall can be seen through the oak branches.
At the end of most of our visits to Knocksink, the acorns squelch clumsily all the way back to the car, with their rainboots filled to the brim with river water.
From the village of Enniskerry, follow the R117 towards Kilternan. The nature reserve is accessed via a sharp turn to the left (very easy to miss!), about 200 metres outside the village.
The glorious spring sunshine.
The hours of wild fun, up the trees and down the hillsides.
The thrill of exploring at a gentle pace a simply breathtaking place.
We first visited Powerscourt Gardens, near Enniskerry, to take part in the Easter Hop n’ Hunt, held in the Walled Gardens. We have been back a number of times since, and the place blows us away every time.
Climbing up trees, rolling down grassy banks, playing hide-and-seek, and climbing up more trees – there is nothing stuffy about these splendid gardens, which is why the acorns have a wild time at every visit.
From the village of Enniskerry, take the R760 towards Powerscourt. Continue out of the village on that steep, narrow road, all the way to the main entrance gate to the Powerscourt Estate on the right.
A designated nature reserve near Delgany, the narrow Glen of the Downs stretches over 2 kilometres (1.5 miles), with the Three-Trout River and the noisy N11 running on the valley floor. Its steep sides are thickly blanketed with broad-leaf trees, mainly sessile oak, cherry, rowan and ash, which, come autumn, create a wonderfully colourful patchwork.
At the top the Octagon remains hidden from sight under the tree canopy, until it suddenly appears, precipitously perched on the cliff edge. Screened by ancient tree trunks and cloaked by bright leaves, the Octagon looks like a long forgotten fairy tale castle.
Until recently, we had never seen the Octagon. Every time we went to the Glen of the Downs, the acorns were happy to play in the stream by the car park. In spring the river banks are carpeted with fragrant wild garlic.
The Glen of the Downs is only accessible when travelling southbound on the M11/N11. Between Exit 9 (Glenview) and Exit 10 (Delgany, Drummin), there is a small brown signpost for a picnic area – this is the entrance to the car park, immediately off the dual carriageway. Extreme care is recommended on approach, and also on exiting said car park.
Earlier this year, we took our first ever family bike ride on the Blessington Greenway. The breathtaking views and the simple, exhilarating pleasure of cycling, quickly made all troubleshooting issues feel like distant memories.
The first of its kind in Wicklow, the 6.5km-long route links the historic town of Blessington to magnificent Russborough House, weaving its way along the shores of the Blessington Lakes, through magnificent scenery teeming with wildlife.
From the starting point at the lakeside resort of Avon Rí, we rode past sunny beaches and through shady forests, near the remains of Burgage Castle and along the busy N81, between straw-like reeds and coconut-scented gorse. About half way to Russborough House, we took a break on a pebbly beach. Brian showed the acorns how to skip stones on the water’s smooth surface.
For a detailed description, map and access information, please visit Wicklow Tourism‘s website.
The buggy-friendly trail is perfect for walking and cycling, but the rocky surface makes it unsuitable for scooters. Bike trailers cannot fit through some of the gates.
Bike hire is available at the lakeside resort and activity centre of Avon Rí, at the southern end of Blessington; booking is essential to avoid disappointment.
Near the end of Newcastle’s Sea Road, just before reaching the shore, the East Coast Nature Reserve, or Blackditch and Murrough Wetlands, is a little known bird sanctuary which we first discovered for its bountiful blackberry bushes.
One of the hidden gems of the area, these flat wetlands, spread out between the Wicklow Mountains and the Irish Sea, are a wintering haven for all sorts of migrating birds.
Exploring the reserve, the acorns walk the boardwalks, investigate the hides, and play hide-and-seek in the rushes. Or they try their hand a fishing using reeds as fishing rods.
While driving on the R761 through Newcastle, turn onto the Sea Road. Parking is available on the roadside, across the road from the Newcastle Aerodrome (EINC). Please note that dogs are not allowed.
Kindlestown Wood, outside Delgany, is our local Coillte forest park. The acorns know their way around and always head for the same landmark spots – first, the stick swing hanging from a branch in an enchanting clearing halfway up, then the spot where Jedi had his woodland birthday party a couple of years ago. This is usually where the walk ends and play starts, as this spot has trees to climb, fallen trunks and low branches to build shelters, and also a tyre swing.
On the rare occasions when we walk to the top of the hill, the view suddenly opens out on the Irish Sea, with the northern end of Greystones at our feet. The rocks down the hillside may be the remains of an Iron Age hill fort.
From the M11/N11, take the exit signposted Glenview Hotel. Take the second right turn signposted Glen of Downs Golf Club (do not cross the flyover bridge). Pass the golf club on your left, travel to the top of the road, and at the junction turn right at the sign Delgany 3km. The entrance to Kindlestown’s car park is up the hill and on your left.
Devil’s Glen, a Coillte forest park located near Ashford, is quite simply one of the best walks we’ve ever done in the county.
Devil’s Glen was gradually cut out by meltwater during the last Ice Age. The River Vartry enters the valley at the waterfall, whose roar gave it its popular name.
Devil’s Glen is also the location of Sculpture in Woodland. The trails are dotted with large sculptures made of wood by Irish and international artists.
Quotes and excerpts by poet and Nobel-prize winner Seamus Heaney can also be read throughout the wood. The two-line poem below is etched on a wooden bench.
The riverbed, dried up, half-full of leaves.
Us, listening to a river in the trees.
Devil’s Glen is situated about 4km west of Ashford on the R763 road to Glendalough.
Annette is a blogger exploring Ireland’s great outdoors with four children and a camera. She is French, married to an Irish man, and they live in beautiful county Wicklow.