As the summer begins to think about meeting autumn halfway, it’s not too late for tourists to visit the interface between Dublin and Wicklow, where suburbia withdraws and hands over to the mountains. A good spot to visit, accessible by public bus from Dublin or through day tour packages, is the Powerscourt Estate.
Home to a once medieval castle, the house on the grounds has been subsequently rebuilt twice: first into a Palladian styled home by the 1st Viscount Powerscourt (completed in 1741), then in the 1990s by the Slazenger family, current owners, necessitated by a devastating fire in 1974. Though the house offers a 12 minute audio-visual history of the estate, arguably it’s the magnificent gardens that make Powerscourt worth visiting.
The grounds offer Italian Gardens and a Japanese Garden, laced with a romantic grotto and Japanese maple trees that come alive in the autumn. The trees of the grounds make the estate most pleasant to walk at any time of year, with over 250 varieties to witness, including Giant Sequoia and Giant Redwood. The River Walk harbours Ireland’s tallest tree, a Douglas Fir that stands proud at 61.5 metres tall.
It’s perhaps by Triton Lake in the Italian Gardens that the most spectacular view of Sugar Loaf Mountain and neighbouring mountains can be found. Here, on a clear summer’s day, Wicklow radiates.
The grounds also contain a Pepperpot Tower with a good viewing point, a pet cemetery and a fine array of gates and statues that various Viscounts of Powerscourt purchased or commissioned arising from their travels across Europe. The house offers a café, shopping opportunities, and a childhood museum displaying dolls houses, toys and memorabilia. There’s also a garden centre, a hotel and golf courses on the estate.
Unfortunately the house and gardens close at 5.30pm, but nearby Powerscourt Waterfall (6km from the estate) is open until 7pm until the end of August. Some of that remaining summer night brightness can be captured there.
If you’ve a car and your appetite for Wicklow’s scenery remains unsatisfied there are plenty of places nearby to explore before dusk. For those making their way back to Dublin on the 44 bus Enniskerry, where the bus departs, is a little village is full of quaint cafés, shops and places for eating and drinking. Just make sure you don’t miss the last bus, as you’ll need more than loose change for Powerscourt Estate’s hotel if you need to stay the night.