Our 2009 Visit to Powerscourt, Co. Wicklow
One of the big pluses of living in Dublin is that you’re never too far away from the sea or the mountains. One of my favourite places to visit is over the southern border into beautiful Co. Wicklow. Not only is it the home county of some of my close friends but it’s also home to some stunning scenery. It’s not called the “Garden of Ireland” for nothing. County Wicklow is also proudly part of Ireland’s Ancient East.
I had the pleasure of visiting one small section of it in 2009 – Powerscourt. Charlie and I
stayed in the Powerscourt Hotel & Spa in February of that year. Back then it was a Ritz Carlton but has changed hands since then and was sold again in 2019. This hotel is located near the picturesque village of Enniskerry, only 30min from Dublin City centre, and 35min from Dublin airport. This summer, Enniskerry underwent a huge transformation to a Disney movie set for the filming of “Disenchanted”, the follow-up to the blockbuster “Enchanted” featuring, amongst others, Patrick Dempsey - Dr. McDreamy himself!
Powerscourt Hotel & Spa
So back to the hotel, it is set amidst the scenic and historic Powerscourt Estate. The hotel has 198 rooms and features Palladian-style architecture with luxurious amenities including a 20m Swarovski crystal-lit indoor pool. Additionally, the Estate features 2 championship level golf courses and a beautiful spa with 20 treatment rooms by ESPA. The suite we had was gorgeous; with a separate livingroom/diningroom, large bedroom and bathroom. We had a lovely balcony but the weather didn’t play ball.
Meals are usually served in the Sika Restaurant, with a relaxed atmosphere and views overlooking the Sugar Loaf Mountain. Afternoon Tea is a popular tradition at Powerscourt Hotel, served in the Sugar Loaf Lounge, where guests can enjoy the wonderful pastry creations with breath-taking views. We opted for room service of the Gordon Ramsey food (crab salad, pork belly, roasted duck finishing off with chocolate & hazelnut feuillatine and chocolate & raspberry shot) and everything was as delicious as it looked!
We then popped down for a couple of after dinner drinks to McGill’s, their “traditional Irish Pub”.
Powerscourt House & Gardens
Next day we really enjoyed the visit to nearby Powerscourt House and Gardens. The immaculately sculpted Powerscourt Gardens are one of my favourite gardens and I never grow tired of the perfectly groomed hedges and lawns, sweeping staircases descending to a rippling lake, and mythological statues…. and of course the stunning views of Wicklow’s famous mountains, the Sugar Loaf.
Powerscourt Estate has existed for around 800 years, although it didn’t come into its own as a premier Irish country estate until the 1800s. A medieval castle existed on this spot, which was incorporated into the 68-room spectacular Palladian mansion that was built in the 1730s and 1740s. It’s a great rectangular building, all grey stone and rounded windows that is imposing because of its sheer size and symmetry. So it’s a real shame that a fire in the 1970s essentially gutted it. When it was restored to life in 1996, most of the ground floor was dedicated to a really good shop and an Avoca café. Avoca is basically an Irish institution. There are two public rooms restored to historic standards for private functions and I attended a Christmas Party here once back in the 1990s. But the outside is where it’s all happening here!
Having been named in the top three most beautiful gardens in the world by National Geographic, it’s no wonder that Powerscourt House and Gardens is so popular. Stretching over 47 acres, the area features an Italian garden, Japanese garden, and a walled garden, as well as the large house as I said, dating back to the 13th century. In fact, the main Italian garden, which descends from the house to Triton Lake took inspiration from Versailles. In many ways, Powerscourt is Versailles in miniature.
Walk in the Powerscourt Gardens with me!
Once you make your way through the turnstiles, (having paid €11.50 if you’re not a member), you are immediately in prime position to take in the view across impossible shades of green to the Sugar Loaf mountain. From here I recommend a counter-clockwise tack. Don’t worry — they give you a map:
Start at the Walled Garden
The Walled Garden is the perfect place to start enjoying this estate. Here there are four busts of the great Italian Masters, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Raphael and Cellini. To make the most of these, try to visit Late April through August. Because the main attraction is the gardens, the high season at Powerscourt is very much the summer. But don’t be disheartened if you visit in winter. It was still lovely when we were there in February.
Next, the morbid but lovely Pet Cemetery
The walled garden leads out to secluded ponds and a gentle stroll through woods. Follow the path from here around to the Pet Cemetery. We thoroughly enjoyed looking at the names and species of the deceased Wingfield family pets. Morbid, but brilliant. The pet cemetery is my favourite. Have a look at some of the headstones:
Take in the views from the lake
It’s hard to believe that the 7th Viscount Powerscourt was only 21 years old when he began overhauling these gardens; drawing inspiration from travels in France, Austria and Germany.
Keep walking downhill from the pet cemetery and you come out at the bottom of the lake. Take a moment to gaze back up toward the House, which looks gorgeous from here.
A little of the far East in Ireland
The next set of gardens is my other favourite; the Japanese Garden. All of the gardens at Powerscourt are structured — purposeful — and the Japanese Garden continues this in typical zen fashion. There are smaller water features, a fountain, a little river crisscrossed with tiny bridges that serve as the perfect Instagram/ Facebook photo spots! Take a moment here and just listen to the birdsong. If you visit in spring, you can enjoy the perfectly placed cherry blossom trees.
Climb the Pepper Pot Tower
The final stop on this walk around the Powerscourt gardens is the Pepperpot Tower. According to family history, the tower was built in the 1860s or 1870s, and was modelled on Lady Wingfield’s favourite 3-inch pepperpot! You can actually climb up the tower. It is a short climb to the top of the tower, with stunning views over the estate and west to Sugarloaf Mountain.
The path then leads back up to the main house. We then decided to see the nearby Powerscourt Waterfall.
We then drove on to Powerscourt Waterfall. On the southern edge of the Powerscourt Estate, 6km south of Powerscourt House, is this picturesque waterfall. At 121m it's the highest in Ireland (though it's a cascade, rather than a single drop) and is at its most impressive after heavy rain. The waterfall is signposted from the main estate entrance; walking is not recommended, as the route lies on narrow roads with no footpath.
A nature trail around the base of the waterfall takes you past large redwoods, ancient oaks, beech, birch and rowan trees. There are plenty of birds in the vicinity, including the chaffinch, cuckoo, chiffchaff, raven and willow warbler.
It is a popular tourist attraction for many visitors in Wicklow. There are walking trails and picnic areas, so you can make the most of your afternoon here. You can get annual Powerscourt membership that gets you in for free at the waterfall gate, otherwise €6.50 per adult. It’s a short drive through the woods, and then suddenly the waterfall is there.
There is something so mystical about the waterfall that you’ll want to take lots of pictures. It doesn’t have the thundering majesty of a straight drop waterfall, but the play of white lacy water against the rocks with the green trees framing it is magnificent.
We took the scenic route back to Dublin, driving through the Wicklow and Dublin Mountains which are more hills than mountains really but are truly breathtaking. We arrived back in Dublin refreshed and relaxed…..and looking forward to our next trip to the Garden County of Wicklow ❤.
Bucket List Items Ticked Off in the above Blog 58
Number 16 - Nature & Wildlife - WaterfallsNumber 57 - Travel - 7 ContinentsNumber 59 - Travel - HotelsNumber 60 (b) - Travel - Stay in the 32 Counties in Ireland
Other Blog Posts
Blog 11 - Sydney, Australia
Blog 12 - Hong Kong, China
Blog 17 - Beijing, Xi'an & Shanghai, China
Blog 19 - California, USA
Blog 27 - Scotland
Blog 28 - Barbados
Blog 29 - Canada
Blog 30 - Alaska
Blog 31 - Everglades, Florida
Have you ever visited Powerscourt? Tell me about your experience in the comments section below.
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My name is Mary and this is my bucket list blog ...having survived a near-death experience. I hope it encourages you to "live your best life". See how I'm completing my own bucket list items. And let me know how you're getting on with yours!