Wicklow Mountain, see them on our Irish Tours Wicklow Mountain, see them on our Irish Tours

East Ireland Travel Guide Wicklow and the East of Ireland

Welcome to Ireland's East

Escaping the bustle of Dublin and heading south, you will encounter the scenic beauty of Wicklow, wild and enchanting. Stunning landscapes surround you as you explore the majestic glacial valleys and dramatic mountain passes. This rugged landscape of gorse and bracken is home to many of Ireland's most significant archaeological finds, from the stately homes of 18th-century gentry to the very earliest Christian dwellings.

Animal-lovers should head west to Kildare, the home of Irish horse racing and a landscape beautiful enough to rival Wicklow to the east.

Plan Your Trip to The East of Ireland

Attractions of The East

Guests visiting the East on their tour of Ireland should look out for Brú na Bóinne, Glendalough, Powerscourt Estate, Monasterboice and Castletownhouse, all detailed below.

Powerscourt House in County Wicklow, as seen on many of our tours of Ireland Powerscourt House in County Wicklow, as seen on many of our tours of Ireland

Powerscourt Estate County Wicklow

Powerscourt Estate

Even the briefest visit to this Palladian mansion, with extensive Italianate gardens, will give a sense of the inequality which existed in Ireland during the Eighteenth Century when Powerscourt was built. Originally built by Richard Cassels between 1731 and 1743, the main building was the subject of continued rejuvenation for generations to come, with considerable alterations being made in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. The last chapter in this story of renovation would not arrive until 1974 when, tragically gutted by fire, the mansion was subjected to a painstaking restoration which continues to this day, restricting visitor-access to the first (i.e. ground) floor only.

Powerscourt is a very popular attraction and, during the summer months, draws significant crowds. Visitors should allow for this by avoiding peak times wherever possible. Mid-week, visiting tourists can enjoy the estate's many attractions at a relaxed pace, both indoors and out. The formal gardens, redesigned in the Nineteenth Century by Daniel Robinson, are truly breathtaking in their beauty and encompass a panoply of different landscaping styles. Visit Powerscourt Estate Website

Glendalough, County Wicklow, Ireland

GlendaloughCounty Wicklow


An ancient monastic settlement, Glendalough (meaning: Valley of the Two Lakes) presents today's visitors with a chance to walk not only through the idyllic hills of Ireland's East, but also through the rough-hewn landscapes of ancient Irish history. Founded in the Fifth Century by St. Kevin, the settlement would grow to be very powerful at its zenith some four hundred years later. By the start of the Fifteenth Century, this stronghold was in decline but the stone monuments and buildings remain as evocative and powerful today as they surely must have been then. Glendalough is a destination on many of our tours of Ireland.

Images courtesy of Glendalough Gallery (see full slideshow), taken by John Griffin Photography & Michael Delahunty.

Brú na Bóinne

A thousand years older than Stonehenge, Brú na Bóinne is a huge Neolithic necropolis, built to house the bodies of the social elites who ruled this region of ancient Ireland. Covering a large area, Brú na Bóinne is perhaps best known for three main sites - Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth (Dowth is closed to tourists). A must-see on any Ireland Tour.

All visits to Brú na Bóinne start at the visitor centre, where a shuttle-bus service will collect you and take you to the most important sites. Be warned that tours of Newgrange and Knowth are limited to 750 places per day, while Brú na Bóinne as a whole attracts nearly three times this number during peak season. With no advance booking available, it pays to arrive early and be patient.

The Battle of The Boyne

Fought in 1690 between two rival claimants of the English, Scottish, and Irish thrones, catholic King James II and protestant King William III of Orange, the Battle of The Boyne would shore up the growing strength of protestantism in Ireland, precipitating James's swift departure for safety in France.

The battle itself was fought on a stretch of land between the counties of Meath and Louth which now belongs to the Oldbridge Estate Farm. On site, there is a visitor centre with a short show, original and replica weapons, and a battlefield model. There is also a tea pavilion to which the battle-weary can retreat for hot drinks and cakes.

For information about great driving routes in this area, look up www.boynevalleyroute.com - a really useful resource for those considering a self-drive tour of East Ireland.

Castletown House, County Kildare Castletown House, County Kildare

Castletown House County Kildare

Castletown House

The eighteenth-century Anglo-Irish gentry left plenty of reminders of the opulence they enjoyed, as the Powerscourt Estate (above) will attest. But even among the many stately homes of Ireland, Castletown House stands out as Ireland's largest and most imposing Georgian estate.

Built over a period of ten years from 1722, the house itself was to be the home of Ireland's richest man, William Conolly (1662-1729) who died three years before the house was completed. The speaker of the Irish House of Commons, Conolly was something of a rags-to-riches figure who had made his fortune from astute property trading in the flux which followed the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

This palatial mansion is built in the Italian style and retains a cohesive architectural identity despite the mixed contributions of first- and second-wave architects, not to mention Conolly's creative widow. Visitors will enjoy the Long Gallery, in particular, which houses a large number of impressive family portraits and stucco work by the Francinis.

Kylemore Abbey in Connemara Kylemore Abbey in Connemara

Visit Glendalough on these Tours

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Worth the Trip Notable Detours and Diversions

Sally Gap

Accessible by car, this is also one for the thousands hill walkers who visit Ireland each year. Sally Gap offers visitors some of the most beautiful scenery you will find anywhere on your tour of Ireland, so don't forget to bring your camera along with you. Sally Gap is one of two west-east passes across the Wicklow Mountains, and affords fantastic views of Lough Tay and Lough Dan.

Town's of the East

Not known for its own tourist attractions, but a good stop-off nonetheless is Kildare Town . In Trim, County Meath, look out for St Brigid's Cathedral before heading over to the Irish National Stud. A quaint town sitting the shadow of its dramatic castle and ruins. A busy bustle of little streets so look out for your souvenirs here. Another town of note, 30 miles north of Dublin, Drogheda straddles the River Boyne. There is a great museum here and plenty of beautiful old buildings.

The Irish National Stud & Gardens

Just over a mile south of Kildare town, The Irish National stud is perhaps the biggest tourist attraction in this part of Ireland. In her historic 2011 visit to Ireland, Queen Elizabeth II fed her passion for all things equestrian by visiting the stud which is home to some of the world's finest horses. Owned by the Irish government, the stud breeds competition-quality stallions for breeding programs the world-over.

Hourly guided tours of the stud bring you face-to-face with renowned stallions and feature a visit to the intensive-care unit for newly-born foals and visitors between February and June can even see foals being delivered.

The Japanese Gardens are perhaps not large enough to merit a special visit in their own right, but they are very pretty and, when in bloom, add a very pleasant sidenote to the main attraction, the stud itself.

Enjoy The Irish National Stud in County Kildare on your tour of Ireland Enjoy The Irish National Stud in County Kildare on your tour of Ireland

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My Ireland Travel Guide

Barrels at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland

Dublin City

Ireland's much-loved capital and the gateway to the Emerald Isle. A vibrant, modern and outward-facing city, most Ireland tours and vacations begin here. Read more...

  • Guinness Storehouse
  • Trinity College
  • Temple Bar Quarter
  • The Book of Kells
  • Dublin Castle
About Dublin
Lighthouse in Hook Head

Wicklow & the East

This wild landscape of gorse and bracken is home to many of Ireland's most significant archaeological finds, as well its grandest estates. Read more...

  • Powerscourt Estate
  • Glendalough Settlement
  • Brú na Bóinne
  • Battle of The Boyne
  • National Stud
About the East
The Cliffs of Moher

Galway & the West

Pack walking boots, a camera and a sense of adventure as you head west for Galway, County Clare and the Wild Atalantic Way. Heritage, tradition and Read more...

  • Kylemore Abbey
  • Cliffs of Moher
  • Clonmacnoise Settlement
  • Clare Music Sessions
  • The Burren Landscape
About the West
Kilkenny Castle by the riverside

Kilkenny & South-East

The sunny South East. Ireland's warmest and driest region is also one of its most popular destinations with tourists and locals alike. Read more...

  • The Rock of Cashel
  • Waterford Crystal
  • Lismore Castle
  • Tintern Abbey
  • St Canice's Cathedral
The South East
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Cork and Kerry

Wind-swept, welcoming and rugged, Ireland South West typifies what visitors expect Ireland to look like – vibrant, vivid and verdant. Read more...

  • Cork English Market
  • Blarney Castle
  • The Ring of Kerry
  • Killarney Nat. Park
  • Skellig Michael
The South West
Trad Session in Donegal, Ireland

Donegal and Sligo

Less well-trodden than Dublin, Belfast or Killarney, this picturesque region invites you to get outdoors. Don't forget your camera! Read more...

  • Slieve League Cliffs
  • Lakes and Loughs
  • Maghera Beach
  • Errigal Mountain
  • Glencolmcille Village
The North West
The Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland

Belfast & The North

In peace, Belfast and the North have staked their rightful claim as some of the Island of Ireland's most iconic and cultural regions. Read more...

  • The City of Belfast
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  • Giant's Causeway
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Northern Ireland
Solo traveller admiring the coastal view in Ireland

Ireland Solo Travel

Whether you're looking to meet new people or just yearning get away from it all, Ireland is a great place to travel independently. Read more...

  • Experience the Culture
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