Introduction ‘Guide to the County of Wicklow’ Rev. G.N. Wright 1822

by the Rev G.N. Wright, illustrated after the designs of George Petrie esq.,
printed for Baldwin, Cradock & Joy, Pasternoster Row, London 1822

see page images and index to contents below – and also the map from this guide

The county of Wicklow, one of the smallest in Ireland, lies directly south of Dublin, and contains an area of 660 square miles, being thirty-three miles in length by twenty in breadth. It is bounded an by the Irish Sea; on the west by parts of Carlow, Kildare and Dublin  counties and on the south by Wexford. There are three baronies and four half-baronies in this county, viz. Arklow, Newcastle, Ballynacor, baronies ;- the half-baronies
are two of Talbot’s-town, one of Rathdown, and one of Shillelagh. The partition of Wicklow into baronies was probably subsequent to that of the other counties in Ireland; for although the boundary of the county was virtually assigned by the prescription of
limits to the surrounding shires, which occurred in the reign of King John yet we find that the dignity of a county was withheld from this division of Leinster until 1605.

The ancient inhabitants of this part of Ireland, according to Ptolemy, were the Cauci; but the uncertainty of the division in the old maps is such, that the Cauci and Menapii may both have inhabited the country afterwards called Wickenloe. At a very early period, viz. in the fifth century, religious characters and establishments appear to have existed in various parts of this county. Of these Pallaidius and St. Coemgen or Kevin, were the most distinguished for their piety and learning.

The aboriginal chieftains of Wicklow, the O’Tooles, O’Byrnes, O’Kavanaghs and Walshes, are now either extinct or in total obscurity, and their once great domains have passed into other hands.

There are, according to the county survey fifty-eight parishes and twenty churches in the whole county; but this number of parishes is too small, for almost every one calculated in the fifty-eight is a union of several, for instance, Arklow is an union of eight. The patronage
of these benefices is divided between two sees, Dublin and Ferns, but the Archbishop of Dublin has the greater proportion.

The face of the country is extremely varied, in one part rich, level, and fertile, in another, mountainous and barren. The vein extending from Bray to Arklow, bounded on the east by the sea, and on the west and north by the mountains, is rich and beautiful. Here the
climate is milder, owing to the shelter of the northern hills, and the soil more fertile than in the western part of the county, and the crops and harvest much more early.

The central division, in a direction north and south, although apparently barren waste and desolate, is not unproductive, for here the ancients raised iron in abundance, and probably gold, while the modems have procured copper and lead in great profusion. The more
westerly division posses both mountain and lowland but being much interrupted by the irregular protrusions of, the adjacent counties, and not being either so picturesque
or romantic as the other divisions, it has been less accurately described. One barony, particularly, Shilelagh, is so remote and inconvenient of approach, that it is seldom seen except by its own residents. Mr. Frazer has applied a very appropriate image to the illustration of the face of this country, mountainous and rugged in the centre, but skirted by rich and fertile land ;–“it resembles” says the author of the survey, “a frize cloak with a lace border;” this appears a more happy application when it is remembered the manufacture of frize is carried on amidst these very wilds.

The visitor to this county will in vain look for either of costume or distinct accent: the intercourse with the metropolis has destroyed the former, and there in no county in Ireland so completely free from the least tincture of peculiarity in dialect ; perhaps the total extermination of the Irish language may have contributed not a little to this circumstance, for in most other counties the peasantry converse in their native language only.

These few general observations being laid before the reader, it is now necessary to explain the arrangement of the following pages, and point out how they may be used with the best advantage. The  county is supposed to be subdivided longitudinally into three sections ; the first, on the sea coast, extends from Bray to Arklow; the second, from Enniskerry to Carnew; the third, from Saggard to Baltinglass. The tourist is conducted, in a serpentine direction, from Dublin to Arklow, in the south, back to Enniskerry, in the north, and then to the south again to Baltinglass by which means he sees the entire of this county, and part of the neighbouring ones. This division also corresponds with the trisection of the county by the three great lines of road, which pass through the centres of each subdivision, the Rathdrum, the Military, and Enniskerry roads. The tourist. is advised to proceed to Bray,
and while there , several interesting subjects are pointed out ; the directions are not only arranged for the tourist who every object of curiosity or interest in the county, but also for those who do not wish to proceed farther than one day’s journey; for this reason, Powerscourt, the Dargle, the Waterfall and Killruddery are all described as distinct and independent subjects, which may be visited from the village of Bray, in the course of a few hours, or else may be taken on the route of the tourist as all other places.

Kilruddery House

To return, then, to our fellow-travellers who are resolved upon accompanying us, “per varios casus” :–setting out from Bray, we pursue the new road through the Glen of the Downs, and passing through Newtown Mount Kennedy, visit every attractive scene or object from thence to Arklow. The different inns are mentioned and the precise distances stated. Turning to the south we penetrate the uninhabited wilds and romantic dells in the
mountainous tract which occupies the centre of the county, in which the mineralogy, now an important and interesting subject has been carefully attended to. And even in this wilderness, the traveller will find such directions as will enable him to be perfectly secure of comfortable inns to rest at. We now pursue the military road, and having reached the Scalp Dublin, prepare to re-conduct our reader through Tallagh, Saggard and Blessington, into a country of a different character; and which probably will not afford him as much gratification. Should he refuse to take advantage of our directions in pursuing the road to
Baltinglass, let him not at all events reject our suggestion of visiting Russborough, the seat of the Earl of Miltown, and the Waterfall of Pol-a-Phuca, both which can be readily accomplished in the space of one day.

This much appeared necessary to say, explanatory of the arrangement of the following pages ; for, the subject being new, and never before treated of, the reader cannot have any preconceived idea of its arrangement, either from the extent of his information, or intercourse with books.

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

Page 5

Page 6

Page 7

Guide to County Wicklow – 1822 Index to contents


This entry was posted in Ireland, Irish History, Maps, Wicklow and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.