Wright: A Guide to the County of Wicklow

Pdf Wright, G.N. A guide to the county of Wicklow. London: Baldwin, Cradock and Joy, 1827.
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G.N. Wright's Guide To The County Of Wicklow was first published in 1827. His guide was intended for visitors of the county who wished to follow a serpentine route from Dublin to Arklow, back north to Enniskerry and south again to Baltinglass. The book with its descriptions of the towns, landscape, people and culture of Wicklow is a snapshot of the county twenty years after the 1798 rebellion and twenty years before the calamity of the Great Irish Potato Famine. Wright possessed a great eye for detail, scenic locations and an intimate knowledge of the geography and people of the region.

The most important feature of County Wicklow is the Wicklow Mountains the largest continuous upland region in Ireland that also extend into counties Dublin , Carlow and Wexford. There are a series of peaks including, Lughnaquilla, which is the tallest. The range is also divided by a number of spectacular valleys which include ribbon lakes and glacial corries. The Liffey, Dargle, Slaney and Avoca river all have their sources in the same range.

In the valley of Glendalough , St. Kevin established a monastery in the 6th century to take advantage of the region's remoteness and isolation. In the Middle Ages, religious centres at Tintern, Ferns, Clonmines, Dunbrody and other places in Wicklow flourished until their dissolution under King Henry VIII. Wright describes how the area was mined for gold by the ancient Gaelic people and in his time was still mined for lead and copper but was otherwise desolate and poorly serviced by roads.

For centuries after the Norman invasion, the Gaelic Irish O'Toole and O'Byrne clans harassed English settlers from the safety of their refuge in the Wicklow mountains. The region was an ideal hideout for rebels following the 1798 rebellion. However eventually the British constructed a military road traversing the area enabling their troops to quickly access the mountains and finally defeat die-hard bands of republican guerillas. Wright goes further and describes the ecclesiastical, political and military history of Wicklow in much detail in order that a visitor would have a knowledge and sensitivity about the region.

By the early 19th century the natural beauty of the region attracted British tourists who wished to enjoy the romance of the scenery and investigate a range of ancient ruins. The rugged unspoiled beauty of Ireland contrasted with the industrialisation and smoke of British cities. Wright describes a series of inns where travelers could stay during their journey around Wicklow and precise distances of each leg of their intended journeys. The oldest walking trail through the region is the Wicklow Way which takes visitors from the southern suburbs of Dublin as far as Clonegal in Co. Carlow.

Wright describes the coastal region between Bray and Arklow bordered by the Wicklow Mountains on side and the Irish Sea on the other. The coast is a series of shallow bays and sandy beaches with Wicklow Head, Ardmore Point, Bray Head and Mizen Head the most important headlands. The south east coast would in time become very popular for its seaside resorts.

As well as describing the landscape and places to see, Wright comments on the wretched poverty of the Gaelic Irish inhabitants who made a precarious living on the barren hillsides. This is contrasted with the luxurious lifestyle of the landed gentry who lived in the 'Big House' such as Powerscourt House the seat of the Wingfield dynasty and Russborough House seat of the Earls of Milltown. The book concludes with the names and residences of the gentry that reads as a 'who's who' of the wealthiest and most influential in Wicklow high society.

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