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Wicklow, Ireland

WICKLOW, IRELAND, a county of Ireland in the province of Leinster, bounded E. by St George's Channel, N. by the county of Dublin, S. by Wexford and W. by Carlow and detached portions of Kildare. The area is 500, 216 acres or about 782 sq. m. Wicklow is among the most famous counties of Ireland for beauty of scenery, both coastal and more especially inland. The coast is precipitous and picturesque, but very dangerous of approach owing to sandbanks. There are no inlets that can be properly termed bays. The harbour at Wicklow has a considerable trade; but that of Arklow is suitable only for small vessels. To the north of the town of Wicklow there is a remarkable shingle beach, partly piled up by the waves and currents. The central portion of the county is occupied by a mountain range, forming one of the four principal mountain groups of Ireland. The direction of the range is from N.E. to S.Wi, and the highest elevations are generally attained along the central line. The range consists of long sweeping moorlands, rising occasionally by precipitous escarpments into culminating points, the highest summits being Kippure (2473 ft.), Duff Hill (2364), Table Mountain (2416) and Lugnaquilla (3039), the last acquired by the War Office as a manoeuvring ground. The range rises from the north by a succession of ridges intersected by deep glens, and subsides towards the borders of Wexford and Carlow. To the north its foothills enter county Dublin, and add attraction to the southern residential outskirts of the capital.

In the valleys there are many instances of old river terraces, the more remarkable being those at the lower end of Glenmalure and the lower end of Glendalough. It is in its deep glens that much of the peculiar charm of Wicklow scenery is to be found, the frequently rugged natural features contrasting finely with the rich and luxuriant foliage of the extensive woods which line their banks. Among the more famous of these glens are Glendalough, Dargle, Glencree, Glen of the Downs, Devil's Glen, Glenmulure and the beautiful vale of Avoca or Ovoca. The principal rivers are the Liffey, on the north-western border; the Vartry, which passes through Devil's Glen to the sea north of Wicklow Head; the Avonmore and the Avonbeg, which unite at the " meeting of the waters " to form the Avoca, which is afterwards joined by the Aughrim and falls into the sea at Arklow; and the Slaney, in the west of the county, passing southwards into Carlow. There are a number of small but finely situated lakes in the valleys, the principal being Loughs Dan, Bray and Tay or Luggelaw, and the loughs of Glendalough. The troutfishing is generally fair. Owing to its proximity to Dublin and its accessibility from England, the portions of the county possessing scenic interest have been opened up to great advantage. Bray in the north is one of the most popular seaside resorts in the country, and Greystones, 5 m. S., is a smaller one. Of the small towns and villages inland which are much frequented for the beauty of the country in which they lie, are Enniskerry, west of Bray, and near the pass of the Scalp; Laragh, near Glendalough, from which a great military road runs S.W. across the hills below Lugnaquilla; and, on the railway south of Wicklow, Rathdrum, a beautifully situated village, Woodenbridge in the Vale of Avoca and Aughrim. Near the village of Shillelagh lies the wood which is said to have given the name of shillelagh to the oaken or blackthorn staves used by Irishmen. Ashford and Roundwood on the Vastry river, Delgany near the Glen of the Downs, and Rathnew, a centre of coach routes, especially for the Devil's Glen, must also be mentioned. The beauty of the central district of the Wicklow mountains lies in its wild solitude in contradistinction to the more gentle scenery of the populated glens. In the extreme north-west of the county Blessington is a favourite resort from Dublin, served by a steam tramway, which continues up the valley of the Liffey to the waterfalls of Pollaphuca. The climate near the sea is remarkably mild, and permits the myrtle and arbutus to grow.

Geology. Wicklow, as regards its geology, is mainly an extension of county Wexford, the Leinster chain bounding it on the west, and Silurian foothills sloping thence down to the sea. Theliighland of muscovite-granite, with a marginal zone of mica-schist, produced by contact-action on the Silurian shales, runs from Shillelagh to the sea north of Bray, its highest point being Lugnaquilla. The rounded heather-clad moors give way to more broken country on either side, where the streams cut deeply into the Silurian region. The watersupply of Dublin is obtained from an artificial lake on the first plateau of the foothills at Roundwood. From Wicklow town to near Bray, red and greenish slates and yellow-brown quartzites, probably Cambrian, form a hilly country, in which rise Carrick Mt., the Great Sugarloaf and Bray Head. Oldhamia occurs in this series. Volcanic anil intrusive felsites and diprites abound in the Silurian beds of the south, running along the strike of the strata. A considerable amount of gold has been extracted from the valley-gravels north of Croghan Kinshela on the Wexford border. Tinstone has also been found in small quantities. Lead-ore is raised west of Laragh, and the mines in the Avoca valley have been worked for copper, lead and sulphur, the last-named being obtained from pyrite. Paving-setts are made from the diorite at Arklow, and granite is extensively quarried at Ballyknockan on the west side of the mountain-chain.

Industries. The land in the lower grounds is fertile; and although tlu' greater part of the higher districts is covered with heath and turf, it affords good pasturage for sheep. There is a considerable extent of natural timber as well as artificial plantations. The acreage under pasture is nearly three times that of tillage, and, whereas the principal crops of oats and potatoes decrease considerably, the numbers of sheep, cattle, pigs and poultry are well maintained. Except in the Avoca district, where the mining industry is of some importance, the occupations are chiefly agricujtural. The port of Wicklow is the headquarters of a sea-fishery district.

The Dublin and South-Eastern railway skirts the coast by way of Bray and the town of Wicklow, touching it again at Arklow, with a branch line from Woodenbridge junction to Shillelagh. A branch of the Great Southern & Western line from Sallins skirts the west of the county by Baltinglass.

Population and Administration. The population (64,492 in 1891, 60,824 in 1901) decreases to a less extent than the average of the Irish counties, and emigration is considerable. Of the total about 80% are Roman Catholics, and 18% Protestant Episcopalians; about 80% forms the rural population. Bray (pop. 7424), Wicklow (the county town, 3288) and Arklow (4944) are the principal towns, all on the coast; Wicklow is the only considerable port. Wicklow returned to the Irish parliament, until the Union in 1800, two county members and two each for the boroughs of Baltinglass, Bray, Tinahely and Arklow; it is now formed into two parliamentary divisions, an eastern and a western, each returning one member. The county is divided into eight baronies. It is mainly in the Protestant diocese of Dublin and in the Roman Catholic dioceses of Dublin, Kildare and Leighlin and Ferns. Assizes are held at Wicklow, and quartersessions at Bray, Baltinglass, Tinahely, Arklow and Wicklow.

History and Antiquities. Wicklow was not made a county until 1606. It was the last Irish ground shired, for in this mountainous district the Irish were long able to preserve independence. Wicklow sided with the royal cause during the Cromwellian wars, but on Cromwell's advance submitted to him without striking a blow. During the rebellion of 1798 some of the insurgents took refuge within its mountain fastnesses, and an engagement took place near Aughrim between a band of them under Joseph Holt (i 756-1826) and the British troops. A second skirmish was fought at Arklow between the rebels and General Needham, the former being defeated.

Of the ancient cromlechs there are three of some interest, one near Enniskerry, another on the summit of Lugnaquilla and a third, with a druidical circle, at Donaghmore. There are comparatively unimportant monastic remains at Rathdrum, Baltinglass and Wicklow. The ruins in the vale of Glendalough, known as the " seven churches," including a perfect round tower, are, perhaps excepting Clonmacnoise, the most remarkable ecclesiastical remains in Ireland. They owe their origin to St Kevin, who lived in the vale as a hermit, and is reputed to have died on the 3rd of June 618. Of the old fortalices or strongholds associated with the early wars, those of special interest are Black Castle, near Wicklow, originally founded by the Norman invaders, but taken by the Irish in 1301, and afterwards rebuilt by William Fitzwilliam; the scattered remains of Castle Kevin, the ancient stronghold of the O'Tooles, by whom it was probably originally built in the 12th century; and the ruins of the old castle o'f the Ormondes at Arklow, founded by Theobald FitzWaltcr (d. 1285), the scene of frequent conflicts up to the time of Cromwell, by whom it was demolished in 1649, and now containing within the interior of its ruined walls a constabulary barrack. The fine mansion of Powerscourt occupies the site of an old fortalice founded by De la Poer, one of the knights who landed with Strongbow; in the reign of Henry VIII. it was taken by the O'Tooles and O'Brynes.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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