Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Ireland travels - Newgrange, Trim, and the Wicklow Mountains

Our Ireland holiday is starting to recede into memory, so I am keen to share some more recaps while the details are relatively fresh. Today's post takes in three separate places, two of which (Newgrange and Trim) could be done together on one day, as we did, and all of which could be done as day trips from Dublin. From Dublin, Newgrange is a 50 minute drive north, Trim a 50 minute drive north-west, and the Wicklow mountains a 70 minute drive south.

Newgrange passage tomb from afar

Newgrange is part of the Brú na Bóinne world heritage site, which contains three prehistoric passage tombs. Newgrange is one of them, and the only passage tomb you can enter inside. The construction of the tombs is thought to have commenced around 3300BC and they are older than the Egyptian pyramids as well as England's Stonehenge. They also contain the largest collection of megalithic art in Western Europe. 

Entrance to the Newgrange tomb

To see the passage tombs you need to take a tour from the Brú na Bóinne visitor's centre. Shuttle buses take groups out to the Newgrange site, where you join a guided tour that explains the history of the area and allows you to enter the tomb (no photos are permitted within). We found the visitor's centre and tours to be well set up, and also very reasonably priced at €6.00 (£4.50 or $6.50) per adult. It is definitely something to put on your Ireland itinerary if you can.

We went from Newgrange to the small town of Trim, where Trim castle dominates the landscape beautifully. Mr Bite and I are very fond of castles and especially fond of ones that you can clamber on. The keep at Trim castle is intact (and only accessible by tour) but the exterior walls are semi-ruined and perfect for climbing and exploring.

Trim castle keep

We arrived with over an hour until the next tour of the castle keep and so we didn't do that. However, we easily filled half an hour wandering the sunny castle grounds. If you were so inclined, there are walk trails and picnic areas around the castle too. It costs €2.00 to enter the castle grounds and another €2.00 to tour the keep.

Trim castle

The Wicklow mountains are to the south of Dublin and include Powerscourt waterfall, Powerscourt gardens, and the old monastic town of Glendalough. The drive through the area is also renowned for being scenic. 

Powerscourt waterfall

We drove through the area en route south and I thought Powerscourt waterfall would be a brief scenic stopping point mid-morning. It proved to be that, but we were very taken aback by the price to drive in and see it:  €5.50 each (yes, nearly the same as the guided tour of Newgrange!). I had expected it to be free and whilst the waterfall was pleasant, it was definitely not worth that price. If we hadn't driven down a steep, narrow winding road to reach it then I suspect we would have left without paying, but as it is we learnt a lesson about checking prices before visiting natural attractions.

The waterfall is the tallest in Ireland but having seen shorter more impressive ones later in our trip, I can say it isn't the most attractive. It is set in a large area with picnic tables, walking trails and a children's playground, so perhaps as an all-day family outing the admission would seem more reasonable.

Wicklow mountains driving

The Powerscourt gardens have a separate entrance fee and deserve more time than we could give them, but I suspect they are a little better in terms of value for money.


Fortunately Glendalough made up for the overpriced waterfall. This early Christian monastic settlement was founded in the 6th century and many of the buildings remain intact. It is also set in a scenic position between two lakes and backing up against mountains. Happily, it is free to wander.

Glendalough cemetary and round tower

Again, if you had time, there are walk trails branching off from the region. We made use of the picnic tables to eat lunch, but didn't venture further afield than the monastery itself. On the topic of lunch, there is a hotel at the site but the area is not well served by cafes or stores and self-catering is recommended if you plan to eat while there.

Newgrange can be visited from the Brú na Bóinne world heritage centre. It is open daily except from the 24th to 27th December inclusive, but opening hours vary by time of year. Details are at http://www.worldheritageireland.ie/bru-na-boinne/ .

Trim castle is managed by Heritage Ireland and is open daily from mid-March to late October, and on weekends for the rest of the year. Details are at http://www.heritageireland.ie/en/midlandseastcoast/TrimCastle/ .

Glendalough is located within the Wicklow mountains national park and details are available at http://www.glendalough.ie/ . Note that you do not need to take a tour to see the site.

Have you visited anywhere recently that has seemed particularly good or poor value for money?


  1. I have only ever been to Dublin, but I would love to explore more of Ireland. It looks so beautiful.

    1. It's definitely worth seeing if you get a chance :-)

  2. All of the scenery is so striking!

  3. Looks beautiful. I didn't know about the waterfall having an entrance fee. I assume my mum and sister have been there as I am sure I have seen quite a few photos of them at Powerscourt Gardens because my mum loves visiting gardens. I have been to Glendalough but would love to go to Trim and Newgrange. Such amazing history around Ireland.

    1. Isn't it just - it's densely packed history.

      I think the Powerscourt Gardens are perhaps more worthwhile than the waterfall ;)

  4. I love your photos! Wow, the price to see the waterfall was steep - I would expect natural attractions to be free to look at.

  5. It looks like you had beautiful weather while in Ireland. I have never heard of those tombs! Incredible. I can't believe the age of them. What a shame you couldn't take photos for us to share in the experience. I would love to see the art. The castle is amazing. I love the long history Ireland has - our is so short by comparison! xx

    1. It is so short! The time periods are a bit dazzling sometimes.


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