Soak up the History that Wicklow has to offer with the Avoca Experience. This day trip will take you in a loop around the beautiful South Wicklow countryside.
Begin your day with a trip to the origin of Avoca Handweavers. There's a free Visitor Centre which tells the story since 1723 and a Mill Tour where you meet the weavers at work. Avoca Handweavers, now mostly known simply as Avoca, is a clothing manufacturing, retail and food business in Ireland. Started in Avoca, County Wicklow, it is the oldest working woollen mill in Ireland and one of the world's oldest manufacturing companies. It is also Ireland's oldest surviving business.
The mill on the banks of the fast-flowing River Avoca survives from at least 1723. Travel to and from the remote village was difficult and a barter system was used. The mill was used for grinding corn for bread and spinning and weaving wool.
In 1760 a Fly Shuttle Loom, capable of weaving up to 20 metres of cloth a day arrived. Workers, concerned about possible unemployment, resorted to burning some looms. Three sisters, the Wynnes, inherited the mill in the 1920s and introduced colour. Avoca Handweavers tweeds was produced and exported, including for use by Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli. The material was also used for a waistcoat for King George VI and baby blankets for the children of Queen Elizabeth II.In 1974, Donald Pratt, a solicitor engaged to handle the sale of the mill which now faced closure decided to buy it himself. Along with his wife, Hilary, a teacher, he set about getting Avoca Handweavers back on its feet. The Pratts began exporting handwoven rugs and throws to the UK and other countries. Avoca throws are still sold across the globe. Managed now by two generations of the Pratt family, Avoca continues to develop with several large retail outlets around Ireland, including Powerscourt and Malahide Castle, and in Belfast. Many of these also have popular food halls & cafes attached as their food operations expand. The Avoca Café Cookbooks have proven to be popular bestsellers.
Then move on to Avondale House, the birthplace and home of Charles Stewart Parnell one of the greatest political leaders of Irish
history. Set in a magnificent forest park of over 500 acres with tree trails and walks ranging in duration from one to five hours. This beautiful Georgian House designed by James Wyatt and built in 1777 contains fine plasterwork and many original pieces of furniture.
Then on to Wicklow Gaol. It tells a story of crime, cruelty, exile and misery. The harshness of prison life in the 18th Century, the passion of the 1798 rebellion, the cruelty of the transportation ships and hope of a new life in Australia can all be experienced in Wicklow Gaol. This is a thought provoking attraction. The original gaol dungeon is open again for the first time in over 100 years. You can experience first-hand the sights and sounds of harsh life in the dungeon or, you could just sit in the solitude cell and feel the desperation of those that were there before you.
End your day by taking the scenic route home and making a stop in the beautiful village of Aughrim. It lies in a scenic valley in the east of Ireland where the Ow and Derry rivers meet to form the Aughrim river. The Rednagh Bridge south of the village was the site of an engagement during the 1798 rebellion between Crown forces and the rebels. There are a number of unusual granite terraced houses throughout the village, constructed - along with a forge, and town hall - at the behest of the Earl of Meath. Aughrim was a granite mining village, and this material is widely used, giving the village a distinctive and coherent architecture.
A plaque on the bridge commemorates Anne Devlin, who was employed by and supported Robert Emmet, a revolutionary who was hanged in 1803 for his leadership of an aborted uprising. Aughrim is an important agricultural, horticultural and timber processing village, and has become a popular venue for walkers. The Sean Linehan Way starts by Tinakilly Bridge on the east side of the village, while just to the west the Ciaran Shannon Way can be accessed via the Rednagh Road or by parking at Annacurragh village. Both walks offer a mix of woodland and riverside, with rich bird and wild-life along well-maintained forestry trails and walkways.