On Wednesday May 17th 2023 we headed for beautiful Baltinglass in west Wicklow to explore the terrain . We were travelling from Gorey and the trip to Baltinglass was like travelling through one massive summer garden in full bloom. The views of the mountains, forests and valleys were truly awe inspiring.
When we arrived in Baltinglass we went into the Bia Blasta café where we had coffees and snacks . After that necessary re charging of the batteries and making use of the facilities we headed for the Hill Fort exhibition in the library. This was a fascinating exhibition detailing the building of hill forts in Ireland and in particular the unique cluster of nine hill forts and hilltop enclosures between 3700-3500 BC.
Being historically sated we walked the short distance to the RHS award winning Community Garden. This was a rare treat with raised beds, men’s shed, selling eggs, an inspiring walk through the orchard area. We also saw the stables and horse-riding facilities. This is a national showcase community garden on a grand scale. There are lovely accounts about this gem which I really enjoyed. One account is as follows "The entire project is raising awareness in the community on organic gardening, sustainability and harvesting, as well as the benefits of biodiversity. People involved have expertise in biodiversity, care of poultry, gardening, trees, cookery, composting and even seasonal ritual celebrations .So if it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes an entire town and its surroundings to develop a community space that includes live chickens, and a space to let nature run wild in as well as an equestrian centre.From the smallest tots in local pre-schools, through to local farmers, service users from KARE, to the active retirement group,all are encouraged to roll up their sleeves and start growing!"
We visited the beautiful St Joseph’s church with its fantastic stained-glass windows which were spewing out colour because of the lovely sun rays beaming through.The early 1800’s saw a new prosperity throughout Ireland and the population of the Baltinglass and Stratford area by 1837 exceeded 4,100. The Penal Church on Chapel Hil was no longer able to accommodate all those who attended Mass. A new site was identified and in 1845 the construction of the present St Joseph’s Parish Church commenced. The ‘Great Hunger’ of the Famine of 1845 to 1847 descended on Baltinglass and the surrounding areas.The construction work on the Church ceased . It was not completed until 1855 when it opened for public worship.
Now we journeyed to the Cistercian Abbey founded for the Cistercian monks in 1148 by Dermot Mc Murrough, King of Leinster and enriched in 1185 by John, later, King of England. Baltinglass was the second of the great Cistercian Houses of Ireland, the mother house was Mellifont founded in 1142. It was great to pay a relaxed visit to the ruins of this great place in the history of Ireland.
THe blurb on the internal notices and from Discover Ireland describe the Abbey as follows "The beautiful Baltinglass Abbey is situated on the east bank of the River Slaney in Baltinglass Town, County Wicklow. The medieval ruin features six Gothic arches on either side of the nave, supported by alternate round and square pillars.The early 16th Century saw Baltinaglass Abbey as one the richest abbeys in Ireland. Though it ceased to function from the mid-16th century due to the reformation.,fragments of the church and traces of the cloister survive. The nave aisle has alternate squares and cylindrical piers, the bases and capitals of which are decorated with a range of designs in Irish motifs.Adjoining the abbey is a great pyramid-style granite mausoleum, built in 1832 as a tomb for the Stratford family.,
It is a beautiful place ,especially on such a fine day,but tummies were rumbling and so we headed for some sustenance in the very nice Little Acorn restaurant whose chef was regularly featured in The Afternoon Show on RTE .
In the afternoon we headed for Lords Wood and its Coillte managed trail. This wood is named after a Benjamin O Neale Stratford who, as earl of Aldborough once occupied Stratford Lodge, the big house that is now the site of Baltinglass Golf Club. It was an invigorating walk. I loved the cubic oak seats carved by local craftsman Eamon Doyle in honour of Tom Nc Ginty, The Diceman.
And so, we came to the end of our relaxing tour of beautiful Baltinglass and wound our way back to Gorey, renewed, refreshed and looking forward to another visit.