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Wicklow Mountains National Park

Early Routes and Roads


In the Late Bronze Age, trade became more important between the communities living in and around the mountains. Routeways were needed to link the settlements to the coast and to each other. As communications routes developed they inevitably followed the north-west / south-east orientation of the mountain valleys.

There were four principal prehistoric tracks that were used by early travellers and traders. The most northerly route was from Newcastle near the coast through the Sally Gap to Kilbride in northwest Wicklow and on to Naas. This route would have provided access to the settlements in the vicinity of Blessington.

A second route went in a south-westerly direction from Wicklow through Rathnew and Glenealy, skirted the southern slopes of Carrick Mountain before travelling northwards to Parkmore and then eastwards to Glendalough. From Glendalough the route followed the glacial route through the Wicklow Gap to Athgreany and on to the settlements in the vicinity of Dunlavin.

A third route went from Brittas to Glenmalure via the Meetings of the Water. From Glenmalure the route went through Castleruddery to Mullamast in County Kildare, the location of a standing stone, a barrow and two ringforts.

A fourth route skirted the southern edge of the mountains, running from Arklow through Aughrim to Rathvilly in County Carlow.

The arrival of Christianity in Ireland and the establishment of Glendalough by St. Kevin in the latter part of the sixth century (c. 575AD) led to the second route (Wicklow - Glendalough - Dunlavin) becoming a particularly important road . So important did this route become that it was subsequently part-paved - a rarity for the times - with granite stones to a width of three metres. During the construction of Turlough Hill power station a section of St. Kevin's Road in the vicinity of Lough Nahanagan was excavated. Along the route of St. Kevin's Road are numerous ruins of churches and crosses that would have marked out the route for travellers when on pilgrimage to the monastery.

Today these early routes still exist as secondary roads accross the mountains. The only significant addition is the scenic Military Road built at the beginning of the 1800s. The road runs directly through the centre of the mountains and was constructed to bring the rebellious area under control. To learn about the Military Road see 1798 Rebellion

Next: Glendalough's Monastic History..»