(IRISH INDEPENDENT, November 20th, 2015)
Christmas is coming and the goose is getting endomorphically challenged. Even down Wicklow way.
If have a penny, or a euro or two will do, the quaint old schoolhouse opposite the famous Clock Tower monument in the centre of Enniskerry will be hosting the village’s two-day annual Christmas Art Exhibition, starting on November 27th.
There will be the usual wonky reupholstered armchairs, stain glass mirrors and scented candles, but you can actually hang one of your own paintings there for just €50 – and there is no commission if it is sold!
It would be as good a reason as any to visit this charming village just 24km south of Dublin city, set in the panoramic Glencree valley in the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains. And overlooked by the distinctive Sugar Loaf mountain.
The Powerscourt Arms Hotel nearby will also be hosting some events and you can pop into the Parting Glass wine shop’s annual Festival Wine Fayre on the Friday in the Parochial Hall.
The schoolhouse itself was built in 1818 and was a Church of Ireland national school until 2013, but is now the Schoolhouse for Art, a school and exhibition place for local creative types.
Enniskerry, from the Irish Ath na Sceire, or “Ford of the Stones”, was actually designed and laid out by the architect Frederick Darragh as part of Powerscourt Estate for the Wingfield family, Viscounts Powerscourt for over 350 years, to house the tenants who worked the extensive lands.
There are numerous historic buildings still standing, such as the Powerscourt Arms, built in 1715, and the wonderful old forge on Forge Road, with its beautiful horseshoe-shaped doorway.
Knocksink Bridge, on the Dublin side, was built in 1859 and was once the highest bridge in Ireland. During World War Two holes were drilled in the base in order to blast it with dynamite in case of invasion!
The Clock Tower was built in 1843 by the 6th Viscount Powerscourt to commemorate the centenary of the creation of the first Viscount.
The magnificent Palladian Powerscourt House was built in 1741 on the the site of a 13th century castle owned by the Anglo-Norman le Poer family, who gave their name to the estate.
With more than 500,000 visitors annually, it is an all-round leisure complex, with two golf courses and the upmarket Powerscourt Hotel (formerly the Ritz Carlton).
This 200-room affair, where celebrities including Robbie Keane and Rosanna Davison have held glitzy wedding receptions, went from near collapse, and receivership, in 2012, to being named AA Hotel of the Year for 2015/16.
There’s a lot to see and do in and around this well-heeled village and its leafy hinterland by the Glencullen river, with a population of 1,881, from a visit to Powerscourt and its magnificent gardens and waterfall, and maybe a bite to eat in the Avoca restaurant there, overlooking the spectacular gardens, or you might fancy a walk or cycle in acres of luscious woodlands at Knocksink, or along miles of unspoilt mountain and country.
Enniskerry is well placed geographically, with the R117 road, colloquially locally as “The Twenty-One Bends” connecting the village to the main N11 road to Dublin. The M50 is close as well, and the 185 Dublin Bus route connects the village hourly to Bray and its train station, or the 44 will take you direct to Dublin City Centre.
There are boutiques, pubs and fine restaurants aplenty, too, but if you have designs on actually living here, you will play for the privilege.
There is any amount of large, secluded properties with extensive gardens around the village and its outer regions, or you could find a fine family home for maybe less than a million in the Eagle Valley development near Powerscourt Demesne.
It is not the place for first-time buyers, normally, although there the odd one or two-storey cottage comes up on Main Street, or on Kilgarron Hill, which would go for around €300,000. Even then, however, these are old and usually in need of work.
Wicklow is full of places for splendid walks and treks and Enniskerry is a great place to start or finish such endeavours.
Enniskerry soccer club caters for boys and girls equally.
The girls under 14 team, the Enniskerry Lions, won the FAI Cup and MGL Premier League and the club’s annual Belles in the Meadow tournament, played at Bog Meadow, for girls team from all over Ireland has been a huge success.
Enniskerry Bike Hire, on the Bray Road, deliver bikes to all local hotels, B&Bs and hostels, which is a great way to explore Wicklow’s wonderful countryside and mountain paths.
Outside the town, one of the most popular places to visit is the Glencree Visitor Centre, on the edge of the Wicklow National Park and on the Wicklow Way, originally a military barracks and now a centre for Peace and Reconciliation. A visit should take in German War Cemetery where 135 German military servicemen and civilians are buried.
Tara’s Palace, in Powerscourt House, is one of the world’s greatest dolls house and all profits go to Irish children’s charities
Enniskerry has a great range of dining options. These include Santina and Andrew Kennedy’s coffee shop and bakery, on Church Hill. Here, you can get delicious bread from the Bretzel Bakery and the coffee is Java Republic.
Patricia Ward’s Kingfisher’s Kitchen, at Fountainview, opposite the Clock Tower, offers outdoor seating, and you can wrap up in one of their Avoca blankets even in winter, as you tuck into the nice gourmet open sandwich.
Poppies, on the Square, is a popular spot for scones and jam and a mid-morning coffee and chat.
Emilia’s, in the middle of the village, does pizza the Neapolitan way with a gorgeous thin crust, and has a 2015 Certificate of Excellence from Tripadvisor.
On Church Hill, John O’Brien’s Enniskerry Antiques Gallery is crammed with collectible pottery, glass, paintings and small furniture.
Next door, mother and daughter Aida and Lucina Lennon run Gallerie Lisette. Drawing on her experience as an architect, Lucina has produced original artwork, handmade prints, etchings, screenprints and cards.
Jenny Turner’s eponymous boutique, stocks well known European designer brands such as Transit, Sandwich, Crea Concept and Eva Claudia.
Primary schools include Enniskerry Montessori & Afterschool, Powerscourt National School, St Patrick’s, and St Mary’s and St Gerard’s, a Catholic establishment, but there are good secondary schools close by, including St Gerard’s and St Columba’s College, in Bray
According to Barbara Spollen, branch manager of Sherry FitzGerald in Bray, there has been very little new developments here, even if the market is always strong. She has seen the impact of the Central Bank’s borrowing limits, however, and reckons house prices are about the same as last year. The sky is there limit at the top end of the market, pricewise, while a typical mid range property would be Lakna, a 1,335 sq ft three-bed bungalow, which her agency has placed at €570,000.
Sherry FitzGerald, Bray, has sprawling country pile Tinnahinch Lodge for €3,900,000; Des Lalor is seeking €900,000 for River Run, Glencree, a four-bed detached house which also includes a one-bed cottage; and HJ Byrne has the four-bed detached property at Glendale, Glaskenny, Annacrivey, for €620,000
- Atmospheric, compact and pretty.
- Great coffee shops, boutiques and restaurants
- Wonderful scenery nearby, including Wicklow Mountains, the Wicklow Way, the Sally Gap and Lough Tay
- Poor traffic management and limited parking
- Worsening water supply situation has limited housing development
- Safer walking paths and cycle tracks needed into Glencree and Glencullen valleys
— Enda Sheppard