Countries, Ireland

Higgins atop the world in Wicklow

They say the best things come in small packages and piccolo President Michael D Higgins is atop the world in Wicklow.

President Higgins may be only 5ft 4ins but he is astride his country in a way other major heads of state can only dream.

And he stood on the mountaintop today, or as close as you get to a mountain, in my own stomping ground of Co. Wicklow.

Beyond the Trees

A round of applause: For Michael D Higgins

He was there to open ‘Beyond the Trees Avondale’, combining a 2,300ft Treetop Walk with a 12 storey-high Viewing Tower.

Michael D is hugely popular in Ireland and is already into his second term of elected office which will take him to 2025.

The octogenarian academic and patron of the arts and Irish culture would have been in his element in Avondale, home of the King of Ireland.

And you thought Ireland fully broke ties with the monarchy back in 1948 by pulling out of the Commonwealth.

While they had in reality left Britain 100 years ago this December when they became a republic.

The King of Ireland

The King and I:  Parnell back in day

Well, Avondale and Wicklow’s finest, the 19th-century titan, Charles Stewart Parnell, will forever be the King of Ireland.

I’ll be heading ‘home’ for a whistle-stop tour of Dublin and Wicklow next week and hopefully return to Rathdrum and Avondale.

As well as being the birthplace of Parnell, a word too on Samuel Hayes who inherited the estate in 1770 and how he saved Ireland’s forests.

And a historic footnote here that they were once destroyed to build ships for Nelson’s war with Napoleon.

Treeman Hayes

Garden of Ireland: Avondale

Back to Hayes and he is the author of Ireland’s first book about trees.

And he set about creating a forest park at Avondale, which is often thought of as the birthplace of Irish forestry.

Coming full circle, following his death, Avondale was inherited by Parnell’s cousin, Sir John, great grandfather of Charles Stewart Parnell.

At Beyond the Trees you will enter through the new Seed Café into the Walled Garden.

It also houses a Coillte Pavilion, an immersive exhibition.

Walk this way

Architectural delight: The tower

At the end of the Walled Garden, visitors enter the Treetop Walk.

And they’ll begin the journey on the elevated boardwalk, which is up to 75ft above the forest floor at its highest point.

Some numbers too on Avondale’s Forest Arboretum, it features 300-year-old trees planted by Hayes.

The Treetop Walk culminates in the journey to the top of the Viewing Tower, reaching 124ft into the sky.

Slide rule

Child’s play: Watch your step

Did we say too that there was a slide down?

And you can whoosh your way quickly back down via a 295ft slide, providing an exhilarating end to your experience.

Beyond the Trees Avondale is a Coillte, Fáilte Ireland and EAK Ireland production.

And Wicklow, the Garden of Ireland, is a divine production.

So I’d urge you to join President Michael D Higgins atop the world in Avondale, Wicklow, only an hour 20 minutes south.

And the experience will be further enhanced in the Autumn with restoration work and the reopening of Avondale House



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