The Powerscourt Estate
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Powerscourt, in the Wicklow Mountains, is one of the most beautiful country estates in Ireland. It takes its name from the Anglo-Norman le Poer (Power) family who occupied a castle on the site from around 1300. Over the centuries that followed, the castle came under the control of various prominent families including the O'Tooles and the Fitzgeralds, Earls of Kildare. In 1603 Powerscourt Castle and the surrounding lands were granted to a new English arrival, Richard Wingfield.
Following a successful military career, Wingfield had been appointed Marshal of Ireland and his family were to remain at Powerscourt for over 350 years. A descendant, also named Richard Wingfield, (1697-1751) commissioned the magnificent mansion which was built around the shell of the earlier castle. The German-born architect, Richard Cassels, also known as Richard Castle, (1690-1751), was tasked with designing the new mansion and remodelling the castle grounds. He was one of the greatest architects working in Ireland during the 18th century and was responsible for several of the country`s best-known buildings.
The mansion house has a magnificent outlook across the wooded hillside rising to the distant Wicklow Mountains. Landscaped areas include walled gardens, a tower garden complete with a castellated stone turret, Japanese and Italian gardens and the sheltered Triton Lake which often reflects the mansion house.
At 121 metres (398ft), the impressive Powerscourt Waterfall is the highest waterfall in Britain and Ireland and is unsurprisingly most spectacular after a prolonged spell of heavy rain. The flow cascades diagonally down the slabs to eventually join the River Dargle. The falls lie in parkland at the foot of the Wicklow Mountains, around 5 km (3 miles) from the main Powerscourt Estate.
Unfortunately, unlike most of the natural attractions in the UK, there is an admission charge to access the falls and the surrounding area which has a kiosk, picnic tables and a play area to cater for the large numbers of visitors.
The adjacent woodland contains a mixture of Beech Trees, Oak, Larch and Pines as well as Giant Redwoods, which are native to Northern California and can grow up to 80 metres high. Various bird species can be seen particularly in Spring and Summer when the resident year-round population is supplemented by breeding migrants. Sightings of Sika Deer, which were introduced to Ireland in the mid-19th century, and Red Squirrel are also possible.
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