Avondale House & Forest Park
Set in some 500 acres of land, Avondale House is a handsome eighteenth century mansion that was the birthplace and home of the famous politician Charles Stewart Parnell (1846–1891). He became leader of the Home Rule League (later reformed as the Irish Parliamentary Party) and was a passionate campaigner for land reform in Ireland. British Prime Minister William Gladstone said this of him “Parnell was the most remarkable man I ever met. I do not say the ablest man; I say the most remarkable and the most interesting. He was an intellectual phenomenon”. Parnell is also commemorated in the nearby village of Rathdrum where you can find the Parnell Memorial Park.
Avondale House was first built in 1777 for Samuel Hayes. He was a barrister, but his legacy is perhaps best known for his pioneering work in forestry. He wanted to reforest Ireland, as by the late eighteenth century, the country was down to less than 1% forest cover. He carried out experimental planting on a grand scale on the Avondale estates, planting different species of trees from around the world to discover what would grow best in Ireland. His experiments have a lasting legacy. You can see a great variety of trees on the estate today, and his discovery that sitka spruce (originally from the North-West United States) was ideally suited to the Irish climate has led to millions of the trees being planted right across Ireland.
The house came into state ownership in the early twentieth century, and with its variety of lovely woodland walks it has become one of Wicklow’s top tourist attractions. It is currently undergoing redevelopment, with a new visitor destination that will take visitors ‘under’ and through the trees, to an incredible viewpoint high over the Avonmore river valley. A new ‘living history’ experience in Avondale House will open the life and times of Parnell to visitors in a highly engaging way. A new restaurant/ café and pavilion with the story of Irish Forestry will demonstrate how Coillte are at the cutting edge of technology in managing Irelands forest estate.