One hour from: Dublin

Time out in a land of saints and soap operas
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The Independent Travel

After drinking Guinness on the banks of the Liffey and going trendy in Temple Bar, make time to explore the land of Joyce and Synge.

After drinking Guinness on the banks of the Liffey and going trendy in Temple Bar, make time to explore the land of Joyce and Synge.

Glendalough

Glendalough ("the glen of the two lakes") in County Wicklow is set in one of the most beautiful valleys in Ireland. St Kevin, a member of the royal house of Leinster, founded a monastery here in the 6th century, which became famous in Europe as a centre for learning until it was attacked by the English in 1398. Look out for the Round Tower, with its doorway 10ft above ground, at St Kevin's church, and the ruined cathedral and priest's house. Complete your trip with a walk to one of the lakes.

By car: take the N11 from Dublin towards Wexford and turn west for Glendalough at Ashford; journey time about one hour plus.

Newgrange

County Meath, to the north of Dublin, is home to Newgrange, one of the most important Stone Age sites in Europe. The high mound raised over a stone burial chamber, known as a passage grave, predates the Pyramids. An outer ring of 12 standing stones still remains, along with an inner ring of 97 boulders. Over the entrance of the chamber is the "roof box", through which the sun's rays shine at daybreak on the winter solstice to spectacular effect. Guided tours try to recreate this using a flash of electric light.

By car: take the N2 towards Slane and follow the signs for Newgrange; journey time about one hour.

Tara

Also in County Meath is the Hill of Tara, once the seat of the High Kings of Ireland. The visitor centre is a useful introduction to this major archaeological site, as very little remains and much is left to the imagination. The site dates back to before the Trojan Wars and is made up of many earthworks, including mounds and sunken corridors.

By car: take the N3 towards Navan and follow the sign for Tara; journey time about one hour.

Howth Head

Howth (pronounced to rhyme with "both" and derived from the Norse word for head) is the northernmost point of Dublin Bay. From the top of Howth Head are spectacular views over Dublin Bay, the Wicklow Mountains and the beaches and estuaries of Fingal to the north. Howth itself is a suburban seaside resort, home to a ruined abbey once used by smugglers for storing contraband. Look out for the rock-encrusted island, Ireland's Eye, a bird sanctuary with a distinctive Martello tower.

By train: take the DART to the terminus at the northern end of Dublin Bay; journey time about 40 mins.

Avoca

This unassuming village can be found inland from Arklow in County Wicklow, along the pretty Vale of Avoca, at the confluence of the Avonmore and Avonbeg rivers. The setting inspired Thomas Moore to pen the celebrated poem "The Meeting of the Waters", but these days the village is better known as the location for the BBC television series Ballykissangel.

By car: take the N11 for Arklow and follow the signs for Avoca; journey time about one hour plus.

Powerscourt House

This Palladian mansion in County Wicklow was burnt to the ground in 1974; the shell of the house has since been rebuilt. The splendid gardens, among the loveliest in Ireland, date from 1730 and feature steep terraces and flamboyant fountains, set against the dramatic backdrop of Sugar Loaf Mountain. The fragrant Edwardian Japanese Garden, the spectacular 400ft waterfall and the renowned teashop all prove popular with visitors.

By car: take the N11 to Bray and follow the signs to Powerscourt; journey time approx 45 mins.

Getting there

Cresta Holidays (0870 161 0934) offers three nights at the three-star Charleville Hotel in Dublin from £216 per person, including return flights from Gatwick with British Airways. Hertz (08708 484848, www.hertz.co.uk) offers three-day car hire in Dublin from £100.

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