EXCALIBUR DRIVE The Excalibur Drive North Wicklow Film Trail – The Excalibur Drive – 42 miles round trip. This drive starts and finishes in Roundwood and brings you through some of the most spectacular and varied landscape in County Wicklow. The isolated Wicklow Mountains with their domed granite peaks reach heights of over 2,500 feet, and form the largest undisturbed uplands blanket bog in Ireland. There is an abundance of flora and fauna to be found here amongst the hidden lakes, rivers and numerous waterfalls. Look out for deer, foxes, badgers, flacons and merlins. No wonder this area is popular with film makers as the scenery shows the very best of the Irish landscape. However, the mountains, towns woods, lakes and beaches in County Wicklow have also served as s backdrop for places in counties as diverse as France, America, Russia, Italy and Germany.
Roundwood The Excalibur Drive starts in the village of Roundwood, reputedly the highest village in Ireland. At 238 m above sea level, Roundwood is surrounded by some of the most spectacular scenery in the county, flanked on one side by the tranquil lakes of the Vartry Reservoir, which supplies Dublin City with its water, and on the other by the dramatic Wicklow Mountains. Roundwood has been used extensively as a film location by films such as the famous King Arthur epic Excalibur, shot in Childer’s Wood, south of the village. From Roundwood, follow the Excalibur Drive north, past the curious Victoria’s Way, an inspiring garden full of thought-provoking hand carved granite statues, before starting to climb into the Wicklow Mountains.
On your left you see the brown waters of Lough Tay and the dramatic cliffs of Luggala Estate, or locally known as the Guinness Estate. Both have been used extensively for filming in the past, in fact this area is nearly a living film set with filming taking place frequently. The mysterious Luggala Estate, is privately owned, but from the road and the car parks there are some spectacular views of the lake and grounds around it. It is not hard to see how the stunning setting of the tranquil lake and towering cliffs around it has inspired many film directors. Rather than serving as a backdrop for another historical drama, the bleak bog lands around the road leading up to the Sally Gap provided the brave new world of John Boorman’s futuristic sci-fi Zardoz.
The unequalled wild beauty of the Sally Gap, between Kippure at 752 feet and Djouce Mountain at 727 feet, cannot be surpassed and has to be experience first hand. Pull into on the car parks along the route to enjoy the scenery and the fresh mountain air.
During the summer of 2000 a number of films were shot around the Sally Gap area. Amongst these are How Harry Became a Tree (working title) with Colm Meaney and Adrian Dunbar, Not Afraid Not Afraid (working title) and the sixth series of Ballykissangel. Also shot along the road was The General, a black and white film relating the story of Dublin’s most notorious criminal Martin Cahill. The General won John Boorman the Award of Best Director at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival.
At the Sally Gap crossroads the Excalibur Drive takes a right turn and you follow the Military Road past Upper and Lower Lough Bray down towards the scenic valley of Glencree. The Military Road was built during the aftermath of the 1798 Rebellion in a bid by Dublin Castle to gain control over this vast open space and to capture the Chief of the Wicklow Rebels, Michael Dwyer. Along the Military Road several army barracks were established and the Glencree Barracks is on of them. The barracks are now the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation. In 1978, the prestigious The First Great Train Robbery, directed by Michael Crichton and starring Sean Connery, used the roof of the Glencree Peace and Reconciliation Centre for a dramatic escape scene.
The views from the centre down towards the cone of The Great Sugarloaf at 504 feet and the coastline are just stunning and truly inspirational. Before coming to the Glencree Peace and Reconciliation Centre the Excalibur Drive takes a turn right along the Glencree River and this small winding road takes you through the valley towards Powerscourt Waterfall. John Boorman also used this impressive location of steep cliffs, mist and falling water for some of the scenes of the King Arthur saga Excalibur. Powerscourt Waterfall is the highest waterfall in Ireland and tumbling from a height of 120 metres, the Dargle River crashes spectacularly down and runs through the beautiful glen at the foot of it.
The Waterfall is open daily and should not be missed at any tie of the year. Tel. 01 2046000 for information.
Next on the drive is Powerscourt Estate near the colourful village of Enniskerry. The lush and wooded area, with its narrow winding roads into Enniskerry is scattered with numerous old estates and demesnes and exudes an air of grandeur and history. Powerscourt Estate is one of the world’s greatest gardens. The 18th century Palladian House was designed by Richard Castle, and now incorporates an exhibition that traces the evolution of the house and its owners. The formal garden, a sublime blend of sweeping terraces, statuary and ornamental lakes, was begun by Richard Wingfield in the 1740s. Powerscourt House is well worth a visit for a