Arklow is a town on the coast of County Wicklow at the outflow of the River Avoca. The name is Norse, meaning "Arnkell's meadow". It's industrial and has become a commuter town for Dublin; in 2016 its population was 13,163.
Ancient boats could draw into any beach or estuary, and right into early modern times a string of small ports lined the Irish east and south coasts. Then ships and their cargoes outgrew these, so many ports withered. Arklow is one that has kept going, and is still the base of a freighter fleet. Standing midway between Dublin and Rosslare, it's become an industrial centre, with half a dozen business parks. To traditional trades (like Avoca knitware and East Coast Lobsters) are added retail companies, light engineering and IT, while Ireland's future is glimpsed 10 km offshore, where a 25 MW windfarm stands on the Arklow sandbanks. The town itself isn't (and never was) particularly scenic - head inland for the charms of rural Wicklow - but business travel means it has good transport and visitor facilities.
Trains run four or five times a day from Dublin Connolly via Tara Street, Pearse station, Dún Laoghaire, Bray, Wicklow Town and Rathdrum to Arklow, taking 1 hour 40 min. They continue south to Gorey, Enniscorthy, Wexford and Rosslare, which has ferries to Fishguard and Pembroke. 1 Arklow railway station is central in town.
Wexford Bus 740 also runs hourly from Dublin Airport and city centre, but only stops at M11 junction 20 (Old Dublin Road), 2 km north of Arklow town centre. The slower 740A every couple of hours runs from Dublin Georges Quay to Rathnew, Wicklow Town, Arklow town centre and Gorey.
By car from north or south follow N11 / M11.
You can reach the pyramid by a 2-km walk, but you need wheels to reach Avoca. Only two public buses a day go that way, but there are lots of tours from Dublin.
- 1 Arklow Maritime Museum, North Quay, Arklow Y14 Y744, ☏ . Daily 10:00-17:00. The town has long been a ship-building centre, especially from 1800, but its best-known product is Gypsy Moth III, Sir Francis Chichester's yacht (now in Greenwich, London). Arklow lifeboats have often had to rescue crews who've struck the sandbanks 14 km offshore, and local boats were involved in the rescue effort after the sinking of Lusitania. Adult €5, child & conc €3.
- Nineteen Arches Bridge, built in 1755, carries the main street across River Avoca. The Light Tower on the north quay is from the lightship Albatross (which didn't serve locally). Other notable buildings in town are Saints Mary & Peter churches, one RC the other C of I (corner of Main St and St Mary's Rd), and the town hall.
- Abbey of the Holy Cross was a Dominican Friary founded in 1264, suppressed in 1539 and falling derelict. All that's left of it, off Main Street south end of the bridge, is the old cemetery and rose garden, and the cross from the church. In 1414 the Pope declared an "Indulgence" - you got let off your sins by visiting the abbey. This seems not to have rubbed off on the combatants of 1798, who peppered the cemetery walls with their musket balls.
- 2 The Pyramid is within the old graveyard of Kilbride. It's a mausoleum built in 1785 for the 1st Viscount of Wicklow, a sturdy granite structure 33 feet high, 27 feet square and with 33 burial niches - these numbers (and the pyramid itself) are significant in Masonic lore. The last burial was in 1823. Pity about the M11 traffic thundering past.
- 3 Glenart Castle is a mock-castle of 1820 in extensive grounds. It has operated as a hotel but in 2021 is derelict, so you may find it fenced off.
- Shelton Abbey near Glenart Castle is not worth seeking out, as this 19th century Gothic pile has been turned into a prison.
- 4 Avoca is a tiny picturesque village 8 km northwest of Arklow that's the base for Avoca Handweavers. You can tour the mills daily 09:30-18:00, and of course there's plenty of opportunities to buy. They have a dozen more big outlets dotted around the country but everything is produced here.
- Vale of Avoca north of the village is a scenic glen. The river is formed from the confluence of the Avonmore (Abhainn Mhór, "big river") and Avonbeg (Abhainn Bheag - go on, guess) at the "Meeting of the Waters", extolled in song by Thomas Moore in 1808. But there has long been copper mining in this area, resulting in pollution and scars on the landscape. The mines closed in 1982 when the price of copper collapsed. The old buildings and machinery are not safe to explore and there are some very deep pitfalls, and the workings continue to leach pollution.
- 5 Aughrim is another picturesque village and scenic valley further west: you might come this way on the road to Tullow. The village is all built of local granite in a pleasing unity of style. Note this is not the site of the 1691 Battle of Aughrim that finished off the Jacobites: that was fought in County Galway.
- Feed the ducks which might be rabbits on Arklow duck pond behind the Bay Hotel. Saturdays there's a junior park-run here, various distances and age categories. But how do you know they're ducks on a pond? They might equally be rabbits on a cricket pitch, or anything else, according to Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951). He spent 1947-48 at Kilpatrick House near Redcross south of Arklow (nowadays a private residence), writing Philosophical Investigations, pondering intensely whether he was feeding bread to the ducks or to the rabbits (and how do you know it's really bread? It might be the Holy Spirit) and generally being the sort of fellow you don't want to get trapped with at a party. He moved on to Connemara then Ithaca New York but returned to England seriously ill with prostate cancer.
- Omniplex Cinema is in Bridgewater Shopping Centre.
- Golf: Arklow Golf Links start 500 m south of the river. White tees 6157 yards, par 70, round €50.
- Beaches near town are spoiled by industry. Either go 10 km north to Brittas Bay, or 7 km south to Clogga Beach.
- Climb Croghan Mountain 10 km west of town on the Wicklow / Wexford county boundary. It's 606 m / 1998 ft high, detached from the rest of the Wicklow Mountains and with a double peak: Croghan East Top is 562 m. The easiest trail is from Raheenleagh Wood on the Wexford side. On a clear day from the summit you might see Snowdon.
- Gaelic games: the County GAA team play Gaelic football and hurling at the County Ground (or "Joule Park", capacity 10,000) in Aughrim, 10 km west of Arklow.
- Seabreeze Festival is a weekend in mid-July, with associated events (such as "Swinging Pubs Contest") in the prior two weeks. The next is probably 15-17 July 2022, tba.
- Row a boat to Wales: the Celtic Challenge is a rowing race held in alternate years from Arklow to Aberystwyth, almost 100 miles. The next event is probably 6 May 2023, TBA.
- The retail park is Bridgewater Shopping Centre north bank of the river.
- Sure you've got enough knitwear? Doesn't your Aunt Hetty have a big birthday coming up? Order online from Avoca or visit one of their many outlets, which include Dublin Airport.
- If you're homesick for good old country fare like you got in Bydgoszcz, Orlik Aga Polski Sklep at the Wexford Rd roundabout is open Su-W 11:00-18:00, Th-Sa 10:00-19:00.
- Places along Arklow Main St are Asian Harvest, River Cafe (no alcohol, cash only), Old Ship Inn and Soya Bean, with a couple more places west by the roundabout.
- 1 The Meetings, Meeting of the Waters, Avoca (R752), ☏ . Famous pub / restaurant, live music weekends. Also has rooms. Double (room only) €65.
Battles of Arklow
Two were fought here. In 1649 in the Civil Wars, Royalist and Confederate forces tried to ambush Parliamentarians marching from Dublin to Wexford to reinforce Cromwell. But they were beaten and the Parliamentarians continued their march. Casualties were not heavy but it was a body-blow to the anti-Cromwell cause: to a string of defeats elsewhere they'd now added a defeat by a smaller but better-led force.
In 1798 the rebellion of United Irishmen was pinned down in Wexford. They tried to break out on 5 June but were trounced at New Ross; on 8 June they attacked Arklow. The town had been reinforced and gunfire inflicted heavy casualties on the rebels, who made little progress. They withdrew when night fell, retreating to Wexford in hopes of the long-promised French intervention. They were defeated long before it arrived in Mayo on 22 Aug.
- There's a string on Main Street south of the bridge: Brook House, Old House, Christy's, Sally O'Brien's (within Royal Hotel), The Midway, Old Ship Inn, Nick Kavanagh's and The Gin Mill. A little further west are D'Arcy McGee's and Murphys.
- The caravan and holiday park north side of town is just for static units on long lets and doesn't accept tourers or campers.
- Hoey's Bridge Hotel, Bridge St, Arklow Y14 A303, ☏ . Decent well-run central hotel with 15 rooms. B&B double €130.
- Royal Hotel is a very basic place at 25 Main Street Y14 E9C2.
- 1 Arklow Bay Hotel, Sea Rd, Arklow Y14 DX02, ☏ . Large modern hotel with spa and conference centre. Gets mostly good reviews for comfort and food, but some rooms need refurbishment. B&B double €130.
As of Dec 2021, Arklow has 5G from all Irish carriers.
- Glendalough is a medieval monastic complex in a scenic valley in the Wicklow mountains.
- Wicklow Town has a notorious jail, now a museum, and two fine botanic gardens.
- Dublin can be reached on a day trip, but deserves at least a lost weekend.