Wicklow is the name of both the town and county in which Wicklow’s Historic Gaol is located.
History of Wicklow
Like much of Ireland, Wicklow town and county have a long history of invasion and settlement by different groups.
The old Irish name for the town (Chill Mhantáin) means Church of St. Mantáin, and Mantáin in turn means ‘gap toothed’. The legend has it that Mantáin was a follower of St. Patrick whose boat was stoned by natives upon landing at the town to spread the gospels. His teeth knocked out, thus ‘the church of the gap toothed one’ was born.
The English version of the town name gives a clue as to Viking origins: Wicklow means either ‘Viking harbour’ or ‘Viking meadow’ in Old Norse. The seafaring Vikings must have appreciated the sanctuary which the harbour and estuary at Wicklow offered their boats.
The following description is taken from Wicklow’s Living Coast website:
In Norman times the town was centered along Main Street which runs parallel to the natural Harbour. As is the case with most medieval towns, small lanes and streets open off this to the north and south, while the wider parts at the north and south ends may be the location of the market place where stalls would have been erected for fairs and markets.
The ruins of a monastery dating back to Norman times can be found at Abbey Grounds. The Black Castle was destroyed in 1641 in an attack which led to the massacre of the Parish Priest and his congregation, it is claimed, in the vicinity of what is now known as Melancholy Lane.
County Wicklow was the last of Ireland’s 32 counties to be formally established. Through war, poverty, and rebellion, it’s history is intimately linked with that of Wicklow Gaol.
- Discover more about the history of Wicklow through the Gaol’s important events, characters, and daily life »
Local Accommodation in Wicklow Town
There are accommodation options to suit every budget in Wicklow town.
- On a budget? Captain Halpin’s Bunkhouse in Wicklow town has won awards as Ireland’s friendliest hostel.
- The Grand Hotel is one of Wicklow’s oldest buildings and offers more traditional accommodation in the centre of the town.
- The Bridge Tavern is located on the River Leitrim near Wicklow harbour and has rooms available.
- Looking for bed and breakfast options? The official VisitWicklow.ie website has a comprehensive list.
For alternative hotels in Wicklow, check HotelsCombined.
First on your list for eating locally should be the Wicklow Gaol Café – delicious food, deals for tour groups, and conveniently located right inside the prison walls!
Check the Strictly Wicklow website for information on all food businesses, food trails, farmers’ markets, and primary producers in County Wicklow.
Find Things to Do in Wicklow