Ballyknockan – The Granite Stonecutters Village
Its hard to believe that this is where you can be in just a twenty minute drive out from Dublin (well Tallaght to be specific). After taking the turn off for Valleymount a few kilometers outside Blessington, frankly I was a menace to road safety as I was distracted by the stunning views that opened up at various intervals along the road. From the beautiful period house up to the right after the first long bridge (who has the incredible luck of living there?) to the glimpses of the lake and mountains stretching on for miles on the left – its a small wonder I didn’t end up over a ditch!
I was taken for a tour around the village of Ballyknockan also known as the granite stonecutters village to see all of the granite cottages and buildings. Despite its proximity to Dublin I really felt like I was in somewhere as remote as Roundstone in Galway – there is a real old world and peaceful feeling up in those hills overlooking the lakes. The village is quite untouched by time despite the obvious renovation of some of the buildings – as the area is listed in the Co. Wicklow Development plan the renovations appear are tasteful and in keeping with the area.
I really enjoyed a few pints of Smithwicks in the fantastic Ballyknockan Inn but was sorry that the weather turned as it would have been lovely to sit out in their beer garden overlooking the lakes. Something I am gutted to have missed is the Knockanstockan Festival which was held in July this year – a music festival for musicians. From what I have gathered it is held in a field overlooking the lakes and is a really fantastic down to earth music festival – I’ll definatley be there next year!
On to the cottages of course… all of the cottages have been made out of the areas principal resource – granite – they are modest, sturdy constructions and a feature of the craftsmanship of the area is bevelled edges to the cottages – very unsual! In fact granite from this area is used in many of Dublin city’s buildings!
Imagine my shock when I was told that the lake was actually a man made resevoir – proof that sometimes man-made over nature can be beautiful. In 1940 the ESB bought the land and relocated the owners of some 76 odd labourers cottages and outbuildings up to the hills before flooding the land to create a resevoir for the ever growing Dublin City – now known as the Poulaphuca resevoir. I know the first thing I thought was how fascinating it would be to be able to scuba dive down there but no can do. Diving is forbidden and strictly enforced as powerful undercurrents, sinking holes and debris have led to many deaths over the years. You are allowed to sail, fish and pleasure boat on the lake though. It lends another fascinating layer of history to an already stunning area.
I cannot wait to head back for another lovely pint on a sunny evening over looking the lakes – come on Irish weather – September is always good!