About 2km south of peaceful RATHDRUM, at the southeastern edge of the Wicklow Mountains, stands Avondale House, birthplace and home of Charles Stewart Parnell, the nineteenth-century campaigner for home rule who was dubbed “the uncrowned king of Ireland”. Completed in 1779 to a design by English architect James Wyatt, the house, which features an audiovisual on Parnell and the history of Avondale and an attractive basement café, is well worth a visit. Over the main door in the hall hangs a poignant banner, representing the arms of Ireland’s four provinces in pastel colours; given to Parnell in the 1880s, when home rule seemed a racing certainty, it was vainly intended for display in the future Irish House of Commons. The beautiful, bright dining room nearby is adorned with delicate, foliate stuccowork in Wedgwood style by the Lafranchini brothers (who also decorated Dublin’s Newman House). Upstairs, the highlight is the master bedroom where Parnell was born, with a bay of large windows overlooking the grounds. Stretching over two hundred hectares, the estate is now owned by the Irish Forestry Board, Coillte, who have laid out several trails, which take between twenty minutes and three hours to cover, through the forested parkland, with its rare tree species and fine views of the Avonmore River.
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