This scenic, wooded Leinster
coastal county contains the towns of Wicklow, Bray, Rathnew, Arklow,
Rathdrum, Enniskerry, Greystones, and Baltinglass. Because of its
scenery and fine woodlands, Wicklow is known is the “Garden of Ireland,”
and has been a popular resort area since the eighteenth century. The
county has a wide coastal strip of fertile land, and the inland parts
are mountainous. In pre-Norman times this county was the territory of
the O’Byrnes and O’Tooles. The families of O’Cullen, O’Kelly, O’Teige (Tighe),
(O’) Gahan, and McKeogh (or Kehoe) are also associated with the county.
There were a number of Viking settlements on the Wicklow coast,
including the towns of Arklow and Wicklow, whose names are of Danish
origin. The family name of Doyle, which is common in the county (and
elsewhere in Leinster), is also of Scandinavian origin. After the Norman
invasion, the coastal parts of the county came under the control of
various Norman adventurers. These included the families of Archbold,
Cosgrave, and Eustace. Wicklow town itself was granted to Maurice
Fitzgerald, who fortified it against the constant attacks of the
O’Byrnes and O’Tooles, who regained control of the more extensive
mountainous parts of the county.
The O’Byrnes and O’Tooles continued to rule most of Wicklow for many
centuries afterwards, and made constant raids on the city of Dublin and
on the Norman settlements in Wicklow. Their power was severely curtailed
after the rebellion of the Irish Catholics in 1641, when Cromwell took
every fort and stronghold in the county. However, the mountains of
Wicklow continued to provide refuge for rebels until after the 1798
rebellion, when the so-called Military Road was built through the heart
of the mountains to provide military access.
During the Great Famine of 1845-47, County Wicklow was not as
severely affected as other parts of Ireland. Nevertheless, the
population dropped by over 20 percent between 1841 (126,000) and 1851
(99,000). Almost 13,000 people died in County Wicklow between 1845 and
1850. The population of County Wicklow is now over 90,000.