Shillelagh village

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Shillelagh village




Deirdre Burns


Wicklow County Council

GPS Location

52.754723, -6.537194

Short Interpretive Text

Shillelagh village is an architectural heritage gem, laid out as an estate village by Lord Fitzwilliam in the early 19th century and purposefully designed in the ‘picturesque style’. Cootlattin House and Park, lies 2 Km from the village and was the seat of the Fitzwilliam estate in County Wicklow. The Shillelagh Stick has its origins in this area and is still handcrafted locally.

Interpretive Text

Shillelagh comes from Síol Éalaigh meaning “Descendants of Éalach. The village was originally laid out by Lord Fitzwilliam as an estate village for nearby Coolattin House and park. Under the Fitzwilliams in the 1830’s Coollattin was the largest single landholding in County Wicklow. The Coollattin Estate was 90,000 acres covering one-fifth of the county of Wicklow and home to 20,000 tenants. During the Famine, lord Fitzwilliam embarked upon an ‘assisted migration’ programme whereby upwards of 6000 tenants were cleared from the land and given passage to North America (Canada and New Brunswick). In recent years may ancestors of these families have returned under happier circumstances, to visit where their forefathers lived.
The village housed many estate workers and was purposefully designed in an attractive picturesque style, with careful attention given to creating an attractive streetscape with antique and Tudor style architectural detailing and the incorporation of natural features and landscaping. At the core of the village is a large central village green, now containing a playground, around which the streets are arranged. The estate houses are in both terraced and individual form, mostly with front gardens. On one side of Main Street the houses are stone faced with a mixture of small windows, roof gables and slated roofs, while those on the opposite side were built in a simpler and more traditional 18th century form. There are also a number of single storey cottages built in the picturesque style.
Two of the most impressive buildings in the village are the Shillelagh Church of Ireland located to the west of the green, and the former Courthouse to the east of the village. The Church is a large, well preserved Board of First Fruits Gothic style Church of Ireland church built in 1834 and with transepts and chancel added in 1888. It has distinctive and impressive corner buttresses constructed of cut granite and an octagonal church spire. The church is set in a striking location on a rise overlooking the village and is surrounded by a graveyard. In the graveyard can be found a specimen cork oak tree featured in the Tree Register of Ireland. The former courthouse with decorative clock tower date from the mid 19th century is one of the villages most attractive buildings and currently houses the community centre.
The woodland surrounding the village, was historically one of the largest native oak woodlands in Ireland, and was prized as such and declared a Royal Forest in 1224. The timber from the Shillelagh Woods was a source of immense wealth and was extensively harvested in the 16th and 17th centuries, most famously used for ships of the British Fleet, and reputedly in the roofs of famous buildings such as Westminster Abbey, London, Kings College, Cambridge and St. Patrick’s cathedral and Trinity College in Dublin. It is this legacy of woodland cover that most likely gave rise to the ‘Shillelagh stick’ an Irish walking stick or cudgel, traditionally made from blackthorn and thought to have its originated in the area.
Tomnafinnogue Woodlands survive today as the remnants of the former great Shillelagh oak woodlands. The Derry River flows through the woods and the whole area is protected as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for the rich array of woodland and wetland species. There is car parking available and trails to guide you on the way marked Tomnafinnogue Wood walk or the Tinahely Railway trail, a path along the route of the old railway connecting Shillelagh to Tinahely. As you stroll, look and listen out for the distinctive ‘drumming’ of the Great Spotted Woodpecker, a recently recolonised bird in Ireland that has a stronghold at Tomnafinnogue. Also of note is the stunning carpet of bluebells on show in early summer and the chance of spotting the elusive Red squirrel or an otter.

Cycle Parking


Parking Available


Category of Interest

Cultural, Natural, Architectural, Historical


Social Bookmarking



ActiveMe, “Shillelagh village,” Lakeside Heritage Trail, Blessington Lake, accessed September 24, 2022,