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County Wicklow extends from Bray, 19km (12 miles) S of Dublin, to Arklow, 64km (40 miles) S of Dublin

Sitting at a seaside cafe in the cheerful suburban town of Bray, you can look off to the southern horizon and see the mountains of County Wicklow casting their shadow your way. Wicklow's northernmost border is just a dozen or so miles south of Dublin, making it one of the easiest day trips from the city. The beauty of the mountains, with their peaceful Vale of Avoca and isolated, contemplative monastery site, Glendalough, makes this landscape one of the most rewarding views.

Bray is a stylish, upscale town, but it's also busy and bustling, so many people choose to head to County Wicklow by way of the sweet harbor town of Greystones, a place so charming you might not tell your friends about, for fear of inspiring crowds that could spoil it.

Beyond Greystones, a raised granite ridge runs through the county, peaking at two of the highest mountain passes in Ireland -- the Sally Gap and the Wicklow Gap. Hikers will want to strike out on foot on the well-marked Wicklow Way walking path, which wanders for miles past mountain tarns and secluded glens. You can pick up a map at any tourism office, and then choose a stretch of the path to explore. If you're staying in the car, you'll want to track down the picturesque villages of Roundwood, Laragh, and Aughrim.

Just over the border of County Wicklow lies County Carlow, one of Ireland's smallest counties, bordered to the east by the Blackstairs Mountains and to the west by the fertile limestone land of the Barrow Valley and the Killeshin Hills. Its most prominent feature is the 5,000-year-old granite formation known as Browne's Hill Dolmen. Its capstone is believed to weigh a colossal 100 tons.