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The 20th century was not kind to this magnificent estate, which was neglected for decades and then gutted by fire. It's taken 30 years to restore the Palladian house to even a glimmer of its former glory. Only a few rooms are now open to the public, and there's an exhibition that tells the history of the building and the long struggle of restoration.

The restored grand ballroom is particularly beautiful, although, mysteriously, it's only open 2 days a week. On other days, even fewer rooms can be seen. Given how little of the house is open to the public, it's hard not to feel a tad disappointed that so much of it is dedicated to shops, even if the retailers (including an Avoca crafts store) are good ones.

Still, the magnificent grounds are really the main attraction here. The gardens are remarkable -- graced with classical statuary; filled with little touches like the shady grotto made of petrified moss, the Japanese garden, and an over-the-top fountain from which statues of winged horses rise. The gardens were designed by the landscaper Daniel Robertson between 1745 and 1767. Legend has it that due to terrible gout, he oversaw the work while being carted around in a wheelbarrow, sipping port as he went. When the bottle was dry, work was done for the day.

There's a playground for the kids and plenty of space for them to run around. The Avoca cafe serves rich cakes, hot soups, and healthy salads, alongside a breathtaking view. If you feel energetic, follow the well-marked path over 7km (4 1/3 miles) to the picturesque Powerscourt Waterfall -- the highest in Ireland (121m/397 ft.). If you're not feeling energetic, you can drive, following signs.