Visiting Avoca Handweavers: Avoca Ireland

Avoca village is a great day trip from Dublin. A really pretty village that was used to film the Ballykissangel tv series and in 1966, Avoca was one of the locations used in the film “Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon”. The Mill at Avoca is the home of some of the most colourful throws, woollens, scarves and other great gifts you can find in Ireland. An Avoca throw is one of the best gifts you can give yourself or take home with you they are gorgeous.

Visiting Avoca Handweavers: Avoca Ireland
©Visit Wicklow

53 Ultimate Ireland travel tips

Where is the village of Avoca Ireland?

Avoca is a small town near Arklow, in County Wicklow, Ireland. It is situated on the River Avoca.

What does avoca mean? The area has long been associated with copper mining and the valley was immortalized in a song by Thomas Moore – The Meeting of the Waters which is the original meaning of the word Avoca.

Avoca is also famous for its hand-weaving. A day trip from Dublin is easily done if you rent a car although there are many fine tour companies that also arrange tours outside of the City to Avoca Village.

When was Avoca founded? Avoca was once known as Newbridge. It subsequently became known as Ovoca, and then in Victorian times as Avoca. Ptolemy mentions the river Obhoca on his early map of Ireland. The official name of the village is now Avoca in English and Abhóca in Irish.

Avoca is the village where the BBC series Ballykissangel was filmed. In 1966, Avoca was also one of the locations used in the film “Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon”.

How to get to Avoca from Dublin

Public transport connections aren’t good. You can take a bus from Busaras (bus station) in central Dublin to Avoca but you will need to change bus at either Wicklow town or Arklow. Changing at Wicklow town involves a ten-minute walk. The bus option takes around 2 hrs 30 to 2 hrs 45 mins, even though it’s only about 66km.

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Visiting Avoca Ireland and the Avoca Handweavers Mill

Avoca Handweavers Mill is one of the best reasons for visiting Avoca the mill has a very high profile in Ireland. Its name is well known and there are many shops and stores sporting the Avoca name, which has grown from hand-woven products to gourmet foods, jewellery, china and household items from candles to soaps.  I have always loved an Avoca throw and was really interested in taking a trip to the small town of Avoca where the original mill still operates.

A great list of 43 Irish movies to watch before you go.

Visiting Avoca Handweavers: Avoca Ireland

Avoca Mill History

The Avoca Mill is Ireland’s oldest weaving mill in the country and one of the world’s oldest manufacturing companies. On the banks of the River Avoca, the mill dates back to 1723. 

Apparently travel to and from the remote village at that time was very difficult so the villagers created a barter system using the mill as a base. The mill was used for grinding grains for bread, spinning, and weaving of the local wool.

warp threads in the Avoca Mill

Touring the Avoca Mill

Avoca Mill – The Wynne Sisters

Three sisters, the Wynnes, inherited the mill in the 1920s and introduced colour to the fabrics, which have to be seen to be believed they are gorgeous.

Avoca Handweavers’ tweed was used by Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli. and also used for a waistcoat for King George VI and baby blankets for the children of Queen Elizabeth II.

The Mill’s stellar reputation did not help in bad economic times though. In 1974, solicitor Donald Pratt was employed to sell the mill when it faced closure. Instead, he decided to buy it himself and began running the place with his wife Hilary (who apparently told him that if he did buy it, she would never speak to him again). They produced a range of bedspreads, throws and women’s classics in the fabrics created by the Mill.

The Wynne sisters the original owners of the Avoca mill

Avoca Stores

Now managed by two generations of the Pratt family, Avoca continues to develop with several large retail outlets around Ireland, including Powerscourt,  Malahide Castle, and in Belfast. Many of these also have lovely food halls & cafes attached and have become immensely popular with both tourists and locals. The Avoca Café Cookbooks have also proven to be fantastic bestsellers.

avoca mill cookbooks

We visited Powerscourt on the same day and had a fabulous lunch in the Powerscourt Avoca Cafe.

Visiting Avoca Handweavers: Avoca Ireland

Avoca Mill self-guided tour

entry to the mill tour at avoca

At the Avoca Mill, you can take a self-guided tour of the operation there is no admission fee and you can wander through at your own pace. The entry into the mill is a small room with audiovisual displays and videos of the mill’s origins and interviews with the owners. The history of the mill is laid out before you in bright colours and placards that tell the history of the place.

the yarn store at avoca

types of yarn at avoca

From the entrance where you can see the types of yarns and the yarn store, you move into the working area where the first thing you see is the racks of wool and a display of where each of the wool comes from. You can also watch the Avoca handweavers setting up the looms to weave the famous Avoca throws and fabrics.

avoca one of the old wooden looms

The noise mounts and you enter into the area where the looms are being set to weave.  The colours and textures are simply breathtaking.

setting the warp threads

We watched as a worker strung the woollen threads, literally thousands of them into a machine that was creating the warp for the looms.

a loom at avoca

These then go onto to the weaving looms to be turned into yards of fabric. There are also cutting and fringing machines for different items.

avoca mill

Finally into the packing and sorting room where you can see rolls of the woven fabric getting ready to be turned into blankets, scarves and more. You can also order online from the Avoca Mill store.

avoca mill blankets

Avoca Mill store clothing, and blankets for sale.

Avoca Mill Store merchandise

Where is Ballykissangel in Ireland?

If you are a Ballykissangel fan then take a walk through the village of Avoca that was used extensively, especially the Fitzgerald’s Pub, the church, the shops and Garda Station in the show. Other locations in County Wicklow include Ardmore Studios in Bray, Wicklow Town, Wicklow Head, Brittas Bay Beach, Enniskerry, Ballysmuttan Bridge and Glencree. The opening scenes of the first season were shot in Luggala Estate, Roundwood which is where HBO’s Vikings is filmed.

The Mottee Stone – Avoca

The Mottee Stone is a huge granite boulder, weighing about 150 tons. Owing to its prominent location, the stone has been a well-known landmark in the county for many years and has attracted visitors to enjoy the scenic views. It is said that the five counties surrounding Wicklow can be viewed from the rock on a clear day, while in very good weather the mountains of Wales can be spotted across the Irish Sea.

Visiting Avoca Handweavers: Avoca Ireland
©Visit Wicklow

Folklore of the area says that the Mottee Stone was the hurling ball of the great Fionn Mac Cumhaill who hit it from the top of Lugnaquilla Mountain to the top of this hill.

There are many country walks near Avoca that you can enjoy the Red Kite walk will take you through some wonderful woodland and you can view Avoca village from the forest walk that overlooks it, just follow the red way marking signs. Not only will walkers love this 2.5km trail, but birdwatchers are in for a real treat too! In 2009, The Golden Eagle Trust re-introduced a set of Red Kite birds into Kilmagig Forest. Now in 2014, there are 30 breeding pairs who have made their habitat around the Red Kite Walk, which is part of the forest.

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  • Faith was born in Ireland raised in Canada and has lived in over 10 countries in Europe including England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Spain, Northern Ireland, Wales, along with Mexico, Antigua, the US and has slow travelled to over 40 countries around the world. Graduating with a degree in Anthropology and Women's Studies Faith is a student of history, culture, community and food and has written about these topics for over 40 years.

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