Monday, 8 September 2014

Ireland 2014: Glendalough and Kilkenny

The south end of Dublin backs up against the Wicklow Mts. The mountains (and as a Western Canadian, I use the term 'mountain' very loosely here) are lovely with plenty of hiking trails, including the Wicklow Way. About 1500 years ago, a monk named Kevin (later St. Kevin) fled to the mountains to find solace and settled in a valley which had two lakes. The plan kind of backfired as people followed Kevin to learn from him and study his teachings. The end result was the founding of Glendalough.

At its height, Glendalough was a huge monastic city. Despite centuries of Viking raids, it was an invasion of English cavalry in 1398 that put an end to it. Now, it's home to sheep and a daily rotation of tourists.

The Round Tower

There are plenty of day tours that go to Glendalough but if you're up for renting a car, it is well worth a longer visit than any of the tours will give you. With only two hours there, we had to skip a lot of it to make it back to the bus in time. Plus the tours all tend to come through around the same time (roughly 11-1 is high tourist time), so you can time it to miss the largest of the crowds. (We went with PaddyWagon tours. I'll talk about them later.)

The area around the Lower Lake was later used as a cemetery.
If you know one thing about me? I love old cemeteries.

After a quick turn around the lower lake area, we booted it over to the upper lake to try and get away from the two rather large guided tours clustered around various points of the site.

It wasn't until we were flipping through our pictures after the trip that we realized we had both taken the same photo of each other.

The upper lake hiding behind some trees

We were hoping to get up to Kevin's Cell, a cave in the mountain that is reputed to be where Kevin actually lived but we were running short on time so we stuck with the sites closer to the actual lake.
The ruins of the Reefert Church
It was only us and the nice French couple we befriended on our tour bus at this site.
Despite leaving us rushing to get back to the bus, I'm glad we made the effort to get away from the crowd.

We took the slightly longer, boardwalk path back to our tour bus which passed through some farm land.

When I saw this sign I started laughing. All I could picture was some dog
wandering into the field and asking the sheep if they had heard about climate change.
"What's going to happen when the rains stop and there is no grass left?
What will you eat?"
The lower lake
Dear Dogs, DO NOT worry these sheep!

From Glendalough, our tour headed through the Wicklow Mt National Park to the Wicklow Gap. The drive through the Wicklow mountains really was beautiful. Wicklow gets overlooked by tourists in favour of the South-West and West of Ireland, but it's well worth the effort to see this part of Ireland.

The Braveheart wedding scene was filmed to the right of where this pictures was taken.
In fact, most of 'Scotland' that is seen in Braveheart is actually the Wicklow Mts.

Our tour then headed to Kilkenny which is one of the reasons I picked this tour. Kilkenny was kind of a bust for us. For two very specific reasons, I was Miss. Pissypants for the rest of our day tour. It was lovely place and I will make it a point to get back there (especially for longer than a couple hours), but it was just not my day in Kilkenny.

Side note: I found out from my dad that Kilkenny is where the pub with our family name is. If you're on my Facebook, you can see a picture of it in the old Ireland photos. As I was nine when that photo was taken, I could only recall that the pub was somewhere between Dublin and Rosscarberry (one of the my aunts lives there). Just another reason to get back to Kilkenny.

Our tour took the motorway back to Dublin and got us back in town pretty much on time to when they said they would. Overall, I had no real problems with the tour company - reasonably priced, we got exactly what they said we would, the tour bus was nice, clean and comfortable - but I wasn't too crazy about our tour guide. He was friendly enough and had some great stories, but he also gave out 'facts' which I know to be falsehoods. And easily verifiable falsehoods, at that. It meant that when he was giving out facts that I didn't know, I had a really hard time believing him. For people on that tour who a) haven't spent multiple summer holidays in Ireland and b) haven't read anything on Irish history beyond the chapter at the start of their guide book, they're reliant on their tour guide to impart knowledge on them. They believed him. Would I book with PaddyWagon again? Possibly, but if I saw that man in the driver's seat, I'd return to the representative and ask for a refund.

Being our last night in Dublin until the end of our trip, we headed out with Conor to Mary Mac's in Ballsbridge. In the true, time-honoured way of our family, Conor and I both randomly sang a song each in the pub before finishing the night with phone calls to any members of the family we could think of who weren't in Ireland.

This pretty much sums up our Friday night

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