In March of 2017 we took a 2 week trip to Scotland and Iceland. As we were flying home from Iceland – they needed volunteers to give up their seats in exchange for some freebies from the airline. We couldn’t take them up on their deluxe offer because we had to still get home that same day. They routed us to a different city and gave us each a free round trip ticket to use within a year of anywhere they flew. Due to the crazy busy year we had we literally had no days to use the tickets until they were due to expire – so a year TO THE DAY – we found ourselves back in Baltimore flying out on another adventure. There had been some spirited discussion on just WHERE we would take this ‘free’ trip. My daughter wanted Spain. I wanted Italy. My husband wanted Ireland. In the end – the only dates that worked with the airline and “spring break” were to Ireland, so that was the destination. Most of my family heritage is from there and it turns out that even though it is a little like Scotland (I was trying to avoid the JUST been there, done that) – it was so very charming – we all fell in love. But note: Italy is still on the table, lol.
We are fortunate that we have been able to travel fairly often. We have a ‘vacation mode’ we slip in to. I realize that our ‘vacations’ would not be relaxing for a lot of you. If your idea of getting away involves hours on a beach when you leave your home state….that’s just not how we operate! Don’t get me wrong – I love a good beach vacation – but only interspersed with adventures of places we know we are likely to see once in our lifetime.
The year before when we flew into Edinburgh (where I had spent time in my 20s) we stayed the first couple of nights in the city. The problem was – international flights from the US often arrive quite early in the morning. After getting our rental car and leaving the airport we had a couple of hours to kill before we could check in to our rental flat. This time we decided to end in Dublin. We flew in – got our car and immediately left the city. This way our drive to our first night’s stay would be scenic and not navigating city traffic.
I would highly recommend this – especially if you don’t do the whole “other side of the road” driving. My husband is Aussie – so it doesn’t take long for him to switch gears. It gives you time to get used to things outside the bustle of a large metropolis.
We were heading from Dublin to Kilkenny.
If you read any of our Scottish adventures – then it will be a repeat here – advantages to traveling in March…… barely any crowds anywhere you go! Disadvantages: 1) the weather (but it IS Ireland/Scotland we are talking about, so the weather can always be a bit of a gamble, lol) and 2) not all attractions are open (at least in the American sense of the word) Many you can see and walk around – they just are not “tourist” open. However, in Ireland more did seem to be open than had been in Scotland. The overall advantage for us is it made it easier to narrow down where/what to see because the time spent at some places was far less. On our first day some of our ‘bucket’ list things didn’t make it because we were not sure we could get close enough to see them when they were not open.
We stopped to change our clothes (in the car!) as finding a fast food place is not like it is in Indiana! Then we drove through County Wicklow and the Wicklow Mountains towards Powerscourt Waterfall. It is the highest waterfall in Ireland. While mildly impressive – I was happy that the small tuck shop was open and that they had coffee!
There are walks, boutiques, hotels and all sorts of things to be done – if you are staying. We were just admiring the beauty on our way through. We were so happy that the sun was shining and the skies were so blue!
I am obsessed with moss – and even more so when there is remnants of snow with it. Beautiful.
Here is the view from where I was enjoying my coffee. It was nice to walk after the plane ride and then the short car drive.
As well as the green moss and the blue sky – the roads were lined with Gorse.
Our main destination for the day was Glendalough in County Wicklow. It is the sight of a Monastic Settlement, founded by St Kevin in the 6th century. It was raided repeatedly by Vikings and survived til being destroyed by the English in 1398. Most of the buildings date back to 10th-12th century.
Apparently if you visit in the summer it can be crazy crowded – this day there were very few people here. There is a visitor center that would have been nice to explore, but we carry some information books with us and we try to read before and after our stops. That way we can learn some history and keep to a schedule when we need to get somewhere before dark. It’s not ideal, but it’s one way to get to see a bit more than we might otherwise.
To get to the old ruins and the cemetery, there is a beautiful nature walk. However, on this day it was quite treacherous. A reminder that we were not in Kansas (or anywhere in the US) anymore. The paths were in the shade and covered in sheer ice. They were walking paths, but not anything had been done at all to clear them. There was a school group of kids making their way back and they were sliding and falling all over the place. There were older couples who were just turning around without any attempt at all at making the journey. My family assured me it would be fine (we are from Indy, we do ‘do’ ice) – but I had visions of one of us falling and busting something on the very first afternoon of our trip. You could pick your poison – sheer ice on the paved walk or downtrodden waterfilled mud pits on the side of the hills. Let the Adventure Begin! Even now when I look at the pictures I feel the relief that we had crossed successfully and the fear that we had to do it yet again to get back to our car!
This structure is the one that has survived the best over time and is known as St Kevin’s kitchen.
It is not a kitchen – but a church.
These were taken from inside the Cathedral, which is the largest structure on the site.
No matter where you are as you walk, your eyes are drawn to the round tower. Round towers are unique to Ireland, only 3 exist outside there. Most are now in ruins, only about 20 are still in good condition. No one is positive what they were used for. On some of our stops, where we did have guides, they would explain the theories that scholars have.
The tower at Glendalough is one of the best preserved in the country. It stands at 110 feet.
The cap was rebuilt in the 1870s. The doors are high and ladders were used to pull people up and in.
The tower was built by monks nearly 1000 years ago.
Fairly confident theories include that the towers functioned as bell towers, storage lofts and places of safety from attacks. Which seems reasonable – when you choose to put your door entry – way up here!
St Kevin’s Cross is 10 ft tall (you can see Serg in the background) and carved from a single piece of granite. It was constructed in the 8th century.
Here you can see it from the other side. Apparently there is a legend that if you can wrap around your arms around it – then whatever you wish comes true. We didn’t know about the legend or I may have tried it – to wish for a safe walk back across that frozen path!
The majority of crosses that you see in Ireland are carved from sandstone.
The rest of these are just exceedingly lovely pictures of our afternoon there. I wanted to get pictures of Irish crosses and after just one afternoon I had those in abundance!
There are remains of several other Churches and buildings scattered around. We did have a guidebook with a walking tour that was very useful in pointing out just what things were.
We did make it safely back to the car to continue on to Kilkenny. Our goal was to make it there before it was dark so we would be able to see some of it in the light! We did – making our day 1 travel plans a success. I will come back to post pictures of Kilkenny and our first pub meal *with music* later.
For more information on the Glendalough Monastic City – visit here.