The Road to Glendalough

May 1, 2009 - 12:54 pm No Comments

We woke up to a traditional Irish breakfast: a fried egg, two sausages, a runny pile of baked beans, and a thinly sliced, fried piece ham (the Irish version of bacon), served with orange juice from concentrate and your choice of tea or coffee. Fills you up nicely, but it’s a bit heavy. I found that Weetabix, which looks like it’s made of compressed bran flakes about the size and shape of a bar of soap, cuts through the grease nicely.

River Liffey

This was our last day in Dublin, so we were on a mission to see what we missed yesterday. We first stopped at the old but surprisingly unremarkable St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It’s nice, but not nearly as ornate or colorful as some of the other cathedrals we’ve been to.

St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick's Cathedral

After doing some online research, we went to a few of the famous U2 spots I wanted to see, including a hearing aid store named Bonavox, the store from which U2’s lead singer Bono took his name, and Windmill Lane, the graffiti-covered street marking the location of the old studios where U2 recorded their early albums, including Joshua Tree. The studios are no longer there, but the street has become a mecca for graffiti-spraying U2 fans.

Bonavox Hearing Aids

Windmill Lane

Windmill Lane

Windmill Lane

Windmill Lane

All the walking left Stef with a bum knee. But we were finally done with Dublin, so we zipped over to Budget to pick up our car, a sexy little silver Toyota Yaris. Even with all the insurance and extra fees tacked on, it was still a pretty good deal. And it only took a few minutes before I was driving right-hand drive, manual transmission car on the left side of the road like a pro.

We packed up our stuff and flipped on my GPS, onto which I had downloaded maps for all of Europe just before coming out here. Thankfully, it recognized that we were indeed in Ireland. It directed us out of Dublin and onto the small country roads of County Wicklow.

The scenery is magnificent. Narrow roads take you past farms and fields filled with sheep. Glens are covered with velvety green grass and splotches of yellow gorse. Hills offer open views of the countryside. The air is filled with the smell of crisp freshness and the smoky goodness of cottage fireplaces. The rugged and varied terrain covered with sheep reminds me a lot of New Zealand.

Trees of Wicklow

Sheep of Wicklow

As you go on, the roads get narrower and bendier. Before you know it, you find yourself surrounded by the mountains and mushy soil of Sally Gap. Valleys filled with rocks and angry vegetation make me think of Scotland. I’ve never been there, but that’s how I imagine it looks. It’s no surprise that many scenes from Braveheart were filmed in this area.

Stef Somewhere Near Glencree

Angry Clouds of Sally Gap

Valley in the Wicklow Mountains

Finally, we arrived at Glendalough (GLEN-duh-lock), ruins of a medieval monastery set alongside a couple of lakes and surrounded by mountains. The few intact structures were surrounded with hundreds of gravestones, some of them old and illegible and some of them more recent.

Monastic City of Glendalough

Leaning Gravestones

Thick gorse along the trail filled the air with the smell of buttery coconut. A walk through the forest along a trail dotted with dandelions took you to a sweeping view over the lakes. There was hardly anyone else there. A strangely magical place.

Grass of Glendalough

Glendalough Woodland

Stef & Jeff

Upper Lake

Back in the car, we continued through the hills, very easy to drive due to the 9pm sunsets and the lack of other cars. We’d sometimes drive for 10 or 20 minutes without seeing another car. Where are all the tourists? Do they all just stay in Dublin? Is it now the slow season for Irish tourism?

It was still light out when we came upon the wide-laned, curbed roads and strip malls of suburban Kilkenny. We finally pulled up to the Dunboy B&B, the place we had found on TripAdvisor and run by a very sweet woman named Helen and her husband Tony. It was getting late, so we grabbed a traditional Irish dinner at the last open restaurant in town. Stef had the bangers and mash, I had the lamb stew. Decent, but not fantastic. I’m finding Irish food to be a little bland overall, and every one of Stef’s meals has looked and tasted better than mine.

Kilkenny seems like a quiet town, probably a good place to stop for the night before continuing west. Tomorrow, we check out the sights in Kilkenny, visit the Rock at Cashel, and then head to Cork to kiss the Blarney Stone.

Stef passed out next to me. It’s takes a lot of self-motivation to stay up late writing these things when you’re completely exhausted and your travel companion is sound asleep…

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