Below is a run down of the first leg of our Ireland road trip from Dublin to Glendalough, about 70 km south or a little over an hour drive, and some things we learned along the way:
- After a porridge breakfast (I decided to switch it up and have a non-meat based start to my day), we got on the road and headed south from Dublin toward our first “planned” destination - Glendalough (pronounced glen-da-lock). To give you an idea of our thought process, we basically Googled out a general route for our trip and for the first few days went ahead and got hotels until we were a bit more comfortable. (Scott: This seems pretty simple, but it was anything but and actually gives an interesting insight into marriage. My inclination was to plan nothing and hers to plan everything. After some “discussion” we figured out that she was not as comfortable given this was her first trip to Europe. Thus, we developed a compromise where we planned out the beginning “until we were comfortable” and then had some “wing it” worked into the end. I strongly suggest this process for others with similar dynamics.)
- The drive to Glendalough was only an hour, but we took our time. (Scott: And by this she means drove VERY slowly through Dublin and freaked out with our first highway/120km/h experience!) We drove through the village of Roundwood and learned that the Monday after St. Patty’s Day is a holiday, so almost everything was closed. We were able, though, to discover the “highest pub in Ireland;” The Vartry House’s pub, Kavanaghs, at a staggering (sic) 800 ft. above sea level! This is also where I discovered liquid crack and my drink of the trip - a Smithwick’s Shandy (or a “Smiddick’s” Shandy). This ambrosia consists of Smithwick’s beer and red lemonade - which is some red carbonated yummy-goodness - wow! (Scott: She downplays the awesomeness that was this pub. Ok, maybe not awesome, but the bartender was tons of fun to talk to and they had a fire. That qualifies it for awesome right? She does not, however, downplay how much she enjoyed this new drink.)
- The drive into Glendalough (County Wicklow) (Scott: Irish Counties = American States) was absolutely beautiful and I became quite obsessed with the number of sheep that are in Ireland. Glendalough is a glacial valley and right in the heart of the Wicklow “mountains” (Scott does not think anything smaller than the Rockies should be considered mountains). (Scott: Amen.) In addition to being an area of hiking trails and scenic routes, Glendalough is home to a 6th century monastic site founded by Saint Kevin. The hotel we stayed at, appropriately named the Glendalough Hotel, was right at the edge of the site. Side note on the hotel; it was a little expensive for the off-season (over 120 Euros a night), but the rooms were clean, breakfast was included, and it was within walking distance of the monastic site and hiking trails.
- The site itself was impressive, and no matter how many castles or ruins we visited, I continued to be amazed the whole trip at the history. I do not think Americans truly appreciate how much older the rest of the world is and how we have NOTHING like this. Being a bit of an art history nerd, I was in awe the whole trip. (Scott: She has gazillions of pictures to prove it.) Right off the hotel’s deck was the original arch and wall into the “monastic city,” which consisted of a completed and roofed stone cathedral, 30m (90ft) tall round tower, numerous other building ruins, and an extensive graveyard which is still in use by the local community. The ruins are right in the middle of the valley and you can see the lower and upper lake from the hotel. There was an easy trail from the site around both lakes which allowed you to just take in the solitude and beauty of the valley. The one thing we enjoyed the most was seeing all the different stone walls throughout the valley - they were everywhere! (Scott: and by “everywhere” she means that the Irish are basically obsessed with stacking rocks on top of each other, everywhere, through everything... seriously, we will cover this later but there were rock walls on barren rock hills... I guess to keep the rock from running away.)
- After our hike, we went into the town of Laragh (la-rock) for dinner (about a 10 minute walk down the road from the hotel). We were not in town during the “busy season,” so the shops and Bed and Breakfasts were not open, but we really did not mind (Scott: Seriously, of all the places we went this ranks in the top two, especially if you like outdoorsy stuff.)