Irish Travels: a castle, monastic ruins, and winding roads


At 5:30 in the morning we landed in Dublin, bright eyed and bushy tailed. We picked up the rental car (including it’s uber essential GPS) at the airport counter first thing. The woman at the rental car counter told us we could get a diesel car for the same price as a regular fuel car (diesel fuel is cheaper, so if you have the option-get the diesel), we were like, sweet! The car we got, however, actually wasn’t diesel. Luckily we noticed that it was regular fuel on the key chain before we put the wrong type in, because that could have been a major bummer, yeah?

Driving through Dublin was stressful, especially when you have just picked up your rental car and you haven’t slept and have never before driven on the left side of the road. We safely navigated thorugh several weird traffic circles (whew!) before coming to a tunnel of some sort. Near panic attack. 10 euro toll to go through the tunnel, but thankfully they took credit cards because we had exactly zero euro. We neglected to stop at an ATM before leaving the airport, clearly a near catastrophic mistake. A mile down the road was another toll. We had to park and get out of the car to pay them in credit here, but the toll collector was very understanding. Once out of Dublin, the going was a little easier. We stopped in the beachside town, Bray, for a breather. We snapped a few photos on the rocky beach there and continued on our way to find breakfast.

We intended to visit the Powerscourt gardens first, so we stopped enroute in the town Enniscourt for breakfast. Fortified with eggs, pancakes and (lots of) coffee we figured out our route of travel for the day. The proprieter of the cafe was very nice and made a point of telling us that we must definitely not miss the monastic ruins at Glendalough on our way to Waterford. If an Irishman reccomends it, it must be good. We decided to head there after the gardens.

The Powerscourt gardens was like being a a manicured forest surrounded by walled gardens. There was not a weed anywhere on the whole property. We took a stroll through there (I think the entrance fee was 6 euro per person) and admired the statues, small castle tower, rose garden, fountains, and view of Sugarloaf Mountain. You can cover the grounds in about 30-45 minutes, even on the “long” walk.

I thought this status looked like it was surfing. In the nude. Interesting choice.

You could actually climb to the top of the castle tower and look out over the forest and Sugarloaf Mountain, which was neat. I feel like Rapunzel should live in there. (Ironically, I watched Tangled on the plane.)

There were some freaking huge trees. A lot were even taller than the castle; they towered over you even while at the top. Makes me really want to see the redwoods in California some day. There was a really awkward picture of me hugging this tree that I spared you from. You’re welcome.

There was also a weird and old but strangely interesting pet cemetery. There were stones in there from the 1700s.

My favorite part was the walled perennial gardens. It felt very Secret Garden to me, which I love. Despite the rep Ireland has for being cold all the time, it’s actually rather temperate in the winter and it rarely snows, so lots of tropical-ish plants can flourish. (In the summer the weather is around 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit.) Speaking of the weather, no Irish rain for us as of yet!

This the the view facing towards where the first garden picture was taken, toward the grand house you enter through.

We took the Military road over Sally Gap on our way to Glendalough. This was the best ever first day decision because while the road was winding and a little narrow (great for getting used to the roads in the rest of the country), the terrain was such that you could see any other car coming from a good distance away. It was the perfect road for Wes to hone his driving-on-the-wrong-sode-of-the-road skills and for me to hone my keep-left shouting skills. The scenery was nice; lots of greenery, mountains, and sheep. Compared to some of the mountain passes and seaside cliff roads we traversed later on our journey, it was easy street. (We’ll get to all this good stuff later.)

As the guidebook suggests, don’t think of it as our side of the road and their side of the road, it’s just the road. That sounds really touchy feely, like yay-sharing! Until you are coming up on an opposing car withstone walls on either side and vegetation right up next time/invading the road. It gets a little hairy at that point. Pur strategy was to slow down, go as far left as possible and try not to die. It seemed to work.

One of the coolest things we saw this day was a stream running down a steep embankment down from the road and meandering through the fields below. I couldn’t figure out how to make my photos panoramic, but you can get the gist below. (I’ll have to ask Wes to show me because I know the computer does it, then I can post the panoramas.)

Next, we arrived at Glendalough (pronounced Glen-Da-Lock), really old ruins of a really old monastery. We were too tired to peruse the small museum there, so I can’t tell you if it was worthwhile or not, but the stopover itself definately was. Our first view of the ruins was from a small bridge over a picturesque stream where we could see the small round tower through the woods.

There was also some really ancient tombstones which Wes was particularly interested in.

I was really into the  patterns on the Celtic crosses. We want to do a stained glass transom over our front door and I’ll be looking back at these images for some inspiration.

Once we finished wandering the ruins and skillfully avoiding the small tourist trap alley where I imagine one could purchase crappy t-shirts and plastic shamrocks, we headed up the mountain where there were some more monastic ruins. These were not in as nearly good of shape as the ones below, but it was still fun to wander. There was literally no nobody else at these ruins, so we had the place to ourselves, and it had a great view back down the mountain.

When traveling in Ireland, don’t hesitate to stop when you see something neat. We saw a church off to the side of some random road and when we stopped to take a gander found a trail leading down to a creek, a rickety old bridge, and a small shrine to the Virgin Mary.

I think the water color comes from the peat. It looks like the water from the cliffside stream we stopped at on the Military road.

From Glendalough, it was basically a straight shot on the motorway (read: 120kph (75 mph) speed limit, boring highway) to Waterford. Due to our severe lack of sleep, driving this distance on this big ass highway was probably a little unsafe. Cue more coffee. If I had to do it over, it would probably be best to stay somewhere a little closer to Dublin or to do our couple of days in Dublin first (we did ours at the end). Even driving along the highway, every now and again there were some random ruins on the side of the road. That’s how they roll in Ireland.

We did do a little stopover in Kilkenny to take a couple of pictures outside the castle. (Like most castles we visited, we found it wasn’t really necessary to go inside for the full tour, so we saved the 6 euro.)

Wes was insistent that we take a photo to send to the Merchandiser, the local ad newspaper. He pulled the most recent copy out of his bag and all I could say was, “You actually PACKED that?!” Yes, yes he did. Because everyone reads the Merch, or so they say in the weekly travel photo section. And also because if you send in your photo, holding said paper in an exotic local, and they publish it they send you $25. So we set up our tripod with everyone staring at us and took an obligatory Merch photo.

We arrived at our BnB, Diamond Hill Country House, which was just outside Waterford at around 7pm. There were beautiful gardens in the front yard. We were the only guests at the time and they upgraded our room to this guy for no charge.

Photo from the Diamond Hill Country House website.

There was a huge bathtub and I took a very relaxing bath. Breakfast the next morning was nice. We tried the full Irish breakfast (you have to, at least once). There were eggs, bacon, sausage, a broiled tomato and white and black pudding. The puddings are like little sausages that were shaped like mini muffins. They were ok, but I think I’m just a bacon girl at heart (as evidenced here.)

The next day the innkeeper spent 10 or 15 minutes telling us all about the best things to see in Ireland. We took careful notes and headed into Waterford town to see the sights. When we left, we left our electic plug adaptor thing in the room. The innkeeper tracked us down in Waterford, which is several miles away, to give it back. He was such a nice guy and went out of his way (literally) to help us. As I’ll tell you about, so will most Irish.

Following our progress on the map below, we’ve made it to our first stopover in Waterford. Coming up: Day 2 in Ireland. Waterford city, The Rock of Cashel (not to be missed!), and arrival in Kinsale. Check back!



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5 responses »

  1. Pingback: Day 2: Waterford to Kinsale « all in good spirits

  2. Pingback: Day 3: Kinsale to Dingle « all in good spirits

  3. Pingback: Day 4: Dingle to Ennis « all in good spirits

  4. Pingback: Irish Travels: Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, and Galway « all in good spirits

  5. Hello Christine, great blog and I love the writing style! I really enjoyed your ‘Irish Travels’ posts.

    I am working on a huge – or ultimate – piece for honeymooners travelling to Ireland. I would be very grateful for your input if you are interested?

    I will link you and mention your blog if you make an input. Hope to hear from you soon 🙂


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