For our last day of this trip to Ireland we thought it would be fun to do a tour of the Wicklow mountain region. Very rugged and scenic--the perfect way to wind down our trip! We booked the tour the day before and were to meet up with it at a hotel just down the street from where we were staying. We boarded the bus and waited.....and waited...and waited.........turns out we were waiting on a group of four people who were also supposed to be there. They never showed up and our driver/tour guide decided he'd waited long enough and we left. We were on our way out of town when he got a phone call on his cell--and we had to go back and get them. Kevin (tour guide) was not amused as he had not only waited an extended period of time, but had also gone in to the hotel lobby to look for them. I loved his response to them when they finally did come out--"what did you want me to do, drive the bus in to the lobby?" I liked this guy!
We drove a little while and he got another phone call--it was someone he knew who had a young newlywed couple that really wanted to go on the tour, could he meet up with us somewhere. We ended up stopping in Dun Laoghaire (pronounced Dunleary) to meet them, and I was excited because that was the town where a friend of mine had grown up. After hearing all of those stories I was finally going to get to see it. We weren't there for very long, but I did get a couple of pictures.
After picking them up we drove for a little bit and then stopped at Avoca Woolen Mills main store just north of the Wicklow mountains. It's a neat place with lots of shopping and a cafeteria style cafe where you can grab a snack. I really didn't see the point, but I have since learned that tour guides in Europe get a cut of the sales from stops like this! We didn't buy much (a snack) but on a later trip to Ireland I did buy scarves there to use as Christmas gifts, and the quality was superb.
We continued our journey down through the Wicklow mountains--earlier I said this is a rugged area. Lots of thatch and such alongside the road and not many houses. Right about then, one of the group of the "bad Americans" chimes in and says "Are there any snakes in there????" **GROAN** I wish I'd had a picture of my face when he said that, (along with most of the people on the tour). Kevin was on the ball though, his response was priceless--"no, the only snakes in Ireland are in the government!"
Our next stop was Glendalough, home to a medieval monastic settlement set in a valley. Gorgeous setting and in remarkably good shape considering it had been partially destroyed in the 14th century. There had also been problems with a local farmer helping himself to some of the stones from one of the buildings! Kevin was VERY knowledgeable about this site and was more than happy to answer any questions anyone had. One of the things I found most interesting about it were the tombstones that had no inscriptions--Kevin explained that it wasn't a case of them wearing away, but that they had no inscriptions because a lot of the people living there at the time were illiterate.
We drove over to the the adjoining lake and participated in an Irish tradition--a shot of Jameson's whiskey for good luck! Not sure if it worked or not?!?!?!
We spent a good part of the day driving through the mountain areas and Kevin pointed out all sorts of things that the average passerby would have missed. Well worth going on the tour just for that. We then stopped at the top of these mountains where the view was spectacular:
I personally was fascinated by the peat bogs in the area--in Ireland you can't just go digging in them anymore, they are protected by the government and you have to get a special license to dig in them. Peat is a combination of soil and vegetation, very highly compacted, dug out in rectangular pieces. It is then dried and can be burned as a heat source, used in some Irish homes where other sources aren't available. Ireland doesn't have a lot of trees, so burning wood isn't an option. Kevin told me a lot about peat, the main thing being that once it is burned in a home, that odor lingers on forever--he said that you can tell a house that it has been burnt in the minute you walk in the door, it has a very distinct odor to it, even years later.
Before heading back to Dublin, we stopped in the town of Enniskerry where Kevin treated all of us to ice cream. One of the folks decided to share some of theirs with a local dog, to which Kevin replied "oh great, the dog will be waiting for the bus every day now!"
I hope you have enjoyed our little tour of Ireland--and hopefully you will get to go there yourself someday if you haven't already! One of my favorite places that I've been to, I could move there in a heartbeat. It's been 3 1/2 years since we were there last, and I'm really itching to go, perhaps once I get my knee straightened out.......
HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY!!!!