A Travellerspoint blog

Sunday in Powerscourt & Wicklow Mountains

Driving to the most beautiful Gardens in Ireland or Europe; then to the Wicklow Mountains and the Military Road

sunny 62 °F

After prayers, and a quiet morning, we hit the road to Powerscourt; site of the Viscount of Powerscourt. This is a country estate of enormous beauty; but especially some of the loveliest gardens in all of Ireland, if not Europe. Pictures will follow on Facebook, but you can look at some of the photos and information on their website: http://www.powerscourt.ie/gardens

We ended up spending 4 ½ hours there, wandering all through the formal Victorian gardens. One nature of these gardens, which I knew but had forgotten, was the nature of surprise and intimacy these afforded. They were very well tended. Tulips bloom only for a short time, and we caught them in the springtime sun. They still obviously care for their gardens very well indeed.

Of course, with that name, Robin and I were wondering how it was we didn’t inherit!

We both enjoyed a nice lunch on the terrace in the warm sun, then got to the car park; but reluctently.

The Wicklow Mountains are south of Dublin, and about the only mountains of note on the entire Island. We drove into them, making sure that we travelled the Military Road. This is a road built by the British Army after the 1798 Rising. Frustrated by Irish fighters who simply disappeared into the mountains where the Army couldn’t go with their troops and artillery, they simply built a circular mountainous road of 60 miles. Imagine the response of the soldiers when the General told them: we will find and fight these rebels; but first we need to build a superhighway through the mountains!

Some parts of this were lush and beautiful. There were tons of bicyclists and motorbike folk. It was a bank holiday, with lots of long weekend holiday-makers and day-trippers; so much so that there were traffic jams in the village. We detoured to the Clare Valley, one of the smallest hamlets in Ireland: one church, four houses, two pubs.

Finally it was time for the R115, the most desolate of the Military Road.

This was, in essence, a one lane, bumpy road, winding north for about 30 miles. At one point for many miles, we were above the tree-line, and the vast bogs of yellow grass and brown bushes stretched as far as the eye could see. It was breathtaking in its isolation and desolate beauty.

It’s hard to imagine building this road about 1800, which is still in use today; this weekend in fact!

Here are some websites:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R115_road_(Ireland)
http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g212535-d216595-r145965605-Military_Road-Enniskerry_County_Wicklow.html

Eventually, we descended the tree-line, and entered civilisation once more. Then, it was home to the Cottage, for a quiet evening, and Robin packing.

Photos to follow on FB.

Posted by stbrides 13:40 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Saturday at Kilkenny

then the drive home to the Cottage in Irishtown, Dublin

sunny 56 °F

Saturday in Kilkenny

I like this blogsite, but I’m discovering that all my photos I add, don’t stay added. So, I think I’m going to switch to Facebook for the actual photos.

After a good breakfast at Hotel Kilkenny, we put our bags in the *boot* of the Skoda and drove to the centre of the town. We found a parking place on the street, and proceeded to park, not noticing the cleverly hidden note of Pay Parking. More on that later.

First stop was the Kilkenny Castle, with it’s huge parkland behind it. We parked in a no parking zone, thought better of it, then found parking on the street. Robin stood guard whilst I walked back to the car to park it on a safer spot. Neither of us noticed the sign (way down at the end) telling of the pay parking, nor the discreetly hidden central parking meter, where one buys a ticket and displays it on the dashboard. More later about this.

The Castle was a 12th century construction, though castles had been on this spot since before the Vikings. The Fitzgerald family was Butler to the King, which sounds fairly lowly in our time, but at the time, was a very prominent position; so much so that they took the name Butler as their Surname.

Someone on the tour asked how they got their wealth. Well, they were a well connected family, with lands and farms producing income. Additionally, Butler collected 10% of all wine imported into the region. We call this a steady cash stream. It also made the Butler family loyal to the Crown, which got the attention of über Calvinist and Regicide Oliver Cromwell. He attacked the castle at Kilkenny, and destroyed one whole section of the four.

The house was restored in the mid-1800s, then vacant during the Depression until civic pride rallied to restore it.

In barbaric fashion, photos are not permitted. However, you can see some of this from their website: http://www.kilkennycastle.ie/en/

We came back to the Skoda to find a E40 parking fine. Time to drive home to the Cottage in Dublin, and enjoy a quiet evening.

Look for the photos on Facebook. S+

Posted by stbrides 13:02 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Friday On the Road

Galway to Kilkenny, with surprises along the way

overcast 48 °F

The Park House Hotel, right downtown, was an excellent old world hotel with wood paneling everywhere. Restaurant had a Full Irish Breakfast w/poached eggs on toast, two sausages, two hefty pieces of Irish bacon (not the stripy bacon we get), toast, fruits and bread galore (all included in the price). Sister Robin and I took our time. Then it was time for a walkabout of old city centre Galway.

Patrick at the front desk advised us to consult the Budget agent, who advised that the failed accessory plug was a burnt fuse, and gave us directions to an auto shop for the repairs. We found the shop, and they diagnosed the problem as a faulty fuse, replaced it, and Seamus, our Garmin, was back in business. I really do not know how we would have managed, especially with Robin’s navigational skills (example: without Seamus, we had to go by map, which was mostly fine). Me: where’s our exit? Robin: we just passed it. Me: $@£(*)*&^*$£@ (misc. sailor talk). But it worked out, though we were both happy to have a revived Seamus.

Thursday night we had walked round central Galway, and it was brisk but sunny. By this morning, a storm front had moved in, and it was rainy, damp and very cold with about a 30 knot wind. That didn’t deter us. We walked the streets, had another coffee, and asked about where was the best place to buy sweaters. We found it, and Robin and I both bought Aran Island hand knitted sweaters. When we found out they would ship for free, we went shopping in E200, free shipping: a SIGN FROM THE ALMIGHTY!!! I got a charcoal grey pullover, with ancient Celtic symbols, + a white fisherman’s sweater; oh, and a cap, of course.

We had decided to go to Kilkenny, so in the afternoon, we headed off. The first portion was high speed motorway, the M6. These are super highways, two lanes, and almost no traffic. Official speed limits are 120KPH, or about 75MPH. Our Skoda (cheap VW) TDI with standard transmission did us nicely, and we’ll simply leave it that speeds significantly higher were observed. At over 500 KM, we still have over half a tank. Sister Robin observes that I’m pretty good at staying on the left hand side of the road, not jumping the curbs too much, and handling the shifting with the left hand fairly well.

The roundabouts have been either leisurely or challenging. This is not the first time I’ve encountered these, of course, but when a roundabout entails six lanes from four directions, it can be a bit more nerve racking. The general Rules of Engagement are that autos already in the roundabout have the right of way, and you need to yield way. I only got honked at one time! Apparently other drivers don’t appreciate you changing lanes in the middle of the roundabout; funny, people in Virginia change lanes in the middle of a turn all the time!

Passing through south central Ireland, we got off the M6, Seamus, newly revived, steered us through N roads (secondary) and R roads (narrow, country) roads.

Along the way we found amazing sites, and I screeched to a stop. The first of these was the Shannon bridge. This was a fortification on the River Shannon, built in ca. 1800. The purpose of this fortification was to halt a French invasion at Galway, and to stop them from marching to Dublin (at that time, the second largest city in the UK). The French never came, but it was an impressive fortification.

Driving along narrow roads, what I call the ‘twisties’, which I enjoy immensely, working the gearbox and letting the turbocharger do its stuff, we suddenly came upon Clonony Castle. It was an abandoned castle. Again, we screeched to a halt, and dismounted to take some snaps; some of which I’ve included.

Charging down the country road again, we enjoyed many kilometers of scenic driving, hitting more roundabouts than I’ve encountered in a lifetime.

Our final prize find was Achaboe Abbey, founded in AD759. What’s interesting about this Abbey is that the Abbot later was transferred to Salzburg, Austria, and became Bishop there. This substantiates how the Irish monastics, from an early age, travelled in and influenced all of Europe. This is detailed in Thomas Cahill’s book, How the Irish Saved Western Civilisation. Within the last 15 years, the Austrian Ambassador made an official visit, and there is a plaque commemorating this.

Arriving in Kilkenny, we didn’t follow Seamus’ precise guidance, got lost and ended up in rush hour traffic. Finally arriving, we found the direct opposite of Galway’s old world charming hotel, and found an utterly modern hotel; but one which is very comfortable. Interestingly enough, shic and modern was about the same price as old world 4 Star.

After a quiet and light supper (we were scarcely hungry after that Full Irish Breakfast, even at 7PM!), we planned the next day, and sister Robin, the Facebook bandit, sucked up all the bandwidth in the hotel.

Photos to follow!

Posted by stbrides 13:03 Archived in Ireland Comments (1)

Thursday to Galway

First to 5,000 year old Temple/Burial ground of Nowth & Newgrange (B

sunny 55 °F

Today we took to bus to airport, picked up hire car at Avis. It’s a Skoda, a subsidiary of VW, built in eastern Europe. I asked for the diesel with standard transmission, and I’m happy to say, doing just fine with shifting with the left hand. The curbs seem to jump out at you, however.

We drove back to cottage & took overnight bags. Cottage parking was so tight Robin had to get out and guide me, and it took about 10 back and forths.

The cottage is near downtown and near to the port, so, in short order, we were headed north on the M (Motorway or Interstate) headed towards Belfast. About an hour outside town, we came to the ancient burial sites of Knowth and Newgrange.

These date back about 5,000 years; or, 1,000 years prior to Stonehenge. Knowth was a tomb site, whilst Newgrange was more of a temple. Newgrange is a World Heritage Site. This is where the temple mound was built with a narrow cave entrance, and is completely dark, except for a few days at the Winter Solstice. As the sun breaks, it floods the cave walkway and fills the center of the temple with light.

Interestingly enough, it is built in cruciform shape. Think of it: a Trinity of shape and of thought (birth, death, life everlasting) 3,000 years before Christ. They followed the same pattern for burial as we do: the remains are brought into the Church, prayers are said, and the remains are carried for to their final resting place.

Late afternoon, drove to Galway; Seamus, our Garmin GPS gave out. We were able to find it the old fashioned way: using maps and a mobile phone to the front desk to talk us the last bit.

It was a fast Motorway all the way, (120KPH/75MPH), and most were driving far faster than this. It was sparsely populated, and there were very few exits. We arrived at a nice hotel in central Galway, and drove round about 8 times before we found the carpark. We checked in, had a light supper, and then had a quiet walkabout the town.

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Posted by stbrides 12:01 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Wednesday in Dublin

After such a full day on Tuesday, we allow ourselves a slower start to the day

semi-overcast 54 °F

The weather was cool and overcast, with a brief shower. I wore my heavy raincoat.

Enjoying a late breakfast of eggs and rashers (thick Irish bacon; think really of ham slices, not the little streaky bacon we get), we took the Tram into central Dublin. We had a couple glitches of ordinary life that slowed our tourism fun. My lens cover on the big camera had somehow got smashed into place, and wouldn’t dislodge. We found a camera shop that fixed things up for us. Then, we needed to find me a new belt; I had come to the last notch, and was in danger of sagging my jeans. Now that’s a sight that would cause an instant drop in Irish tourism!

We also went to the Postal Office to purchase stamps. I purchased a box to send my extra stuff home. I’ve purchased many versions of the S. Brigid Cross, and some Starbucks Dublin mugs for Erin and me. This is the first of several boxes I’ll be shipping home!

Getting those things out of the way, we went straight to the Book of Kells, at Trinity College. The Book of Kells is an elaborately decorated Book of the Gospels from about AD800, in the monastery at Kells. Sacked by marauding Danes (we get along just fine now; even require passports), it was hidden and preserved.

The display and exhibition is very well laid out and gives a great introduction, even if one knows nothing of the Book. It was fabulous to see the intricacies of design, and the great lengths the monks would go to in order to beautify the Holy Gospels. It makes me ponder, not for the first time, what lengths to which people will go to employ life, skill, effort to the glory of God; but which to others might simply be a beautiful waste.

A late lunch was at the Porterhouse Pub, which is something unusual in Dublin: a brewpub! We both had the fish and chips; something we’ve both fallen in love with. And, of course, we were at Starbucks.

Because it was such a long day previously, we called it an early night, and came home to No. 73, Old Coast Guard Station. It has a full kitchen, and we can cook a bite and eat in, conserving Lilly funds. Oddly enough, the smallish refer has no freezer!

Pictures to follow!

Posted by stbrides 23:58 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

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