Sunday, April 22, 2007

County Wicklow

Dublin Bay Today's trip was a Wild Wicklow tour down through County Wicklow, south of Dublin. Though on the way we drove out to the coast to see Dublin Bay and Dun Laoghaire. We don't exactly have resort quality beaches out here. I only saw one with actual sand, and it didn't even reach the water. Still, I guess you make do with what you have.

From there we passed through Ireland's rich-and-famous area, which is fun if you like being told that people you've heard of (or haven't) live nearby. From one particular vantage point, we could see the houses of both Bono and The Edge (from U2), as well as Enya's castle (!), and the homes of various other people I've forgotten. There was also the place where the former Mexican president lives after running off with a bunch of money, and where the Canadian ambassador owns the most expensive home in the country. More exciting than all the name-dropping on this part of the trip, though, was my window of the bus repeatedly swinging within centimeters of walls and trees as we wound our way along the narrow roads. We stopped for a coffee break at some little shopping center somewhere, too, but that was just dumb, so I'm not going to get into that.

Then we got into County Wicklow, heading up into the Sally Gap between the Dublin Mountains and the Wicklow Mountains. The scenery is perhaps different later in the spring, but right now there's a lot of dark heather, with splotches of yellow gorse, rather than all the green you might expect in Ireland. There were also some large burned areas. Apparently some controlled burns got out of hand yesterday and spread before the fire department could get the fire out. We saw a couple patches still smoking.

Yep, I was there. The lookout point over Lough Tay had some lovely scenery, though, if you could hold on to the mountain without the wind blowing you off it. This lake has such dark water from all the peat bits floating in it that it's nicknamed the Guinness Lake. Someone even trucked in some sand at one end, to mimic the head on a pint of Guinness. I ventured over to the other side of the road as well, to try to go into the forest, but the trees were so pointed, scratchy, and closely-packed that I literally couldn't get in. Right before we had to leave, though, I found an opening that lead to what would have been a great hike up the mountain. No time for it, unfortunately.

This area of Ireland has been used for filming lots of movies, including Braveheart. The reason a Scottish movie got filmed in Ireland is that a canny Minister of Arts offered Mel Gibson the use of the entire Irish army as extras for the battle scenes, free of charge.

Celtic Cross The Glendalough monastery was very similar in concept to Monasterboice, though larger and with some more complete buildings. This afternoon I was more interested in the hike out to the two eponymous lakes. We had about an hour and a half for this, which would have been fine if we just wanted to get out there, see the lakes, and come back. But it turns out that the mountainside there is covered with lovely trails which I probably could have explored and enjoyed for the better part of a day.

Overall, a less ringing endorsement for this tour than the previous one. If I had my druthers, I'd skip most of it and just spend a good long time in Glendalough, hiking around. But still, I enjoyed getting out to see the area a bit.

Relevant tunes:
  • The Wicklow Hornpipe
  • Sugarloaf Mountain
  • Anything by Enya or U2 :-)


Saoili said...

Yeah, you're in the wrong part of Ireland for beaches. Down in the 'Sunny South East' we have some really nice ones. The water never gets warm though, it's the atlantic ocean...

Saoili said...

Also, Gelndalough is a wonderful place to go walking. I've only really gone walking there once but I'm told there's well more than a day's worth there.