Day 6: Mostly Glendalough

October 8, 2010 04:40 – 04:40

Yesterday, we got another of our famous late starts, and headed immediately for the Leo Burdock’s chipper in Rathmines. Traffic was heavy, and the address we had for it was wrong, but we did eventually find it. Most of the LBs are supposedly take-away only, but we didn’t want to have to search out benches or tables. So, we chose the only one we knew to have an eat-in area. Also, the internets informed us that the one in Rathmines was the best of the bunch.

The fish at LB was definitely fresh and well-prepared. I had the cod and Karen had the haddock. Both were excellent. An unexpected bonus was that they also have glasses and ice into which you can pour your beverage. No fan of drinking from bottles, I gave that up for the most part when I became a toddler many decades ago. I’ve not figured out why people think it’s an acceptable way to serve beverages.

In any case, we didn’t get away from Leo’s until almost 14h. With the Garmin predicting we wouldn’t reach Kilkenny until almost 16h, we decided on a change of plans—and a good change it was. We elected to head down to Glendalough, instead. En route, we passed through Wicklow Gap in the Wicklow Mountains National Park. We stopped at a scenic viewpoint and snapped a few pictures.

Apparently, someone named Rob was eager to leave his mark. There’s a nice planked walkway leading from the car park.

Back on the road and dodging the occasional sheep, we quickly arrived at Glendalough. Glendalough (that’s Gleann Dá Loch in Irish, which means Glen of Two Lakes) is a glacial valley located in County Wicklow (why don’t they say Wicklow County?). It has an early medieval monastery that was founded in the 6th century by St. Kevin. It was destroyed—sort of, since some of it’s still left—in 1398 by English troops. According to legend, St. Kevin once threw a woman into a river to avoid her amorous pursuits. I’m not sure why all this warrants canonization, but, then, I’m not a member of the club.

Glendalough is a ruins photographer’s dream. Here are a few of the snaps I shot. Arriving at the car park, all I saw at first was a large field and plenty of trees.

I sat my camera down on a picnic table, and the evil little bastard that it is snapped a picture of us. Larry the Stooge called and wants his hair back, but I’m not quite done with it yet.

Here’s my first glimpse of the ruins, which at that point I didn’t know we’d be able to walk to. I started walking up the hillside so I could get better views.

As I walked, more and more of it came into view.

It was almost as if it were growing out of the countryside—taking shape and expanding before my very eyes.

All of a sudden, detailed exploded into view. A cemetery!

Then a small chapel came into view.

Seeing people now, I was almost disappointed. At an unreachable relic, it was somehow more exotic. Knowing others had reached it before me was a bit of a letdown. Still, it did give me something more to discover.

But, with the bridge access cut off… how was I to get there?

Still, the views from the hillside were magnificent.

I walked back to the visitor center to find Karen. She’d already been there, and had bought me a Heritage pass. This should help us with other national park sites during our trip. The nice folks at the visitor center told us how to get to the ruins: walk towards the hotel, turning left.

Just around the bend, the monastic village’s entryway appears.

Inside what was once probably a gatehouse, there’s this plaque on the wall.

Apparently, while English troops destroyed the village in the 14th century, the cemetery was still in use in the 20th century. I found legible gravestones from the 18th through the 20th centuries. There were much older stones as well, but I wasn’t able to read anything from before the 1700s. Here’s one from 1911 for several members of the Geoghegan family.

Here, you can see how weathered many of the stones are.

This appears to be the oldest church, long ruined, and containing several crypts.

Here’s one in the interior from 1793, commemorating Luke Toole.

Some are on the ground, while others were interrupted on their way.

This little church is more intact, but it was closed to admission. I wonder if they ever open it.

Below, there’s the remnant of yet another building, the topmost part long gone.

On my way up to the tallest tower, I met a friendly local resident. He let me stand a meter away, and posed nicely for the camera. No ornithologist, I know it’s a bird… but little else. (Several readers inform me that the prolific black and white birds they have here are magpies. Even so, I don’t want a pie made from them.)

Next, I headed towards the dark tower.

Okay, so it’s not dark. There was no door at ground level. I presume that entry was made using a ladder. Maybe from some of those ladder day saints I’ve heard about? But, I digress. Also at the base of the tower, I encountered three visitors from Hungary, all of whom spoke wonderful English. Peering inside a reachable hole near the base of the tower, we together concluded that the tower was not something we could enter and ascend easily, even if we wanted to.

I’m not showing the numerous concession stalls that are just outside the entry gate. It would be a more honest portrayal, but it detracts from the history. But, if you arrive at Glendalough wanting an ice cream cone or a sausage. You won’t be disappointed.

Leaving Glendalough, we set a course for the house in Eaton Square. Along the way, I stopped at the SuperValu, armed now with the knowledge that what I wanted existed—Niamh had advised that the local equivalent of ice chests are cooler bags. They’re these insulated zippered bags that take the shape of a box. They weren’t on display in the store, so I asked the manager. He admitted that they had them, but that they were in the store room—he returned from the store room carrying a large box filled with the €4.50 devices. They’re rather flimsy, so I bought two, figuring that one inside another would do a better job at keeping our perishables from perishing on the drive to Killarney, which we’ll be making tomorrow. Then again, if our next lodgings don’t have a fridge, I suspect we’ll have to abandon some of the more fragile items, like cream and yogurt.

For dinner, we had agreed to head for McCormack & Sons—a pub in Dun Laoghaire. Recommended by Lola, the pub was quite agreeable—it even has its own car park! We enjoyed a couple of pints of Stella whilst waiting for the main attraction. Karen’s really into pies, so she ordered the beef & Guinness pie. While I always like the idea of beer battered this or that, I’m never happy with the result. So, I had the sirloin, instead. While the crust of Karen’s pie was wonderfully executed, the Guinness imparted a flavoring that didn’t complement the beef very well. So, the pie got a mixed review. The steak I had was well prepared and had a nice flavor. The peppery gravy they brought with it was also good.

Today, we’re going to remain a bit more local. There’s the Grand Canal Theatre and the National Botanic Gardens—it was spritzing a little rain when I got up, but it appears to have stopped now. So, hopefully, it’ll be a dry walk around the Gardens. We have some other fairly local sights we want to take in before hitting the road west tomorrow, including seeing Enniskerry, where some of BallyK was shot.

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