Our adventure in Ireland continues…
After spending 2 nights in lovely Dublin, we jumped in our little 1 point nothing car and headed south. The plan was to cross the Wicklow Mountains and head to Wicklow for a night staying in the Captain Halpin’s Bunkhouse hostel.
Heading out of Dublin, leaving behind the cobbled streets, the patron saint cathedral, the many bars and restaurants, double decker buses, famous books, students, fiddlers and museums, we started heading into the countryside. The further south we drove, the greener it got.
County Wicklow is known as the garden of Ireland but I wonder if we went in the wrong season.
As we started to cross the Wicklow Mountains and having been in Scotland earlier this year, I was expecting, well, mountains. What I got instead were miles and miles of rolling hills covered in so much heather, it would make a traditional gypsy weep with joy. The landscape was actually quite bleak. Beautiful in its own way, but bleak nonetheless.
Heading down into Wicklow, we were surprised to discover, it was a really cute little seaside town filled with little shops and restaurants/cafes.
We found our hostel which was right next door to the police station (which could be good OR bad). A family run hostel with both bunk bed dormitories and private rooms, all with shared bathrooms. The private rooms are in a separate wing of the hostel and 2 rooms shared a large family-size bathroom. The shared kitchen was fully equipped and for just €2, you could help yourself to as much porridge, bread, jams, honey, teas and coffees as your tummy desired. I was relieved to see everything was neat and clean.
We had planned on walking on the beachfront but the wind was SOOO strong and incredibly icy cold, we decided to head to the nearest pub and spend the evening there. We indulged in a traditional Bulmers Irish cider and some delicious pasta (from which we took a doggy bag for our lunch the next day).
We had also planned to wake bright and early and head down to the beach with our tripods for some sunset pictures since we were in the east coast but when that alarm went off at 05:00 the next morning and we looked it the window and saw clouds, we decided that was a silly idea and sleeping later was a much better plan.
After a breakfast of Irish porridge, banana and honey, we started our journey to Cashel, which is diagonally south west from Wicklow.
On the way we stop at Glendalough which is an early monastic settlement lying in a glacial valley in County Wicklow. We walked around some of the grounds, viewed the calm lake nestled comfortably between two mountains, took photos of a tiny church ruin and and even walked a short trail to see a small waterfall. Unfortunately, it was just so freezing cold, we didn’t spend longer than about 1.5 hours walking around. I am sure it is gorgeous in the summer and judging from the number of picnic benches around, it’s very popular in warmer weather.
As we drive further, the countryside changes, more hedgerows, many more sheep and a mixture of little cottages and huge houses.
We arrive in Cashel in the late afternoon and after checking into our hostel called the ‘Cashel Holiday Hostel’, we grab our cameras and tripods and head through town in search of the famous Rock of Cashel (which is a collection of medieval buildings including a castle, cathedral and chapel). We didn’t really have to search that long since it’s huge and stands looming over the town from a small hill.
Unfortunately half of it was covered in scaffolding which is always a risk when you visit these old monuments but the rest of it was fairly impressive. From the graveyard outside, you could look out over the surrounding countryside and see the town of Cashel, green fields and scattered cows grazing in the fields unknowingly producing Ireland’s next great beef burger or block of butter.
The chapel was pretty but sealed up to treat the rising damp and bacteria eating the inside wall surfaces.
Heading back into town, we tried to find a restaurant for dinner but discovered that Cashel isn’t all that alive on Sunday nights and after walking up and down the main street many times, we settled on a small hotel’s restaurant. I enjoyed a delicious smoked salmon salad with fresh brown bread.
We discovered that night that our en-suite bathroom’s shower wasn’t quite as clean as we’d like it to be but managed okay anyway. The shower needed some convincing to get hot and once hot scalded the life out of your head so this meant some very careful washing. We enjoyed some tea in our rooms before climbing into our bunk beds and dreaming of what adventures we were about to embark on.
In the valley below the Rock of Cashel is Hore Abbey, a ruined Cistercian monastery. Walking through what I would call a ‘cow pat field’ to get there, you were rewarded with a lovely collection of rooms from this old abbey.
Sadly we didn’t spend too long because icy winds and no gloves don’t work very well for photography. The journey continues…
The further we got to Killarney, the greener and more traditional the scenery became. I loved seeing the many sheep dotting the countryside, sometimes joining us on the road and baa’ing loudly. April/May is lambing season and it was lovely to see protective mothers and their little bouncing lambs.
Eventually we arrived in Killarney, quite a large town with St Mary’s cathedral the focal point. It was built by an Englishman and is considered to be the best and most important Gothic revival cathedrals of the 19th century.
Killarney was lovely. Green parks, tree lined roads, cobbled pedestrian streets with cafes and restaurants offering local music, horse and carriage rides and a stunning national park just next door.
We checked in to our hostel (Neptune Hostel) which was really, really lovely. Friendly, well organised and clean. A huge kitchen (although no microwave) with a free breakfast or cornflakes, white bread, jams, tea and coffee. Our room was bright, airy and had an attached shower room.
At the reception are loads of booklets, pamphlets and directions to various things to do in and around Killarney as well as some specials in cafes for hostel dwellers.
We both found the restaurants here really expensive and I settled on one of the cheaper options – a grilled chicken and peppers toasted baguette for €13!!
Well, that’s enough adventure for the time being. I’ll soon be back with another post telling you all about the lovely Killarney National Park and Dingle Peninsula.