Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Ireland at Last!

Oh my goodness!  I can't believe I'm finally here!  I've lived & breathed this trip for so long that now that I've finally stepped onto Irish soil, it's all a bit surreal.

After meeting Donna at Dublin airport, we checked into the Rental car counter where we were directed to a Shuttle bus which took us over to the Europcar depot.   There we picked up our Opel Corsa, complete with Sat Nav.  Now, Irish Mary back at Tourism Ireland NZ in Auckland assured me I'd not need a Sat Nav in Ireland "& anyway, they don't come with an Irish accent" she said.  Who was she kidding!?  With my sense of direction Mary, a Sat Nav is an absolute must. 

Our trusty Opel Corsa rental car
Now just a word about our Sat Nav... we've named her Aoife [I think that's how she spells her name & she pronounces it "Ee-fa"].... and before we had even got out of Dublin, we were having a conversation with her!  Some of it, not very savoury...  especially, when she kept telling us 'to make a U-turn as soon as possible'!.... I quickly decided it was because U was the only vowel missing from her name!! 

We were heading to Kilkenny for a couple of days but detoured  via Glendalough, set in the majestic valley of the Wicklow Mountains National Park.  The weather was perfect - blue skies & white puffy clouds!

Heading over the Wicklow Mountains to Glendalough

On the way to Glendalough, Wicklow Mountains
Following the R115 through the Wicklow Mountains we happened upon Mary from Co. Meath, who waved us down from her car which appeared to be firmly wedged up to it's axle on the side of the road.  Moving bags to one corner to make room, Mary happily jumped into our car & off we went in search of handsome farmer with big tractor to get her out of her predicament. 
Actually, Mary didn't especially need a 'handsome' farmer as she had a man friend of her own which we had left guarding the car stuck in the ditch.  She happily told us that she'd met him on a internet dating site and this was her first outing with him!   We soon track down handsome farmer a few kilometers on, who appeared very willing indeed, to give Mary a hand. 
Of course, as seems to be the done thing in Ireland... we left with Mary's phone number and strict instructions to look her up when we got to County Meath.

Glendalough Monastic Site, Glendalough, Co. Wicklow

Glendalough, Co. Wicklow
Situated in the Wicklow Mountains National Park, the Glendalough Monastic site  really is amazing, and one of the most important sites of monastic ruins in Ireland.  Founded around the 6th century, most of the buildings that survive today, date from the 10th through to the 12th century.

6th or 7th century Granite Cross, Glendalough

Glendalough Cemetery, Co. Wicklow

Glendalough Round Tower, Co. Wicklow

Cathedral Ruins, Glendalough, Co. Wicklow

St Kevin's Church, Glendalough, Co. Wicklow

The Round Tower, Glendalough, Co. Wicklow

After spending an hour at Glendalough, we had to decide which would be the quickest route to Kilkenny.  We eventually decided on the R756 to Knockroe then onto the N81.  Just north of  Rathvilly, Aiofe our Sat Nav directed us onto the R726 - who were we to argue!  And it was on the R726 just east of Carlow that we happened upon the Brownshill Dolmen - good ole' Aiofe! Had she recognised the M9 when we went through Johnstown, a much quicker route to Kilkenny, we'd have taken that and missed passing the Brownshill Dolmen altogether.
This was a magnificent structure and one we would not have sought out because neither of us had ever heard of it before. 
The Maginificent Brownshill Portal Tomb between Ballynakillbeg & Kernanstown

Brownhill Dolmen, Co. Carlow

Keep you're eyes open  for it on the left as you come into the small settlement of Ballynakillbeg, if you blink you'll miss it!  The capstone of this dolmen alone, weights an estimated 100 tonnes & is reputed to be the heaviest in Europe.  It is thought to have been built between 4000 & 3000 BC by some of the earliest farmers to inhabit the island.  It really is worth following your Sat Nav to Carlow to find this.  From the car park it's a 5 - 10 minute stroll on a a well maintained footpath which leads right to the dolmen.

From Carlow we eventually did find our way back out onto the M9 which took us on to the N10 into Kilkenny.  We checked into Mena House B&B on Castlemoner Road around 5.30pm & were welcomed by the lovely Katherine Molloy.  As it is early in the holiday season, we found ourselves the only guests at Mena.  Katherine looked after us like long lost friends.    Handily situated to Kilkenny town centre & spacious off street parking, we found Mena House to suit our needs perfectly.
Mena House B&B, Kilkenny


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  2. Isn't it so nice to reminisce Paddy? As always, I absolutely love your pictures :) Beautiful! Don't you just hope that the likes of Glendalough - the tower, ruins graveyards etc - never deteriorate to the point where people can't visit/see them anymore. We're so lucky that they're still standing for us now, well into the 21st century.

    Thanks for sharing your stories and pictures with us.

  3. Liam, I'll be reminiscing about my trip to Ireland forever, such are the wonderful memories I have. One of the things that surprised me the most about Ireland was how close you can get to these historic monuments. I love that you can touch ancient structures built in the 6th & 7th century.

  4. I'm sure that'll change one day for preservation concerns. We're just lucky to have our turn with them now while they're still in relatively good shape :)

  5. It is a miraculous collection of Ireland tourism photos. It refers to the enjoyment and pleasurable time which you spent in Ireland. It is a great place to select for a fun filled and memorable tours and family trips. I like to see your sharing about your tour.

  6. Hello Paddy, fellow Kiwi here, from the broken city of Christchurch. I am also enroled in the MOOC course. Good blog and what a stroke of jolly good luck winning such a fabulous prize. I can see you enjoyed yourself. I have not as yet been to Ireland but it is on my list of place to visit. It is of course, a rapidly growing list. Look forward to chatting during the course of the course.

    Martha Wareham

  7. Martha, thanks for dropping by. I'm sure we're going to have a blast learning all about Ireland, its history, culture & much more. I can't wait for it to get started! See you there :o)

  8. Love the Blog and hope you get to come back and visit us again!

  9. Thanks Louise. I hope you get time to flick through all 30 days of our Ireland Holiday at your leisure. I'm certainly going back again someday in the not too distant future. I left my Heart there.

  10. terrific pictures .... so glad you had a great trip.

    1. Oh, I can tell you without hesitation, that it was the best trip of my life. Thanks for dropping in Yvonne.

  11. Gorgeous photos Paddy - thanks for stopping by my blog just now and your wonderful comment. I will reply to it there, and read more here tomorrow afternoon...must zzz now, and work tomorrow but can't wait to read through your whole trip :-) annie

    1. Annie, how lovely of you to drop by so quickly after my posting on your blog. I look forward to chatting with you more & helping in any way I can, with your own trip to Ireland. Paddy