Following on from my ‘A Weekend of Culture, History & Guinness’ post on my trip to Dublin, here’s Part 2. Get ready for an insight into the true beauty of the Irish countryside…
Determined to experience some of the rural landscape Ireland is celebrated for, we booked a day trip to Wicklow Mountains National Park with a visit to Glendalough. Translating to the ‘Valley of Two Lakes’, Glendalough is not only home to two stunning lakes, but visitors can also find a captivating monastic site there dating back to the 6th century – amazing!
Established by St. Kevin, the Monastic City is famous for it’s early medieval beginnings, as well as offering stunning, picturesque scenery and a rich and fascinating history. As you enter the settlement your eye is instantly drawn to the 30m stone round tower standing tall in the middle of the site. Its exact purpose is not known, but many theory’s include it being a bell tower, a storehouse or a place of refuge during attack.
Close by to the round tower sits a large stone monument called St. Kevin’s High Cross. Irish Folklore says that any woman that can wrap her arms all the way round the enormous stone structure will find their true love. Needless to say I gave the stone a good hugging but my arms just couldn’t do it! I did enjoy watching the hoard of other women giving it a try though – Good luck ladies!
As we wandered around Glendalough, we found it hard to imagine that the remainders of these hand-built stone buildings were once home to a group of monks thousands of years ago. The whole area is truly awe-inspiring, immersed with an incredibly quiet and calm like I’ve never experienced before. To add to the magic of this enchanting settlement, snow began to drift down gently from the sky creating the perfect backdrop for an already pretty wonderful place! It was the kind of snow you see on romantic Christmas movies, dream-like fluffy flakes falling angelically all around us… lovely.
Outside of the monastic settlement there’s plenty more to discover with beautiful lakes and stunning natural landscapes. A short stroll leads you to the first of the two lakes; featuring tranquil views of the whole valley it’s the perfect place for a country walk. To reach the second and bigger lake you’ll need a little bit more time. If it weren’t for the dream-like snow turning into a full-blown blizzard, we would have ventured out to see it ourselves, maybe next time! Following the dramatic weather change, we all scrambled back onto the bus ready to explore some more of rural Ireland.
Next on the itinerary, a trip to Ballykissangel! As a 90s TV favourite of my mums, she was very excited to see the village where this popular show was filmed. Avoca is a tiny picturesque village deep in the Irish countryside with plenty of character crammed into a small space. We managed to get some snapshots of the iconic bridge, as well as the yellow and blue Fitzgerald’s pub that featured a lot in the TV series. This made us both pretty happy…simple minds I guess!
Further up the road we visited the Avoca Mill. Founded 1723, it’s Ireland’s oldest weaving mill and a great little place to visit. A quick tour allowed us to see the fantastic work this family-run mill continues to do, as well as the chance to see an old hand-weaving machine in use, truly fascinating! Beautiful weaved blankets and throws aside, the old mill sits next to an idyllic river with a quaint little café offering awesome home-cooked food! With a quick look round the gift shop and some small purchases made, it was the perfect finish to a wonderful day enjoying the Irish countryside.
The whole day is an experience I would thoroughly recommend to anyone visiting Ireland. We had only planned to see the main city sights of Dublin, but this day was by far my favourite part of our trip!