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While Dublin has much to offer as far as the Irish experience, to truly get a taste of this magnificent country you need to venture outside of the city borders. While the Cliffs of Moher are a popular choice, a cloudy day could leave you seeing little more than two feet in front of you, no cliffs in sight. Not willing to risk an entire day crossing the country only to see our own breath, we opted to experience the Garden of Ireland, one of the Ireland’s six national park with unique boglands, heather fields and infamous movie locations (P.S. I Love You anyone?).
As an easy day trip, the Wicklow Mountain Tour not only takes you through the country side to the park, but also stops at a monastic site and enchanting Irish villages along the way to get a peek into the world beyond Dublin.
The tour started early to make sure we would be able to fit in all the sights. Luckily, our first stop was at Avoca Handweavers in Kilmacanogue. A quaint restaurant, tea shop and homemade craft shop surrounded by luscious gardens gave us some much-needed caffeine for the rest of the day.
We then headed off into the mountains of Wicklow. There are numerous routes to take through the mountains that will lead to valleys, sprawling wildflower fields and of course, the bridge at Dublin Bay at Sandcover where Holly and Gerry kissed in P.S. I Love You. Even if you haven’t seen the movie, the bridge is still a magnificent structure in the midst of a trickling creek and purply-green landscapes. You can also relieve some of the scenes from Braveheart and Reign of Fire in the fields of SallyGap.
Next, we trekked to Glencree Valley to see Guinness Lake (Lough Tay) and hear of folklore and myths of the area. Sure to its name, the lake looks like a dark glass a Guinness from above. I won’t spoil any surprises here, but the stories of the rolling hills and boglands only add to the enchanting nature of the park.
After we’d gotten enough of recreating our favorite films, we refueled in a traditional Irish village called Glencullen for a hearty lunch. As a vegetarian, my options were a bit limited, so I stuck to some side dishes and a Clif bar I had packed. Though, my meat-loving boyfriend gave the meal a thumbs up!
Once we were filled up with lunch and another pint of Guinness (obviously), we drove down to Glendalough, noted as a glorious “jewel in the crown of the Wicklow Mountains”. Along the way, we passed by a quaint village no larger than a block or two where actor Daniel Day-Lewis currently resides (any Abe Lincoln fans?). Once we arrived to the starting location, we began at the upper lake and took an easy hike down to the Glendalough monastic settlement to learn about St. Kevin, the founder of the ancient monastery.
As a cemetery enthusiast (anyone else?), I am absolutely captivated by reading old grave stones and learning about the people who inhabited this land centuries before me. Although it might just be a creepy interest of mine, the site is worth seeing even for those who aren’t as fascinated with the gravestones of others. This 10th century monastic round tower settlement in Glendalough still has the remnants of buildings along with a round tower you can peer into that was once used as a guard tower. The heavy stones and detailed inscriptions are a beautiful contrast to the lust gardens that surround the area. Luckily, our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and able to answer any questions we had.
As the ending note to our tour, it was only fitting that we all enjoyed a shot of whiskey and made our way back to Dublin. If you’re looking to plan your visit to Ireland, make sure you check out the best things to see, do (and drink, obviously) in Dublin!
Have you been to the Wicklow Mountains? Do you prefer to explore urban areas or venture out into the country side?