July 4, 2016 - Wicklow Mountains, Glendalough, Kilkenny
These recaps are MANY months over due but bear with me as I break down everything in posts over the next week or so. Trying to get caught up- fall has been so BUSY!!
We FINALLY after two years of marriage got to take the honeymoon I had planned in 2014. 10 days traveling Ireland and closing with 4 days in Paris. We were traveling through a group called Tenon Tours which made all the reservations on our behalf and took a lot of the guesswork out for us. And of course we were able to afford everything thanks to Jon's uncle George's buddy passes with Delta. In trying to give a full picture of everything we did I thought it best to break out by day [we covered a LOT of Ireland]. So without further ado- here's day 1!
We didn't get on the first standby flight (saturday night) which was fine- it would have meant an extra day in Dublin but our rental car didn't start until Monday morning so as long as we arrived by then we were good. All day Sunday I was on pins and needles hoping we would make the flight. Luckily (or unluckily) the flight was delayed by about 4 hours so people started changing their flights meaning there were more spots for standby and we were definitely getting on! Only downside was arriving 4 hours later than planned. I did alert the rental car company that we would be late so we were set. We settled into our middle row and off to Ireland we went.
One restless overnight flight later and we were in Dublin! Now as we flipped and put Dublin at the end of our journey, we had to go straight to the rental car place and off to the countryside. Our first city stop was to be Kilkenny but I wanted to take us through the mountains on the way. Hilariously (now I can say that) you arrive at the rental car place and they give you keys and you're off. No practicing- you just hope for the best. We did purchase extra insurance in case we popped a tire or something more while we were out there but thankfully never needed it during the trip. Jon was our driver because our little fiesta was manual and I've never driven a manual. He was a rockstar driver! Looking back- he will say driving was the most stressful part of the trip. We were on the wrong side of the road, he was on the wrong side of the car, driving stick, AND there were no shoulders on the roads. NERVE-WRACKING. But as I said, rockstar. He navigated us through all my routes and we arrived everywhere safely.
So after picking up the car my plan was to take us through the mountains on the way to Kilkenny. I had heard Wicklow was beautiful and I also wanted to drive through Glendalough where they filmed parts of Braveheart. Our first stop was Sally Gap. Beautiful views of the Irish countryside (this would become standard) and I couldn't help but smile that we had finally made it. A dream that I had had for a long time was finally coming true. It was of course drizzling on us but hey that's Ireland for ya! We stopped to take a few photos before heading on down the road. We were on a tiny mountain road and luckily it was very sparsely traveled so Jon had time to acclimate to driving. On our way we passed the Glenmacness Waterfall. From the top it had crazy looking soil under the water and was hard to tell it was even a waterfall but once we hopped back in the car and headed around the curve of the mountain we could see the entire falls in all their glory. Huge and crashing all the way down the mountain!
Next we stopped by Glendalough. It is one of the lake areas near Wicklow that is a must-see. It again did not disappoint. We got to be out of the car for a bit and walked on some trails to see the lakes. Had we been staying in this area for the evening- their trails would have made for great running! Anyway we walked a lot of the grounds, took many photos, saw sheep and deer and then headed back to the car to go to our next stop. Our last mountain view was at Wicklow Gap. This was apparently where they shot Braveheart and talk about a 360 degree view of awesomeness. I knew Ireland was green and lush and beautiful but until you can see it in person you don't know what that really means. LOVE. That concluded our mountain tour and then we made it back to the highway (Jon was thankful for this) and to Kilkenny for our first bed and breakfast stop.
We were staying in Mena House, about half a mile from downtown Kilkenny and an easy walk so we didn't have to drive anymore. Katherine, the owner, was gracious to let us check in late and then gave us a map of must-sees and restaurants. We knew some of the things we wanted to see were closed for the day but we had the morning in Kilkenny as well so we tried to break up the attractions to get everything in. We walked through the Cathedral grounds (it's the 2nd oldest in Ireland- dating back to 9th century). Then wandered down of their main streets before stopping to eat at at Kyteler's Inn. It was recommended and as our first taste of Ireland it was delicious. We each got a Smithwick's beer (local to the area) and dug into our food. It had been awhile since we'd last eaten. (This would become a theme- big Irish breakfast and then an early dinner).
After dinner we walked by the castle and then decided to check out a few of the other bars Katherine had told us about. First stop was Hole in the Wall. It is the oldest bar in town and while not much to look at there is a lot of history there. The bar top is hundreds of years old so we had to see it. One of their staff gave us a run down of the history and we each had a drink. We ended up getting out of there quicker than planned as some very loud and very drunk Americans joined us. Matt the Miller was our next stop and where we discovered wi-fi! Thank goodness. I was able to dump all the photos of the day online and we were able to let everyone know that we were alive and having fun. We got to listen to some traditional music, had a couple more local beers and then it was time to call it a night. We had been up for many hours at this point but were trying our best to transition over to Irish time. Note- it never got dark before 9:45pm the whole time when we were there so we were still out pretty late.
A great first day in Ireland! Check out the slideshow below for more Day 1 photos and stay tuned for more updates to come!