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Glendalough

My flight to Dublin is an hour late, and I wonder if I’ll be able to catch the 11:30 Glendalough bus. It’s called the St. Kevin’s bus service, picks up passengers at “Top of Dawson Street opposite Mansion House” which, after looking at the Google Map, is near a stop of the 747 Dublin Airport bus (College Greens). There’s also a 700 bus, which would drop me on Kildare Street.

Fortunately, only carrying a backpack that I could take with me on the plane, I swiftly go through Irisglendalough5h Immigration and Customs, find an ATM (advice: request an amount that isn’t a multiple of 50, to get some convenient 10 Euro notes), find the bus and its imminent departure displayed, and up I go on the double-decker bus to Dublin. On the road I see the 700 bus passing us and leading the way to town. In a hurry, it would have been better, and the 747 bus detours on crowded small streets before crossing the Liffey. But I make it to my stop, College Greens, and walk towards and to the right of Trinity College. Dawson Street is easy to find, and so is the Glendalough bus stop. It is next to a burrito shop with a rainbow flag, and there are people waiting for the bus. A few meters up is a nice coffee shop where I get a cup to go, as well as a packaged sandwich (not knowing what I’ll find in Glendalough).

I had decided on Glendalough as a way to slow down my arrival in Ireland. My travel plan was to get to the ferry to Cherbourg, France, two days later, and I had seen, on the Michelin map of Ireland, there were scenic places with little hiking figures in that area souglendalough3th of Dublin, the Wicklow Mountains. It seemed like a quiet place with a small Inn and a Youth Hostel further down the road, so I shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a place to stay (if you miss the morning bus, call ahead!).

After passing through Bray, the bus starts on a small scenic road on gentle hills. I am pleased by the driver’s professional approach to cyclists and wished car drivers did the same. Soon we are treated to bucolic views of sheep and little lambs grazing on green fields. On arrival at the Glendalough Visitor Centre, it is raining, windy and cold. I came equipped with a rain jacket and a rain cover on my backpack. I follow a paved path to the Glendalough Hotel. At the reception desk, assured of a room and breakfast, I also opt for dinner. I love my room at the top of the stairs, it’s really a room for two people, but I know I will enjoy a hot bath.

glendalough4But first I must resist falling asleep until tonight, as my strategy to adapt quickly to jet lag. I claim it is easier in that direction: just resist falling asleep until nightfall, then you are so tired that sleep is inevitable. I have hiking shoes at the bottom of my bag, and out I go for a walk.

Glendalough was the site of St. Kevin’s Monastery, now in ruins and surrounded by an old but still in use cemetery. It is on the edge of the Wicklow Mountains National Park, which I suppose is relatively new because it wasn’t on my 2004 map. There’s a small paved road to a parking lot and a lake. All the hikes are easy, just beware that most of the trails are laden with sharp rocks, indicative of the area’s geology, and the old abandoned mining sites on the bare hills to the west.
glendalough6On my second day I wear rain gear to go into the lush forest and take photos. Everything is covered with thick green moss, and the mist deposits droplets on the most recent Spring growth. I suppose it doesn’t snow here, and if it did this could be a good place to return to.
Both the hotel’s breakfast and dinner are delicious and varied. I venture to order kippers for breakfast, a first for me in a lifetime of cereal breakfasts. It’s a great introduction to having fish for breakfast, a feature of many countries I wish to visit in the future. My other adventure, black pudding, is unsuccessful in converting my food habits. Black (and white) pudding is a kind of blood sausage.

glendalough1aIt is Good Friday when I leave Glendalough, and I decide to walk 11 km to Rathdrum, where I could catch the train down to Rosslare Harbour. Unfortunately I don’t know of any trail as an alternative to the road, which is narrow and subject to fast driving. Next time I’ll hitchhike or take a taxi, or look for an alternative route. Unfortunately this is not Switzerland where trails would be clearly marked.

I liked my quiet stay so much that I made sure to return to Dublin at the end of my trip with enough time to go to Glendalough again. This time, three weeks later, the weather is sunny and clear, and I can dedicate my last day in Ireland to enrich my photo series of rocks and water. Judging from the number of tour buses in the parking lot, this is a regular feature on the tourist trail.  But the tourists only come here for an hour or two and rarely venture on the trails.  Glendalough has become the highlight of my trip, only because it is a great quiet place to recharge and forget that there are schedules to follow and planes to catch.

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