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    Jon's Ireland Vacation Travelogue - May 1998

    Day 5

    We started the day with a drive through the woods around Enniskerry. The roads here make absolutely no concessions to safe driving. On most roads, even in populated areas, thereís just barely room for two cars to pass if they both slow down and drive half way into the ditch. This is made more interesting by the stone walls that always line the road. At many times youíll only have a few inches clearance on each side. The ever-present walls insure that all turns will be blind. Itís silly to try and stay on your own side of a road this narrow, so everyone just drives down the middle. I spent most of the trip braced for impact.


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      Glendelough tower

    The first real ruins we went to were the Glendelough stone buildings. The high stone tower and the stone roofed church were uniquely impressive. Especially when you realize that these buildings, made completely from small and medium size stones, have been standing since the 12th century. The scenery around this area is breath taking.


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      Glendelough seen from the ridge


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      Glendelough stone church

    One of the lakes near the site has a dark brown tint from the peat, which makes the surface a perfect mirror that reflects the mountains and waterfall.

    Stone crossLake and waterfallUpper lake

    After spending most of the day at Glendelough, we drove through more picturesque country over to the Glenmacnass waterfall. Itís strange to see the dark brown tint of the water, which gets filtered through the peat. At some places it almost has the color of cola. I hiked up to the ridge above the falls to get a better view of the valley. I was surprised to find the whole ridge, even the slopes, were marshy, with standing water everywhere. The top of the ridge could better be described as a marsh.


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      Glenmacness waterfall


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      Water stained from the peat

    On the drive back home we pulled off the road to take pictures of a scenic valley. I saw a path leading off of the road and decided to find out where it went. After wading through another bog, I came to the edge of a cliff, which looked down on beautiful little lake (Lough Tay) with a mansion at one end.


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      Lough Tay

    Making our way back to civilization we had dinner at the Roundwood Inn in Roundwood. The restaurant was closed that night so we had to settle for "pub grub". Pub grub in this case consisted of lobster bisque, goulash, and seafood platters, all washed down with Guinness.

    Its rather strange to hear that the restaurant is closed and then be handed the pub menu which is full of great appetizers and full meals. This seems to be the rule though. Our experience the next day at Jonnie Foxís Inn was even more curious.

    Day 6

    As we were driving over the Wicklow Mountains I looked over at a ridge about 3 miles away and saw a suspicious bump in the profile. Using some binoculars we could see that this was a huge pile of stones, about 30 feet high and 150 feet across. There werenít any signs describing what it was or even a convenient place to pull off the road. We later found out that this was the prehistoric Seefin passage tomb.

    During the whole day I was startled to find sites like this which are thousands of years old, completely unmarked and unmonitored. Some of them, like this passage tomb, are almost impossible to find.

    We decided to stop of in the town of Blessington so that we could get a better map to some of the sites we wanted to get to. We couldnít find such a map, but while asking for one, we ran into a local pub owner who mentioned that he knew about an old abbey (Kilteer) several miles away.


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      Kilteer Abbey

    After a short drive through the country we spotted the tower through the trees. Rounding the turn we saw that the ruins of the12th century keep were being used as one side of a cattle pen. Another old structure seemed to be being used as a barn.


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      Kilteer Abbey from the field

    Again there were no signs, no place to park, and no one to give us any information about what we were seeing. The couple doing farm work around the tower seemed too busy to really give us a tour.

    Besides the tower, we also found the ruins of a small church and perhaps a curtain wall.

    We took a long drive down to Baltinglass. This town is nestled at the base of a small mountain which has a hill fort and several passage tombs at the top. We really wanted to see these, but no one at the tourist office could give us good directions as to how to get up there. There were no roads and it seemed like a long hike.


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      Baltinglass Hill

    We settled for the ruins of a 12th century abbey on the outskirts of town. The ruins had been added to many times over the last 700 years and it was hard to make out which parts were new. They had a small plaque describing some of the stuff there.


    Click for larger photo
      Glendelough stone church

    Making our way back towards home we tried to find the Castle ruddy stone circle. This proved difficult since the tiny sign, which pointed into a cow pasture, had fallen down. We got directions from a farmer though at first he didnít seem to have any idea what we were talking about. Perhaps I should have asked, "Can you direct me to the famous large stone circle thatís been located here for the last 3000 years?"


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      Castleruddy stone circle

    We were a little perplexed about the circle when we found it. It didnít seem to be a stone circle at all. The stones were all the wrong shape. We felt they might be the curbstones for an old passage tomb. No tomb though. Perhaps it never got finished or it got taken apart for building walls.


    Click for larger photo
      The Piper's stone cirle

    Next we drove to the Piperís stone circle outside Hollywood. This proved the hardest to find. We finally found a small sign pointing of into a sheep pasture. A bit of wandering found a gate and we hiked about until we found the stones at the top of a hill. The view from the circle was quite nice. Itís easy to see why they picked this spot.


    Click for larger photo
      The Piper's stone cirle

    The easiest way to get back to our bed & breakfast took us through the outskirts of Dublin. We got a bit lost and ended up in a bad neighborhood. We drove past a burning car that looked like it had just been stoned and firebombed. A few blocks later a makeshift roadblock consisting of trees, tires, and large rocks blocked the road we were on. We turned around and left in a big hurry.

    We were completely lost, but we knew that we wanted to eat at a restaurant a few miles from where we were staying. Luckily the pub likes to do lots of advertising, and at every intersection we found a sign pointing to Johnnie Foxís.


    Click for larger photo
      Johnnie Fox's

    Like all businesses in Ireland this pub and restaurant was cramped and crowded. Itís in the town of Glencullen, which is surrounded by miles of pastures and rolling hills. Iíd say there were ten buildings in the whole place. The pub was so small that we could hardly get into the door, and the restaurant so cramped that the people at the table next to us had to get up so we could squeeze into our table.

    Okay, you get the idea that weíre at a tiny Inn out in the middle of nowhere. I had seafood Marnere in puff pastry, dad had king scallops, and mom had prawns Thumador. The wine list was quite extensive and the food was great. Wild. They even have a freakin' web page.

    As we finished the meal a band was setting up so we sat back with a few pints and listened.

    All in all, a great day.

    Day 7

    Powerscourt Mansion and gardens was only a few miles from where we where staying so we decided to spend the day there on our last day before moveing to the next cottage.


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      Powerscourt Mansion

    The grounds here were quite impressive, but not really my cup of tea. I was still eager to fit in as many megalithic sties as possible.


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      Powerscourt gardens

    When we got home and turned on the news we found out that the IRA had staged a raid on an armored car a few miles from where we were. The whole first week weíd heard about lots of violence related to the peace agreement being considered.

    Day 8

    Our next cottage was in the village of Kilgarven so we spent the day driving over there. We didnít stop at any sites along the way, but we did get a great view of the Shannon River.


    Click for larger photo
      Shannon river valley

    That night we drove into Kilkenny and had one of the best meals of the trip at Packeyís Ė Crabcakes, monkfish with seafood sauce, salmon with sorrel sauce, crème brule with rhubarb.

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