Friday, September 08, 2006

Thursday, 7th September – Dublin to Kilkenny

We left Dublin a bit reluctantly, thinking we could have spent longer there. Although the fact that it took us 2 hours to get out of the city in the traffic made us look forward to being in the country! I promised myself I wouldn’t discuss traffic in this blog, but in Ireland it’s a big issue. Even in the small towns we are often held up for 20-30 minutes in a traffic gridlock. It’s a big issue facing the country. The economy is very strong, the population is growing, and there are just too many cars for a very old road system – they are addressing that – there are roadworks everywhere you go, but in the short term that only adds to the congestion.

On the way out of Dublin we drove through Phoenix Park, a huge park in the edge of the city centre. Along with the President’s residence, the US Embassy, and Dublin Zoo, the park is also home to a huge herd of deer. We spotted a large group of them resting in the sun and I (Shelley) had to get a photo. Keith got very nervous as he waited in the car worrying about me getting stampeded, but I was more concerned they would run away before I got a good photo (they didn’t). We also drove along the Grand Canal, which was very picturesque in the sunshine (yes, sunshine – I know we’re in Ireland, but up till now we have had fabulous weather – unseasonably warm, cloudy at times but sometimes clear blue cloudless sky).

Our main destination for the day was Glendalough, the site of an early monastic settlement founded by St Kevin in the 7th century. Most of the buildings date from the 11th & 12th century, and we enjoyed wandering around the ruins. We were surprised to discover it is still in use today as a cemetery, so there were gravestones everywhere, some brand new, some hundreds of years old, some so worn you couldn’t see the inscription at all. You had no choice but to wander amongst them – one was even in the middle of the path. The site was very picturesque, set in a steep wooded valley. There was an exhibition detailing the life in these monastic settlements which flourished in Ireland & Europe during the so-called “Age of Saints & Scholars”.

Leaving Glendalough we passed through the “Wicklow Gap”, a passage across the mountains which afforded superb views in both directions along the valley. We didn’t know it was there, we only stopped because we saw a few people with cameras so we pulled over. We were taken aback by the beauty of the view, more so because it was so unexpected. Probably the highlight of our day in the end.

We arrived in Kilkenny, a pretty medieval town, and headed for a traditional Irish pub, where we ate Irish Stew and Beef & Guinness Casserole and listened to live traditional Irish music.