Ireland 2014 – Day 3 (Wednesday, June 18)

 Planned Itinerary

  • 8:45 – Check out of Citywest Hotel & Resort
  • 9:30-12:30 – Powerscourt Estate
  • 13:00-15:00 – Glendalough
  • 17:00-17:45 – Cahir Castle
  • 18:00 – Check into Hollymount House Bed & Breakfast

Up at 6:30am again, we didn’t get much sleep (something like 5 hours) but it was pretty good sleep, at least for me.  We packed up, ate some breakfast, and headed out for Powerscourt.

One-lane road Two directions of traffic

One-lane road
Two directions of traffic

This was our first experience with driving on the rural roads of Ireland.  In Rick Steves’ travel guidebook he says that, on these rural roads there is no “my side of the road” or “your side of the road”, there’s just “the road”.  I have a whole new appreciation for what that means now.  A great deal of the time the road was just barely big enough for two small cars to get past each other; many other times, it required one car to pull over in order to let the other one by so you had to really be looking to see that other car coming.

My favorite road in Ireland

My favorite road in Ireland

The drive to Powerscourt was nothing short of spectacular.  I had the thought that if I had to drive this winding road through this landscape for all of eternity, I’d consider heaven a pretty good deal.

Despite having the GPS guiding our way, we missed more than one turn during the day.  Every time it happened, we had the chance to see something we wouldn’t have otherwise, usually in the form of seeing a off-the-beaten path neighborhood that tourists rarely frequent.  The GPS also tried to take us to the wrong Powerscourt…the waterfall instead of the House and Gardens.  We knew we were close, though, and we quickly began seeing signs to the Powerscourt we wanted.

Powerscourt from the back steps of the House

Powerscourt from the back steps of the House

Because we had purchased our tickets online, we simply presented our receipt to redeem our tickets and out the door we went.  If you aren’t prepared for it – and we weren’t – the view as you turn the corner will take your breath away.  Once we caught ours, we spent the next hour or so roaming the grounds.

Starting down the stairs

Starting down the stairs

We started by walking partway down to the lake before realizing that the tour as it was laid out took you other places first.  So, we retraced some of our steps and headed down the recommended path.

The Tower in the Powerscourt Garden

The Tower in the Powerscourt Garden

First up was the tower.  With the gate to the door being opened, we fearlessly headed inside, up the three flights of stairs, and out to the terrace.  Most noticeable from this perspective was how high the trees still were above you.

Looking down on the Japanese Garden

Looking down on the Japanese Garden

Back down and out, we walked around to the Japanese gardens.  Amazing in their own way and so very peaceful, we sat down in the gazebo and just experienced these gardens.  Not many other tourists had made their way to this section yet so we had a few minutes of relatively undisturbed time by ourselves.  We noticed that there were additional paths that weren’t on the “recommended” tour.  It should come as no surprise to anyone that these were the paths we headed down.

In awe of the Grotto

In awe of the Grotto

Coming out of these paths, we walked into the entrance of a mystical grotto that looked like something from “The Hobbit”.

Pet Cemetery

Pet Cemetery

From there, we strolled up to the Triton Lake and then took the winding path around to the Pet Cemetery where they have buried dogs, horses, and cows for more than 100 years.

One of the thousands of flowers at Powerscourt

One of the thousands of flowers at Powerscourt

We then sat by the Dolphin Fountain (on which there were no Dolphins) for a few minutes before heading for the walled garden.  This was another section that caught us totally unprepared since you couldn’t really see it coming until you went through the gate in the tall stone wall. It was filled with a ton of flowers on both sides of a path that led to a rose garden.  There were hundreds (thousands?) of roses of every color of the rainbow…except, for some reason, blue.

One of the winged horses overlooking Triton Lake

One of the winged horses overlooking Triton Lake

Taking one more trip down to the Triton Lake from the other side, we got our pictures of the winged horses for our middle son.  And then we headed slowly back to the house.  We took a quick tour of the small exhibit area which only made us regret that we were not able to see the banquet room which must be spectacular in its own right; since it’s apparently only open on a couple of days a week, and today wasn’t one of those days, it wasn’t possible.

A little bit of shopping for Kristalyn and we were on our way. Breakfast was filling enough for Kristalyn that she wasn’t hungry even though it was a little past noon.  Because a protein bar is often a meal for me and I had plenty of them, off the road we went.

Guinness Lake

Guinness Lake

We knew we had to take the scenic route to Glendalough along the military highway, but we weren’t sure we knew how to get there.  Nonetheless, we started down the very narrow road and fumbled our way through.  Were we ever so glad that we did. We must have pulled over three or four times to explore scenic views.  On two different occasions we stopped to look down on “Guinness Lake”, so named apparently because 1) Arthur Guinness owned the house nearby at one time, and 2) with its dark color and one sandy beach, it resembles a very large glass of Guinness.

After all of our detours, we arrived at Glendalough where parking was a challenge.  Proving once again that, in Ireland, the smaller car is the better car, we were able to squeeze into the smallest parking space I’ve ever used.

With our Heritage Cards in hand, we were able to get into the Visitors Centre at no charge. We did, however, have to spend 50 cents to get a map of the site.  We took a few minutes to walk through the exhibit and then watched a 20-minute video on monasteries in Ireland.  If it had been a 25-minute video, Kristalyn and I both would have been asleep.  Not that it wasn’t interesting; we were just exhausted and sitting for that long without falling asleep was a huge challenge.

Glendalough Monastery

Glendalough Monastery

With the video complete, we got up and got the blood moving again by walking over to the ancient monastery and graveyard.  It’s a place that people are literally and figuratively dying to get into to this day even though it’s so crowded it’s hard to believe any portion of the ground is available for another body.

Upper Lake at Glendalough

Upper Lake at Glendalough

We then walked up to the Upper Lake.  Not knowing any better or different, we decided to take the boardwalk path up.  It proved to be an easy, gently sloping path, even if it was a little bit longer than the Green Road.  At the Upper Lake, we found people everywhere.  Some were picnicking, some were sunbathing, and some were playing in the lake.

Because we wanted to get to Cahir in time to visit the Castle before checking into the Bed and Breakfast, we cut our visit to Upper Lake short and headed down the Green Road.  While not a difficult path, the grade was certainly steeper and the path much rougher.

From Glendalough, we drove to Cahir, at first along the same winding, narrow roads we had spent most of the day on, and then on a Motorway where we could really pick up the pace. We had to roll the windows down and turn on the radio in order to keep awake, however, as the long straight road can by hypnotizing to sleep-deprived tourists and the lack of air conditioning made it a little warm.

Cahir

Cahir

Pulling into Cahir, we made two fateful decisions that cost us three precious minutes.  First, we decided not to park in the pay parking lot right next to the castle.  So we parked a couple of blocks away where it was free and walked back.  We then unknowingly walked around the back of the castle and, by the time we figured it out and walked back around the front, we missed the last admission by those three minutes.

View from Hollymount House Bed & Breakfast

View from Hollymount House Bed & Breakfast

So, we headed to the Hollymount House Bed and Breakfast where we were greeted by Margaret, a delightful woman who has been hosting a B&B for 26 years.  She gave us our three restaurant options in town and back to the square we went. After looking at the menus posted outside, we elected for the Galileo Café, an Italian restaurant where the locals eat.  We both put away large bowls of pasta (penne, red sauce, and vegetables for Kris; Chicken alfredo for me).

Needing some grocery items, we walked something like a quarter of a mile down to the grocery store.  After doing a little exploring just to observe an Irish grocery store, we picked up some sandwich stuff, fresh fruit, Irish chips, baby wipes, and plastic utensils (we really should have bought Rick Steves’ travel plasticware!).  We then went back to the square, bought some ice cream, and walked around while we ate it.

While it was only about 8pm at this point, we were both pretty wiped out so we went back to the B&B, hit the showers, and watched the Spain v. Chile game as we drifted off to sleep.

Actual Itinerary

  • 8:45 – Check out of Citywest Hotel & Resort
  • 9:30-12:30 – Powerscourt Estate
  • 13:00-15:00 – Glendalough
  • 17:00-17:45 – Cahir Castle (almost)
  • 18:00 – Check into Hollymount House Bed & Breakfast
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