Glendalough, Wicklow Mountains and Kilkenny

As I already wrote about, we’ve lived in Dublin for two months in 2019 and the most logical thing for travel lovers like us was to see as much of Ireland as we can.

After the Cliffs of Moher and Galway it was time to see something closer, The Glendalogh and Kilkenny.

We did it with a travel agency again, Glendalogh is a natural park and there’s no possible way to go there by public transport. The agency was different than the last time – FinnMcCoolTours and I can honestly recommend them. The tour guy was excellent, the time well organised and we got a nice day. I just want to show you the bus sign, put for helping us finding our bus at the tourist stops during the tour. It was a sign that this trip was going to be a fine one 🙂

The day was 24 August, we left at a more normal time – 8 AM from the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin, I’ll tell you more about it another time. Most unsurprisingly, the weather was bad, but the forecast was promising some sun and we really hoped it would come true.

The trip to Glendalogh is about 70 km from Dublin so we didn’t travel long but the views were beautiful again. Even the sun came out, as promised.

For thousands of years people have been drawn to ‘the valley of the two lakes‘ for its spectacular scenery, rich history, archaeology and abundant wildlife. Glendalough is a remarkable place that will still your mind, inspire your heart and fill your soul.

Glendalough is home to one of the most important monastic sites in Ireland. This early Christian monastic settlement was founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century and from this developed the “Monastic City”. Most of the buildings that survive today date from the 10th through 12th centuries. Despite attacks by Vikings over the years, Glendalough thrived as one of Ireland’s great ecclesiastical foundations and schools of learning until the Normans destroyed the monastery in 1214 A.D. and the dioceses of Glendalough and Dublin were united.

The most famous of all the landmarks in Glendalough is the Round Tower which stands 33 meters above the ground. It was built almost 1000 years ago by the monks of St. Kevin’s monastery. The conical roof had to be replaced in 1876 when it was struck by lightning. The towers were called “Cloigtheach”, meaning bell tower, suggesting their main use. The towers were sometimes used as a place of refuge for monks when the monastery was under attack. They also served as both as lookout posts and as beacons foe approaching monks and pilgrims.

The Cathedral is the largest of the seven churches in Glendalough.  It was built in several phases from the 10th through the early 13th century. Large mica schist stones, which form the foundation up to the height of the west doorway, were re-used from an earlier smaller church. The earliest part is the nave with antae for supporting the wooden roof. The chancel, sacristy, and north door were added in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. The north doorway to the nave also dates from this period. Inside there is a wall cupboard, a stone font, many grave slabs, and the remains of a decorated arch.

St. Kevin’s Church better known as St. Kevin’s Kitchen is a nave-and-chancel church of the 12th century. It is called St Kevin’s kitchen because people believed that the bell tower was a chimney to a kitchen but really no food was ever cooked there. This stone-roofed building originally had a nave only, with entrance at the west end and a small round-headed window in the east gable. The belfry with its conical cap and four small windows rises from the west end of the stone roof in the form of a miniature round tower.

I really liked the monastery, I’ve never seen such stone churches and the round towers are just amazing and add a specific fairy tale feeling to the site. They are all over Ireland.

After the monastic site our tour guide gave us some free time to decide if we want to visit the two lakes or just wander around. There are easy walking trails, no steep climbing, just a bit wet but I suppose this is normal here. This is the trail we took:

First you pass the Lower lake which is nothing special but gives you an idea what to expect.

Here are some views, as you can see there wasn’t much sun but not cold also. It was summer after all, even an Irish one 🙂

After about half an hour we reached the Upper Lake. Saint Kevin spent seven years of his life here. There are some fast food facilities, toilets and also a car park there. There’s a lot of space for picnics so it’s a perfect place for the families. At the lake, there’s a little beach but swimming is not allowed because of underwater cliffs. The color of water is brown , caused by the rainwater that runs through peat-rich soils and flows down the cliffs into the lakes.

If you are a hiker and loves the mountains, there are many trails starting from this area. Here is also the beginning of the Wicklow Mountain National Park. The trails are believed to be one of the most beautiful ones in Ireland.

We wandered around for a while but it was time to go back, this time on the other side of the lake. Here you walk not on a path but on a pontoon over the water and the views are even more beautiful.

This is the walk

After the free time, we had scheduled a sheep herding dog demonstration. Honestly, I wasn’t interested at all when I booked the tour, but it was included anyway. It turned out really amusing and the man and his dog were amazing and very funny.

The shepherd told us about how the dogs are raised, looked for and trained. He explained a lot about the sheep breeding in the country. Finally, he took few lambs out of the fence and the kids were in heaven 🙂

Here’s a bit of the demonstration:

Then we left for the final and most distant part of our trip – the town of Kilkenny. We saw a few views again:

The movie “Braveheart” was shot in the area and besides this there is a village called Hollywood

The bus took us to the highest point of Wicklow Mountains, a whole 1000 m above sea level, where we were supposed to see views like this:

But thanks to the lovely Irish summer and the fog that decided to sjow right there we saw this:

As you can imagine we spent no more time here and headed to Kilkenny. The capital of Ireland for short time in the 17th century, Kilkenny is a city with a long history. St Mary’s Cathedral in Kilkenny is the seat of the Diocese of Ossory, which lies within the same pre-Norman boundaries as the ancient Kingdom of Ossory, dating back 2,000 years.In the 12th century the Normans founded Kilkenny Castle, later adapted as a noble estate, and both the house and its serene gardens are a must-see.On summer evenings the city center pulses with energy, and by day you can potter around the Georgian High Street and shuffle down the adjoining narrow lanes known as the “Slips”.

Our bus left us beside the castle and the tour guide left us to do what everybody felt like. We, of course, headed straight for the castle.

Few buildings in Ireland can boast a longer history of continuous occupation than Kilkenny Castle. Founded soon after the Norman conquest of Ireland, the Castle has been rebuilt, extended and adapted to suit changing circumstances and uses over a period of 800 years.

The entrance fee is 8 Euro, children under 12 are free of charge. Here you can see the working hours and if there are any special exhibitions or celebrations.

You can visit the Ground, First and Second floor, also the Medieval foundations.

The medieval foundations are dated from the 13 century and in the Western tower you can see big part of the wall.

The Chinese Withdrawing room was reinstated to its original 1830s decorative order in the 1990s. The walls still have some original sections of hand painted Chinese wallpaper from 1810. Social etiquette of the 19th century prescribed that ladies withdrew to the withdrawing room after dinner, while the gentlemen indulged in unladylike habits of cigar smoking and drinking port and brandy.

State Dining Room was the formal dining room of the Castle until the 1860s when it became the billiard room. The house of noblemen commonly had two dining rooms, one for formal occasions and one for every day use. The walls are hung with a hand blocked wallpaper known as Vernis Versailles.

In the 19th century, the corridor was extended on both sides from an earlier roofed carriage entrance originally called a porte-cochère. It added a Gothicised dimension to the external appearance and internally connected both the east and west wings.

The Tapestry room is in the North Tower with its thick 12th century walls. The keyhole shape of the ceiling shows where a square tower was added on to the medieval round tower during the early 15th century. The tapestries are part of a series titled Thee Story of Decius Mus woven from designs by Peter Paul Rubens, after 1616. 

On this photo, in front of the fireplace, you can see a beautiful screen used only by the ladies. In the old day the ladies used all kind of make-up and if they stayed near the fire, the make-up was starting to melt. SO, this screen was used to protect their faces from the heat while they were staying warm.

The interior decoration of the Library is a faithful recreation of the furnishing style of the mid to late 19th century. Thanks to a fabric remnant found behind a skirting board, the French silk poplin on the walls was reproduced in its original pattern and colour by the Firm of Prelle of Lyons in France. The restoration team were fortunate in finding the original receipt for the carpet in the family papers, and were able to trace the original company who had retained the design records.

Cantilevered Stairs are constructed from Irish Wicklow granite and date to the early 19th century. ­ They provide access to the west tower and center block on all Floors.

The Picture Gallery Wing was built during the early 19th century building program carried out by the architect William Robertson and was constructed on earlier foundations.

The Second floor is mostly private bedrooms and rooms.

The Bedroom Corridor in the 16th & 17th centuries was a Gallery. At that time the family had a collection of 500 paintings, the largest in Ireland.

Victorian Nursery provides a fascinating glimpse into 19th Century childhood. Period- appropriate furnishings including children’s chairs, cradle and cot complete the room along with everything you would expect a privileged child of the time to have.

Private sitting room – The “Lady of the house” used this private space for reading, dealing with social correspondence and private visits. This room contains a selection of 19th Century prints and miniature portraits of various family members.

The Blue Bedroom is one of the balcony suite of bedrooms in the North Tower, and is directly over the Tapestry Room. This suite was allocated to King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in 1904.

And this is a toilet dated back to 1904.

The Chinese Bedroom is connected to the Blue Bedroom by double doors and is decorated with a modern reproduction of a hand-painted Chinese wallpaper.

The Moorish Staircase is based on Moorish architecture, this provides a major staircase in an awkwardly shaped building. It is carved with naturalistic foliage and small animal details.

The park and the gardens are quite beautiful and worth a visit.

After the visit to the castle nothing seemed impressive enough but we decided to see the town after all. There are some interesting sites.

St Canice’s Cathedral sits on an ancient spot where there has been a church since the 500s, it is an Early Gothic monument from the 13th century. At 68 meters it’s the second longest cathedral in Ireland.

The Medieval Mile is a discovery trail running through the center of Kilkenny city linking the 13th-century St Canice’s Cathedral and the Anglo-Norman castle with much more in between.

The Medieval Mile isn’t just focused on ancient history. Kilkenny is one of Ireland’s most cosmopolitan cities, with many blooming festivals, eateries and creative people resulting in an electric atmosphere.

On Parliament Street you can find a stunning Tudor townhouse, almost unchanged for hundreds of years. Rothe House was built for the powerful merchant John Rothe at the turn of the 17th century, and is remarkable for the amount of original architecture that is still intact. It is in fact three connected houses, built in 1596, 1604 and 1610, each with its own courtyard and sharing a garden.

The interior has a small archaeological museum with finds gathered around Kilkenny, while the formal garden has been restored to its 17th-century appearance

Also on the Medieval Mile, the old Smithwick’s brewery has been turned into an ale-oriented attraction with interactive exhibits, tastings and a gift shop at the end. Ale has been brewed at this place since the days of the Franciscan monastery that stood here in Medieval times.

The current outer building goes back to 1700 and operated as a brewery until 2014 before reopening as an ale-themed experience.

The Tholsel is from 1761 and is now Kilkenny’s Town Hall. In the past it has been a custom house courthouse and a guildhall.

The Tholsel is a natural place for people to congregate, and there’s always something happening under the facades be it carol singers at Christmas, or street musicians at any other time of year.

There are many others things to see, and pubs, of course, but we just had’t enough time. So, here are some photos:

We had to say goodbye to Kilkenny and head back to Dublin. Honestly, I had no expectations for this trip but the monastery Glendalogh and the Kilkenny castle were a nice surprise. The whole family was happy so we mark the trip as a success 🙂

Stay tuned for my next travel diary from Ireland and don’t stop travelling!

Author: marinelapetrunova

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