Friday, June 8, 2012

May 2012 - More visitors from Americay!
We had more visitors from back home (upstate New York) - our friends Sharon from Ithaca and Sally from Albany came to Ireland for six days. The trip was short but sweet.

Around County Clare
We were hoping for good weather for their visit but the first few days were chilly and damp. We headed to the Burren and took a hike to a hilltop overlooking Galway Bay and the Connemara mountains in the distance.

Hiking up the old Mass path. This goes back to the times when it was illegal for priests to lead a Catholic Mass so they were held outdoors in wilderness areas to escape detection by the Protestant authorities. Priests caught conducting Mass could be executed.

We stopped at Poulanabrone, a 3000 year-old Neolithic tomb.
(It's hard to get a sense of the size without someone in the picture for scale. The capstone alone weighs approximately 3 tons.)

Limestone pavements of the Burren

A quick walk on the black and gold sands of Fanore strand before the rain started in earnest.

 The following day was wet again so we spent the day in Ennis where 
our chilly friends could shop for wool sweaters!

 Wicklow Mountains
The next few days cleared up which was great because we were headed to the Wicklow Mountains! These mountains are on the east coast about an hour south of Dublin, and only Irish mountains that Bill and I had not yet visited during our four and half years here.

 On the road - nothing like good coffee and baked goods!

 We stopped at the B&B where we were renting this cute cabin in the back garden, then headed out for some hill-walking in the Wicklow national park. 

 We began our walk at Glendalough, a 7th century monastery founded by Saint Kevin. It's in a beautiful setting by a lake and surrounded by mountains.

 Springtime in Ireland - forty shades of green!

We left the monastery and lake and climbed into the hills, past a waterfall,

 up 600 steps, the top of a hill called The Spinc, where we had a magnificent view of the lakes hundreds of feet below.

 A few brief showers gave us some nice rainbows

Sharon on the trail. In the valley beyond you can see the Upper and Lower lakes which are connected by a short river.

 Heading down to cross to the other side of the Glendalough valley. This is a long trail (about 7 miles) that encircles the Upper and Lower lakes.

 View from the bridge at the head of the valley

 Looking back up at the Spinc where we had just walked along the top of the ridge.

Bill and Sally at the Upper Lake

 The next day was fair and sunny so we took a loop walk through the Devil's Glen near Glanmore, Wicklow.

 Fiddlehead ferns and wild garlic (very similar to the wild leeks that grow in upstate NY)

From the Wicklow Mountains we were making our way toward Dublin, about an hour or so north, and stopped in the pretty seaside town of Dalkey where we took a tour of this 'castle'. On the tour we learned that the tower was used to store valuable goods that had arrived by ship at Dalkey harbor to be sold in  nearby Dublin. Dalkey once boasted four of these stone warehouses which were built to keep the English goods safe from the marauding tribes of Irish living in the nearby mountains.

 The tour was given by different actors in costume who each explained a different aspect of life in medieval times. 

Her Highness shows off the castle toilet, which leads to a chute outside dropping to the base of the castle wall. Her Hineyness,er, Highness, also explained that with the updrafts the ammonia vapors were so strong in this little chamber that they used to hang clothes here to kill the fleas and lice dwelling in the robes. (And for you word buffs out there - this is why the French word 'garderobe' means both toilet and closet)

Beautiful views from Dalkey - across the mouth of the Dublin harbor to Howth Head

 Dalkey Island

We spent a couple of days together in Dublin before Sharon and Sally had to depart from Dublin airport.
 The River Liffey runs through the center of Dublin to the Irish Sea and is spanned by many styles of bridges including some old pedestrian bridges.

The Temple Bar district was hopping on a Saturday night - lots of restaurants, bars, 
outdoor performances and tourists.

 These two guys put on amazing performance, leaping through double decker hoops and getting down to the lowest limbo I've ever seen, the bar only about eight inches off the ground.

 The River Liffey at night

The next day we took a long stroll down to Phoenix Park where we rented bikes to cycle 
around the 1750 acre park.

 Bill and Sally in the walled garden

North American columbine