Ireland’s Wicklow Mountains

Sometime in the night, hurricane Ophelia departed Dublin, like an unwelcome guest. Her banshee shrieking ceased, and in the morning, the day broke on my second full day in Ireland with glistening sunshine, like Mother Nature was trying to sooth the wounds Ophelia imparted yesterday.

The day began with a leisurely drive along the coast to the south of Dublin.

I knew Brian and I were going to the Wicklow Mountains, but I didn’t realize there were really two ranges, the Dublin Mountains and the Wicklow Mountains, and they hug the coastline in many places. Truthfully, before this trip, I never realized that Ireland had mountains. I think of Ireland, green fields and Shamrocks.

The nice thing, for the Irish, is that these ranges of stunningly beautiful mountains aren’t remote – meaning they are only an hour or an hour and a half away from Dublin – but feels like a million miles.

Keep in mind that yesterday was a hurricane, and this morning’s temperature was 45F, with a real feel temperature of 42 – so I really wasn’t sure what we would find.

I was floating on the edge of sleep again, as Brian drove along in the glorious, warm sunshine when I heard his voice in the distance say something about swimming. Surely, I was dreaming…

The Forty Foot

The first place we stopped was the “old swimming hole.” Of course, I thought Brian was kidding when he suggested that I look to see if someone was swimming today. No one in their right mind would be swimming. It was freezing cold. Both in the water and out, PLUS, all that storm debris was everyplace. Brian has a great sense of humor.

But then, he suggested again.

Did Brian think I was born yesterday and fell off the turnip truck?

Well, OK, I’ll look, just to humor Brian.

Ahem…

Yep, those things bobbing around in the water are people. By the way, in the background, the church spires of Dublin in the distance. I barely noticed the spires.

Now I don’t know exactly how to mention this politely, so I’m not going to try.

It’s nude swimming. Now, if this was the south of France in the summertime or the Caribbean perhaps, I wouldn’t have thought anything about nude swimming,.  But Ireland, in October?  Seriously?

And these swimmers aren’t kids either. There was no one under 60. I met one man today, Patrick, who was 86, and yes, Patrick was swimming, or at least he was on his way to swim…in his speedo which I think got removed at water’s edge. And Patrick claimed he wasn’t cold. I touched his arm, and he really wasn’t cold. He bid us a quick goodbye and said he had to hurry up and get into that frigid water before he got cold. HUH???

Do these people have antifreeze in their veins.

And they do this every single day, rain, shine, sleet, snow, hurricane.

This area used to be for gentlemen swimmers only, but a few years ago, women staged a protest, a swim-in, for lack of another word, and now both genders swim daily, year round, 365 days a year. In their birthday suits.

They do try to be quite modest when “changing,” so not to cause traffic accidents or shock American tourists.

Then there was this guy who was dancing, for lack of any better description. Actually, kind of dancing and yoga combined with a very loose towel hula skirt. Or maybe this was interpretive dance. I took a video of his great reveal, but I can’t share it with you. 

You can swim in the buff, however, you CANNOT take your dog swimming, so don’t even think about it. Rules are rules, after all.

By now I was fully awake and in desperate need of coffee, but none was to be found. Is Ireland, between hurricane Ophelia and our recycled teenaged swimmers, actually an alternate reality? I was beginning to wonder.

And you want to hear what’s worse? Brian knew them. All of them. By name. Except for the dancer who Brian says is new. But Brian swears he doesn’t know how to swim.

I, I , I just don’t know quite what to think😊

The Coastline

Nature continued to amaze and delight today.

In this picture, you can see Howth across the bay. I was standing on top of that hill taking photos of the lighthouse below in a hurricane 24 hours earlier. So, we’ve literally come full circle. What a difference a day makes.

This Napoleonic watch tower, built around 1804, was later the home of James Joyce when he wrote Ulysses. These watch towers, all within sight of each other, dot the coastline.

Our next stop at Colemore Harbour was punctuated by beautiful old boats on the ramp among homes of the rich and sometimes famous.

Another watchtower, this one on an island.

This view looking south shows the Wicklow mountains, where we were heading. I never realized that Ireland had mountains.

Mary Herrell’s death wish makes a lot more sense now. She said that when she died, she wanted her body to be placed on top of Herrald Mountain in Wilkes County, NC so her soul could fly back to Ireland. It’s no wonder Appalachia felt so much at home to these transplants.

Now, if Mary would just have told us her maiden name and where she was from in Ireland….

The Wicklow Mountains

Castles, old and new line this route. This is where Enya lives.

Most roads in the mountains are small and only wide enough for one car. People simply go slow and share, with no honking of horns or road rage.

Then there’s your obligatory ram standing beside the road. Better than in the road. By the way, in many places, there are no fences.

Sugarloaf Mountain.

The Powerscourt Hotel complex was originally a castle. Can you tell?

Beautiful, sheltered courtyard.

Look at these spider-stompers!

The formal gardens were beautiful, but the tea and scones beckoned me.

We had a proper tea. I had a pear and vanilla scone, and Brian had a currant scone. No wonder we didn’t eat lunch until 2:30.

Sheep grazing in the shadow of the mountains, beside the hedges of rosebushes. You’re looking at the rose hips. This area looks a LOT like Scotland.

Unlike Appalachia, there are few little creeks and brooks here, so imagine my surprise when we came around the corner to this beauty. I think Brian said this waterfall is 420 feet high and it’s stunning.

The rock at the bottom actually has a large hole where you can see the water on the other side.

Next, we drove along the bog fields where little grows except heather.

Here’s a closeup of yellow heather.

Brian knows the horses and they come to the fence when he makes whinnying sounds. He’s pretty darned good and says he has known these horses for 20 years now. The white horse, Mr. Ed, does not allow you to feed the brown horse nor does the white horse like to be petted. “Feed me, but for heaven’s sake, don’t touch me…or anyone else either.” Reminds me of my cats.

This amazing highlands property is owned by the Guinness family. The lake has actually been engineered to actually look like Guinness beer.

The black granite at the bottom of the lake makes the water look black, and the family had millions of tons of white sand brought in to look like Guinness “foam” around the edges when it’s drawn from the tap.

What do you think? Did it work?

This entire valley is owned by the Guinness family and is breathtakingly beautiful in it’s stark ruggedness.

Did I mention Braveheart and the Viking series were filmed here? I need to watch Braveheart again.

It’s simply stunning everyplace you look.

On to the pub for lunch. I just love this painting on the ceiling above the fireplace. And I love Irish pubs too!

And the Guinness stew, to die for. No picture of the stew. I thought of it too late.

A monastery, now in ruins, was founded in the 6th century by St. Kevin in Glendalough.

A chiseled cross was supposed to offer protection and stop everyone…except the Vikings didn’t understand apparently.

The cemetery is still in use or at least was until 1900 or so.

However, the abbey is in ruins.

One man lived to be 106. Imagine that in a time before antibiotics or any other type of modern medicine. He had to have been both lucky and genetically predisposed to longevity – not to mention a lack of Viking invasions during his lifetime.

I love that tree line on the far hill.

This stone tiled building may have been a kitchen.

The tower as viewed through the ruins of the monastery.

It seems that life in this part of Ireland revolved around sheep, land, the church and either whiskey or beer.

I hope that someone has cataloged these stones for Find-a-grave.

This area of Ireland is known for its woven wools.

Headed back to Dublin at the day’s end.

I can certainly see why Mary Herrall wanted her soul to fly back to “sweet old Ireland.”

Tomorrow, New Grange, Knowth and Tara, land of Niall of the Nine Hostages, my ancestor.

11 thoughts on “Ireland’s Wicklow Mountains

  1. Love the pictures makes me want to visit Ireland.

    On Wed, Oct 18, 2017 at 3:00 PM, DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy wrote:

    > Roberta Estes posted: “Sometime in the night, hurricane Ophelia departed > Dublin, like an unwelcome guest. Her banshee shrieking ceased, and in the > morning, the day broke on my second full day in Ireland with glistening > sunshine, like Mother Nature was trying to sooth the wounds” >

  2. The round watchtower that you visited is a Martello tower, which the British built in many parts of the British Empire. They were inspired after they attacked a similar tower at Mortella (Myrtle) Point in Corsica with two warships and initially were repulsed. They realized the advantages of the round design and built their own versions when Napoleon was threatening to invade. From what I read, James Joyce lived in one in Ireland briefly and used the idea in Ulysses for the place where Stephen Dedalus lived.

  3. Thank you for sharing this experience, Roberta! My husband and I plan to tour Dublin and Northern Ireland’s Atlantic Way next spring, and I’m loving your reports!! Please travel in good health and return safely to restore for future adventures! You are so awesome.

  4. I have pictures that echo yours. The Martello Tower that is now the Joyce museum and the gentleman’esbech in Brae (where we did see someone swimming) has a lovely story: when we were trying to get to Brae from Dun Laoghaire, we stopped by the side of the road to look at the map A fellow standing across the street cmae over, leaned on the window of the car and asked if we needed help. We told him we wanted to get to Brae and he answered in a classice Irish way: standing there in his flat coap, his tweeds, he siad, Well, I’ll tell you, if I wanted to go to Brae, I wouldn’t start form here. Of ocurse, then proceeded to give us very good directions. WE’ve been all over the island twice and I have many lovely memories of the people and the countryside.

  5. My Paternal Hyplogroup isI-A5475 andmy Maternal jsU2e1g but when I had male McDonalds tested and joined the Clan Donald They said based on a certain marker we were Scot/ Irish and not Scotch . Neil of the Nine Hostages 330 AD?

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