Perhaps the best lesson I’ve learned from travel is that it is good to have a plan; but unless that plan allows for spirit-lead moments it is not a good plan at all.
We all enjoyed our overnight in the lighthouse. The windows were drafty enough that the wind easily entertained our senses. We were exhausted enough that we slept quite soundly throughout the night, even though we were sharing beds with folks we’d perhaps not shared a bed with in decades. (I understand that there was no accidental “spooning” in either room.)
Once everyone was alive and awake we made the trudge to the top floor to heat water for instant coffee. After arriving at Wicklow Head I’d initially regretted not staying at the lighthouse for 2 full days but those 106 steps to the kitchen had cured me of that little regret. We enjoyed coffee together and then decided to strike out for the trails that skirt the Atlantic. It was rumored that a colony of seals lived about 2 kms down from us and the boys (as I call them) had never seen seals before.
We started down the path in chilly weather but in no time were shedding layers. The views were stunning and the drops quite precipitous. We each have a bit of risk-taking in our DNA which made for great fun unless you were the one watching whilst another appeared to head to the edge of a cliff. It was nerve racking. So… we took turns. The sun even came out to play while we walked along.
We hiked about a mile hoping to find the seals. Instead we found a lovely stone arch along the waterfront. We lingered at that spot for a while. It was so beautiful. We determined to go around one more cove in search of the seals. I started on when I heard Taylor yell, “There’s a seal!” Sure enough, he’d spotted one. We enjoyed watching three seals playfully swim around. I swear they were interacting with us.
By the time we hiked back, most of our layers had been pealed and we were excited for the rest of the day. Seana had packed walking sticks for the trip and although brother Taylor had brought them on this hike for her, she had not needed them. She was having a great morning! When we got back to the lighthouse, I sprinkled “Mom” around a bit. She would have loved that place.
We headed toward Glendalough Monastic site around noon. Taylor had been talking about food for at least an hour so we stopped by Wicklow Heathers for a bite to eat. The three young-in’s took the opportunity to also try out an Irish whiskey sampler. I was warmed by my first cup of tea. Everything there was delicious. By the time we got to Glendalough, the sun was heading back into hiding and the place was teaming with people.
Glendalough, meaning “the valley of the two lakes”, was founded in the 6th Century by St. Kevin. Most of the remaining structures date from between the 10th to 12th Centuries. It was a thriving community until the 1200s when it was destroyed by the Normans. One of the most prominent features is the 100’ round tower. The tower was built with the entry door some 12 feet above the ground and was accessed by a removable ladder. Theoretically, the ladder could be lifted when under attack to protect the folks and items in the tower. From there we checked out what remains of the cathedral and St. Kevins kitchen. We’d hoped to do one of the hiking trails but our afternoon was fast slipping away. I contacted our B&B for the night to see if they would mind us arriving a wee bit later than expected. They most graciously agreed.
The Poulanass Waterfall trail was said to take 45 minutes if there were no moments of savoring along the way. The trail ascends on one side without any view of the falls. On the way down the trail skirts the falls and is quite lovely. It is not difficult to imagine fairies of all natures living among the trees and moss. Where the falls level off and head toward the river, I added more of my mother’s ashes to the mix. I had first visited Glendalough with my mom and my darling sisters, in the year 2000.
We did our best to power-walk our way back to the car park. We definitely got our exercise for the day. Taylor got to be the front seat navigator and did quite well at staying awake until the last 30 miles of the trip to Kilkenny. I recalled fondly my sister Sally telling me, “You know they are going to fall asleep in the car, don’t you?” Yes, indeed. All that fresh air and exercise made for some weary charges.
We arrived at Celtic House B&B around 6:40 p.m. where we were warmly welcomed by John and Angela. Bill and I had stayed here on our last trip and found the location very convenient to access the city. We were presented keys to two rooms on the second floor. We hauled our belonging up one flight of stairs but could not find our rooms. I then remembered that in some countries the first floor is the first floor up. Darn it. Another set of stairs to master! We lounged for a while; drank some coffee, looked at our treasure trove of pictures from the morning; before heading to town for some craic.
Kilkenny is a walled, medieval city. The walls that ringed the city were built between the 12 – 14th Centuries. During the Norman rule of Ireland, these walls were constructed in part to keep the actual Irish people out, as well as to charge tax on those who entered therein. Our B&B is across the street from one of the walls and as we walked into town it is evident how the walls are incorporated into modern life. One gate way is the entryway for an auto repair shop. Throughout the city the walls are visible and there are significant efforts to conserve that bit of Kilkenny’s history.
As we walked the very short distance into town it was evident that this was the weekend for Hen and Stag parties. There were loads of young women celebrating the upcoming nuptials of one or the other. Kyteler’s pub boasted live, traditional music; however, the young men in attendance had songs of their own. As I recall, the lyrics of one consisted primarily of “Tiger Woods” sung to a familiar American march, “Stars and Stripes Forever”. Figure that one out.
We next headed down to John Cleere’s pub for a pint and a bite. Upon determining that the kitchen was close, we opted only for the pint. I really wanted the kids to see some traditional step dancing and Lanigan’s used to offer this entertainment; albeit at times to non-traditional tunes. The place was jam-packed with partiers and techno music. That led us to a questionable eatery across the street where we actually got some fairly tasty fast food. Questionable in the lack of friendliness of the staff and lack of hand-washing materials (e.g. soap) in the bathroom. We were all in agreement for one more pub, before heading off to bed and we finished our festivities at yet another packed pub with standing room only. It was somewhere in the neighborhood of midnight when we finally called it “enough”.
What a marvelous day! We missed one thing I’d planned for the day but I wouldn’t have traded the morning hike for anything. It was a highlight. I am over-the-top happy that I can share this place and this experience with my kids. We’ll base in Kilkenny for another night before heading to the next location.