Saturday, September 13, 2008

2008 Ireland Trip - 2 Sep 08

Michael and I arrived on Tuesday morning, 2 Sep 08. After clearing passport and customs, we made our way to the car rental counter. I wanted this trip to be a self-driving tour so we'd have the freedom to explore non-tourist sites as well as visit some of the standard tourist attractions.

We started with a drive through the Wicklow Mountains. I had wanted to see the heathland biome. It reminded me of some of the fynbos areas of South Africa except there isn't as much diversity and the shrubs are very small.

The biome is dominated by species of Erica, grasses. sedges and rushes. It's very wet and there are boggy areas.

Our first day had a bit of sunshine and lots of rain. In fact, rain was a constant throughout the trip, but I had made sure we had rain coats and pants, and we stayed relatively comfortable most of the time. My feet were wet every day, but I have fast drying shoes and I wore wool socks.

There are a lot of pine plantations in the region.

Much of the area we drove through was part of the Wicklow National Park. It was good to see the conservation efforts in this region.

Maybe you have to be a botanist to really appreciate this landscape, but I found it to be very beautiful.

There are a lot of foot paths throughout Ireland. Next trip I hope to do some walking.

The streams and lakes were the dark color I've come to associate with fynbos. I wouldn't drink from these streams though, because there are grazing sheep and cattle everywhere.

We made a stop in the village of Glencree - the Reconciliation Centre, actually. It's a pretty small place with buildings in various states of restoration.

There was a nice cafe, which made for a good coffee break for me.

There was a lot of work being done on the shell in the background. I'm not sure what the building was, but this area had been used to house German orphans from World War II.

The church was open, so I popped in for a look.

It's a quaint chapel with a lovely decor.

The stained glass looks very modern to me.

We took a drive through the Sally Gap and found some stunning scenery. Classic glacial valleys are all along this drive.

Very soggy, but worth a hike down to a view point overlooking the valley.

Here's the reward - a beautiful glacial lake and a view of the Guinness Estate on the right.

Michael finally ventured down for a look. It was cold, windy, and raining. What a nice break from the heat of summer back home.

Boulders scattered around the landscape were dropped by glaciers - pretty cool.

A nice natural garden.

This is the other end of the glacial valley. It's not hard to imagine what this landscape looked like 12 - 25,000 years ago.

Our final stop of the day before going to Koliba B & B in Arklow was the Avoca handweavers. Koliba is a really nice B&B with very friendly owners. Brendan gave us a lot of good information about the local area, which helped us plan our drive the next day.

We got there just before the rain came pouring down, so the lighting is a bit dark.

The grounds are lovely and the sound of this stream dominates the area.

There are nice gardens all around the site, but I didn't get to explore them because of the heavy rain.

The mill is open for tourists and you can walk around to see the operation.

There were two looms in operation while we were there.

I don't know much about weaving, but I was really intrigued by the loom and what the weavers were doing.

Only one of the operators was wearing ear protection. It wasn't very loud in there while we visited, but if everything was going at the same time, it would be pretty noisy.

The next room had a powered loom. It wasn't running.

Back to the handweaving room for some more pics. The gift shop over in the other building had blankets, shawls, scarves and hats for sale. The end products of these looms are soft and lovely.

My daughter would love some of these colors.

I imagine these large bobbins are used in the powered looms, but maybe they are for the hand looms as well.

One thing I did notice on the first day is that most of the Irish men and women are rather short compared to Americans. All of the bathroom mirrors were hung about 8 inches too low for me and the sinks came up to the middle of my thigh or just above my knees. Not very comfortable, but usable none-the-less. My family is rather tall, though, so it might be ok for most people.

This is the dinner we had on the first evening. We went to a very old inn (Woodbridge, I think) and had fish. Michael went for fish & chips and I had salmon. The Guinness in Ireland is very, very nice. I've never really liked it over here in America, but it was tasty in Ireland. We had a half-pint or pint just about every evening with dinner or at a pub while listening to music.

We had just enough light to drive over to Arklow and take a look around town. The river was a good spot for birding and I saw a lot of new species for my life list. I enjoyed watching the greylag geese navigate traffic in the car park.

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