Wednesday, September 17, 2008

2008 Ireland Trip - 3 Sep 08

Here's a typical Irish breakfast offered at a bed and breakfast. This one is from Koliba B&B in Arklow, county Wicklow. It was pretty good. The first few days of this kind of fare were tasty. After a week, though, this American palate wanted something less meaty, and by the end of our visit in Ireland I was craving bagels or waffles or pancakes or anything sans eggs and bacon.

I will say, though, that the coffee in Ireland was very good.

We had managed to stay up all day on our first one in Ireland and so we were pretty much on the time zone for our second day in the country. We started our touring with a side trip to Aughrim to see one of the "Tidy Town" winners.

Several years ago the tourism board started this contest to try to increase tourist visits. I understand that before these contests, most of the buildings in a village were unpainted and the appearance was basic grey throughout the country. The painted buildings are charming and add some brightness to the rain-laden landscape.

This is a typical cemetery in any village in Ireland. The gravesites are well-tended, the graves are tightly packed and there are flowers and plants (real and fake) throughout the grounds.

This is another typical sight in Ireland - a ruined abbey or church or monastery. These places are also cemeteries and it's common to find recent gravesites inside the ruins.

Our primary touring site for this day was Glendalough (pronounced Glen'-da-lock), a monastery ruin that was once a thriving center for scholarship (within the Catholic church, that is).

The setting is absolutely stunning, being in a glacial valley in the Wicklow mountains, adjacent to twin lakes.

You walk a short trail to the entrance to Glendalough.

This is the view as you enter the site from the trail.

Some of the buildings have been restored and give a sense of what the community must have been like several hundred years ago. The site was destroyed by Cromwell's campaign.

Here is a glimpse inside the church you see in the foreground of the previous image.

Most of the chapels and buildings are just shells of ruin.

There are a lot of old Celtic high cross tombstones in the cemetery.

I really enjoy walking through old cemeteries. The text on the tombstones aren't particularly legible, but there is a sense of the sacred in a sight such as this. One can imagine the community that existed hundreds of years ago when this place was alive - the daily struggles for existence, the friendships and rivalries among the brethren, the power struggles, the cooperation.

With the hardships that must have existed in this era, it is very surprising to me that there was so much artistic effort put into these tombstones. Most of the gravesites are decorated with elaborate stone carvings, some more ornate than others, but all very beautiful.

Click on the image to increase the text size to read a bit about the Cathedral ruin.

The interior is dotted with more graves.

I wonder if that space at the end had a stained glass window?

I couldn't read the inscriptions on these grave flagstones to know who was buried here.

The flagstones must have special significance, though, or they wouldn't be displayed like this.

It must have been an impressive interior before it was destroyed.

The OPW (office of public works) maintains the site and there was a crew working on the cathedral to remove plant material and debris that had accumulated in between the stones.

The tower in the background is typical of these monastery villages. They were places of refuge during conflicts and also served as storage areas in the lower compartments.

Ahhhh, yes - the tour bus crowds. They come in waves - a quick walk through and explanation by the tour guide and then they're off to the next exciting destination.

Some of these gravesites date to several hundred years ago, but there are many, many recent ones from the 20th century as well. You can get a feel for how old the grave is by the amount of lichen growth on the stone.

I wondered about the symbol in the center of this cross. It's a Celtic weave design of some sort, but it looks very much like a dollar sign.

This was the gate to the village.

These ones are old

The carving on this is still crisp and there aren't very many lichens growing - a recent grave, then, or perhaps it's a replica of a historically-significant high cross.

The site is definitely photogenic.

There isn't a lot of iron work at the site, but this gate is lovely.

Another tour bus group.

This is the back door of the church at the entrance - I wonder if that is the original paint?

This is a wall on the perimeter of the site. With the wet climate, every surface would be covered in mosses and ferns and other plants. No wonder there's a crew that keeps on top of it in the ruins.

These micro gardens are lovely, though.

The valley is beautiful and I wanted to walk the trail to the lakes. Michael was a bit jet-lagged and not feeling particularly energetic, but he went along with it anyway.

The indigenous forest along the trail was worth seeing and the sight across the valley was also a nice payoff for the effort.

This is the lower of the two lakes. You can really get a sense of the glacier that carved this U-shaped valley by looking at the very steep walls on either side.

Lakeside on the lower lake.

It's just a short walk beyond that to the upper lake.

I'm not sure if this is a residence or some official site.

This is the upper lake, and it yielded a stunning view up the glacial valley. There's a waterfall at the far end that feeds the lakes.

After Glendalough we drove up Wicklow Gap and then back down through the Sally Gap. This is a ruins called St. Kevin's church at the top of the valley.

A view down the valley at the top of the waterfall.

Up on top the biome is dominated by species of Erica (heathland).

It's a lovely biome, I think. The colors are vibrant in their own way this time of year. It must be a kaleidoscope of hues in the early summer.

There are 40 shades of green in Ireland, or so they say.

This is the town of Blessington - we stopped at a pub for a late afternoon lunch. It was very rainy - big surprise.

There had been so much rain on this day that the roads were streamlets and the rivers were over flowing.

I don't know the name of this waterfall in the Sally Gap, but it was raging with all of the rain pouring down through the valley.

This is a view from the top of the valley. The waterfall was loud!

From the Wicklow Mountains I drove straight to the coast and then down to Arklow. The sun was just clearing the clouds above the horizon when we arrived, which made for some excellent and dramatic lighting on the beach.

The beaches in Ireland tend to come in small pockets that dot the coastline. The sand is coarse and there are a lot of rocks and shell debris on the strand.

We were still getting wet even though the sun was shining. That's Michael.

If you look on the left side of this pic you'll see windmills out in the ocean. I didn't know Ireland was doing this kind of wind power generation.

Some of the debris washed up on the beach.

Oh yeah - this is where we were.

We ate supper at a pub in Arklow. I'm not sure if we hit it early or late, but often there would be just a couple of people in the pub when we arrived. Most of the time it was one or a couple of men sitting at the bar having a pint of Guinness while reading a paper or watching the TV.

I didn't want to use a flash in the pubs, so this is a long exposure taken from the table top.

1 comment:

The Quacks of Life said...

we are a bit traditional about our breakfasts over here.

none of this poncey waffles and stuff. Loads of Eggs and Bacons - YUMMY.

Only time I have a cooked breakfast is when I'm on holiday!!

You know I've never drunk Guiness, I'm a bitter drinker