March 20, 2010

Our day of driving into the Irish countryside proved idyllic in both scenery and weather. We unfortunately discovered most of the breathtaking coastal spots you see in movies tend to be on the west coast of the island, but found that the country can be just as beautiful. We headed out on a driving "tour" of the Wicklow mountain region after checking out of the Clontarf on Sunday and found our own way to places of interest.

The first recommended stop on the tour proved to be so crowded we couldn't even park, so we followed the signs for the interesting-sounding Braveheart road. We happened upon some amazing stone ruins - the indication of what they were was a plaque announcing this was "Wicklow Mountains National Park." The view was incredible and there was a trail to the top of the mountain, but sadly we weren't really dressed for hiking. Just poking around the ruins proved enjoyable enough.

View of the valley from the bridge to the ruins

The ruins on a hillside

Inside the ruins

View from inside one of the "rooms"

Beautiful weather for our day out

As we meandered the back roads even further, we picked a "castle" destination off the navi to at least have a place to head to. Some of the roads were tiny and only one car could pass at a time; many complete with stone fences enclosing flocks of sheep. As we drove further into the country, we wondered if we would get stuck behind sheep in the road in a very glorious, cinematic fashion. We didn't have to wonder long ...

These two just strolled in the road, and traffic whizzed around us (& them) like they see these guys in the road every day. It was pretty exciting for us.

The "three castles monument" we drove nearly 30 km for ... not so exciting

But if we hadn't gone out of our way, we would've missed these fellas

Finally getting their fuzzy butts home!

Glendalough's monastery and cemetary, settled in the 6th century

After several hours of driving, we were ready to get out and stretch our legs. We headed back to Dublin to check into our second hotel, the Clarence, and spend the evening seeing more of the city. 

View of the Spire & river Liffey from our hotel room

The lovely Stephan's Green Shopping Center (no exciting stores, just beautiful architecture)

Enjoying the view at St. Stephen's Green

St. Andrew's Church (churches were almost as ubiquitous as pubs in this city!)

We ended our big day out with some relaxing pub food - Guinness beef stew! - Guinness, and some live Bluegrass. All in all, a great day in Ireland!

Stay tuned for the third and final installment of our trip to Ireland ... Next up, Guinness factory tour and the oldest bar in Dublin.

*Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische