Sunday, May 31, 2009



One of the first places we visited out of Dublin was Glendalough, and that turned out to be the perfect introduction to Ireland.   We left Dublin and headed toward Military Road on the advice of one of my tour books.  I'm glad we did.  The little-traveled route helped us learn how to drive on the left and cope with narrow Irish roads without having to worry too much about a head-on collision.  We did have to watch for sheep, though.  They often wandered the roads, and one fearless little lamb even stopped to nurse briefly while we waited for a small herd to leave the road.
The real gem in the region, though, is the monastic settlement.  A round tower, ruins, and well-kept hiking trails could keep a soul busy for the entirety of a day, so if you like to hike, bring a picnic meal.  Jackdaws nest inside the roundtower windows.  Ancient and modern graves share an extensive graveyard, with warning signs put up by the government reminding locals that no burials are allowed within certain of the ruins.  The hills and river (we thought the water was stained by peat, but it turns out much of the water is stained by iron that oxidizes when it becomes aerated, say, by the long waterfall near Glendalough) form a spectacular backdrop to the site.
A small village holds up well to the tourism in the area, with a gas station and well-stocked convenience store, lovely shops, and sizable restaurants.  The village compared favorably with far more developed areas, surprising considering the population is tiny.  I'm particularly grateful to the shop owner who advised me to get a book map of Ireland.  Combined with my very useful useless map (the scale gave me a great birds-eye view of the whole island but didn't have enough detail for proper navigation) I was able to tour us around Ireland without getting unintentionally lost.

Very nearby, we came across the miner's settlement.  Another perfect picnicking area, you can admire the view and kick through the tailings, check out exposed beams that used to frame pipes, and speculate on how the mining operation ran based on the buildings, paths, and framework.  
There's not much left to guess on, which makes it an intriguing puzzle.  Information signs help, but don't give away the whole picture, letting the visitor figure out much of it for themselves.  My question was, how did they pump the water up to the mining area, or, if they didn't, was there a natural water source that's since dried up or diverted itself?

This is an intriguing area, and near enough to Dublin to daytrip.  We didn't return to Dublin, but continued onward toward the south coast, driving to areas I've already posted about, like Kilkenny, and others I haven't gotten to yet in my ongoing scattershot coverage of our vacation.

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