Monday, 16 September 2013
For once we managed to get abroad for our main holiday this year, by taking a cottage for 2 weeks in Ireland - in County Wicklow (just 30 miles or so south of Dublin) to be precise. It's always interesting to visit a country with a shared heritage to your own, to gain a different perspective on common history and to experience subtle differences in a familiar way of life.
Our last minute destination was akin to choosing somewhere with a hatpin - what was available in early September which looked interesting. I did no research whatsoever (unusual!) and I had no idea until we arrived that Wicklow calls itself the 'Garden of Ireland'. We could have visited a different garden every day and still have enough left over to fill 2 weeks more - and then some. I had to ration myself to just a few as it was NAH's holiday too.
We were lucky with the weather, which is just as well as County Wicklow is very much an outdoors kind of place. We were just a couple of miles away from the sea, and the Wicklow Mountains - with its national park and long distance footpath (The Wicklow Way) - were only a few miles further inland.
The picture at the top of this post is of Glendalough, one of our unexpected and welcome discoveries. This is a place of Catholic pilgrimage as this quiet glen in the mountains was home to Saint Kevin and the resultant Monastic City founded in the 6th century. The hobbit-like round towers you can see in the distance are part of what remains - a reminder of the defences needed to fend off Viking invaders in the 9th century. The other remains in the area can be as recent as the 11th and 12th centuries. Non-Catholics like us were still able to appreciate the quiet beauty of the place and to take a delightful 3 mile walk through the ruins and around 2 lakes in the heart of the mountains.
Our 2 weeks took us from the green of high summer into the golds and russets of early autumn. The swallows departed for their winter home in Africa half way through our stay, signalling the start of the changes in the landscape around us. It was great to have the time to pause and for once really notice the evolving changes in the season.
I'll be back soon with more travellers' tales - of both planned visits and unexpected discoveries - over the next few weeks :)