After spending several days driving around Ireland, we spent four days in Dublin. We did some shopping and sightseeing, and did a couple of day trips to the Wicklow Mountains and Newgrange, each about 45 minutes outside of Dublin.
The Wicklow Mountains are just a short drive outside of Dublin – you can actually see them from town. Within Wicklow Mountains National Park lies Glendalough, the site of an old monastic settlement founded in the 6th century. We took a walk through the ruins, then walked on the “sunny side” of the lake. It was a gorgeous, clear day, and the sun warmed us, so that when we walked back to the car on the “shady side” we didn’t get chilled.
On the way back to town, we stopped in at Powerscourt Estate, which has a huge garden that includes Italian, Japanese, and Walled Gardens, a small lake, and a Pet’s Cemetery. The manicured lawn and pruned flower beds lent a nice dichotomy to the wild beauty of Glendalough. (Dichotomy became the word of the day, as Stephen attempted to use it as often as possible, just for show.)
I took dozens of photos of the flowers on the estate, and I could easily fill a blog post with them. Maybe I will. But for now, I’ll just share this one – these little flowers were in the parking lot:
At some point in the last few months, I’ve gotten it into my head that I need to visit as many World Heritage Sites as I can. I live in one, or I guess, technically, near one: Old Town Rauma. And there’s another one nearby that I’ve written about before, Sammallahdenmäki. We visited Mont St Michel when we were in France. So now that we were in Ireland, I wanted to visit the two there.
One of the sites is Newgrange, an ancient temple and passage tomb constructed over 5,000 years ago. That makes it older than Stonehenge and the Pyramid of Giza. The passage at Newgrange is significant in that at sunrise, on the winter solstice, sunlight enter the lightbox above the entry and snakes upward through the passage to fully illuminate the inside of the tomb. The tour includes a demonstration of this – the electric lights are turned out, everyone stands to the sides, and a single bulb representing the sun beams light into the tomb. It was weak in comparison to the sun, we were told, but it still brought chills.
The other World Heritage Site in Ireland is Skellig Michael, an island about 12km off the southwest coast where a monastary was founded in the 6th to 8th century. While in Killarney, I contacted Owen, a friendly (is there any other kind?) Irishman who said he would be able to take us out the next day, weather permitting. “Call me back at half past eight in the morning,” he said. “We’ll see what the seas look like.” I was simply dying to go, especially since so few people get the chance. Unfortunately, when I called Owen in the morning, he said the seas were too rough to go out. I guess that means we’ll just have to make another trip to Ireland!
As I mentioned, we did some shopping in Dublin, and rode the hop on/hop off bus to see some of the sites. We stopped off at Kilmainham Gaol, did the Guinness tour (of course!), and saw Dublin Castle. I also got to get reacquainted with an old friend:
One picture I didn’t get, that I wish I had, was what looked like a newspaper printing facility. Viewed from the freeway, the entire back of the building was glass, and through it you could see the huge printing presses. We passed by it several times, and each time I was fascinated, bu couldn’t take a picture. I thought I might be able to find a good photo online, but I haven’t been able to find one that truly shows what I saw. I did find out that it is the Independent Newspapers Printing Facility. According to a press release from 1999, “the landmark design press hall will be an impressive 200 feet long and 57 feet in height. It will be entirely surrounded by glass, showcasing the dark blue presses within as a piece of industrial architecture…. The building’s glass facade and commanding location alongside the Naas Road, will allow car passengers to watch today’s news being converted into tomorrow’s newspapers at a rate of 75,000 copies per hour.” I really wish I could have found a better picture than this:
I’ll have another blog post or two with some random thoughts and pictures, but that about sums up our trip. We couldn’t have asked for better weather – we pulled the umbrella out once, for about half an hour, and we had plenty of sunshine. Considering the summer Ireland has had, that’s saying a lot!