Ireland Stories and Tips

Avoca and Spiritual Glendalough

Bridge leading into Avoca, Ireland Photo, Ireland, Europe

Our last day on the bus. Breakfast wasn’t great. No choice. They slapped down a plate of egg, bacon, etc., were late with the toast and it felt very like a conveyer belt to us. Let’s get going. We drove through the old part of Waterford past Reginald’s Tower, which was built originally by the Vikings. The city center of Waterford looks very much like most Irish cities architecturally. We headed out into the country county roads of County Wexford, past lots of yellow gorse brush streaking the green hills. We heard about rebellion in 1798 led by Father Murphy, an insurrection by the Catholics trying to gain rights inspired by the French Revolution 20 years before that. Didn’t work. The rebellion was brutally put down by the British.

Our first stop today is Avoca, in the Avoca Vale, a pretty valley about 2 hours from Waterford. The reason for the stop is a demo at one of the oldest hand weaving mills still functioning in Ireland. Avoca is also recently famed as the location of exterior filming for the series Ballykissangel and when Carole heard that her eyes lit up! We decided to spend our time in the village.

We ascertained our departure time then trotted into town. First the church. The name is Saints Patrick and Mary. It’s a very pretty stone church and chapter house with a little yard, stone wall and wrought iron fence. There’s a lovely gothic peaked door as well. Down the road a little further there are a few small shops along side a row of two storey houses painted yellows and oranges and pinks.

And there’s the pub! Fitzgerald’s, where a lot of the action in the show takes place. There were very few people around since most of our group stayed at the mill. We each posed for a photo on the benches in front of the bright yellow and blue pub and walked down by the river to see the stone bridge. We looked in a couple of souvenir shops as well. On the way back we passed one building that had a sign on it that proclaimed, in spite of it’s relatively small size, that it was not only the law courts, but also the computer learning center, library, AND the tourist information center! Necessity etc. A final photo of the church and back to the mill complex on the river.

The clouds began to gather and we drove under darkening skies through the north part of County Wicklow where the mossy-trunked trees were tall and close to the road, their overhanging branches forming a canopy over the road. Or it would have if the leaves had been in full bloom. Probably looks really pretty in summer with the sun streaming through.

Rain spit on the bus windows as we arrived at the Glendalough visitor center. Glendalough, which means the Valley of the lakes, was the site of a monastery founded by St. Kevin nearly 1400 years ago. It was used for quite a few centuries before it fell into disuse and ruin. There are roofless buildings and a round tower and the remains of a kitchen building along side the monks’ cemetery.

We saw a short video in a room that I found very cold and drafty and by the time our walking tour was to start, the rain was coming down lightly but steadily. I had neither hood nor umbrella so I decided to skip it. I looked around the visitor center and went across the car park to the hotel in the village where we were going to have our lunch break. A few people from the tour had already gone straight there. Had I known I would have joined them earlier. There was a gas fire burning and and empty table next to it. Lunch, hot tea and a hot apple crumble with custard for desert which I was just getting ready to eat when the rest of the group returned. Carole joined me and ordered lunch while I toasted myself on the fire and my tongue on the hot custard and heard about the walking tour which did sound quite interesting.

This is our last stop before Dublin. We drove out of the bad weather and through some pretty valleys on our way to Dublin. The sky was clear and blue by the time we reached our hotel, the Burlington. This hotel is not far from the Grand Canal in southeast Dublin in the Ballsbridge area, within walking distance of the city center. We have booked an extra night here as we’re not flying out until Sunday.

Carole wanted a rest but I had lots of energy and I wanted to go for a walk. I walked across the Canal and ended up on Bagot Street, which seemed to have a lot of shops. While walking I spotted a green antique freestanding letterbox, the kind you would have outside your own house for mail delivery, not the kind the post office collects mail in. The post boxes in Ireland are green, by the way, not red as in the UK. Anyway, the letter box was standing outside a small shop absolutely packed with …. Stuff! Some of it antique, some of it collectible, some of it memorabilia. I spent 20 minutes in there just looking at the eclectic assortment on shelves, tables and hung on walls.

I continued walking. Found Fitzwilliam square in the Georgian part of Dublin and gawped at some gorgeous architecture. Dublin is famous for it’s decorated and painted doors with their fan lights above and iron railing decorations on balconies and window dressing. The most elaborate door is black but has windows and a fan light that seems to have iron and wood work that looks like white lace covering it and ivy covering the brick surrounding the doorway.

Further down the road I realized I was at St. Stephen’s Green. I could see the glass enclosed shopping center on the far corner of the park. I sought out a camera store on Grafton street to replace the lens cap that seems to have gone walkabout today. I ended up in a cab back to the hotel a bit later.

We have signed up for the drive along Dublin Bay to a nice restaurant. We left early but the traffic was really heavy leaving the city. We finally get off the main road and followed the one that follows the waterfront through Dun Laoughaire, formerly called "Kingstown", where the ferries dock from the UK. Sandy Cove is our stop, just past DL. There’s a martello tower at the end of that cove where James Joyce lived and wrote Ulysses. It’s a museum now apparently. The restaurant was a modern décor. We had a choice of three on a set menu for all courses. I forget what I had as a starter some kind of pasta I think, but the main course I chose was sea bass, first time trying it and it was melt in your mouth good! There was a woman playing the piano during our meal and she took requests. The sun was starting to go down when we left there, which made the view across the bay glow with the last bright light of the day.

The pot of gold...

Bill never mentioned leprechauns all week. This afternoon, one of the group asked him why. He delayed answering so long that I imagined he must be thinking "Damn, and I nearly got through the tour without someone bringing that up!" Bill told us that the word "Leprechaun" means "little people" where are shoe makers or cobblers. The origins are hazy but one theory goes that when the tall, dark, warlike and aggressive Celts invaded, the natives were small, peaceful folk who lived in ring forts which probably became the fairy rings of legend. These people seemed to disappear at will through perhaps they just fled the intimidating invaders. The cute little leprechauns we see were invented for the English tourists and it just got out of hand. Now they are out of fashion and considered tacky, Bill informed us. I agree. Ireland to me is not the cartoon pot of gold and frisky, naughty little men in green coats. It's a place of Celtic origins, of shamrocks and a people who are easy going, traditional and open and friendly. And the beer ain't bad either!

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