Lough Tay in the Wicklow Mountains

Lough Tay in the Wicklow Mountains

Tue, 31 Mar - Dublin to Wexford

I told you about the hassle with the Davenport Hotel not having a booking for me when I arrived to check in. Well I thought they would have sorted things out by the time I left, or at least communicated with me about it if there was still a problem. But no, when I came to check out this morning, they're still trying to bill me for the full room rate which I had prepaid. So we have to go through the rigmarole again. I paid for the extras and left, catching a taxi to the Hertz depot.

I had also been having a bit of a saga with Hertz about the car reservation, and I wasn't confident it had been satisfactorily resolved, so I wasn't helped by the garrulous taxi driver telling me ad nauseam that he didn't think anyone could collect cars from that depot! So it was with a double dose of relief that I drove away from the Hertz office with no further problems, and headed South.

It didn't take long to clear the suburbs of Dublin and reach the country roads, heading for the Wicklow Mountains. First stop Blessington. 

Since the year dot, one of the principal tribes in the Wicklow area has been the O'Byrnes, sometimes without the "O'", and it is still a very common name on shops, pubs, trucks, etc. I remember years ago meeting relatives of Isabel's mother, Henrietta née Byrne, who came from Blessington. So my progeny have a tiny drop of Blessington in their blood. 

I have to say that this morning at least it was a pretty bleak looking place, not helped by the fact that with altitude, of course, it gets even colder. The car dashboard thermometer was saying 4 degrees, and that wasn't taking wind chill into account. Later in the day I was even driving through sleet and hail, with just the occasional bright interval. There's some modern housing and a new shopping centre behind the façade, but the Main Street looks as if it hasn't changed in decades. So I didn't hang around too long in Blessington before getting back in the car to make my way across the mountains towards the ancient monastic settlement of Glendalough.

The scenery along the R759 road was wonderful, particularly some of the majestic views made perhaps even more dramatic by the wild, overcast weather.

  • Blessington Main Street

  • Lough Tay in the Wicklow Mountains

  • Glendalough

  • The "Ballykissangel" pub, Avoca

Glendalough, literally the "valley of the two lakes" is the site of a monastic settlement founded by St Kevin in the 6th century. It's one of the "must-sees" on any visit to Ireland, which means lots of people, but it also means that the site is maintained, and there's an informative indoor display about Ireland's monastic tradition. It counts St Laurence O'Toole as one of its Abbots in the mid 12th century, prior (no pun intended) to him becoming Archbishop of Dublin (which I think was the Christ Church brand). The foul weather during my visit only served to emphasise what an austere life these medieval monks led.

From Glendalough I made my way via Aughrim and Avoca down to Arklow on the coast, and then it was pretty much plain sailing on main roads to Wexford. And I should say that I have been quite impressed by the standard of roads here, certainly relative to the volume of traffic. 

But first, a pleasant surprise. My route took me through the village of Rathdrum, where I happened upon this statue commemorating Charles Stewart Parnell (1846 - 1892), who was born in nearby Avondale House. Parnell, a wealthy Anglo-Irish Protestant, was the major figure in Irish nationalist politics, and known as "The Uncrowned King of Ireland" until he was cited as co-respondent in the divorce of Kitty O'Shea, and consequently dumped by his party. 

There are several Aughrims in Ireland. This is not the one famous to Ulstermen as one of the battles in the Williamite wars of 1690/91. That one is in Co. Galway. But this Co. Wicklow Aughrim did feature in the 1798 rebellion. Otherwise it just seems to be a typically attractive rural village.

Parnell Monument, Rathdrum

Avoca has three claims to fame - well, four if you include being pretty, which one starts to take as read in this part of Ireland. In no order of priority - Thomas Moore's famous song "the Meeting of the Waters" was written about the Vale of Avoca; the Avoca Woollen Mill claims to be the oldest in Ireland, and it certainly gets itself on the itinerary of absolutely every coach tour of Wicklow; and finally, Avoca was the location for that wonderful "soap", Ballykissangel. Somehow it never even occurred to me to drop in and see if Assumpta would pull me a pint. 

I finally reached Wexford around 6.30, and checked in to the Talbot Hotel, where I think my room, 530, must be the best room in the house, certainly the best view. Unfortunately I don't have a panorama shot of the whole 270 degrees, but here's part of it, looking down along the fishing port area, and the rail line which goes through to Rosslare. I indulged myself in room service dinner, just so that I could sit and enjoy the view.

Wexford Port


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