I thought I was a fan of the tropics. Sweltering heat, Bali, that kind of thing. I’ve always been highly suspicious of people who wear coats, walking by the sea in mid-summer. Now here we were in Ireland in August, hiking through the drizzle, wrapped up in rain gear. I couldn’t imagine anything better.
Dublin is the city of drinking poets and poetic drinkers. The city’s countless pubs, which not only serve drinks but great food as well, are also great places to go with kids. One can visit a wide variety of museums and Trinity College in Dublin, where The Book of Kells, one of the world’s most important medieval books and the best-preserved testimony of Irish book illumination, is on display.
Just a short hour-long drive from Dublin, the outdoor adventure begins. The Wicklow Mountains, a mountain range south of the city, offer countless hiking trails and breathtaking views. We are traveling with our five-year-old daughter, and it is clear that we will be moving at a different pace. The hiking routes will be more like long walks. I promise not to flip out with a bad case of FOMO but instead will try to concentrate on what we actually manage to accomplish.
We begin our walk along the pretty promenade, past colorfully striped pavilions that look like tiny circus tents selling plastic beach paraphernalia and French fries, past houses with gloomy Victorian facades and lamp posts upon which seagulls perch like little jewels. The seaside resort of Brey is not one of those dressed-up, sugar-coated towns but rather honest and authentic. If its houses could speak, they would tell many exciting stories.
We leave the promenade behind and embark upon our adventure. The steep coast, the harmony of the sun, the air, the sea, the rugged crags, and a vast expanse of wild ferns – the higher we climb, the more the landscape appears covered in mist, offering us an even more breathtaking panorama. Everything here is so well thought out. For instance, there are the unobtrusively located small rotundas, where you can find shelter in case of bad weather. And the garbage bins make it easier for people to keep the natural environment clean and pristine. The Bray-Greystones Head Walk usually takes around 2 to 3 hours to complete. We, however, are moving at our own pace and arrive in Greystone in the late afternoon. We are so proud that the three of us have managed to complete this route!
The second day of our journey is particularly exciting. We drive to the Powerscourt Waterfall. With a drop of 121 meters, it is the second-highest waterfall in Ireland. It lies in the middle of a beautiful parkland, where you can also observe a great deal of wildlife. As we arrive, we see a lot of activity around the waterfall. The whole area is like one gigantic playground, and the rocks by the water are irresistible for those who like to climb. We see a deer on a slope bathed in golden light that evening. The scene could be from a painting by an old master. Not far from the waterfall, we visit Powerscourt Gardens – an estate famous for its mansion and beautifully landscaped gardens.
Day three is not only a wilderness adventure but also features a cultural highlight. But before I begin describing the day, let me say what a pleasure it is to drive along Ireland’s country roads. The fields are like a colorful patchwork. Cows graze on emerald green slopes. Flocks of sheep cross the roadway. And then there are the ferns – an endless sea of lush green.
We arrive in Glendalough. In Gaelic, Gleann Dá Locha means “valley of the two lakes,” and it lies in the center of the Wicklow Mountains. Hiking trails lead here, but you can also park your car directly in front of the entrance. If you are interested in Celtic culture and history, you don’t want to miss Glendalough.
According to legend, the monastic settlement was founded in the sixth century by Saint Kevin, the patron saint of Dublin, and quickly grew because of its great popularity. The saint, who sought peace and seclusion, left the settlement and moved to the hill above Upper Lake to live as a hermit. Today, you can visit the ‘Monastic City’ands the hill. Both are magical.
I’ve talked a lot about the Wicklow Mountains. Those interested in hiking here will find a wide variety of routes, the longest being 127 kilometers. We are keen on finding the shortest route and taking the Glenderlock Miners’ Road Walk.
The trail passes through a fairy-tale forest and later continues over open countryside, passing the ruins of an old mining village. Unfortunately, the whole way to the Upper Lake is too great a distance for small children to manage. We decided to come back again next year.
Ireland has so much to offer – walks by the sea, countless monasteries and castles, and the wonderful little town of Birr with one of the oldest reflecting telescopes in the world. And then there are the swathes of mist with emerald-green ferns swaying in the distance. We’ve only discovered a tiny part of Ireland and can hardly wait to return for a longer trip.