My visit to County Wicklow wasn't planned. Not wanting to waste the last day of our Ireland trip - my sister and I booked a Collins Day Tour to Glendalough, Kilkenny & Wicklow Gap. It was just a spur of the moment thing. We weren't really sure what to expect, but we were eager to see a little more of Ireland before the clock ran out. We were up early and waiting at the appointed rendezvous spot. Our tour bus was clean, the tour guide knowledgeable, and the bus had free WiFi. Our pick was already a win in my book.
It took about an hour to reach our first destination, Glendalough, a glacial valley located in the southern Wicklow Mountains. Glendalough is home to a sixth century monastic settlement founded by Saint Kevin. Our bus parked some distance away then we walked the upper & lower lakes and monastic ruins. It was an amazing experience. The crisp air, lush greenery, visually stunning lakes and an atmosphere of reverence made the visit to Glendalough a magical addition to our trip. Glendalough is also home to The Wicklow Way, a long distance way-marked walking trail, which passes through Glendalough from Rathfarnham in the north to Clonegal in County Carlow. This place is a must see for lovers of history and nature.
Next we boarded our bus and drove from the Glendalough valley to the highest point of the Wicklow Mountains - Wicklow Gap. After a quick stop for pics - we enjoyed an hour long jaunt through the Wicklow Mountains National Park on our way to County Kilkenny. Every bit of landscape we drove through was varied and beautiful - water, wood, crag and valley.
Kilkenny sits on the banks of the River Nore. Loaded with medieval landmarks at every turn, it's easy to think that all you'll find are castles, abbeys and towers. Kilkenny is a lively modern town of boutiques, eateries, and artists. Kilkenny is also medieval to it's core - here you will find Kilkenny Castle, the famed Black Abbey, St Canice's Cathedral & round tower and narrow medieval streets all thick with history. We had a wonderful lunch at a local spot, and spent the afternoon exploring. My favorite buy of the trip was a jar of Irish wildflower honey that I purchased from a small shop in Kilkenny. If you enjoy festivals, Kilkenny is home to several annual gatherings - the Kilkenny Arts Festival, the Kilkenny Roots Music Festival and the Cat Laughs Comedy Festival.
Exhausted - we boarded our bus for the 2 hour return trip to Dublin. This was one heck of a day trip. It lasted about nine hours beginning to end. The tour cost 30 Euro per person and was worth every penny. County Wicklow really deserves more than a day. I look forward to returning to "The Garden of Ireland."
After a vacation to County Wicklow, the great Van Morrison penned the song "Streets of Arklow" describing a perfect day in "God's green land." I couldn't describe Wicklow any better.
Streets of Arklow by Van Morrison
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