Thursday, April 5, 2012

Day Tour to the Wicklow Mountains

  My favorite day in Ireland was going on a bus tour through various countryside towns just outside of Dublin. We embarked on our journey with a great tour guide named Declan Feeney and driver, John. Declan was sarcastic and witty at the same time and since we sat up in the front row of the 28 seater bus, we got to talk to him throughout the tour.  He was an excellent guide who provided a thorough history of the various areas we visited.

 The churches and cathedrals are works of architecture.
Declan also spoke to us in Gaelic. All of the road signs and many signs in general were in English and Gaelic.
Our first stop was at Avonri, a resort on Lake Blessington. We were fortunate to have sunny weather that day.
Lake Blessington is really a man-made pond which was converted into two lakes due to the need to build hydro power. Swimming is prohibited but the views are scenic.

Our next stop was just a brief break in a place where they mined granite.
We then stopped for a couple hours at Glendalough, which is now a tourist spot with a hotel and lakes.
The tower was where the monks used to hide before they were burned alive by the Vikings who came to pillage the town.
The Celtic crosses have the circle around them which represents the sun.
We walked a mile and bike to the Upper Lakes for a nice view of the hills.  Along the ride, Declan explained that the famine in the 1840's was a huge tragedy where over half the population (4.5 million) lost their lives due to starvation. The wealthy landowners wanted to get rid of the Catholics so while they let them die, they had ample food which they even exported to other countries. How sad.
Our last stop was at Avoca Handweavers, the oldest weaving mill in Ireland, where they make gorgeous blankets, clothes, socks, scarves.  We had a short tour of the mill which showcased their techniques in producing the finest woven goods.
We were able to enjoy lunch here as well in their small cafe.

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