The outside air today is a cool 49°. Today we dock in Dublin, Ireland
Dublin was founded by the Vikings in the 9th century. Dublin, the largest city and the capital of the Republic of Ireland, is on the east coast of the mouth of the River Liffey and bordered on the south by the Wicklow Mountains. Dublin is also the largest port in Ireland.
We were in no rush this morning so we made our way up to the concierge lounge for our morning coffee then down to Giovanni’s for a hearty breakfast with Doug and Sue.
Before long it was time to gather with other members of our tour group for a trip through the Irish countryside to visit a monastic site founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century
Probably the hardest decisions to make when we visit a city in a new country are what to do and where to go. We take into consideration all the ways one can explore a new place, and there are many, and hope in the end that we have made a wonderful choice. We made a wonderful choice.
Of course, visiting the beautiful Ireland includes many opportunities to visit castles that have withstood the ravages time and assaults by invading army’s and Irish pubs that offer lively music and pints of refreshing brews.
But today, we decided to step back in time to visit a destination that offers a look at Ireland’s ecclesiastical past. Today we will be on a tour called, “Irish Countryside & Glendalough”. Glendalough means “Glen of two lakes” is a glacial valley in County Wicklow, Ireland and is considered one of the top attractions on Ireland’s east.
Once we drove through the city, we were treated to a ride through miles and miles of beautiful, verdant farmland.
We finally arrived at the visitor’s center for the Glendalough monastic site. We spent a bit of time in the visitor’s center with our tour guide Jim as he pointed out several exhibitions such as the Market Cross, and a very large stone called the ‘Hollywood Stone’.
A sign on the wall above the stone read, “This large granite boulder bears a maze-like pattern, known as a labyrinth, on one flat surface…Labyrinth patterns of various forms are known from many different areas and periods, including the prehistoric rock art, and it has been suggested that this carving is of prehistoric (perhaps Bronze Age) date. However, this design is also known from Christian contexts.”
The sign at the bottom of the cross read, “This ornately-carved granite cross was located outside the main settlement, and may have marked the site of the early marketplace. Its features place it in the tradition of a group of crosses that represent twelfth-century changes in the Irish church…”. The detail was amazing after so many centuries.
We were told that within this beautiful site we would see a round tower built over 1,000 years ago, seven churches, a gateway into the settlement with a Sanctuary stone, two High Crosses, the Priest’s House, a graveyard and more.
As you can imagine, there were many tour groups ahead of us and behind. We were finally given the signal that we could proceed to the site. We walked over a small wooden bridge and came to the Gateway to the settlement. The Gateway is Ireland’s only surviving example of a medieval gateway to an early monastic city.
As we walked through the site our tour guide Jim shared that most of the buildings that we would be seeing today date from the 10th through 12th centuries. Glendalough was considered a place of great ecclesiastical foundations and schools of learning until the Normans destroyed it in 1214 and the diocese of Glendalough and Dublin were united.
We walked through a graveyard filled with stone headstones marked by time leaning this way and that. Jim led us to the Round tower which stands 33 meters (108’) above the ground. It was built by the monks of St. Kevin’s monastery. The towers were used for various purposes such a bell tower, refuge for monks when the monastery was under attack, lookout posts and as a beacon for traveling monks and pilgrims.
As we listened to Jim, we all looked at how high the door was from the ground. Jim explained that the people who lived here used a ladder to reach the door and then pulled the ladder inside the tower thus preventing invaders from entering the tower when under attack.
We moved on to Cathedral. The Cathedral is the largest of the seven churches. The cathedral was built over a period of time from the 10th to the 12th and early 13th centuries. As we listened to Jim talk, I found myself walking around to see a number of headstones lined along the wall.
Our next stop was St. Kevin’s Church better known as St. Kevin’s Kitchen. The church is a nave-and-chancel church of the 12th century. It is called St Kevin’s kitchen because people believed that the bell tower was a chimney to a kitchen but really no food was ever cooked there. Unfortunately, the doors were locked preventing a peek inside.
We then walked up the hill where Jim continued his talk about the area surrounding the monastic site and offered to take people on a hike to the lake. Some in our group went with Jim, others decided to take a leisurely walk around the grounds.
Doug, Sue, Randy and I decided to backtrack through the site in hopes of getting a bite to eat before boarding the bus. As we parted, Jim reminded us that we had to be back to the bus no later than 3:30pm as it was a long drive back to the pier.
We found a seat on the patio of the Glendalough Hotel and waited to be served. We hoped that Casey’s Bar & Bistro would be a wonderful place to kick back and enjoy a quick bite before returning to the bus. We waited quite a while and then realized that perhaps we had to go inside. We did and learned that the ordering was done inside and the food brought out to the patio. We had precious little time left so we decided to stay inside near the counter.
Sue ordered a bowl of soup while Doug, Randy and I ordered a piece of ‘Apple Pie from the Past’. Sue loved her soup and we loved our very delicious apple pie. With the delay on the patio and waiting quite a bit for our food, we were three minutes late getting back to the bus. Oh my, we were the last ones on board.
On the bus ride back to the pier we caught sight of the Wicklow mountains.
I enjoyed the ride through the city of Dublin admiring some of the buildings with their brightly colored doors, the beautifully crafted lamp posts and pubs adorned with many hanging planters filled with colorful flowers.
By the time we were back on board the ship we had barely enough time to run to our cabin, freshen up before making our way to the Colony Club for cocktails. While there a ship’s photographer walked over and asked if we would like to have our pictures taken. “Absolutely,” I replied. And, if I do say so myself, I think it turned out quite nice.
We joined our tablemates in the dining room and over a delicious dinner of Beef Bourguignon, I had a marvelous time listening to everyone’s stories about the activities they participated in on shore.
Our next port-of-call is Belfast, Ireland.