2014 – Day Thirty Nine

A lazy later start to the day – racing about for 10 hours yesterday has left us both tired.

Our plan today is to head further south, to eventually end up back in Rosslare by the end of the week, to ferry back across to Wales. Our time in Ireland is coming to an end.

This part of the drive is inland, and pretty much what you would expect a Ireland to be – pretty, lush and green. It’s quite different to what we have seen along the coast where the landscape changes constantly. Picturesque villages punctuate our progress as we wind
up the mountain pass.

We stop in the village Enniskerry, County Wicklow, to see the Powerscourt Gardens. I can’t say I have heard of them, but they have apparently been voted as 3rd in the top 10 gardens in the world, and Ireland’s best. There is a rather grand old house too, but
much of the inside was destroyed by fire in 1974 and it’s not fully repaired so it isn’t open to the public. The garden though covers a few thousand acres in the 16,000 acre estate so there’s a lot to see. There are over 250 varieties of trees here, many of them from the
earliest days of the house.

The house was commissioned in the 1730s by Richard Wingfield, the first Viscount of Powerscourt whilst the gardens were created during the Victorian era (1858 – 1875). The first view of them is pretty stunning. It took 100 men over 12 years to create. Coming out of the house, a grand terraced staircase leads down to a viewing platform, then down again into a lake. This is the formal Italian garden, urns and statues from Greek mythology frame it. It’s very impressive. Each level is terraced for maximum effect and framing the lake at the base of the terrace is a pair winged life sized horses. It’s ornate, even by Italian standards. The backdrop for the view is the lushly green Sugarloaf Mountain. Gorgeous.

The formal garden is the entry point to the Japanese garden, complete with a waterfall. This in turn leads to a walkway up to a tower armed with canons (not sure what they might be protecting, but still…). We lap back and take in the walled garden in the classic
English style, formal at one end and cottage plantings at the other. It’s bursting with heavenly scented roses in full bloom and lots of bumble bees. I get some great shots. I think could happily spend my life photographing flowers and and perhaps the odd bumble bee. They definitely have their favourite plants as some bushes are crawling with them but they steer clear of others.

We also visit the very poignant family pet cemetery, the final resting place of decades of family pets, from miniature sausage dogs, to horses and ponies and even one beloved champion cow. The gravestones speak of the family’s love for them. It’s very touching. Our last walk is thorough the rhododendron garden and as always, I lament that we aren’t able to visit in spring when this would be a magnificent display.

Chris zooms me out of there well before I’m ready to leave – so much for a lazy relaxing day.

He’s keen to get to our next stop, Glendalough, a monastic settlement founded by St Kevin in the 6th century. The monastery flourished through until the 1300s when the English destroyed it, and it was finally abandoned by the monks in the 1500s. People still
flock to it as a place of pilgrimage and apparently the Pope has deemed that seven visits to Glendalough offer the same as one to Rome. I must be good for a while…I’ve got both under my belt.

The ruins are set in a pretty valley alongside a small river, surrounded by gravestones. The oldest ones are little more than a mound, worn by centuries of erosion. We see stones that date back to the 1700s though. People knew how to write an epitaph then:
they speak of rest and peace, love and loss.

The ruins are mostly of churches, all in stone. There is a 110 foot tower as well, like the one we saw early in our travels, for security and storage. The 2 we have seen are part of a group of only 100 that remain. Again, this tower is unharmed by time – it has truly served its purpose.

We don’t manage the Visitors Centre (too late in the day), or any of the walks, which is a shame as the area is very beautiful. I would have like to have spent more time here, but time (nor Chris) waits for no man. Or woman it seems.