ireland road trip: dublin to adare
We set out from Dublin with Starbucks in-hand and a car full of road snacks, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and eager for our first day of driving. I'll admit that as a first-time driver on the left side of the road, my hands gripped the wheel rather firmly for the first few hours in the driver's seat. Once out of the crowded city streets, the narrower seaside roads presented their own challenges--namely, zippy Irish drivers who seemed rather indifferent to the possibility of losing a rear-view mirror around tight turns and single-lane streets. Nonetheless, we made it to our first stop, Dún Laoghaire, in one piece.
I had been through the coastal town a few times before on previous visits to Ireland, and thought we'd enjoy a quick stop to enjoy the harbor, eat breakfast and take a quick walk through the village. Though thick clouds hung low on the horizon and aggressive gusts of wind precluded any opportunities to catch some aerial footage, the skies started to clear just in time for us to continue on our journey to the Wicklow Mountains and Glendalough.
I'll note that the majority of the first day of our road trip was inspired by a fantastic tour I'd taken from Dublin twice before. Hosted by Over The Top Tours, the Wicklow and Glendalough day tour offers a spectacular opportunity to explore the wilds of the Wicklow Mountains National Park if you don't have access to a car during your stay. Limited to 14-16 guests, the tours are small in comparison to larger coach excursions. On both trips with Over The Top, I've found the driver/tour guide to be extremely knowledgeable, friendly and hospitable--one even scheduled a stop for tea and gingersnaps just outside of Dún Laoghaire, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. I'd highly recommend!
After snaking our way through Dalkey, Killiney and Ballybrack, we merged onto M11 toward Wicklow. After about 20 minutes, we entered the park up a gradual incline overlooking the first spectacular valley view of the day. With a forest at our backs and the open landscape in front of us, we breathed in the fresh air and sense of freedom that so often accompanies finding yourself face to face with untamed nature--or at least, untamed by our Southern Californian standards. The road through Wicklow is generally like this--rolling hills and intermittent lookout points that seem to whisper "let's not rush this." That said, we stopped at almost every opportunity.
Around lunchtime, we approached the monastic village of Glendalough. We stopped for soup, soda bread, chips and ale at Lynham's of Laragh (you can't miss it on the left side of the road), then drove another 5 minutes and parked at the Glendalough Visitor Centre. An early Christian monastic settlement, Glendalough was founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century. Out of this grew the "Monastic City," a site that attracts more visitors than anyone else in the county. Set against the breathtaking backdrop of the surrounding hillsides and nearby lakes ("lough" meaning "lake" in Irish), the Round Tower, churches and graveyard are absolutely worth a visit. We walked the shorter, wooded path around the site, then hopped back into the car to continue on toward Limerick.
The journey from Glendalough to Limerick is about 2.5 hours, and after a full day in Wicklow we found ourselves sitting down to a warm stew around 8 or 9 at The Glen Tavern. Next, it was on to Adare, where we'd stay for the evening.
Catch more highlights from our day in The Way Away's video at the end of the post.