Dublin to Glendalough to Kilkenny: the 10 Hour Tour

Dublin to Glendalough to Kilkenny: the 10 Hour Tour

No one can prepare you for a first time experience like driving in another country on the opposite side of the road (than what you may be used to) and on the opposite side of the car (than what you may be used to). Chances are no matter how much advice read and research on the subject you did, actually getting behind the wheel and driving while terrified is not that great. Add to this GETTING INCREDIBLY LOST ON YOUR FIRST DAY DRIVING IN IRELAND and you pretty much feel like you have failed as a tourist.  Leaving the big city of Dublin with turn by turn directions from Google, a Huge Fold Out map of Ireland, and my co-pilot on this magic carpet ride (I mean Road-trip Around IRELAND), you would think I could get us to our destination, Glendalough (pronounced Glen-DA-LOCK, like the Scottish “LOCH” {meaning Lake} as in the “Loch Ness Monster” **side note** I WILL see you one day Nessie), without straining too much effort.

Google said it was just about an hour to 1hr & 15min away. If only we had known how misleading said Google calculations would be, we would have allotted for more travel time between cities. A machine calculating simple distance (in KM no less, approx. 68km from Dublin to Glendalough) could not predict all the setbacks we would endure on that first driving day.

#1.  Stress Factor- Driving in a foreign country can cause sweats, tension in shoulders, arms, neck & back, and a mild tension headache.  No one wants to make any major driving mistake that could harm anyone, including my co-pilot, while they are supposedly on this TRIP-OF-A-LIFETIME-MOTHER-DAUGHTER-VACATION. That’s a lot of pressure on me and my foreign car to not screw up. 

#2.  Lack of Knowledge- Driving in a foreign country means foreign laws, particularly, traffic laws. I mean honestly, WHAT THE F*$# are these Roundabouts about??? Why? What is their purpose besides to mess with foreigners who journey to Europe with this Road Trip/Adventure Stuff attitude? Roundabouts were our downfall throughout the trip, couldn’t be helped, but you learn to respect the Roundabouts eventually for what they are, something to conquer whilst in Europe and then quickly return to loathing when your holiday comes to an end.

#3.  Confusing Signage/lack thereof- While driving in Ireland, Signage is like an elusive and endangered animal. You never really see the beast when you are looking for it, and by the time you actually spot it in its natural habitat, it’s too late and it’s gone, and YOU ARE LOST, or better said, YOU ARE STILL LOST.

#4.  Treacherous Weather- We didn’t even know it could snow in Ireland. Day 1 of driving, and we of course encounter SNOW. First it was rain, then snow (we were driving through the WICKLOW MOUNTAINS after all) . . . Native to Southern California, I can count on one hand the number of times I had ever driven through snow, and it is Zero.

Even with all of these obstacles, somehow we made it to Glendalough. Stressful drive aside, it was undeniably a very scenic route through some of Ireland’s most beautiful mountain ranges. Dressed in many layers, including a waterproof one and umbrellas and cameras at hand, we began our exploring. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr it was Fookin’ Freezin’ . We really had to suck it up in order to make the most of our short visit here. Glendalough Glendalough is a picturesque place, one tucked away in County Wicklow, and definitely worth a visit. In Irish, it’s Gleann Dá Loch (**remember it’s pronounced Glen-DA-LOCK) meaning “glen of two lakes”. IMG_9931

What’s amazing about this place is that it was chosen for its seclusion. In the 6th century, an Irish monk named Kevin chose the valley between two lakes for his place of worship. He was a hermit afterall, and as a hermit monk he chose to be far away from distractions and to focus on faith.  Although we did not get to do a full tour of the vast lands at Glendalough (due to: impending snow storm and temperatures dropping by the minute) including the hike to see St. Kevin’s bed in a small cave overlooking one of the lakes, it was quite special to be there and imagine a life with no distractions amongst Nature; simplistic and basic he lived.


In a place of such natural beauty, I wondered how today we have gotten so far away from the beauty and basics of our world.

St. Kevin’s ways soon became known by others in the religious life, and it didn’t take long for them to flock to his place of refuge to imitate his ways. They built an entire ecclesiastical community in Glendalough in fact, with churches, abbeys, a Cathedral and this impressive 100 ft. Round Tower. IMG_4864 glen Collage Best

The monastic ruins aren’t in terrible shape for how old they are. Most, if not all of the ruins are from the Early Medieval Period (so a good 1000 years old AT LEAST). There was lots to see, but as bundled as we were, Nature and the Freezing temperatures were getting to us.

For every picture I took, it required me to remove one of my gloves, and believe me, in Glendalough you are going to want to take dozens if not hundreds. But my poor hand, it was just so cold. Qué Frío. Mi pobre mano estaba tan fría.

To prevent my right hand from suffering frostbite, my mom and I decided to say goodbye to St. Kevin’s lands and to continue our journey onward to Kilkenny. It was around 6pm when we ran back to our car, turned up the HEAT to full blast, pulled out the google directions and set off.  We trusted we could get to our destination in just over the hour and half, like google had said. We couldn’t have been more wrong. The journey to our cozy BnB in Kilkenny took over 4hrs. I lost the exact count in time, but I can give you some of the highlights of those four hours.

SNOW, RAIN, SMALLER ROADS WITH ICE. MOUNTAINS. SUNSET (aka LESS LIGHT TO DRIVE IN) We left Glendalough, drove about an hour, only to realize we were passing the same mountains we crossed once already before. WE HAD DRIVEN IN A BIG CIRCLE. We were nearing Glendalough again… LOTS OF SIGNAGE FOR DUBLIN! Again, proving to us that we had in fact been driving in the wrong direction. We needed to head SOUTH, Far away from Dublin. WHY?!! ROUNDABOUTS!! WHY?!!! DARKNESS! STRESS. LOSING HOPE. Stopping to ask directions from Irish Locals while pulling out my giant Fold-out map of Ireland. Oh Tourists! they must have thought. Friendly locals. Helpful locals. Still struggling to find the correct roads leading to the correct Highway. Poor Signage, Misleading Signage, small towns & small roads were all proving we were not going to reach Kilkenny before 9 or 10pm give or take.

Somehow, by persistence, trial and error, and sheer will, we found the M-9 (GIANT MOTORWAY) and it was smooth sailing from there. My co-pilot, my ever amazing Momma, kept me in positive spirits as best she could. She was there with me all the way, in our failures and triumphs (like finding the M-9 after hours). We could even joke along the way about how long it was taking to reach Kilkenny. Every hour that passed, one of us would sing “THE 3 HOUR TOUR” or “THE 8 HOUR TOUR” . . . marking the hours upon hours it took us to reach KILKENNY!!

I guess after all this, you can call me SKIPPER, and my momma and first mate, GILLIGAN.

More to come from all the cities and towns, nature & the sights; more failures and triumphs, and FOOD, LOTS MORE FOOD to talk about. CHEERS!

All photos taken JAN-FEB 2015- ARIANA DEL RÍO

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