Sunday, August 13, 2006


It's always embarrassing to get lost in your own country. I remember a few years back going on a drive around the eastern end of Tibradden and being astonished how the familiar winding roadway turned suddenly into a new, well-appointed piece of tarmacadam sprinkled with roundabouts and how at one I directed Herself to take a right turn and ended up someone's driveway.

I have an excuse in Wicklow, though, as despite being only a few miles down the road the county is one in which I have been driven more times than I have been called upon to navigate. Nevertheless, our trip to Glendalough ended up being a magical mystery tour of the first order, mostly due to my own unpreparedness. A map would have been handy. A good map. Instead, I had three A4 sheets hastily printed from a "navigation" site on the Internet. They might have been of use if the were a better scale. Also, I had only recently changed the print cartridges and hadn't gone through the necessary nozzle cleaning steps, so at least one vital, but short roadway had not printed properly. This would have a definite effect on the car mileage by the time we were finished.

"Mind the sheep," I said.
We were in County Wicklow rush-hour traffic, which is to say there were two cars in front of us at a distance of about fifty yards and nothing behind us for ten miles.
"I see the sheep."
We imitated the car in front, slowed down and went around the sheep whose head was busy in the ditch cropping grass from between huge plants of heather.

The roadway wound around the bogs and dipped, rollercoaster-like, into sudden minor valleys. We crossed a bridge barely wide enough for the car.

After a few miles I said: "There's a beer bottle."
"You're not at work now. Stop looking for litter."

"Now," I said, looking at the faulty map. "I think we take a left at this junction..."
We dipped down into the side of the valley of Glencree. On the map, Glencree Reconcilliation Centre should be on our left. Naturally, it was now on our right. It was about five miles before we found a spot wide enough to turn around. Not to worry.

We sped back to Sally Gap and regarded the crossroads.
"Maybe we should follow those cars," Herself said.
"That sign says 'Laragh'. I'm pretty sure that is on the road to Glendalough," I countered.
We took the higher road.
We entered a landscape of huge granite boulders. The mountains were as bleak and bare as when the ice retreated a hundred-thousand years ago. Amazing, but completely alien and unfamilar.
"You know, I've never been down this road before in my life?"
"And I'm pretty sure that green valley just disappearing eastwards is the one we should be in."
"What does that sign up ahead say?"
"Where's that?"
"Haven't a clue."
"Shall we turn around?"
"It's about ten miles back to Sally Gap, I reckon."
So we turned around. I found out later that we might have been three miles from Glendalough coming from the west if only I'd had the nerve to keep going.
When we finally came to Glendalough in the early afternoon we'd been driving for four hours. This is much longer than necessary to get there. But it was worth the prolonged search for a car-parking spot among the other tourists. Apart from the monastic ruins, the forest and lake still have a primeval feel to them. The area seems only barely tamed, wildness and wilderness only just below the surface of the 21st Century. I've been to the lower lake now two or three times. On my next visit, I hope to visit the upper lake, about a mile to the north-west.
After some lunch we turned for home. Herself was anxious on the mountain road (the road we should have come by in the first place) with its sheer drops, and the car hugged the white line all the way down. At Sally Gap we took a confident right turn into fog.
"There's the beer bottle again."
"I was just thinking that."
Civilisation at last.
I've bought maps. Lots of maps. The car is full of them.


Anonymous said...

Great pics Willie.

Angharod said...

Ahhh, spiritual refreshments.

You haven't by any chance gone to see the wee trees at Oak Glen have you Willie? That's where my mom's tree is planted.

Hope you are having some really rejuvenating moments during your hol, and some belly laugh fun.

fitz said...

that's gas - we're heading there tomorrow with the kids. having a good break ? I'm off this week and next. Just recovered from my 40th party on saturday... I think.

Anonymous said...

Geez, fitz, making me feel I need a trip to ireland myself. Have a good break youself.

Angharod said...

Willie, we travelled the same roads! Only we were coming from the south west. We never found Glendalough OR Powerscourt, but I had to keep reminding Himself that you are never lost in Ireland unless yer up to the hubs in salt water. Anyway it's the scenic routes that really make the memories.

BTW Jace took me to see Ollie's wee head. Tell Herself she didn't miss's shrunken.