7th – 10th Oct 2016, First time in Ireland but definitely not the last! This time just for the weekend.
It was a beautiful sunny day in Prague, about one week after we had returned from Hungary and as it goes, still in a holiday mood, we started checking out for cheap flights. Well long story short, it is always dangerous to go for a brunch with Františka and so as usual we ended up leaving with new flight tickets. This time to beautiful Ireland for even more beautiful price of only approx. € 70!
As the time of our departure was approaching we had managed to convince Františka’s friend Effka, who lives in Bristol and my friend Dave, who is currently travelling Europe, to join us. As we started to plan we all pretty much agreed, that we don’t necessarily need to spend too much time in Dublin itself but that we would all much rather go explore the countryside. You know: hills, bit rainy and chilly, tiny little cottages in the middle of a valley where typical Irish songs would be played by a handsome Irish men in a traditional flannel shirt. That was all I wanted. Well I probably don’t have to tell you, that this kind of stuff happens only in movies but I don’t want to take away your unicorn hopes: you might get luckier than us. : )
We began our trip by meeting up with Františka at the Prague Airport, where she hasn’t dissapointed me one bit by arriving well prepared with two kick-off shots of plum brandy! The flight Prague – Dublin takes only something over two hours and flying with the RyanAir low cost airlines is as easy as it gets. Online self check-in and if you don’t have oversized luggage nothing can stop you.I have to admit, we were both a bit confused when we arrived in Dublin. A little too much to our liking, because this time Effka, who was already at our AirBnb awaiting us, had all the information and so we had to fully rely on her directioning. We jumped on a double decker number sixteen, that goes from the bus stop right in front of Terminal 1 and takes you to the city centre for only € 3 per person. ( Well it was € 3,20 but you need to have the exact change ready for the bus driver which we didn´t and so I had to negotiate a bit.) Once you are on the bus watch the bus stops carefully, because the numbering is not continuous. One stop is number 1349 and the following one is 56. It also stops at each one only for half a minute or so, so be ready to get off once you need to.
Our Air Bnb was one of the cheaper options in a bit dodgy area as locals say. However we did not find it dodgy at all. Moreover, there was three of us so we didn´t have much of a choice. We stayed at one of those notorious flats, that has separated entrances that go one level down to the basement alongside the building. Our host was a lovely Brazilian student who, as we assumed, was renting her own room in order to make money for her own rent. It was a bit weird but on the other hand, it doesn’t get much more local than that.
We dropped our bags and headed for the city centre where we caught up with Dave and his Irish friend Michael. We walked along one of the main boulevards with a massive column called the Spire going so far up in the sky, that you can barely see the top. Then we continued across the river while passing by Irish pubs one next to another. Right away I thought, these guys really like their Guinness. : ) As it was getting quite late (we only arrived at 7 pm), we put aside our paper bags with beer and cider in them and continued to a touristy pub area called the ‘Temple Bar’. Yes, don’t get confused, not only it is a single bar itself but also the whole district. After we passed by some random people either calling for Jesus or offering a ride on an unoperable bicycle, we went in a pub called the Porterhouse. Even though still pretty touristy it was quite a nice place with three floors and a guy playing guitar on a tiny stage in the middle. All in all it was actually as close as it got to my original vision of Irish pubs through our whole Irish experience. We stayed a little while, had couple Guinesses and Bulmers ciders and continued to find some place to eat at.
Unfortunately we thought it was gonna be hard to find a place we could eat some normal food at midnight and so we made the typical mistake of going to the first place open we met. It was an American bistro called Eddie Rocket’s! Yes, you hear it right…how dumb of us hey! The food tasted plastic and the unwanted interactivity of way too shy Polish waitress who was dressed as an American girl in 50′ accompanied by cheesy Elvis Presley songs, reflected on the pricing. Do not go there. As simple as that. After that we had one more beer at a place called the Foggy Dew somewhere, no idea where, and headed home.
In the morning Effka, Františka and I grabbed our bags and went to see a bit more of the city before we had meeting with Dave by a car rental to head for the countryside. As we learned from our taxi driver from the previous night, pretty much the whole city was under construction, because they like to do it all at once instead of keep on dragging the work procceses. It resulted in the fact, that anywhere we went, there was ugly construction fences and holes in the ground. The town itself is very charming. You can see little alleys with small local pubs and shops right next to unordinarily wide boulevards with expensive touristy cafés and restaurants. Through the whole city you can almost taste the British influence in the architecture, where the only difference I spotted was that there were green mail boxes and black doors instead of typical British red. Ah yeh, and the double deckers are yellow here!
The Irish are pretty proud of not being British and so they make sure that you don’t mix them up and that they keep their political and social independance. (Only from what you can see on the street: they do not have Daily mail, but Irish Daily Mail. They also distinct from Primark and have Penneys instead and so on.) Ireland is like a little stubborn brother who feels a bit overlooked compared to his bigger sister Britain and changes little things here and there. Something like: ‘Hey, we are not the same country, Doh!’. Also regarding the current political situation, Ireland is still in the European Union, unlike the Great Britain. Even though they still have a bilateral contract between these two island countries, Ireland definitely didn’t agree with Brexit and I dare to assume, that they are rather leaning towards the vision of the united Europe.
When we caught up with Dave by the Europcar rental, where we had set a reservation for one car, we hit the wall. Dave’s driving licence had slightly scratched numbers and therefore they wouldn’t give us the car! Even though we had another licence, the same person needed to be also a holder of a credit card (not a debit) which we hadn’t. All grumpy and slightly annoyed we had to go find the SiXT car rental and hope that they will take walk-ins. Luckily they had one car left and let Dave read the numbers to them…Ah well, and that’s the story how four backpackers ended up in a brand new white Toyota Corrola with leather seats. We were ready to hit the countryside! : D
As we got a bit delayed with all this car proceedures and also in the traffic jam, we had to scratch our original plan and postpone it to the following day. We only drove through the Wicklow Mountains, stopping wherever we liked it, to either chase some wild sheep or just to sit by a little creek and enjoy the peace and beauty of nature. On our way to Wicklow town where was our accommodation, we stopped in Glendalough and went to see this old monastery surrounded by a cemetery and overlooked by a tall tower. We were lucky enough that we got there prety late and that the weather wasn’t the greatest and so there was barely anyone. It was spectacular with its spiritual atmosphere which was even multiplied by fog sitting in the nearby valley.
After a couple of unsuccesful attempts to get ourselves a couchsurfer in Wicklow Mountains, we had to take the last free Air Bnb accommodation possible. And I have to say, it was a win! If you ever go there we definitely reccoment B&B at Hadley´s house in Wicklow town. It is located up on the hill above the local church, just about 20 minutes walk to the town centre. Valeria, who owns this place, made us a freshly baked bread for a breaky every morning and she also gave us some hints here and there about where to go. Finally we ended up having a dinner at a place called the Pot Belly.Traditional Iittle Irish house in which one lovely lady and her husband opened up a small restaurant and a grocery store offering only the freshest local produce. We were stoked! The menu had only a few items on it that change from one season to another but man, it was delicious!
After this delicious dinner we hit a small pub just on the corner of the main road called the Phillip Healy. This place also excited us as it was filled with small town folks who don’t need to pretend anything. You could see all kinds of people here and all age groups without a difference. It all had a great vibe and besides the fact, that there wasn’t any live music (damn it), it was pretty much all we wanted. As we had a great day planned ahead of us, we had decided to go home pretty early…around midnight. But supported with Paddy Whisky and Guiness beer we couldn’t help ourselves and turned into a place called Fitzgerald’s. How Accurate. It was also a nice place but the fun part was that it was someone’s private party we crushed. : D
In the morning we headed straight for the mountains beginning in Glenadlough. There are multiple trails into the mountains which you can choose from, regarding either your abilities or interests. We chose a trail following the white signage called ‘Spinc and Glenealo Valley’ trail. It has about 9 km and is the second longest here. The name ‘An Spinc’ comes from the Irish and means ‘Pointed Hill’. You can choose from which direction you will get onto this trail as it is a loop. We highly recommend doing it in the same direction as we did; means start by the cemetery and head up along the Upper Lake from the left hand side. You will walk up until you get to the beginning of wooden stairs. They are pretty steep at one point but you will have done most of the climbed meters within these stairs. Once you get to the top there is a hilltop walk on a wooden path with a beautiful scenery offering wonderfull views on the mountains and down onto the valley. The whole trail loop can be done faster pace in about three hours and trust me, it’s worth going!
Our next stop was Greystones, which seemed to be a nice little town on the coast. Well at least on the map. When we got there, we were little annoyed and well dissapointed as it was only a mediocre town with underwelming beach full of random objects and rubish. Nevertheless, we had a lunch there in a place called Burnaby. We had a turkey roast on Sunday afternoon, but it was same underwelming as the rest of Greystones. Well we have been there, we tried and we understood why all the locals from the previous night were little surprised when we told them we were planning on going there. Long story short: There is nicer places in the Wicklow County to visit rather than Greystones. : )
The last day we didn´t have much time left as we had a plane to catch but we managed to get up pretty early and rush quickly to see the Wicklow Lighthouse. Now the problem with the Lighthouse. There is pretty much no road nor path that goes right to it. Option number one would be to park at a tiny little parking lot by the road close to the local Golf Court and walk about two kilometres via a cliff walk that goes in between the golf fields. Yeh, there is a massive sign saying: This path is closed because of a danger of falling debris, but don’t worry: many locals just walk there and the gate isn’t even closed. Option Number two is to drive a bit futher and park the car somewhere by the road near a red gate saying: Private Property, do not enter and then walk on that private path that goes towards the lighthouse. Option number three (we chose to do) is to drive onto this path through the red gate all the way to the lighthouse: very slowly, pretending to be deer. : D
We also stopped by the Wicklow Harbour, where you can rent fishing gear or go for a boat cruise. It is little pricy but if you fancy fishing and the ocean, go for it! We went to see ruins of the Black Castle from the 12th century that stands on a little peninsula just next to the Harbour. It had been constantly under attack and therefore there is really just a tiny fragment of the original walls standing these days. Still, it is a nice place to go check out as there is a beautiful view of the coastline.
From there we already had to rush back to Dublin to catch our planes but I have to say…Ireland rules and has definitely much more to offer than what we managed to see in these two days. Nice to meet you little green man, and see you soon again!