Aug 08 2012
Are you the type of person who prefers a straight road, where you can see far off into the distance and know exactly what lies in front of you?
Or are you the type who likes twists, turns, and surprises around the corners?
If you’re the surprise-loving type, today’s walk is perfect for you, because every time we turned a corner or came up to the top of a hill, the view or the path itself changed completely.
We started our walk today in sunshine along a narrow, paved country road with old stone walls covered in ivy, tall hedges, and green fields with cows or sheep stretching off to both sides.
Our first turn of the day took us off the paved road and onto a rocky farm road that continued through fields.
Another turn and we were walking through a pine forest. We climbed over a wooden stile and walked on a wide, grassy path through an area recently logged. The path rose up steeply, and at the top we were rewarded with views of the mountains in front of us, and now familiar Sugar Loaf mountain behind us. We caught glimpses of this mountain all day yesterday, and it really puts into perspective how little distance we’ve actually covered.
The grassy path narrowed, and as we turned another corner we found ourselves walking single-file on a boot-sucking-muddy, narrow track that wound through tightly packed - and very prickly - gorse bushes.
We crossed an actual paved road and after winding along for a short distance crossed the Glenmacnass River on a shaky wooden bridge and headed into a dark forest.
So little sunlight reaches the floor of some of these forests that moss covers all of the trees, rocks, and stone walls. It’s so dark that we can’t see more than a few feet into the forest. No wonder fairy tales always featured scary creatures lurking in the forest!
Another turn and we walked up a hill on a wide, rocky forest road. Mike’s tall enough that he can see over most of the bushes, but I had to wait for a break before I could see a small town and a church steeple in the valley far below us.
The wide forest road narrowed, and suddenly we were walking up a very steep incline on large rocks, reminding us of hiking in Vermont. We crested the hill and both the Upper and Lower Lakes of Glendalough (which in Irish means “valley of the two lakes”) came into view. Glendalough is today’s destination, but we know we have many more turns ahead of us before we reach tonight’s B&B.
Another turn and we were off the stony forest road onto another boggy, muddy forest path. We climbed over a series of four wooden stiles which ended at another paved road, with the Glendalough Hotel in front of us.
We were greeted by throngs of tourists spilling from several large tourist busses, somewhat of a shock to our system after walking all day and seeing only 4 other people. The visitor center houses several interesting exhibits about the history of Glendalough, and the short movie explains how Saint Kevin settled here in the 6th century and founded a monastery which eventually attracted thousands of students. He left behind a small stone church, a larger stone cathedral, and a 108′ tall Round Tower built over 1000 years ago.
Our guidebook describes a 15 minute walk from the hotel to the Riversdale B&B along the Glendasan River. Riversdale is on the other side of the river, which means we walk across the large stones that cross the river to get to the other side.
We maintain our balance and safely reach the lovely house, surrounded by stone walls and gardens. We only walked 6 miles today, but the three hour journey included a wide variety of scenery, paths, ups and downs, and even weather with sunshine early on, overcast skies, and a bit of mist that threatened to turn into rain but was never worth putting on raingear. This is our last night of the walking tour, complete with another roundtrip journey over the rocks in the river to get to dinner - stay tuned for that story.