Last Tuesday morning, I picked up a rental car in Dublin city centre for 6 days on the road. I'm not going to lie to you- I was TERRIFIED about driving here. I literally asked the Hertz guy, "so has anyone ever totaled their rental car?" I think the question made him a bit uneasy, but I felt like it was legit:). Driving here presents so many differences and I was nervous to say the least. But by the second day, I wasn't worried about the driving at all because I felt like an old pro. I mean, Hertz might disagree since I brought their car back pretty banged up, but more on that later. I will say I got out of Dublin just fine and made it to my next stop, which was Enniskerry. Enniskerry is a quaint little village and one that's definitely worth a stop off. If you like history you'll love the Powerscourt Estate, which is where I spent the very cold, snowy morning. Fans of Irish movies will recognize the name as Gerry's hometown from PS I Love You and also as a scene from Leap Year was filmed here, when Amy Adams gets their coffee while Declan is asleep on the bench. Yes, I have movie issues. What do you expect??? I've been single for like 100 years, this is what happens. Moving on...
I should mention that this is the point of the beginning of the trip that I fell for the first time. Actually, that's a lie, it was probably like the 3rd slip, but the first legitimate fall. The stones that line the roads and walkways here are so slippery, especially when it's wet, that I went down like the Titanic (probably a very bad joke to make around here) and it took me a good four minutes to get up off the ground. And immediately my knee was bothering me but I didn't realize how bad it was until I got my jeans off later. HUGE bruise, with a huge gash in the middle, which lead to a huge scab that's still there, and still as I write this a week later, my knee is killing me. I feel it with every step I take, especially when I'm doing stairs. I'm hoping I didn't do any permanent damage. Damn slick Irish roads.
After Enniskerry, I headed to Wicklow for my first B&B stay. I will say I was a bit nervous and didn't really know what to expect, as I've never stayed in a B&B alone before, much less in a different country. And my GPS started making me mad at this point- it's great, even on back roads, until you get to the town... There's no house numbers in Ireland so I can only put in a fake number and then the street. And some of these streets go on forever and are separated by roundabouts, so Wicklow was my first experience getting all the way into the town, and then getting lost for an hour. Lovely.
Anyways, my first B&B stay at Drom Ard was great and Catherine, the proprietor, was incredibly friendly and welcoming, as was her adorable dog Holly who made me miss Lola so much :(. That night I had my first dinner out alone, and I have to say it went much better than my first lunch out alone. The bartender was a super friendly Irish girl and the presence of a couple other people there alone made me feel a bit better. I knew this aspect of the trip would be easier away from the big cities.
The following day I had a gorgeous breakfast at the B&B, the dining room looking over all of Wicklow and the water in the short distance. I asked Catherine whether there was a walking beach and she directed me to Brittas Bay. It was a great, dry morning (one of three I've seen in Ireland so far, today included) and I walked along the beach and collected some beautiful stones and stuck my feet in the Irish Sea. With my socks on. Seriously, don't ask.
I ended up doing a lot that day, and it was grand. I drove partway through the Sally Gap, which was beautiful but still somewhat covered in snow and so it was incredibly terrifying to drive. I hiked through Glendalough, which was lovely, and saw some monastic ruins. Leaving there, I happened upon the Wicklow Gap and learned that it was the quickest way to Kilkenny from where I was, so I was thrilled. It was an absolutely gorgeous drive and I highly recommend it to anyone coming to Ireland and renting a car. I can't even imagine how beautiful it is in the summer (actually I don't have to imagine it, cause the scene from PS I Love You filmed here was obviously filmed in the summer when all the flowers were out... like I said, movie issues). It was gorgeous and brought me down through an old village called Hollywood and all the way to Kilkenny, which has been my favorite part of Ireland so far.
In Kilkenny, I stayed at a place called Newlands Lodge, and honestly I could write an entire blog post about how wonderful it was. From the minute I arrived, Mairead and Jimmy welcomed me into their fabulous home, which is in the country outside of the center of Kilkenny. They built it specifically with the B&B in mind, and every last detail was perfect. When she showed me to my room, I couldn't believe I got to stay there. I had a huge bed, and in any other place that would overtake the room, but these rooms were HUGE and spacious and well decorated, with huge windows that let in lots of light. The view from my windows was the cow pastures all around the lodge, and I was in heaven. Heaven.
What was originally supposed to be my only full day in Kilkenny was actually spent in co. Tipperary, visiting the Rock of Cashel. This was absolutely beautiful, and worth the visit, but let me tell you- heed the warning if someone tells you it will be a windy day there. It was possibly the windiest experience I've ever had.... and I lived in Nashville during a tornado. I was literally clinging to a tombstone to keep from going over the side. I did get to see the Scully monument my dad had told me about there, so I was happy about that. Needless to say, I didn't last as long as I would've liked there, and by the time I got down from the ruins I was miserable and wanted to be back in cozy Newlands Lodge, so I didn't get to explore Cashel, which looked like an adorable little town.
That night I headed to Kytelers Inn for the second night in a row. The first night I had a great time and got to chatting with two of the bartenders, so it was nice to have a familiar place the next night. I ended up making some friends from the states, one who is studying in Dublin and his girlfriend who was over visiting him. They were super nice and actually asked me to go out bar hopping with them, although I did bail because I'm an old lady and it was about midnight by the time we left there. I turn into a pumpkin at midnight :)
I should take this moment to mention to all my friends back home who were positive I was going to meet someone on this trip: friends, it's simply not going to happen. Everyone here goes out soooooo late! It's absolutely crazy to me. All the timing is different and I'm still not used to it, but people don't tend to eat dinner here until 8, then from what I'm told, people my age will go to a friends house for 9, stay there til 11:30 (or half eleven as they say here), get to the pubs for midnight, and go home around 3:00. Lana's Old Lady Timeline: eat dinner at 6:30, force myself to stay out for drinks until 10:00, get back and be in bed by 10:30. The road to dying alone continues...
Anyways, just as my day in Glendalough and Wicklow could qualify as one of my best days in Ireland, my 2nd day in Kilkenny could easily qualify as my worst. Let me try to put this into terms that would make sense, because this was not rain. This was a torrential free for all where the rain was literally coming from all sides. There was rain pouring down, there was rain blowing from the sides.... I'm pretty sure the rain was coming up from the ground. It was horrible. It was like that scene from Forrest Gump where they're walking through Vietnam and they're shielding their eyes from the rain coming from below. Except that when the sun came out there weren't people shooting at me and I was perfectly safe.... But I digress....
I did Kilkenny Castle that morning, which was beautiful, but trying to get a picture of it? Forget it. It was absolutely horrendous, even under an umbrella, and at one point I tried to change lenses and get a good shot of Kytelers Inn, which is a short walk from the castle. This is when the water got in my camera, and after that? Pure misery. I was cold, wet, cranky, and freaking out about ruining my two thousand dollar camera. I was NOT happy. And when I arrived in Wexford, everything came to a head.
I will say, if you ever decide to come to Ireland and stay at Newlands Lodge in Kilkenny, you'll probably want to stay there at the end of your trip, because no other B&B is going to come close. And I don't know if it was the wind or the rain or the drive or the camera, but when I got to Wexford my attitude was badddddd. And when I saw my room in the B&B I was staying at, things got worse. It was gloomy, bare, cold, and the complete opposite of Kilkenny. So, long story short (too late), I ended up canceling my 2nd night planned in Wexford and my one night in Waterford, and going back to Kilkenny, which I'll just call "home" from now on lol.
Before heading back to Kilkenny, I did explore Wexford a bit and bought my niece an adorable little souvenir at the Wexford Bull Ring market, which was a "don't miss" in my tour book, but in the winter I'd say you could definitely miss it :). But I had some great chats with locals there and I did enjoy it. Walking around Wexford town after that, I popped in and introduced myself to Joeleen Codd, who had a beautiful photography studio in Wexford center. She was very sweet and it felt nice to make a connection and say hi to another photographer.
When I left Wexford, I headed down to the Tintern Abbey and then the Ring of Hook, where I visited the oldest operational lighthouse in the world. It was beautiful there, and although the wind prevented me from hanging out too much, it also provided for some beautiful scenery with the waves crashing against the rocks. I took some pictures and walked around a bit, and talked myself out of going on the tour. I have been spending the ten euro to do tours pretty much everywhere, and I decided I needed to reign it in a bit. I am on a pretty tight budget here and I don't want to have to call my dad mid-May to ask to borrow money (because very rightfully, he would just hang up on me lol).
It felt great to get back to Kilkenny that night and relax at Newlands. The next day, I headed to Kells Priory, an old ruins site down the road from Newlands, and had a peaceful walk around. I went out to Mount Juliet as well, which is a beautiful place to walk around and also a gorgeous golf course. Afterwards, I headed back into Kilkenny centre, since the day was dry and I'd be able to get a few pictures done. I walked a bit and then decided to get take-away and eat it at the lodge, before coming back into town for evening drinks. And this, my friends, is the glorious moment that I went from a few bumps and scrapes on the left side of the car to no longer having a passenger side mirror (see photos below lol). Honestly, the car I rented feels very small, but when the roads are so narrow you still have to mind your mirrors.... and your steering. The side mirror came clean off and made the most horrible noise. The kicker? The take-away place wasn't even open!!!! So here I was, starving me arse off, with no mirror and no food to show for my efforts. The solution here was obviously to head back into town for a pint.
I went into a pub called Lanigans and before long was chatting with a group of gentlemen at the bar, one about my age and the others a bit older. They were super friendly and one gentleman even bought me my first hot whiskey, which definitely helped calm my nerves. That gentleman turned out to be the owner of Tynans, a very popular bar down the street, and so I went back that night and enjoyed the craic there with my new friends :)
After 4 nights total in Kilkenny, it was very hard to say goodbye to Mairead and Jimmy, and we took a whole bunch of pictures before I left. You'll see M & J below, along with a couple shots around Newlands. I headed off to Waterford, where I stopped at Waterford Crystal and did a bit o shopping :). This was also where I discovered that the McDonalds in Ireland carry Cadbury Creme Egg McFlurries, and I venture to say my life will never be the same.
My last stop before arriving in Cork was Mahon Falls in Dungarvan, another don't miss because they are absolutely gorgeous, but unfortunately I didn't visit at the right time. It was literally so cold that the falls were FROZEN lol. My hands were too, so unfortunately I didn't even make it all the way down the trail. Ah, well... next time :)
For now I leave you with some photos. These were really taken all over- Enniskerry, Wicklow, Kilkenny, Inistioge.... Inistioge is adorable and where another Irish favorite, Circle of Friends, was filmed! So of course I had to stop and get a brownie in the Circle of Friends restaurant. I mean, there was really no question that that had to happen ;)