On Friday, a group of friends and I went to Glendalough and Kilkenny. As a tourist in Dublin I didn’t want to spend all my time in the city, I wanted to get out and explore Ireland’s countryside. Day trips are such an easy way to do this and along with going and seeing the sites, I also learned about the history, myths, and legends about them. This turns a simple lake into a story and an old pile of stone into a piece of history.
Leaving Dublin at 9:00 my friends and I headed to Glendalough. Once we were there we walked over to the old monastery ruins. There, our guide Gerry explained the story of the deer stone. A smooth stone with a bowl like feature carved into it. There is no known reason for why it exists but the legend says that a deer would come and shed her milk in the stone to provide food for an abandoned baby that the people at the monastery had found.
The second legend we learned about was regarding a large stone cross, referred to as Saint Kevin’s Cross, located in the middle of the cemetery at the monastery. The legend being that if one could wrap their arms all the way around the cross and have their fingers touch they would be granted a wish. Unfortunately for little 5’3” me, my fingers were no where near touching, so I was not granted a wish. Although, had I gotten one, I would have wished to someday go back to Glendalough and see the two lakes again, because those were some of the most stunning views I have seen of Ireland.
The two lakes in Glendalough were our next stop, only about a ten minutes walk from the monastery. At one point in history there was only a single lake, but over time and with the help of mother nature that one lake became Glendalough’s two lakes. The view was absolutely beautiful. The water sparkled in the sunlight and had the occasional ripple bringing it to life. Just beyond the lake, on the other side of where I was standing were two bright green mountains. They looked undisturbed, like they had never been touched, and were a true glimpse of the Ireland I had seen in so many pictures, green, vast, and breathtaking.
After spending some time taking in the scenery it was time to continue our journey. After about two hours of driving in our guide’s comfortable van, we made it to Kilkenny. Ireland’s medieval city was an adorable area, very different from Dublin. With little stores and cafes all painted different colours it struck me as a place where I immediately felt at home. At that time, we were already pretty hungry and the first thing we did in Kilkenny was get lunch. we ate at the Left Bank, a special suggestion from Gerry, where the victorian architecture was just as wonderful as the food. I would recommend this place to anyone visiting Kilkenny.
During my time in Kilkenny we took a walking tour of the medieval city and its still standing buildings, which to me was the best way to spend my time. It started at Kilkenny Castle, went down Sin Ally, and finished at the Black Abbey. Along the way not only did we hear about the history of the buildings and what they were used for, but also the stories of the people who lived or worked in them. That was the most entertaining part to me, being able to hear about the trials of an accused witch, of a family that was banished, and the company that built the largest stained glass window in Ireland. It was more than fact after fact, it felt a bit like having a story book read out loud.
Sadly, when the walking tour was over it was time to head back to Dublin. I would highly encourage anyone visiting Ireland to go to Glendalough or Kilkenny, or both! This was by far the best day I have had while visiting Ireland. I’m not sure if that’s because of the scenery or the story telling but either way it was an amazing day.
If you’re interested in going to Kilkenney or Glendalough check out the private tours through City Break Apartments and create your own one of kind trip. You could go to Kilkenny Castle, Smithwicks factory, or even a hiking route in Glendalough. From a tourists perspective it is worth getting out of Dublin for a day and seeing a different side of Ireland. A guided day trip is the best way to do it and having the convenience of City Break Apartments help you with the planning makes going about it much easier.
By Madison Doerr