Despite living so close (in Northern Ireland), I have not taken the time to explore much of the Republic of Ireland. I can’t believe how obtuse I have been to what is sitting on my own doorstep. I’ve started to dedicate a lot of time to discovering the wonders of home, and it has been magic so far!
Last weekend I took a VERY spontaneous trip down to Wicklow. The decision was easy after seeing a picture of Glendalough when strolling through instagram on the Friday morning. By that lunchtime I had booked a hostel, and quickly filled my boot with a bag full of clothes to enjoy the next day’s hike. I was so excited, that as you can imagine work absolutely dragged by. Come 4 o’clock I legged it out of work, hopped in my car and began the 3 hour journey towards the Wicklow Mountains!
I am a useless driver when it comes to pretty views and sunsets – if you are behind me stay clear! I will slow down and stare endlessly out the window. The views on my way towards Dublin were picturesque. The sun was setting as I passed the Ring of Gullion through Newry, and which is a ring of low hills/mountains. The sky was golden and the hills were silhouettes in its light. The drive was rather magical.
Do you ever have one of those moments where you just feel extremely lucky to be in the right place at the right time? Like your entire inside, at the centre of your heart, kind of glows… It’s just a pure moment of happiness and joy. Well that’s what the drive towards Dublin was like.
As I neared the hostel in Glendalough however, I began to get really nervous. The skies were pitch black and I was winding my way through tiny country roads. I felt the uncertainty you get when you have no idea where you are, and you can’t see 15ft in front of you! The final road to the hostel crossed a tiny stone bridge, and was set up a small road narrow enough for just one car. Despite the hostel itself being warm, cosy and extremely friendly, I still settled into bed that night with the anxious feeling of actually not really knowing where I was.
“Sometimes being in the dark, displays the best surprises when in the light” – Unknown
Waking up the next morning, and stepping out with my hiking boots tied, I had no idea what to expect. And then I opened the front door. The hostel was sitting low in the valley, with tall green mountains shadowing me on both sides. I could hear the sound of water flowing, as it echoed around the air, and felt the heat of the morning sun twinkling through the tree leaves. I literally couldn’t believe that this is what lay in the darkness I drove through the night before.
I walked down the narrow road that had lead to the hostel, and discovered that the small stone bridge crossed a gorgeous flowing stream that was surrounded by green banks and yellow flowers. There was a small country pub/hotel on the corner, which lead towards the visitors centre. Along the road-side market stalls were beginning to set up, and there was an old woman playing a fiddle to entertain the early-morning tourists – very Irish!
I headed straight for the visitors centre, to find the best route to walk around the Glendalough Hills. I had originally planned to take the ‘red route’ after doing some research online, as this appeared to be the hardest and longest walk (I’m always up for a challenge!). However, after talking to a member of staff in the visitors centre they soon persuaded me to take the ‘white route’ which would allow me see the best views of the lake below. The white route follows the Spinc Ridge, climbing up to 500m above the upper lake. The scenery is spectacular.
Looking back I am so glad I took the advice of the visitors centre staff – the route allowed me to see so much of Glendalough. Sitting down for lunch at the very peak of the walk was so beautiful. I mean, how can you beat having a cup of tea and sandwich overlooking that view (see below)? It certainly beats the office canteen!
Due to the glorious weather, the lake and the walk itself was packed with people. However, even then there was such peace in the valley. In fact, I even had the chance to sit and watch a large herd of wild deer munching on some grass close by. They weren’t bothered by the crowds 200m away, but it felt like an honour to sit on their home turf and watch them for a while.
I reached the bottom car park, after finishing the loop at around 2pm. The levels of people starting to arrive were crazy. As I walked back down the road towards the hostel, there was a crazy queue of cars waiting to get into the upper car park for the lake. It stretched at least 30 cars long, patiently waiting for a car to leave the lake. So there’s a bit of advice for you, if you want to visit Glendalough on a sunny day… get their early!
Reaching the hostel meant my little adventure was coming to an end. However, trying to eek out every single bit of time I had, to squash in as much gallivanting as I could, I decided to take the scenic route home. Leaving Glendalough I began the drive to Sally’s Gap, closely following the chirpy voice of my phones Sat Nav. Sally’s Gap is a cross roads at the centre of the Wicklow Mountains that displays spectacular views across the surrounding bog land and mountains.
The drive towards the cross roads, curving around the hill sides and skirting vast lakes is one of sheer beauty. Seriously, if you’re in the area, take the road to Sally’s Gap! You will not be disappointed – just take a look at some of these snaps. They simply do not justify what your eyes take in.
The Sally’s Gap road can be a dangerous route though, if like me you like to look out the window rather than concentrate on the road. It can also be a very long detour to take if like me, you also stop every 100m to take another photo. Thank goodness for a long battery life!
The entire ‘short’ weekend was a magical adventure and just shows that sometimes spontaneity is the best way to go. Take the jump and do something that you aren’t expecting. Book a last minute trip; push yourself somewhere you haven’t been before. It’s always worth it.
I am constantly making an adventure out of life, and looking for a new story around every corner. You can follow all my adventures here on the blog, subscribe to get a little email each time I post so you can travel along with me. Also, follow of me on my Instagram and Facebook for the latest news and photos.
Inspiring women and showing them that they have the ability to do what they want in the world, is the main aim of this blog. It is the reason I document my adventures and travel stories. I want to show women and girls, that the world is their oyster. Just go out, and grab from it what you want.