A free weekend?
18.04.2008 - 13.04.2008 12 °C
April 4th was the date we had been living in Ireland 6 months, and so far we haven't seen a single part of Ireland other than the Airport and where we could get to by train within 20 minutes from Dublin. This in mind Rishi found a competition in the paper for a new Hostel in County Wicklow advertising for the first people to email to receive free accommodation to celebrate the opening weekend. So she sent if off and they returned that we had 'Won' the accommodation. Great! A free weekend away, so we looked into where it was. Turns out Wicklow isn't much further than we have been on our 20 minute train rides! But we soon found there is plenty to explore in the surrounding area, and we had already been tempted to do it the tourist way and go on a tour of the area, most of the companies advertise along the lines of WILD WICKLOW TOURS
So we booked a car for the weekend, the car was quoted at €70 for three days (beauty) a car at home would cost you over $70 a day to hire. But then when we picked up the car we realised why it sounded so cheap, they add on a whole host of extras (including extra tax) when you pick up and then they charged us for a full tank of fuel (Prepaid) we refused to pay for a full tank of fuel up front as we were only driving about 70k away and a tank of fuel is €57, but they had already charged the card. So the cost ended up being closer to €170 for three days (a little more than the quote) but we did manage to get them to refund the fuel money in the end.
So after that surprise cost increase, we where happy to see our car was a brand new Ford Festina with only 8k on the clock, brand spanking new!
It was quite a nice car, and was great for the narrow country roads.
So we headed off on Friday night down to the hostel, and found our way eventually. We missed the first turnoff (directions on the website were hard to follow) and ended up going the long way down a very narrow (but at least paved) road. After about 20 minutes it was getting quite remote. and we saw something ahead (it was getting dark by now) luckily I wasn't going too fast and I slammed on the brake just in time a two deer wander off into the woods! Then over the next couple of k's saw quite a few more along the side of the road so I took it nice and slow for the rest of the way. Talking to some people at work this week its quite rare to see any deer on this side of Ireland so we were quite lucky to see them.
We quickly checked in and made off again for a our dinner reservation at the (world?) famous Johnnie Foxes, reputed to be the highest pub in Ireland
It is defiantly popular, and was full of Italians, Spanish, Germans and even a couple of locals
The inside is quite well done, with plenty of, well basically junk hanging from the walls and ceilings (but the difference here is that this stuff has actually been here since it was new back in, 1798 compared to your Bridie O'Riellys which is all new)
They do a full tourist show, which is in a different area, thank-god Rishi didn't book at table in there. The sound of it was enough for me. I am sorry to say that dinner and Irish dancing don't go for me!
Deciding on what to eat was difficult, the menu was decent enough and plenty of options. Mostly seafood, prawns, scallops, crab, lobster and even half a duck as a main!
Wicklow is close to the coast so seafood was the pick
Rishi was happy with the serving size of the mussels, for entree!
I wanted to try the potato soup as I saw someone eating it on the way in and it looked delicious, so I got that for entree, but ended up eating half the mussels as well
I had the seafood jambalaya, which is one of the house specialties. It was great, and I was happy to get through about 3/4 of it. Rishi had the Scallops, the Irish Scallops are unbelievable. Giant and meaty. At the butcher we shop at they sell for about €50 a kilo so the main size of them for €23 was a bargain.
After a hearty meal, and just one pint (as I was driving) we went into the main bar and there was the obligatory Trad music afterwards, we stayed for all of about 6 seconds.
I didn't mention, the free accommodation was actually what they call the Honeymoon suite (strange for a Hostel I know) but is basically a giant Double room with Ensuite, good work Rishi!
After arriving fairly late we didn't really get a chance to see the view from our room, it was certainly nice to wake up to:
A shot of the view
Being a room with glass on two sides, it was an early rise with the sun.
After a quick free breakfast at the hostel we headed up to Powerscourt Estate. The estate was founded in the 13th century, and was built and destroyed subsequent times and occupied by the English soldiers for a long period before it was expanded in 1731 into its current form, in the 1740's a massive garden was started and took around 20 years to complete. The entire surrounding towns were created just for the hundreds of workers who worked on the gardens
We got in just at opening time, and ended up having most the place to ourselves for our walk around
Tower in the gardens
Rishi in the Japanese Gardens
This was the view back to the main house
It really is quite an impressive layout, and was modelled on the French and Italian formal gardens of the time
We always seem to have animals following us around these sorts of places, this time it was a well groomed & fed cat, defiantly not a stray
Ironically it followed us into the strange mansion Pet cemetery
We are still working on perfecting the self taken photos
The mansion and gardens where quite impressive, however the mansion has been totally given over the tourist shops which is a shame.
About 10 minutes drive up the road is the Powerscourt Waterfall, waterfalls can always go either way, they can be a little stream with a metre trickle drop, when we arrived we weren't to sure if it was a bit of a rip off. We already paid €8 each to get into the gardens (which is pretty reasonable) but they wanted another €5 for the waterfall.
So we thought what the hell;
Were glad we did, it was quite impressive!
It was funny though, the main carpark was about 700m back from the waterfall behind a small bush area so you can see the waterfall, and there was a dirt track through this forest that was signed 'nature walk' but as we emerged we realised all these Eastern Europeans were driving there little hatchbacks right up to the waterfall as there was another road the followed it round with a small carpark right in front. They jumped out in there tracksuits and spent all of about 2 minutes looking at the waterfall jumped in their cars and drove off again. They certainly got their €5 worth!
We found a great pub (Roundtree Inn) which had a real German theme on the menu, had a great lunch and another single pint (damn this driving thing) I had easily the best Irish Stew I've had thus far, Rishi had a meaty Goulash. we followed it up with a delicious homemade apple pie, must be quite a popular area for British holiday homes because throughout lunch we were entertained by overhearing the conversation of a very middle class family sitting next to us (accent sounded very Cambridge) talking about were they would like there next holiday home, and whether the kids should be allowed chips and chicken. It was painfully hilarious. The kids were even decked out in there pony club riding clothes
Back to the Hostel and relaxing time in our honeymoon suite and enjoying the view, all of a sudden there is a 4x4 driving circles in the paddock across from us, we weren't sure if they were trying to do donuts or were up to something else, turns out it was sheep feeding time, and the driver was getting the sheep to chase the car into a corner so they could be fed, very strange
Sunday was slightly better weather so we decided a walk was on the plans, we had a nice slow breakfast in a local cafe. Where the service was non-existent and the clients seem to have been there every weekend for the last 20 years.
We went to one of the bigger national parks in the area, Glendalough
There are two main lakes here, this is a shot of the upper lake
We decided on a nice 10k walk, nice and short but it was mainly uphill so it was a decent 2 hour walk
Halfway up the hill, we came across some Goats relaxing in the national park; bugger I thought it was more deer.
The view from the top was well worth the walk,
The weather ended up holding out for most of the day and it was great to get out into the country side.
It was a good weekend away, and it has defiantly left us wanting to explore more of Ireland