Wexford and Wicklow Counties:
It was with great pleasure that we left the site in Tramore. We drove along the coast east of Waterford, poking into small villages on back roads. We headed down a long thin peninsula to Hook Head with one of the oldest operating lighthouses in the world. It was a chance to get out and wander along the extensive rock platform - for a change the sea was calm and the tide was low allowing us to walk over the eroded sandstone to the edge. A couple of people had just been scuba diving off the rocks and had encountered a friendly seal. Unfortunately we didn't see him but watched as guillemots, which look rather like very large seagulls, flew upwards in circles and then dive-bombed into the sea vertically at great speed.
Another ruin, another tour. At Tintern Abbey, named after Tintern in Wales, we again had a tour with just the two of us and the guide. This is an amazing place - built around 1200, a monastery for 300 years then converted to a private house for another 400 years. The last occupant who was 72 only stopped living there in the 1950s. Since then all the later additions have been stripped away and only the original remains of the abbey are now on show.
We stopped for lunch on a long stretch of beach on the east coast, now in County Wexford. This is the nicest beach we have seen so far and not unlike beaches at home - wide, creamy-coloured fine sand backed by grass-covered sand dunes. So unlike the dramatic beaches on the west coast with huge tidal ranges, coarse sand and rocky headlands.
Our stop for the night was in a campsite also termed a 'holiday village'. Little did we know that the Irish school holidays had just started. This place, which was on a river, had all the attributes that parents with large numbers of children look for: canoes, fishing, games, hundreds of other kids... It was PACKED. Thank goodness it was only for one night!
County Wicklow is best known for its National Park in the mountains and its walking trails. In the national Park is also Glendalough, one of Ireland's most visited sites. It is the site of an early Christian settlement/monastery. There were the ruins of cathedrals, churches, houses and walls, and a round tower which is restored. All this is surrounded by graveyards; many of the headstones are ancient but many are recent, the graveyard still in use. A walk along a very pretty path brings you to the 2 loughs (lakes) - Glendalough means 'place of the two lakes'.
The National Park encompasses mostly mountains and as we climbed higher, travelling west again, the vegetation became sparser. Once through the Wicklow Gap with its superb views back towards the east, the softer, more familiar green of Ireland reappeared. We were headed once again towards the west coast this time to look at the western areas of County Clare and points further north.