Knowing that I barely have a week in Dublin, (with 2 days of conference for TBEX), I was almost resigned to the fact that I will only ever get to explore and see the city. Not that this is a terrible fate, mind you, (Dublin is amazing!) but isn’t Ireland known for its breath-taking landscapes, lush green fields and valleys? Yes, I wanted a piece of that.
And I got to see all that, and MORE!
Our busy schedules didn’t allow for overnight trips, so the Wild Wicklow Tour seemed the perfect choice: a daytrip that will take us out of Dublin for the day, exploring Wicklow County (known as Ireland’s Garden).
This tour has nature, history, landscape, good food, drinks and lots of witty storytelling (and bit of singing too). Now that, to me, sounds like an all too perfect day to spend in the countryside, the Irish way of course!
Booking was done via the Tbex Conference website, which was pretty straightforward. However what impressed me the most was when Denis O’Reilly, the owner and operations manager of Wild Wicklow Tours, sent an email 2 days prior the trip to ask which pick up point we prefer on the morning of the tour.
There were a number of landmarks/hotels for pick-up and drop off location.These were all within the main Dublin city centre.
However on that day we were staying at The Four Seasons Dublin, which wasn’t in the list because it was slightly south of Dublin.
I emailed Denis to say that we’re happy to walk to the nearest pick-up point from The Four Seasons (as we didn’t want to inconvenience him or the entire group). Doing a Google-Maps search, it seemed that we were within walking distance from 2-3 pick-up points and I just needed to know which was the closest.
Without hesitation or further questions, Denis immediately replied saying “Great! I will pick you up at The Four Seasons, see you!”
This may be a minor thing but small details such as this matter to me a lot. Talk about superb customer service! It made me look forward to the tour even more.
True to his word Denis picked us up right on time at our hotel. Denis is a hands-on owner of Wild Wicklow Tours as he is also our guide for the day. He was the ideal guide and company for the entire day, full of energy, wit and good old Irish humour. Also a fantastic story-teller, never missing a phrase or beat whilst driving a busload full of tourists and bloggers.
Our first stop was Sandycove. My first seaside sighting of Ireland. It was raining that day and temperature was low (maybe 10-12). Lo and behold, what do we see?
I am shivering to the bone just looking at them swim! Denis told us that he had a group of Italian students just a couple of weeks ago, and the boys stripped down to the bare essentials and jumped right in. Thankfully, no one from our group felt the need to have a freezing dip that day. And as for those Italian boys who did? Wild Wicklow Tours has the evidence on their Facebook Page! Too Funny! 🙂
SUGARY TREATS AND THE MAGIC TREE
Our next stop was the Sugar Tree Cafe at Kilmacanogue. It is a lovely, pavillion-style cafe with a nice huge backyard.
Their cakes looked amazing! And while I was tempted to try their fantastic-looking strawberry shortcake, I thought it was too early on for a sugar rush and went for scones and tea instead, which was excellent fare for the cold and rainy morning.
Next to the sweet treats, the best part about this cafe is their backyard. We found this huge vibrant tree:
From the outside it looks just like any lush green tree would look like. But stepping under the tree?
SALLY GAP AND WICKLOW MOUNTAINS
We were soon driving along the winding roads of Sally Gap and the Wicklow Mountains. It was here that Denis stopped the bus and we got off to see what the rolling fields was famous for.
This is where most battle scenes of the movie Braveheart was filmed.
So can you now imagine this tranquil place filled with galloping horses, a battalion of Scottsmen screaming and fighting for their freedom?
Sure you can.
Denis pointed out that it is more cost-effective to shoot in Ireland than it is in Scotland, so a lot of historical films are shot here. The TV series “Vikings” is currently shooting there.
For those who are more romantic at heart, just close by is also the set location (just a short scene, specifically on this bridge) for the love story “PS I Love You”.
Apparently there have been a number of proposals happen on this bridge (with the Wild Wicklow Tours). I personally think the battleground fields are a more interesting / meaningful place to be proposed to 😉
Just taking you behind the scenes abit: look who we have here, Zombie in action, taking photographs under the rain for your viewing pleasure 🙂
After a nice hearty lunch, we set off to Glendalough, where we saw ruins of a monastic settlement:
This used to be the interior of a church, and Denis explained very vividly how the church may have looked like back then.
That Rapunzel-type looking tower is actually more massive/taller than it seems on photo. It apprently served as a lookout back then to see if Vikings were coming their way. And the high entrance (if you can see it) served as a time-buying mechanism of sort (if and when the Vikings did happen to chase them up that tower) so that they can uh, think of plan B while the Vikings climbed their way up.
THE WALK TO GLENDALOUGH UPPER LAKE
Tour guests then had the choice to either take the “long walk” of 20-minutes to the Glendalough Lake, or take the shortcut. We opted for the “longer” walk and though it was raining, the views were so lush and green, they could only come out of a “daily inspiration” kind of wallpaper of greeting card!
Now I wish I could tell you that the walk was long, arduous and treacherous, so that this next scene would be so much more dramatic.
But easily reached is this magnificent upper lake of Glendalough
And it was here that our man Denis popped open a bottle of Jameson Whiskey.
Now I don’t normally drink. Especially in the afternoon.
But after spending a lovely day in the magnificent “Garden of Ireland” that is the Wicklow Mountains, seeing the battlescene set of one of my favourite movies, getting enchanted with Denis’ informative storytelling ,just taking in the amount of history behind the monastic settlement, and really– just having an overall enjoyable day?
How could I not drink to that?
SLAINTE!!! (literally meaning health, and how the Irish toast their drinks)
As conference participants of TBEX ’13 in Dublin, Zombie and I were hosted by Wild Wicklow Tours for the day. No whiskey was needed to bribe my enthusiasm, as you can perfectly see that I truly enjoyed this day. With or without the yummy scones or a drop of Jameson.
Adults cost EUR 28.00 and children/ student/ seniors EUR 25.00