November 7- Wicklow Nat’l Park & Kilkenny
Who doesn’t want to go to a chocolate cafe for breakfast? We certainly did and so we headed to Butler’s Chocolate Cafe on Wicklow Street early Tuesday morning. We both ordered a blueberry muffin to eat, Josh had a latte and I had the Butler’s hot chocolate to drink. So. Good. When I order hot chocolate, this is what I always dream of getting. And the best part was we each got a free chocolate of choice (we choose a hazelnut chocolate and a salt caramel chocolate) just for placing an order!
We packed up the car and drove about an hour and 15 minutes to Wicklow National Park. I highly recommend planning a trip to visit this park if you’re near Dublin. The hike started out across a stream and onto the “green road walk” towards the ruins of St. Kevin’s Cathedral (built between the 10th-12th centuries), a round tower likely used as the bell tower (believed to have been built between 900-1200) nearby, and a monastic cemetery. It’s hard to describe what it’s like to be in such a sacred place, one that dates back farther than I can imagine- there’s just so much history. It was very beautiful and peaceful.
We continued on past the Glendalough Lower Lake, spotting pretty cottages and sheep off in the distance along the way.
When we reached the start of the Miners’ Road Walk (purple trail), I was not prepared for the amazing view I was about to see from the edge of the Glendalough Upper Lake. This large gorgeous lake just kind of popped up, lined with beautiful green trees, drawing your eye back to a stream coming down from the Wicklow Mountains. It was my favorite spot of the day. Just amazing.
We kept going on the Miners’ Road Walk until very near where the Glendalough Mines began. We didn’t prepare very well- no water bottles and we were getting hungry-so we made our way back to the car. If we had been prepared, I easily could have spent several more hours there…and snapped several hundred more pictures!
Once we got in the car, we realized Josh didn’t have hardly any phone service at all, so we didn’t really know what to do about food. Luckily, just down the road from the visitor’s center at the park was a delightful restaurant named The Wicklow Heather. We decided why not give it a shot and I am so glad we did, as I found new favorite food combination! The restaurant was cozy and had lots of antique pieces hanging from the ceiling and on the walls (think similar to Cracker Barrel decor). Josh said the bathroom even had a complimentary shoe shining station with polish and brushes.
For our appetizer, we ordered the deep fried breaded Brie with wild berry coulis and the house salad. Yum! I love me some ooey-gooey cheese and this hit the spot. I ordered the red cheddar and honey ham sandwich with ballymaloe relish on three slices of soda bread and Josh had the haddock in a crisp malt beer batter with crushed garden peas, home cut chips, and housemade tartar sauce. Half of a piece of Josh’s fish was larger than my palm! The portions were very generous and equally delicious. As I said previously, this restaurant provide a new favorite food combo- ballymaloe relish with cheddar cheese on soda bread. I know you’re probably asking what ballymaloe relish is. As best as I can describe, it is a tomato relish. And let me tell you, it’s so dang delicious I could eat it on nearly anything.
Despite an alarm going off in the car to check the tire pressure (Josh examined all the tires and everything seemed to be in order), we were feeling quite good as we started our hour and a half long trek to Kilkenny for the night. We were so lucky that our route took us right by the miner’s village, so we pulled over at the top to get a few pictures. I was so happy we were able to see the view from this point, it was gorgeous!
Our drive was uneventful until we were about a half hour out from Kilkenny and the strangest noise started coming from one of the tires. Instantly, I pulled over onto the side of the M9 interstate so that we didn’t damage the actual wheel. We very definitely had a flat tire. Josh called roadside assistance to see what they thought we should do. They suggested putting on the spare and heading on to Kilkenny where they had a garage they work with for issues just like ours. The interstate section we were on didn’t have much of a shoulder, so I had pulled off in the grass. We pulled out all of our luggage, piling it next to the car. We found the jack and spare and attempted to jack the car up. We were trying to get the jack under the car (it was proving a little difficult with the grass and not much clearance from the car) when a very kind gentleman from the highway maintenance crew pulled up. He grabbed some tools from his truck and had the spare on for us in no time (definitely faster than if we had to change it on our own…neither of us has ever had to change a tire *gasp*). We thanked him a lot and continued very, very slowly (80 kilometers per hour in a 120 kph zone) to Quinn & Sons Tyre & Auto Centre for a new tire. By the way, if you ever happen to find yourself in a similar situation near Kilkenny, Quinn & Sons was so helpful and quick to get us in and out. Unfortunately, our car insurance didn’t cover a new tire, so we had to purchase one out of pocket, but I am so thankful that it was a relatively easy and quick fix.
We dropped our luggage off at our hostel, MacGabhainn’s Backpackers Hostel. Fergus, who ran the hotel, was very welcoming. He gave us a tour of the kitchen and offered us a map with suggestions of places to see and where to eat. We had a private room with a full bed and bunk beds and an en suite bathroom. I thought it was quite comical when I got in the shower that it had a push button and the water (so cold!) only stayed on for about 10 seconds at a time. That was probably the quickest shower I’ve ever taken!
We had dinner at Kyteler’s Inn (it was as lovely as I remember it from my visit there 7 years ago). After all the adventures of the day, we very much needed dinner and drinks! I’ve seriously come to love Orchard Thieves cider, especially on draft. Really, draft drinks being better than bottled goes without saying. But, I’ll say it anyways. To eat, I had the chicken and ham vol-au-vents (puff pastry filled with chicken and ham in a cream sauce) with the house salad and chips and Josh had the bookmaker’s sandwich (sirloin, mushrooms, and onions on French bread) with the house salad and chips.
You just can’t go to Kilkenny and not stop in to Matt the Miller’s for after dinner drinks. Or dinner and drinks. Or just afternoon drinks. It’s always a good time there. We relaxed, sipped our cider and beer, and enjoyed some great live traditional Irish ballad music.
Tip of the day: When the “check tire pressure” light comes on, take your car to the nearest garage to avoid a flat tire on the motorway 🙂