We closed our visit to Dublin with a little memorial to those who fought in the Irish rebellions the early 1900s. Ireland finally won their independence from Great Britain in 1922, but many lives were lost in the process.
We made our way to the Dublin airport to rent a car so we could explore more of Ireland. Now, I’m not saying Ireland is backwards or anything, but they do build cars with the steering wheel on the RIGHT side. They also require these right-side drivers to direct their car to the LEFT lane. What??? You have no idea what stress that caused my dear husband, who has always loved cars and prides himself on his pristine driving record (except for that one mishap caused by a slip on the ice). For two days before the car rental, he recited the phrase, “Right Bites. Left Tight.” He even asked me to draw a picture of what the car should look like when it’s in the CORRECT lane, even though it won’t feel RIGHT. I went a step further and drew what it should look like when turning left (easy) and right (across traffic). He kept this drawing on his lap during our entire four day road trip through Ireland. I was the navigator, so I also spent a lot of time translating distances in kilometers to something that made sense to Bill. I would give directions like, “Look right and take a tight left turn in 2 football fields.” Or, “You’ll take a wide right at the next intersection,” or “Take the third exit from the roundabout coming up.” I’m not sure Bill saw any of the sights, but don’t worry. I took lots of pictures in between navigating, encouraging, directing, and warning Bill if he seemed to go TOO far to the left into dangerous ditches on the tiny roads where it looked like oncoming cars were about to hit us head on. The best part is that Bill’s European driving record is spotless, and our marriage is still happily intact.
Our first stop was Glendalough, a sixth century monastery in Wicklow County, Ireland. St. Kevin, born in 498, went to a lake in the area to follow his dream of living close to nature and to God. He lived there for seven years, but he was soon discovered and sought out for his wisdom by other monks. Soon, monasteries cropped up in close proximity to this man of God. Many of these monasteries lasted over 1000 years after his death! In the one we visited, they had a prayer tower. Its only door was twelve feet above ground. Monks would climb a ladder to enter the tower. There, they would be able to pray in peace, not worrying about attacks from animals or enemies. We hiked around the area, finding the ruins of the tower, a chapel, a cemetery, the lake where St. Kevin settled, and the stone cell where he lived. In the cemetery, the oldest grave we could find was from 1750, and it was for a man who lived to 106! That would have been unheard of at that time. In fact, it’s almost unheard of now! The reasons we couldn’t find older graves were probably two-fold: One, many of the markers were stone whose markings had long since been smoothed over by the ravages of time. Two, few people marked burials in medieval times, and the dead were often buried one atop the other to save space.
We then moved on to our Irish home for the next couple of days…in a castle! Killiane Castle was built in the 1400s and was surrounded by a little village. A family home was built connected to the tower in the 1600s. It was taken from the family living there in 1641 as a punishment for taking part in the Irish rebellion. It was then given to one of Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers to live in. It was later bought and leased out, leading to its disrepair. In 1908 a racehorse tycoon bought it for his best trainer, and then our host’s grandparents bought the place in the 1920s. They raised their family there, and then our host’s parents made it into a bed and breakfast. We had a beautiful, relaxed time there, as well as two amazing breakfasts, cooked to order. We will remember it for a long time!