For the Easter holidays, my mother-in-law came for a visit from the U.S. She came last year during the same time, and we had a grand time walking around with the kids and visiting different nearby sites like Newgrange and Trim Castle. We had just purchased a 7-seater vehicle after going for almost a year without a car. So, we were excited to go to places on whim without having to consult public transportation apps and all that planning. But it was also the first time I had driven in many months and all the driving in Ireland is done on the left side of the road which is a bit alarming at first if you are used to driving on the right side of the road.
This Easter, I was much less anxious about driving down the wrong side of the road, and we gave my MIL a little tour of the West Coast of Ireland starting in the Cliffs of Moher for a dreary, lashing rain day (photos depicting thick fog were excellent), a dark and rainy drive past Galway, a windy day in Connemara, and a couple of days in Belfast, finishing with a trip to the Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge.
On the last day that she was here, we decided to go have lunch down in Wicklow Town. We had never been there before or anywhere in Wicklow at all. We had considered visiting Powerscourt, but since a big draw is the gardens and we were a bit disappointed with the naked branches of early spring in the Victorian Gardens of Kylemore Abbey the week before, we decided against Powerscourt, saving it for a summer day when things might be in full bloom.
We had never been to Wicklow and I’m pretty sure I was often confused when people would say, “I’m headed down to Wicklow this weekend” or “Did you get that in Wicklow?” because Wicklow is both the name of a large town and a whole county in Ireland which includes many interesting places to visit including Greystones, and Bray. I didn’t realize this and I just sort of thought everyone was talking about a region as in the “Wicklow Mountains”.
Don’t be confused by the mountains either if people talk about the Dublin Mountains or the Wicklow Mountains. Think more walkable foothills. Coming from Seattle, my idea of mountains is more a menacing wall of rock scalable by only the most skilled mountaineers wielding ice picks, strategically anchored ropes, and cramp-ons. Excursions from which many never return during any given year due to rock slides, freak snow storms, crazed mountain goats. People can simply go for a walk (or just drive home from work) in the Seattle area, Cascade Mountains, and Mount Rainier only to plunge down a ravine. That is not the kind of mountains they have around Dublin. Think more rolling, green hills. Kids in crocs can summit the Sugarloaf in a couple of hours.
Google maps (why do I keep believing you?) said it would take us about 40 minutes to drive from our house to Wicklow Town. It was more like an hour or so. Maybe I drive really slow. This is a distinct possibility.
Wicklow Town turned out to be a typical coastal Irish town. Small village to drive through. Pubs. We bypassed all of this and drove past the town on the South Quay and ended up at this small car park next to the Wicklow Sailing Club on the pointe at the opening of the River Vantry out to the Irish Sea. By the time we had arrived at the town, the children had devoured every scrap of food that I had packed like ravenous dogs. We parked the car and tried to figure out how to pay for parking when someone walked by and said that you only have to pay during the week.
We decided to walk toward the wharf down along the water in search of lunch – maybe some fish and chips? But the majority of the buildings looked closed and for industrial or shipping purposes. We walked further along and I noticed a woman with a young child standing on the edge of the wharf peering down into the dark water below. As we approached, I could see that there was something in the water. When we were close, I realized that a little dark head was bobbing around in the water. As we came upon the woman, the head turned out to be a seal who was not tiny at all! The woman told us that it was Sammy, the Wicklow Seal! This cheeky seal apparently hovers around this part of the wharf waiting for the fish monger (maybe it’s restaurant but we thought it was a fish monger) to dump it’s trimmings off in the water at the end of the day. The kids were delighted looking at Sammy and it swam around patiently. When the tide is in, Sammy is known for hopping out onto the road and coming right up to the shop door! The children thought it was fantastic and it was probably the highlight of the trip.
By this time, the kids were tired of walking and famished. So, I just popped into a little pop up shop selling baked goods and asked them if they knew of a restaurant nearby. They suggested the Bridge Tavern located at the end of the wharf. The Bridge Tavern turned out to be open and spacious and were able to seat us immediately. Bonus! After a filling lunch, we headed back toward our car.
Finally, we reached the car park and release the kids onto the wide open green next it. There was lumpy rolling grass all around us and the kids couldn’t resist jumping around on the spongy mounds. We walked out toward a set of ruins on the point which turned out to be the ruins of Black Castle. There wasn’t really anything there exit the ruins, majestic views of the bay, and a unreadable weather-worn plaque. Turns out there are castle ruins dating back to 1170 at the tops of the hill. The kids roamed around the ruins for a bit and then we headed on.
We walked south, past the castle and noticed a natural tiny harbour far below us with steps leading down the rocky walls to it. A few other families were down below and the kids immediately clambered down to the pebble beach below.
For the next hour or so, the kids spent time searching for the perfect skipping stone and sifting through the tiny smooth pebbles on the beach. We found a lot of small green and blue sea glass which I told Lulu was mermaid jewels and she insisted that everyone help her find as many as they could until she had amassed a handful. The day had brightened, but was still cool and windy. But the children enjoyed running back and forth and clambering up the rock faces. When they were suitable exhausted, we decided it was time to head home and returned to the car with each child clutching their handful of mermaid jewels and broken seashells for their collections.