Lost in Sally Gap

My mother and I quickly learned something about driving in Ireland – don’t trust your GPS to get you where you need to go.  Of course, that’s easier said than done in unfamiliar places, especially when traveling to some fairly remote sites.  Finding ourselves lost in the rural countryside became a fairly common occurrence, but perhaps the most stunning of these misadventures was our drive through Sally Gap.

Until darting in from a sudden shower at Glendalough, I’d never heard of Sally Gap.  We merely assumed the narrow road winding its way through the mountains was the only way to St. Kevin’s Monastery from Dublin.  Imagine our surprise, then, when we learned we’d taken the scenic route and could’ve beaten the rain if we’d gone a different way!

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Sally Gap is one of only two passes running east to west through the Wicklow Mountains, connecting Dublin and Glendalough.  Its views are absolutely stunning, ranging from sheer drop offs to heather-filled bogs and evergreen forests as far as the eye can see.  It’s no wonder the Gap’s also one of Ireland’s most filmed scenic locations, boasting ties to movies such as Braveheart, PS I Love You, and Leap Year.

But the road originally built by the British Army in the late 1700s remains narrow and winding.  There were multiple times during the trip I felt uneasy vertigo grip me, even from my relatively safe place in the passenger’s seat.  Getting out to walk or take pictures left me with feelings of dread, imagining what one false step could lead to.

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“Oh, Rachel! You’ve got to take a picture of this!”  “Ok.”  “No, no!  Come over here closer to the edge to really appreciate how far it goes!”  “No, I’m good.  I like life.”  “Coward.”

Later that evening at dinner with a local friend in Bray, she couldn’t help but laugh hearing about our ride – a 50 minute trip that took nearly three hours. “There’s no cell reception out there!  If you’d broken down, you would’ve had to walk for miles and hope you found a house to get help from!”

Though I know she’s right and wouldn’t want to live that nightmare, I’m glad we found our way to that lonely stretch of road.  The views took our breath away more often than not and made for one last surprise before driving back to the airport the next morning.


If you wish to see more of photos from Sally Gap, please check out my dA account here.


Additional Links & Resources:

Discover Ireland: Sally Gap

Wicklow Tourism: Sally Gap

Powerscourt Waterfall

Powerscourt Waterfall

Ireland’s highest waterfall, Powerscourt, is found to the south of Dublin at the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains.  Its cascade is an impressive 398 feet tall and flows down into the Dargle river below.

Image Credit: Powerscourt Estate

The waterfall is just a short distance from the Powerscourt Estate and Gardens and has attracted tourists for well over 200 years.  Many of the trees in the area were planted at this time, including some California redwoods.

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Image Credit: Wicklow Tourism

Powerscourt is not a heritage site, and some visitors say the cost is not worth it – Tickets run 5.50 euro per adult, 5 euro per senior.  However, I personally feel that it will be worth the time and price, and could serve as a nice place to stop on the way to St. Kevin’s in Glendalough.  I am less interested in visiting the estate and gardens, however – they require tickets separate from the price to see the waterfall itself.

Image Credit: Powerscourt Estate

During the summer months, the waterfall is open to visitors between 9:30am and 7:00pm.  There is room for picnicking, and a kiosk at the site sells food from June 1st through the end of August.

Additional links & Resources:

Powerscourt Estate

Wicklow Tourism

Glendalough – St. Kevin’s Monastic Site

Although I know my trip would start in Dublin and I’d love to explore the city some more, I’ll start with some of the areas around Dublin itself that I’d like to see, starting with St. Kevin’s in Glendalough.

The Upper Lake.  Image credit:  Wikipedia

Glendalough, in County Wicklow, isn’t too far from Dublin, and at the time this is being written, a bus runs from Dublin to the site, charging 20 euro for a round trip ticket.  Glendalough itself means the ‘Glen of the Two Lakes,’ so it makes sense that the monastic site is situated in a valley with two lakes.

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St. Kevin’s Church.  Image credit:  Wikipedia

The monastic site was founded in the 6th century by St. Kevin, and despite Viking raids in the 9th and 10th centuries and raids by the English in the 14th century, the monastery remained in use until the 16th century.  Visitors today can still see a 10th century cathedral, an 8th century Celtic cross, and St. Kevin’s church.  A 30 meter high round tower and the ruins of St. Kevin’s original church, Teampall na Skellig, can also be seen, as well as additional structures.

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The Round Tower.  Image credit:  Wikipedia

The site itself is open to the public for no charge, but the adjacent visitor center, offering guided tours, audio/visual displays and exhibits charges 3 euro per adult and opens at 9:30 am year round.  This cost is waived for Heritage Card holders.

Additional links & Resources:

Heritage Ireland: Glendalough Visitor Centre

The Gold Book:  Ireland, page 44