Today we took our second tour in two days, but this time we toured the south of Dublin as opposed to the north yesterday. The company was called "Wild Wicklow Tours" and it wasn't exactly wild, but we did have a lot of fun. Our tour guide's name was Michael, a history and geography teacher here in Ireland. His happy-go-lucky philosophy transferred well to the tour guests and we very much enjoyed his commentary and take on things like "heritage" as well as the future of the European Union and, really, peace in general.
After a brief history lesson as we drove out of the city, we stopped at a sandy beach that offered a beautiful view of ships, swimmers, islands, and sailboats. Many of the homes in the area are still summer homes for the Brits. This was a short photo stop and then we continued on with the rest of the tour.
The next stop was at a rest area that included a lot of shopping opportunities and a veranda for tea and coffee. We took advantage of both the shopping as well as the nice weather outside. (Yes, the sun was shining brightly! Today was the first day in a long time that the umbrellas stayed in the backpacks all day.)
Winding on a very narrow road, we continued our journey up into the Wicklow mountains. At one point, we stopped at a high point overlooking a lake and our guide offered everyone a taste of Jameson's Irish Whiskey. This was a very nice touch. The bartender from Canada was not afraid to make sure the bottle was empty before everyone left. The view from the hills was very dramatic; this was where they filmed parts of Braveheart. Our tour was wonderfully diverse and included people from Spain, Hungary, Czech Republic, Brasil, India, Canadians, and a few of us Americans. We all had a good time together.
From here it was on to Laragh for lunch of steak and Guinness stew and pork loin. Laragh was as great place for a pit stop and the inn attached to the pub looked very posh.
The final highlight of the tour was a hike from Monastic City (a tower, cathedral, cemetery, etc. dating back to the 6th century) along a wooded trail along the lower loch. There were ferns growing everywhere in the wild, along with waterfalls, moss covered rocks and trees, and little caverns in the side of the hill. We were certain that leprechauns and fairies lived here and thought we spotted two, but weren't sure.
Another highlight of the trip was passing through the peat bogs. This unique landscape has been harvested over the years for energy, though its harvesting is now being restricted. Current cuts of the bog, which extract "bricks" of peat, involve stacking up the bricks to dry. Much of the once wild timber areas of Ireland, once comprising 65%!o(MISSING)f the land and now down to 9%!,(MISSING) is also being replanted due to an EU grant.
On the way back to Dublin we all took a little nap on the bus, followed by a bit of recluse in our rooms. Now, we are ready to head out for a night of dinner and live music. Hopefully we will find a place as nice as Oliver St. John Gogerty's. More will come tomorrow...