Ghosts & Gardens of Wicklow

This week I returned to the beautiful County Wicklow to check out a few places that I hadn't been able to visit yet! Over the past few years I've been able to visit Lough Tay, also known as Guinness Lake, horseback riding through the Wicklow Mountains, Sugarloaf, the Russburough House to see sheep being herded, and, of course, one of my fave spots in all of Ireland, Glendalough. Gee haven't I seen it all already?!

Wicklow is known as the garden of Ireland. And it's clear why. Gorgeous forests, beaches, lakes, hills, waterfalls, and so much more flank every road you travel on. I'm sure I could never see enough of Wicklow in my life. This time, I started with the opposite of all that nature: a little city sight-seeing in Wicklow town.

I mean, how cute is this butcher shop?!

The store next to it, which you can see just in the left of the photo above, was so amazing. It had all kinds of antiques and knick-knacks and furniture that the owner had hand-painted herself. I wanted way too much of it all. Dishes, antique cameras, and trinkets, oh my!

Our reason for being in town was to see the Wicklow Gaol (pronounced "jail"). I've been to Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin and that was pretty cool. But this jail was even better. It was so well done that I left feeling like I understood some of the stories and hardships that the people held here had to endure.

The "tour" is a large remote that you carry around and press corresponding buttons on for different areas of the jail. You hold it up to your ear like a phone and a little blurb of pre-recorded audio plays telling you about the jail's history. There are also a large number of signs and photographs on the walls in addition to displays. Once you get out into the main section of the jail, there are  different levels that you can access. On each, the cells contain a life-size model of an actual past prisoner and their story.

An audio recording is triggered to begin once you enter the room, and the person "tells their story" of why they're in the jail and what it's like. Then photographs and plaques on the wall describe the stories in more detail and sometimes describe the execution of the prisoner. Many were hanged with their decapitated head left out for a semi-tame bird to eat on the grounds. Later, many prisoners were so starving that they ate that bird! Can you imagine?!

Another section of the jail, behind the cells, depicts the experience of prisoners who were shipped to America and Australia. Which may seem just fine, but the trip used to last so long on the ships and there was such limited food and space. Not to mention all of the illnesses that spread, and their poor treatment by the crew. One story we heard was of a man who noticed that a prisoner had died, but nobody had moved his body for days and he wasn't saying anything so that he could take his food portions. He was still so hungry with two portions that he even considered eating the man!

After the jail we went over to Mount Usher. We had lunch at the Avoca here (for those of you not in Ireland, it's a little like Anthropology but with food as well). There were several gorgeous sitting areas in a little courtyard between all of these shops. It was pleasant outside, even with a few drops of rain here and there.

Tucked away in a corner was this little plant shop. They had amazingly great prices and a good variety! I'd like to go back sometime to get some succulents for the apartment.

Since we didn't go into those gardens, we went to the National Botanic Gardens in Kilmacurragh instead. These gardens were still very extensive but free! Bonus. One half of the park is focused on the flowers, and the other half is dedicated to various trees, a pond, and the old house of the grounds.

How cool are the flowers below on the left?! That bunch was the length of my hand. They were huge! I've never seen those before.

Western Washington and Ireland are very similar. Similar rain & temperatures, and both are close to the beach! However, one thing I've noticed is that there is much less moss & ferns in Ireland. Instead, there's more ivy. I felt at home to see some different fern varieties here.

Randomly, there was an old arched doorway with a door still in place!

After walking through the trees, we came to the pond. I don't have a nice photo of the pond because there was some construction going on. But it's surrounded by these huge umbrella leaves, more flowers, and shows a view of the old house up on the hill.

I didn't even know that the house was going to be there, so as soon as I saw a ruin I was making a beeline toward it! It was a pretty massive house for not really being a mansion or castle. Most of the windows are held together with wood, but that's about all they've done with it. Well, and they have it fenced off.

How nice would that view be? With a lovely patch of wildflowers in front no less!

When walking around the back, there was another tunnel of gorgeous trees up towards the centre of the garden.

On the way back to Arklow we stopped at a beach. One beach down was packed, but surprisingly there were only 2 other people here when we arrived, and they left soon after.

The top of the beach had gorgeous sand. As you got closer to the water, there were tons of smooth rocks fairly spread apart. 

Up on the rocks was a nice little headstone that a man's family had made to put in what was probably his favourite spot.

Not only were there a ton of flat stones, but tons of shells! It was like the world's most uncomfortable sea themed ball pit!

With a heart and head full from the day's adventures, I was excited to get back and let the sea air put me to sleep.