As a general rule of thumb I do not normally enjoy going on big scheduled tours. I find them incredibly restrictive, however, I opted to go on a hilltop bus tour of the Wicklow Mountains and Glendalough on my day off. Hilltop Treks is a company that offers bus trips for small groups all over Ireland. Our guide John was absolutely hysterical and very knowledgable about all the sites we were presented that day. He even had a great taste in music. I mean listening to the Pogues while driving through the Irish countryside was a dream! I was supposed to go on a guided walk through the mountains and see all of the sites these lovely places has to offer. Ireland’s coastal weather on the other hand had a different idea. On my perfect day off the weather called for rain…. all day… cold rain… woo. Since no one on the trip but me and the guide were dressed for a rainy day hike we had to make a couple changes in the itinerary. Instead of doing an hour and a half hike we drove around and did mini stops of exploration. Though I was pretty bummed it turned out to be an unreal day.
As we went out of Dublin we started towards Enniskerry. This was a quaint town where they filmed parts of P.S. I Love You and Leap Year. It kind of reminded me of my home town, just one road running through the middle of town with little shops lining it. As we started to climb the mountains the rain started to come down a little harder and the scenery started to get more beautiful. Trees were taller, the greens seemed greener, there were loads of different landscapes. From complete bogs to areas so dry that dropping a cigarette could ruin the entire ecosystem. It was stunning. One of the coolest things we saw was the Glencree Peace hub. This is a place that used to be used to house displaced children during World War 2. It also is a place that has a sad history. It was used as a reformatory for boys troubled boys in Dublin. This place has seen a lot of death. However, over time they made this Glencree a place of peace. It has become a peace hub. People come from all over the world to learn how to work together and come up with peaceful solutions to problems. It was such an unreal atmosphere of positivity.
The further we drove away from civilization the more beautiful it became. Though it was rainy I was still able to get out and explore a bit. From the Guinness Lake to the Wicklow Mountain National Park there was something to take in everywhere you looked. I even got to see my first waterfall since Maui! Our guide was nice enough to make plenty of stops for us to ensure that we enjoyed all of the scenery we could. My favorite part of the entire trip was making it to Glendalough. Known as the valley of the two lakes, this small Irish town was surrounded by mountains and the ruins of a medieval monastic settlement. Around every corner there was a tiny bit of history and some unbelievable nature. It was cold and wet, but I was still able to enjoy the perfect walk through the woods! After enjoying a nice pint in the local pub it was time to leave the beauty and head back into Dublin.
All in all I felt like this was a wonderful experience. The entire day taught me patience and to go with the flow. When going on tours such as this you can’t hold on too hard to your perfect expectations. Things change. You have to be able to mesh with the rest of the group and realize you aren’t the only one exploring. Everyone who opted to go on this trip came with their own expectations. You have to be able to compromise with the group (especially when you are the youngest one there.) This tourist day made me realize I much prefer to do things on my own. I hate be restricted to a schedule when it comes to exploring new places for the first time. I love taking my time and enjoying everything to the fullest. Even though bus tours are definitely not my thing I am so happy I was able to go on this one and see some of the beautiful Irish countryside. I definitely recommend Hilltop Trek to anyone coming to visit Ireland and want to stray away from the city life.