I have been busy taking bus rides to Roundwood, County Wicklow. No really, lots of bus rides. And it’s been more fun than I can say. Ever since I went to the Glendalough Hermitage and spent two gorgeous days in my cottage there, I have fallen in love with the Wicklow Mountains in general, and Roundwood, a tiny village of 833 souls, in particular.
The Wicklow Mountains are the largest in Ireland and so the stunning scenery goes on for what seems like forever. In fact I don’t really want to ruin it all with a description – words cannot do it justice. So I will just let you know that people have lived here since the Neolithic age – about 10,00 years ago – and passage tombs from that time survive still. And then thousands of years later, following the Norman invasion in the twelfth century, the Wicklow Mountains became a stronghold and a hiding place for clans, most famously the O’Byrnes and the O’Tooles, who wanted to be rid of the British and rebelled for almost five hundred years. And then later still, the mountains harbored freedom fighters during the 1798 Rising. On one of our drives, we discover a memorial rock that remembers their names. It’s amazing to see it just there surrounded by bog, heather, and a waterfall.
And now for my new favorite spot on earth, Roundwood. I guess I could tell you that it is 780 feet above sea level and that it has reservoirs, but I won’t go further than that. Because, the most important thing about Roundwood is The Roundwood Inn. And the most important thing about the Roundwood Inn is that Bono and Ali like to go there for chicken and chips and well, the thing is, MY FRIEND AND I HAD CHICKEN AND CHIPS IN THE EXACT SAME SPOT WHERE THEY DINED ON CHICKEN AND CHIPS. I am not kidding. The chicken was fried and a bit greasy and the chips were, well, they were your average chips, but it was so much fun. It seems that Bono and Ali, like most, but not all famous people, are actually just people and from all accounts very nice people. This is a town where “they mind mice in the crossroads and they can nearly count the hairs on their backs”, so when everyone tells me that the two of them are kind and still in love, I believe them. We’ve ordered other things at The Roundwood Inn and we’ve sat in other places, but that was a meal that I will always remember.
And then Daniel Day-Lewis lives just down the road in Castlekevin, just next to the village of Annamoe. And Paul McGuinness of U2 fame lives just near him. And Paddy Moloney of The Chieftains and Garth Brown of Guinness are neighbors too. In Hollywood Daniel Day Lewis is depicted as living in a place so remote that provisions have to be dropped by plane twice a year and his only means of transport is a team of huskies. And maybe that is true, but just a short distance from his estate is the narrow road between Roundwood and Glendalough which is one of the busiest tourist routes in the region. There is civilization – in this case I mean pubs – just down the road. He usually drinks at Byrne and Woods, but Daniel also occasionally drinks at the Roundwood Inn. And so do a collection of locals that are straight out of central casting. From two elderly bachelor brothers who start ordering pints at 9:30 in the morning to a kind man who has lost two of his children, every man and woman has a story to tell.
On one of our many rides in the Wicklow Mountains, we drive around Sally Gap. It is right up there in the top five most beautiful places I have ever been. On another drive we go to Glenmalure and stop at Paddy Downing’s pub for a pint of St. Kevin’s ale. We drive on to stop in the tiny church in Clara Vale to walk inside for a minute and then take photos of the stone bridge that leads to the church. And then we head back to Roundwood and The Roundwood Inn, my new local, just an hour away by bus, but a million miles away by experience, from Dublin.