Lynette Fay: Wicklow's just wonderful on a rare bank holiday weekend off

The Meeting of the Waters is a place of exceptional peace and calm. The same can be said of the ancient monastic city of Glendalough which was thronged with tourists. The weather we were lucky enough to have last weekend added greatly to the experience

The Glendalough monastic settlement, which dates from the sixth century
Lynette Fay

IT’S the weekend again, after a ‘short’ week, thanks to the May Day bank holiday.

The bank holiday weekend kicked off for me with an early morning flight from Belfast to Cardiff. A bus, train, taxi and a lift from a stranger later (Don’t ask), myself and my fellow BBC Radio Ulster broadcaster, John Toal, arrived at our destination, Llanelli, for the final night of this year’s Celtic Media Awards. The awards recognise excellence in television, radio and digital programmes.

Comhghairdeas ó chroí, heartfelt congrats to John who was awarded Radio Presenter of the year at the gala dinner that night, and to local Irish language station Raidió Fáilte which won station of the year.

Also during the dinner, a few local politicians and business people made us feel very welcome to Carmarthenshire in south Wales and they did their utmost to entice us to return. I love the pride in place that seems to be common to Celtic regions. We do love to impress upon visitors how beautiful, historic, wonderful and significant our local areas are.

It was a flying visit to Wales and for once I made the most of a bank holiday weekend. The nature of my work means that I have spent a lot of time in most corners of Ireland, but until last weekend, Wicklow had escaped me.

I work most weekends so the euphoria of a bank holiday weekend is usually lost on me. Last weekend, I bought into it completely. It’s exciting to arrive somewhere new, get your bearings, then stop off for a cheeky afternoon drink. Time seems to stand still.

The Wicklow coastline is glorious and the beach areas were used to full advantage last weekend, as you can imagine. A bagpiper warming up and playing a few tunes on one part of the beach I was on found himself entertaining an impromptu gathering of walkers at one stage, while generations got stuck in and were in the sea from early morning.

Away from the coastline, the drive unearthed sleepy village after sleepy village, all just beautiful, basking in the summer sun.

The Co Wicklow town of Greystones seen from the coastal path between there and Bray

My teenage self was delighted to make it to the village of Avoca – one of the locations where the hugely popular BBC drama series Ballykissangel was filmed. Remember that series? I wouldn’t have missed it on a Sunday night. Remember Assumpta Fitzgerald, the sassy landlord of Fitzgerald’s pub?

I confess to having taken a seat outside on Sunday afternoon thinking of the excitement a series like that must have brought to that picturesque village. The late great Birdy Sweeney, a brilliantly talented actor from my home town, Dungannon, who played farmer Eamon Byrne in the series, was very much in my thoughts also.

It’s no wonder that Thom Moore was so affected by this landscape that he chose to sit beneath a tree at the meeting of the waters, abhainn mhór and abhainn bheag, the big and small rivers, and compose the iconic Last Rose of Summer and The Minstrel Boy.

The Meeting of the Waters is a place of exceptional peace and calm. The same can be said of the ancient monastic city of Glendalough which was thronged with tourists. The weather we were lucky enough to have last weekend added greatly to the experience.

The calm and serenity of the weather extended to the cliff walk which connects Bray and Greystones. The route acted as a medieval highway, and now walkers and runners in great numbers use it regularly. Unsurprisingly, last weekend, it was very busy with tourists and locals alike. Given the elevation, the views are breathtaking.

Back in Greystones, the town was a hive of activity during the bank holiday weekend. Diners ate al fresco, the coffees and wine were flowing, the queues for ice cream were never ending.

On Monday, there was a community day in the local park – dancers, singers and a ukulele band were keeping the huge crowds entertained.

I experienced a little moment where the ladies of the ukulele band had finished their hard work for the day, and were jamming on the side of the street having a glass or two of bubbles. Their music and laughter filled the air. They certainly had the bank holiday feeling.

Wicklow made a lasting impression. It was lovely to see so many different generations out enjoying the sunshine. When the sun shines on this part of the world, everything seems so much better.

I will never again dismiss the importance of a bank holiday weekend and hope that the next one brings another great adventure.

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