There may be more beautiful places in the world.
But give me Glendalough.
I hear the Dingle Peninsula is nice and I'd love to see Galway and the Burren.
But for now, Glendalough (glen-da-lock) stands as the only place I've ever realized I couldn't take all the pictures.
It's one of the jewels of County Wicklow, in east central Ireland, south of Dublin by 50 miles or so. The grounds of a centuries-old monastery – with an enormous tower built by St. Kevin, the remains of church buildings and an ancient graveyard – might hold up on their own in many places. But the setting, in a valley with a rock-strewn stream, hiking trails, a waterfall and twin lakes, elevates this place beyond even the pervasive beauty of Ireland.
Still, even in County Wicklow, Glendalough has competition. Drive through the Wicklow Mountains and – when you can overcome the notion of driving on the wrong side of the road sitting in the wrong seat of the car, or when you're the passenger – marvel as the valley slopes downward to a river far below.
If you're never very far from the ocean in Ireland, you're even closer to a river. In Avoca, you can stand at the confluence of the Avonmore and Avonbeg rivers – the "Meeting of the Waters" – and be hypnotized.
In any of these places, and more, you will begin to wonder, clich as it is, how many shades of green the eye can detect. The answer is quite a few.
In every town, there is a pub. More, usually. And while the overwhelming majority of Irish folk are every bit as friendly as you've been led to believe, it is not a universal attribute. There was at least one pub in Dublin where ordering a pint seemed like an imposition, and a tiny place in Shillelagh where the bartender was busy watching – I swear – Jerry Springer.
And while I know people who rave about Dublin, it is possible to go there in July and within minutes be so cold and wet that you have to buy an autumn-weight jacket. Still, the Guinness tour is worth every cent and every minute, and your pint awaits at the conclusion, with a shamrock in the foam and all of Dublin below you.
Who knows? You might get lucky enough to have dinner and a drink at the Olde Court Inn in Wicklow Town – Guinness Hot Pot is just the thing to take the chill off that Dublin trip – and the gentleman who stands and unleashes a beautiful tenor might just be the president of the local Rotary club.
Buy him a pint.