A base first for the Vikings and then the Normans, the Southeast echoes a fainter Celtic influence than the rest of Ireland. Town and street names in this region reflect Norse, Norman, and Anglo-Saxon influences rather than Gaelic ones. The Southeast’s busiest attractions are its beaches, which draw admirers to the coastline stretching from Kilmore Quay to tidy Ardmore.
FERRIES TO FRANCE AND BRITAIN
Irish Ferries (053 33 158) sails from Rosslare Harbour to Pembroke, Wales (4hr. every day, â‚¬28-38) and Roscoff and Cherbourg, France (18hr. every other day). Eurail passes grant passage on ferries to France. Stena Line (053 61 567) runs from Rosslare Harbour to Fishguard, Wales (3V3u\, â‚¬28-35).
THE WICKLOW MOUNTAINS
Over 600m tall, carpeted in fragrant heather and pleated by sparkling rivers, the Wicklow summits are home to grazing sheep and scattered villages. Smooth glacial valleys embrace two lakes and the monastic ruins that epitomize the romantic image of pristine rural Ireland. Public transportation is severely limited, so driving is the easiest way to get around. Glendalough, a verdant, blessed valley renowned as a medieval monastic village, is most accessible, and draws a steady stream of coach tours from Dublin. The National Park Information Office, between the two lakes, is the best source for hiking advice. (45 425. Open May-Aug. daily 10am-6pm; Apr.-Sept. Sa-Su lOam-dusk.) St. Kevin’s Bus Service ((01) 281 8119) arrives in Glendalough from St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin (2 per day, round-trip â‚¬15). The tourist office is across from the Glendalough Hotel. (45 688. Open from mid-June to Sept. M-Sa 10am-lpm and 2-5:30pm.) Good beds can be found at liThe Glendaloch Hostel (An OigeHI) 0, 5min. up the road from the tourist office. Excellent security and an in-house cafe make it by far the best option in the area. (45 342. Irish breakfast included. Laundry â‚¬5. Internet access. Dorms â‚¬20-22; singles â‚¬23-24; doubles â‚¬46-48; off-season â‚¬3 discount.) For more affordable food, B&Bs, and groceries, head to Laragh, 1.5km up the road.