Sunday 16 June 2019

Fairytale visit leaves tourists 'blown away' as they meet beaming prince

Charles gets to indulge his love of nature on solo tour of Wicklow sites

High spirits: Prince Charles in jovial mood as he visits a monastic settlement at the Wicklow Mountains National Park at Glendalough. Photo: Steve Humphreys
High spirits: Prince Charles in jovial mood as he visits a monastic settlement at the Wicklow Mountains National Park at Glendalough. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

The quiet serenity of an ancient monastic site with its majestically soaring round tower - and a real-life visiting prince ambling among the gently sloping tombstones.

No wonder the tourists were sent into an ecstatic spin of frenzied selfies. This left the Magic Kingdom in the ha'penny place.

"They thought I was winding them up," said a garda on duty at Glendalough, adding that the tourists had thought it was a missing person alert which had sparked the massive security operation at the country's largest national park in Co Wicklow.

But then the instantly recognisable figure of Prince Charles appeared in his blue pinstripe suit, relaxed and beaming over at the group that had been corralled for security reasons outside the Glendalough Hotel.

"Hi Prince Charles," called an American visitor and the British royal immediately went over to meet them.

"I thought Camilla would be with him," said a woman afterwards, slightly disappointed.

But the Duchess of Cornwall was off on a tour of her own, taking in the woollen mills at Avoca where she met well-wisher Jo Wallace, who handed the duchess a bouquet of flowers and who congratulated her on the birth of her new grandchild, Archie. She replied: "Yes, the new one indeed, he's still very little."

Prince Charles first went to the National Botanic Garden at Kilmacurragh, where he held up his own schedule with his enthusiasm for plant preservation - and by going on an impromptu walkabout.

At Glendalough's Upper Lake, he met schoolchildren from Scoil Chaoimhín Naofa in Glendalough taking part in an education programme on nature awareness.

Aaron Conway (12) said: "He was saying about how he likes the environment and that it was really fascinating all the different moths we were identifying."

The prince also met members of the Glen of Imaal Mountain Rescue Team and the Dublin-Wicklow Mountain Rescue Team and was much taken with mountain rescue dog Rowan, a three-year-old collie cross who was with his handler Sheelagh O'Malley.

"He seemed more interested in the dog, he's a real dog person," said Sheelagh afterwards.

At the monastic site, Charles was greeted by head tour guide Joan Power and guide information officer Pat Ross, before being brought on a tour by guide George McClafferty, who had also shown Michelle Obama around Glendalough.

The prince was very interested in the ancient stone roof of the 12th century nave-and-chancel church known as St Kevin's Kitchen.

George stopped to examine the grass verge but after a moment, said regretfully: "I wanted to show you the shamrocks that were here but they've all been strimmed away for your visit."

Some Australian tourists were delighted to meet the prince and he called over to them, saying: "Enjoy the rest of your visit."

"Are you from Sydney?" he asked and when told they were from Melbourne, he replied: "Ah, Melbourne."

Another woman congratulated him on the recent birth of his new grandchild and he replied: "You're very kind."

"You haven't got any yet," he inquired, adding: "You're too young looking."

Beth Dempsey from LA, on her first trip to Ireland and whose father hailed from Dublin, said she was "blown away" to shake the hand of the prince.

"You watch everything on the news and you never imagine," she said.

"He was very prince-like," she said. "And I was decked out in my finery, right," she added with irony of her casual hiking gear.

Then it was off to Co Fermanagh for the royals, for a cross-party garden party.

Irish Independent

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