Guide to Glendalough, Ireland

Guide to Glendalough, Ireland

The silence that envelops the natural beauty of the area makes it easy to understand why monks would choose to settle here — meditation would be easy in such tranquil surroundings. Today, their settlement is in ruins, but an air of mysticism and legend lingers in the area.

St. Kevin, a hermit priest, founded Glendalough — which means “valley of the two lakes” — in the 6th century. English troops, though, destroyed it in 1398, leaving ancient ruins of stone churches, a cathedral and priests’ house. St. Kevin’s Church, or kitchen, still stands, resembling a little house topped by a small round tower.

The Ruins at Glendalough

The ruins, which date back to the 10th and 12th centuries, according to Wikipedia, look like half-finished structures, as if the builders ran out of materials or had to flee from their jobs. There is a graveyard in the settlement, in which Celtic crosses stand and grave markers so old that their inscriptions have been rendered illegible, tilt to one side.

Back in the day, the monastery included workshops, residents, an infirmary, guesthouses, farm buildings, areas in which to write and copy manuscripts, according to Wikipedia. Arches built of stone that mark the entrance to the monastery still stand, and they are a marvel, as they stones are held together only by pressure.

Just inside the entrance, to the right and near the ground, is a stone tablet inscribed with a cross. Legend has it that those who gaze upon it will have peace of mind for 60 days. For ladies looking for love, all they have to do is walk three times, in a clockwise direction, around the base of the round tower further into the monastery, to be struck by Cupid.

The Round Tower and Upper Lake at Glendalough

The round tower at Glendalough is about 30 metres high and its entrance is located 3.5 metres up from the base. Such towers were used as landmarks for visitors or to store materials. The location of the entrance also made the tower a place in which to take refuge if under attack: A ladder was used to climb up to the entrance, then pulled inside.

A path and boardwalk that take visitors on a 20 to 25-minute walk to Upper Lake, a picturesque body of water bordered by hills, begin next to the settlement and wind past marshland and woodland. Visitors who opt to walk the path instead of the boardwalk will pass a small waterfall.

How to Get to Glendalough

Glendalough is about a 90-minute drive from Dublin, located within the Wicklow Mountains National Park. A visitor centre is on site at the settlement, with ample parking spaces. For those who would rather ride than drive, tour buses departing from Dublin make daily day trips to the area, as well.

Travellers wishing to experience the Ireland shrouded in legend, history and natural beauty may well delight in Glendalough. Ancient stone ruins where monks once lived and worshipped have stories to tell, and the peaceful setting includes lakes and woodlands that can be explored on foot. It all lies within an hour and a half drive from Dublin.

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