Glendalough, or Gleann Dá Loch in Irish (which means “valley of two lakes”), is a quiet, picturesque valley near the Wicklow Mountains. Its 6th-century monastic settlement founded by St. Kevin is one of the most important in Ireland, and it’s surrounded by dewy grass and heather, lush hills, mossy rocks, and an impressive variety of wildlife. Monastic City itself includes the remains of ancient stone churches, a priests’ house, a stone fort, and a 100-foot round bell tower. The cemetery is fascinating with its lichen-covered headstones tilted every which way amid unkempt vegetation. Generations of Irish family histories are contained in this small plot of land, which is an integral part of this site. Glendalough is about 90 minutes’ south of Dublin and makes for a worthwhile day tour that includes sightseeing and hiking followed by a visit to a cozy local pub.

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A Peaceful Pilgrimage Site in the Wicklow Mountains

We came to Glendalough on a day tour from Dublin, and even though it was cool and rainy, that just added to the atmosphere. St. Kevin came to this valley in the Wicklow Mountains in the 6th century, and as pilgrims followed him, a monastic community grew. Now you can wander the cemetery, see the remains of the 11th-century church, and check out the round tower, a skinny structure about 100 feet tall that served as a watchtower and a place to hide from Viking raiders. Like many of the my favorite places in Ireland, it’s really not that hard to imagine what life there was like a thousand years ago. It doesn’t feel like much has changed.

A Tower in the Valley

Reaching 30 meters into the sky, the Irish round tower at Glendalough, or the valley of two lakes, dates back to the time of Saint Kevin. After visiting the monastic sites, I climbed to the top of the valley for a heavenly view of the historic city and upper lake.

The Lake at Glendalough

We stood there as the mist began to clear. At first nothing was visible at all, but gradually the clouds pulled back their lace skirts and the lake, one of the two in the name ‘Glendalough’ (glen of the two lakes) was slowly revealed. Over a period of fifteen minutes what had been a gossamer world regained its colour and form, revealing the incredible beauty of the upper lake. High on the hill before us, my friend told me, up a treacherously winding path of scree, is a cave where the monks from St. Kevin’s monastery in the valley would come to fast and pray while the wild Irish winter howled and crashed over the dark water. A Yeti was once sighted here.

Hidden Ireland: Mystical Glendalough & Escaping the Crowds

It’s a universal truth that people are generally lazy. So why not go against the grain and in doing so escape the crowds? When in Glendalough skip the most popular Monastic City and walk straight on to Upper Lake. Venture towards the forest and you’ll find the Reefert Church and even St. Kevin’s Cell. Few people make the extra effort to come this far so you’ll experience Glendalough on a more intimate level. Explore the hidden trails for a while then after you’re done head back to the Monastic City where you’ll find it less crowded and easier to manoeuvre.

Ireland at Its Best

Glendalough (which means a “glen of two lakes”) is a beautiful glacial valley in County Wicklow, Ireland. Visitors mainly stop by to see the remnants of its 6th century monastic buildings and graveyard (believed to be the oldest in the world), but my favorite part of Glendalough isn’t the manmade structures. There’s something of a peace that comes over you as you meander through the woods along the path to the upper and lower lakes. A labyrinth in a field along the way provides a place for prayer and meditation. There’s something almost comforting about the circular pattern. Even the surrounding woods have a Middle Earth-y feel and you can’t help but realize that you are most definitely experiencing Ireland at its very best.

The Valley of the Two Lakes

Hop on one of the many tour buses out of Dublin and head south through the vibrant hills and towns of County Wicklow to mystical Glendalough (translating from Gaelic to “glen/valley of two lakes”), one of Ireland’s most well-preserved monasteries. Here are the crumbled remains (and still-standing church and tower) of the Christian monastic settlement, founded by St. Kevin during the 6th century. My tour guide summed the place up: “This place was holy then, and it is holy now.” Head solo on the wind-blown footpaths to one of the valley lakes for reflection and rejuvenation. A place like this, deep, solemn peace is present with every gust of wind.

Peaceful monastic settlements at Glendalough

Glendalough or Gleann Dá Loch in Irish, which means valley of two lakes, is most well-known for the remains of an early medieval monastic settlement set beside the two lakes. The settlement was founded by St Kevin in the sixth century and the remains in the Monastic City include a church, a 30m round tower and graveyard. There are walking and hiking trails around both the Upper and Lower Lakes (buy a trail guide at the Visitor Centre) with steeper trails leading up into the hills and granite cliffs making the area popular for trail running and rock climbing. The most peaceful way to visit for the day is to see the monastic settlement and then take a walk around one of the lakes.

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