Glendalough, also known as Gleann Dá Loch meaning The Valley of The Two Lakes, can be found in County Wicklow and boasts one of the most important monastic sites in Ireland. While Glendalough may not be officially classed as one of the Wonders of the World, joining one of the day tours of Glendalough in Ireland is definitely an event not to be missed. Glendalough is without doubt, a remarkable experience to participate in. When planning your trip to Ireland, Glendalough is a must see and a truly impressive and memorable experience. Steeped in history that dates as far back as the 6th Century A.D, the rich history of Glendalough is a true delight for historians, art lovers and ramblers alike. Glendalough was an early Christian monastic settlement that was founded by St. Kevin, which became known as the “Monastic City”.
There are many different walking trails in Glendalough. Whether it’s a leisurely stroll that you are looking for or a more advanced hill walk, there is something that will suit everyone. Each trail is clearly signposted and maps for these walks are available at the Glendalough Information Office.
You can visit Glendalough and the surrounding Wicklow mountains on a day trip with Wild Rover Tours. The day trip from Dublin also visits the historical city of Kilkenny.
St. Kevin of Glendalough
St. Kevin was a descendant of one of the ruling families of Leinster who originally studied under three holy men. After being ordained as a priest, he set out to find his calling and decided to live beside the shore of the upper lake at Glendalough.
St. Kevin had a deep love for nature and all living things and lived the life of a hermit for seven years in a cave which was originally a Bronze Age tomb. This cave is known as St. Kevin’s Bed and can still be seen today from the north shore of the lake. Glendalough evolved into one of the greatest centres of Christianity in Ireland and continued to develop for more than a thousand years after St. Kevin’s demise.
The Round Tower is thought by many to be one of the most beautiful towers in Ireland. The Round Tower is the most visible monument at Glendalough standing at an impressive 30 metres tall. The Round Tower originally featured six wooden floors with ladders, topped with a conical roof. Over time, the aging roof was damaged after a particularly powerful storm and its conical roof was finally devastated by a powerful lighting strike. In 1876 the roof was successfully rebuilt mostly using the original stones that were found inside the tower, restoring this beautiful tower to its former glory.
Glendalough flourished as one of Ireland’s great religious foundations and schools of learning until the Normans devastated the monastery in 1214 A.D.
Seven Churches of Glendalough
Known also as the city of Seven Churches, not all of these churches are inside the enclosure of Glendalough. St. Kevin’s church is easily the best known and is known by many as St. Kevin’s Kitchen because of its integrated smaller Round Tower that somewhat resembles a chimney.
St. Kieran’s Church
Just across from St. Kevin’s Kitchen, Glendalough visitors will find the foundation walls of St. Kieran’s Church. St Kieran was a good friend and contemporary of St. Kevin. The remains of this church were not discovered until 1875.
St. Mary’s Church
Dating back to the 10th century, St. Mary’s Church was one of the earlier churches in the valley and is believed to have been built outside of the previously walled enclosure for nuns and entirely used by women.
This church is found on the other side of the valley, on a tranquil spot near the Upper Lake, The simple nave-and-chancel church was built around 1100 A.D. The name ‘Reefert’ derives from the Irish ‘Righ Fearta’ meaning ‘burial place of the kings’ – the chiefs of the local O’Toole and O’Byrne clans found their final resting place here. Many historians even believe that St. Kevin himself lies buried here.
This church at the foot of a steep cliff on the southern shore of the Upper Lake stands on the site of the very first settlement St. Kevin and his disciples built The church sits directly underneath ‘St. Kevin’s Bed’ – a man-made cave, where St. Kevin is thought to have spent the seasons of lent in complete seclusion. Regrettably, the site is no longer accessible to the public but visitors can still view it from the opposite shore of the Upper Lake.
Trinity Church lies somewhat hidden east of the Monastic City, on the road to Laragh and built around the 1100’s. This church also had an integrated belfry tower, quite similar to St. Kevin’s Church, but it collapsed during a storm in 1818.
St. Saviour’s Priory
The Priory was founded in the mid-12th century by Lawrence O’Toole, abbot of Glendalough and later archbishop of Dublin. It is the most recent of the seven churches built in the valley and served as a priory for Augustinian monks.
Construction of The Cathedral, which is the largest church on the Glendalough site, began in many stages dating as far back from the 10th right through to the 13th century. The first phase of the cathedral was the nave, the central part of a church building which was designed to accommodate the congregation.
Many of the buildings that survive in Glendalough today date as far back from the 10th through 12th centuries. Surrounded by numerous acres of beautiful woodland, wildlife and historic buildings, visitors on a day tour can thoroughly immerse themselves in picturesque scenery and enjoy a visit to take in the many sights that Glendalough has to offer.