The monastery at Glendalough was founded at the start of the sixth century by Saint Kevin, a descendant of one of Ireland's ruling families. Kevin wanted to live the life of an ascetic and commune with nature. Soon enough, Glendalough, meaning Valley of the Two Lakes, became a thriving monastery and town, attracting students from all over Ireland. Unfortunately, that attracted the attention of the Vikings, who sacked the monastery several times throughout the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries. It persevered, however, until 1398 when English forces from Dublin razed the monastery.
Even on a misty day, its easy to see why Saint Kevin chose Glendalough to locate his monastery. This is one of the most beautiful places in all of Ireland. The hamlet of Glendalough lies in a valley at the extreme eastern end of the Wicklow Mountains. The visitor's center is located here, as is a hotel and a couple restaurants. Further up the valley are two lakes, the Lower Lake and the Upper Lake.
The site of the monastery is located just outside of town. The highlight is the 33m round tower that dates to the 10th century, though it was restored in 1876. Past the monastic gatehouse is the ancient graveyard, which is still active to this day. Several churches survive. There are also remains of the town which once thrived around the monastery. Another highlight is St. Kevin's Kitchen. This church was built in the eleventh century and is still standing, though it's been remodeled since. It is an excellent example of Medieval Irish architecture.
From the monastery, hike (or drive) up the Green Road to the Upper Lake. Here you can see the original site of St. Kevin's settlement, Teampall na Skellig. You can see the cave where St. Kevin slept when he first came here, as well as a small church. The natural scenery is beautiful too. The surrounding hills and forests are a great place for a hike.
Glendalough is about an hour and a half drive from Dublin. The St. Kevin's Bus departs daily from outside the Mansion House on Dawson Street. Glendalough is a bit off the beaten path, but worth the effort to get here. The forests feel ancient, and the almost constant mist give the place a tranquil and ethereal feel. If you manage to come here on a sunny day, the bald hills provide spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.
Location: Glendalough, County Wicklow
Telephone: +353 04 044 5151
Admission: Free admission.