Glendalough is in the heart of county Wicklow, this beautiful green valley, with two shimmering glacial lakes nestled between lush, sloping mountains and noisy waterfalls.
It’s name derives from the Irish (Gaelic) Gleann Dá Locha, meaning “valley of the two lakes.” The sheer beauty of the landscape here makes it easy to understand why Wicklow is often referred to as “the Garden of Ireland”.
Like so many Irish havens, Glendalough is rich in heritage, having been founded as a monastic settlement by St. Kevin, around 700AD. The community went on to become a European monastic capital in the Middle Ages, when Ireland was known as the “Land of Saints and Scholars”.
Many buildings dating from this era add both beauty and magic to the site. Famous among these is a 34-metre high round tower, probably built in the 11th century. The tower’s girth is also impressive, and it has been exceptionally well preserved, in contrast with similar structures throughout the country.
The remains of a cashel (small castle), a cathedral, several stone churches, and many Celtic crosses and other embellished grave markings can also be seen.
The area’s geographical isolation, amid the sparsely populated Wicklow Mountains, perhaps explains why the round tower was never sacked during the waves of invasions and wars suffered by the Irish from the Middle Ages onwards. Indeed, this isolation is also why St. Kevin founded his hermitage here, as he reputedly came from the more prosperous farmlands of Kildare, but desired a home of prayerful solitude. The sense of “getting away from it all” is retained in Glendalough today; the area is popular with pilgrims and walkers, and there are many well-marked walking routes of varying lengths around the upper and lower lakes.
Glendalough rarely feels crowded or touristy. Let us take you on a personal guided walking tour of one of Ireland’s premiere heritage sites, this is one of the best ways to experience Glendalough and County Wicklow. Be sure to look out for the cave where St. Kevin himself is said to have lived, overlooking the upper lake, and known today as “St. Kevin’s Bed.”