A day after our Dublin sightseeing adventures we boarded another bus for an all-day tour of two sites in County Wicklow south of Dublin. Our first stop that day was at the monastic settlement of Glendalough deep in the heart of the Wicklow Mountains National Park. Glendalough is Irish for “Valley of the Two Lakes” and is about an hour’s drive from Dublin. About a million tourists take this drive every year to see the natural beauty of the Wicklow Mountains and to visit one of the best preserved ancient monasteries in Ireland.
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Glendalough was founded by St Kevin in 570 and flourished for 600 years, overcoming a handful of Viking invasions and a multitude of fires during those centuries. Irish monasteries like Glendalough were a beacon of learning while the rest of Europe descended into the Dark Ages. Monks meditated on the Christianity brought by St Patrick in the 5th century and copied ancient manuscripts in Latin and Greek, creating beautiful works of art. We would see a sample of this art when we toured Trinity College back in Dublin on the next day and gazed at the Book of Kells. There was a Book of Glendalough, too, but unfortunately it was lost ages ago.
Strongbow sacked Glendalough during the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland in the 12th century. And another English force destroyed the settlement toward the end of the 14th century. Glendalough never recovered from this blow and when King Henry VIII dissolved all the monasteries in Ireland in the 16th century Glendalough slipped into oblivion.
Miners came to the Glendalough Valley toward the end of the 18th century and tourists began arriving soon afterwards and were amazed to find the round tower and one of its seven churches still in pristine condition.
Round Towers were mainly bell towers but were also used as watch towers to guard against surprise attacks and as refuges for local residents and their treasures during invasions.
After our tour of Glendalough we headed for our second tour of the day: The Powerscourt Gardens not too far away. I will have more about that tour in my next post.
Irish Music Bonus — drone footage of Glendalough with May It Be by Enya in the background
Enya co-wrote May It Be with Nicky and Roma Ryan for the 2001 movie The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings. Most of the song is in English but a few lines are in Quenya, a language created by J.R.R. Tolkien. Enya sang the song at the 2002 Academy Awards show.
Watch the drone fly right over the Round Tower — a marvelous picture!