Ireland 2019: Glendalough

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.

Glendalough’s famous Round Tower on the right and St Kevin’s Church a tad left of center.

Click on any photo to see a larger version of that photo.

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.

Glendalough is in the middle of Wicklow Mountains National Park where there are many trails.

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.

St Kevin’s Church.

The Round Tower again.

The path to St Kevin’s. The church is also called St Kevin’s Kitchen because the small bell tower in back looks a little like a chimney.

St Kevin’s is about 1200 years old!

My three granddaughters enjoying the view.

One of my sons-in-law and his mother-in-law.

Round Tower info.

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.

My older daughter and her family and the Round Tower.

My younger daughter and her family and the same tower.

Of course you know I am from Victoria, Canada and my wife is from Ireland!

Like most monastic ruins in Ireland, Glendalough has become a Catholic cemetery. Most of the tombstones are from the 19th and 20th centuries.

The round tower is about 30 meters (100 feet) tall. The granite entrance doorway is about 3.5 meters above the ground. The rest of the tower is made of mica schist.

The Round Tower is about a 1000 years old. The conical roof was replaced in 1876 after it was hit by lightning. Otherwise, the tower is pretty much the same as when it was built.

Info on the cathedral.

The cathedral was built in phases, starting around 950 and ending around 1200. It was destroyed by English forces in 1398.

My younger daughter and her two daughters inspecting the cathedral.

Tombstones near the lake.

Members of the Power family who died between 1909 and 2008.

I walked right by thinking this was a statue. Then its head moved!

Another view of a local Glendalough resident.

Glendalough Woods.

Sign displaying the flora and fauna found in the Glendalough Woods.

My youngest granddaughter and her father.

St Kevin’s Church and Round Tower from the Visitor Centre.

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!


About crowcanyonjournal

I am a family man with interests in family history, photography, history and travel.
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7 Responses to Ireland 2019: Glendalough

  1. Librarylady says:

    I’ve been to Ireland once and long to go back. It’s truly one of the most enchanting places I’ve ever been. I don’t know what it is about it, but it kind of casts a spell. Did you happen to see ClonMacnoise in County Offaly? Very similiar to your post photos.

    • No, I have never seen ClonMacnoise. But I just googled the place and I agree a lot of the pictures look a lot like Glendalough. We spent a week in County Roscommon in 2002 and then drove down to County Tipperary. So we were close to the ClonMacnoise area but I don’t think we stopped at anyplace in County Offaly. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Peter Klopp says:

    Really interesting photo essay! I especially liked the visit to the cemetery with the elaborate tombstone inscriptions. The thousand-year-old tower still standing after all these years is very impressive.

  3. Ankur Mithal says:

    Pretty pictures. Love the old structures in sylvan surroundings.

  4. Thanks, Ankur. We enjoyed the contrast between the natural surroundings of Gendalough and the formal landscapes of Powerscourt.

  5. This has been a great read and the pictures show how beautiful the place is. I lived in Glendalough for several years, and this journal reminds me of how lucky I was to call the place my home. Thanks.

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