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Mystical Glendalough, Ireland

An hour from Dublin, find ancient ruins, hiking trails and postcard beauty.

Soaking in the scenery on a Glendalough trail.
Soaking in the scenery on a Glendalough trail.
Glendalough's medieval round tower and graveyard.

As I walked near the mist-shrouded lakes beyond the ruins of the Glendalough monastery, it was easy to imagine there were magical creatures just beyond my field of vision. A misty morning stroll past the monastery along the fields and lakes of Glendalough enchants the imagination and may well conjure up visions of assorted unearthly sprites.

A mystical ambiance endures, as if the monks that lived here three centuries ago imbued the site with an ethereal power that hovers over the ruins, hills and lakes. In the early morning and late afternoon, once the crowds have dwindled, there's a quietness here that is conducive to serene contemplation.

Nestled in the Wicklow Mountains (the word Glendalough itself means "valley of two lakes"), Glendalough was originally founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century. It is said that as a boy Kevin bonded with the animals of the area in a manner reminiscent of St. Francis and went to live in the hollow of a tree. He eventually attracted a small group of ascetic followers to commune with God in the remote outpost. This sowed the seeds for a burgeoning monastic community.

Ruins of Glendalough Cathedral.

Glendalough flourished as one of the leading monasteries and centers for learning in Ireland until the 13th century. The cathedral at Glendalough, constructed between the tenth and thirteenth centuries, was the largest building on the site. Ruins of St. Kieran’s Church and St. Kevin’s Church remain, along with a reconstruction of the Priest’s House. The most recognizable landmark at Glendalough is the 110-foot-tall round tower (pictured above), a refuge in medieval times in case of an attack. The old graveyard on the site contributes to the mystical atmosphere.

Taking in the view along the Lower Lake.

There are two lakes at Glendalough, the Lower Lake and Upper Lake. The visitor’s center and most of the ruins are closer to the Lower Lake, but hiking trails connect the two lakes for a worthwhile stroll. The area around the Glendalough ruins reminded me of the Lake District in England with its lakes and many hiking trails. The walks vary from easy strolls one can complete in less than an hour to more demanding jaunts along mountain trails.

St. Kevin's Church, with the tower behind it.

I recommend Glendalough as a worthwhile choice for one's first night in Ireland. I stayed in the Glendalough Hotel - comfortable, affordable and conveniently located adjacent to the ruins. After arriving in Dublin following a 10+ hour flight and steadily adjusting to driving on the left side of the road, the area's scenery, historical intrigue and serene ambiance were a welcome respite. Glendalough also makes a worthy day trip from Dublin and is just a two-hour drive from the airport. Along the way, stop at Powerscourt in Enniskey for a break to have a snack and a self-guided tour of the beautiful, expansive gardens.

Upon arriving in Glendalough, get rested after a long flight to fully appreciate the atmosphere. Find a solitary trail to bask in the silence that is the essence of Glendalough, and escape the tourists that tend to congregate around the ruins during midday hours. One only needs to be receptive here to find reflection, contemplation, regeneration and renewal – it's possible you might just emerge from this sacred spot a new person.

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Soaking in the scenery on a Glendalough trail.
Soaking in the scenery on a Glendalough trail.
Glendalough's medieval round tower and graveyard.

As I walked near the mist-shrouded lakes beyond the ruins of the Glendalough monastery, it was easy to imagine there were magical creatures just beyond my field of vision. A misty morning stroll past the monastery along the fields and lakes of Glendalough enchants the imagination and may well conjure up visions of assorted unearthly sprites.

A mystical ambiance endures, as if the monks that lived here three centuries ago imbued the site with an ethereal power that hovers over the ruins, hills and lakes. In the early morning and late afternoon, once the crowds have dwindled, there's a quietness here that is conducive to serene contemplation.

Nestled in the Wicklow Mountains (the word Glendalough itself means "valley of two lakes"), Glendalough was originally founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century. It is said that as a boy Kevin bonded with the animals of the area in a manner reminiscent of St. Francis and went to live in the hollow of a tree. He eventually attracted a small group of ascetic followers to commune with God in the remote outpost. This sowed the seeds for a burgeoning monastic community.

Ruins of Glendalough Cathedral.

Glendalough flourished as one of the leading monasteries and centers for learning in Ireland until the 13th century. The cathedral at Glendalough, constructed between the tenth and thirteenth centuries, was the largest building on the site. Ruins of St. Kieran’s Church and St. Kevin’s Church remain, along with a reconstruction of the Priest’s House. The most recognizable landmark at Glendalough is the 110-foot-tall round tower (pictured above), a refuge in medieval times in case of an attack. The old graveyard on the site contributes to the mystical atmosphere.

Taking in the view along the Lower Lake.

There are two lakes at Glendalough, the Lower Lake and Upper Lake. The visitor’s center and most of the ruins are closer to the Lower Lake, but hiking trails connect the two lakes for a worthwhile stroll. The area around the Glendalough ruins reminded me of the Lake District in England with its lakes and many hiking trails. The walks vary from easy strolls one can complete in less than an hour to more demanding jaunts along mountain trails.

St. Kevin's Church, with the tower behind it.

I recommend Glendalough as a worthwhile choice for one's first night in Ireland. I stayed in the Glendalough Hotel - comfortable, affordable and conveniently located adjacent to the ruins. After arriving in Dublin following a 10+ hour flight and steadily adjusting to driving on the left side of the road, the area's scenery, historical intrigue and serene ambiance were a welcome respite. Glendalough also makes a worthy day trip from Dublin and is just a two-hour drive from the airport. Along the way, stop at Powerscourt in Enniskey for a break to have a snack and a self-guided tour of the beautiful, expansive gardens.

Upon arriving in Glendalough, get rested after a long flight to fully appreciate the atmosphere. Find a solitary trail to bask in the silence that is the essence of Glendalough, and escape the tourists that tend to congregate around the ruins during midday hours. One only needs to be receptive here to find reflection, contemplation, regeneration and renewal – it's possible you might just emerge from this sacred spot a new person.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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