“Gleann dá locha”; The Glen of the two lakes, was carved into the Wicklow landscape by glacial activity.
Standing in the graveyard in the lands surrounding the lower lake you can easily imagine a time when this was a very important, bustling place with a busy monastic centre including churches, farmhouses, workshops, guesthouses and monastic cells at its height in the 9th Century.
Founded in early 600ad by Saint Kevin, visiting here, you can quickly understand why this site was chosen as a monastic settlement.
Today standing on the recently built walkway from the lower lake to the upper, there is something in the ether which exudes tranquility. Your eyes are not fully able to intake the full panoramic beauty and intensity of the sight of the lower lake from a height.
Perhaps Glendalough transports you to back to the dates of its foundry and existence (600ad to 1368ad), because of the buildings which still exist today.
The round tower, built in defence of the many Viking raids, is the most visible of all the ancient buildings. It was constructed with an entrance of 3.5metres. Monastic settlers and monks would flee inside where a ladder was retracted into the structure, preventing the raiders from gaining access. It’s purported that the tower had six wooden internal floors.
The Priests House was named from the practice of burying priests there during the 18th and 19th centuries. The Priests House was almost entirely reconstructed from the original stone from a sketch drawing of the original building from the 1700’s. It is also thought to house the relics of Saint Kevin
Other buildings include seven churches, one of which is the Cathedral built from the 10th to the 13th Century.
In addition to the many churches at the lower lake, other ruins include the gateway into the original settlement itself, which is the only surviving example of a medieval gateway to an early monastic city. Inside the gateway is a sanctuary stone indicating an offer of refuge to those who passed. There are also two High Crosses present at the site.
The graveyard, which is still in use today at the lower lake, Reeferts Church, (from the Gaelic Rí Fearta which translates as burial place of the Kings), at the upper lake. St. Kevin’s cave reportedly a retreat for Saint Kevin can be viewed above the upper lake, and the foundation remains of St. Kevin’s Cell also at the upper lake, which was a monastic beehive hut.
There is something about this site which invokes the very primal. It is my favourite place in Wicklow. Many locals and Dubliner’s frequent the site all year round as it is a favoured place for picnicking in summer and warm up winter walks.
(liveIreland will be offering personalised tours to Glendalough Spring 2017 for more information contact us here)