I have visited Glendalough (or Glen da lough) about twenty times and still find it amazing that a place so wild can be so close to a capital city. My most recent visit to Glendalough was in November 2005 when I stayed at the Glendalough International Youth Hostel – with a total of three other guests. When I left Dublin, it was drizzling and threatening to snow. As I came into Glendalough the sun came out and, despite the cold, conditions were perfect for some beautiful photographs.
The Round Tower at Glendalough, 34 metres high and very photogenic. It is located in the Monastic City, founded by St.Kevin in the 6th Century. Despite Glendalough being plundered by both All and Sundry, for over 1000 years, people actually lived in the Monastic city until the 17th century.
This double gateway is the only one of its kind in the world. Built around 1000 years ago, it is the main entrance to the Monastic city of Glendalough.
Glen da lough is Irish for ‘Glen of two loughs’. After the last ice age there was one long lough, but thanks to sediments brought down by a river in the middle of the valley, the one lake became two. This picture is of the Glendalough’s Upper Lake.
Despite being only 53km from the centre of Dublin, the quality of the air in Glendalough is amazingly good, as can be seen by the presence of this hairy lichen. For the non-biologists, lichen can live just about anywhere but in polluted areas they tend to be small and flat.
The Glendalough visitors’ centre have trained a squadron of robins to land near photographers and look cute…
It has always been possible to walk around the Upper Lake at Glendalough but pre-2002, it would mean getting your feet very wet and also damaging the fragile bogs on the uplands. Thanks to the Irish army, railway sleepers were brought in by helicopter and fixed in position with zinc nails and chicken wire. This now gives a safe path, without ruining the beauty of the area.
The view from An Spinc, looking back towards the Monastic city. It is just possible to see the lower lake in the distance.
On the North side of the valley, it is possible to see the scars of lead and zinc mining which continued up until 1957. There is now talk of possibly opening the mines as a tourist attraction though there is plenty of work to be done as many of the mines are flooded.
Coming back from the miners’ village it is possible to see a small hole in the rock on the South side of the lake. This, allegedly, is where St.Kevin spent a night or two.
Saving the best until last. Here is the fabulously photogenic lower lake.
Anyone visiting Dublin should definitely spend a day at Glendalough. Spending a night in the area will also mean that you will avoid the herds of tourists that descend on the place every day during the summer. Ideally, come down during a full moon and hike from Laragh up to the Monastic city along the green trail at night. To wander around the Monastic city by moonlight could be one of the highlights of your trip to Ireland.
Useful Glendalough links
Transport to and from Glendalough Buses from Dublin
Accommodation in and around Glendalough A wide variety to suit all budgets
For anyone hiking the Wicklow Way
History of mining in the Glendalough valley
Where to next?
Dublin West of Ireland