21 Mar Glendalough, County Wicklow
Glendalough (“glen of the two lakes”), an early monastic settlement in a cup of the Wicklow Mountains is impressively lonely and lovely in its setting. The ring of hills, once well-wooded, the bare cone of Camaderry to the right, with its rust-red bracken and scatter of conifers are unforgettable. “I do not know”, said Thackeray, “if there is any tune about Glendalough but, if there be, it must be the most delicate, fantastic, fairy melody that ever was played.” But to St. Kevin who founded it in the 6th century, and to his following of anchorites, the tune was a harsh and bitter one. A Leinsterman of noble birth, he chose this place because of its bleak black remoteness. The Irish hermits were as noted for their austerities as for their learning. “My brother,” wrote Columcille dryly to Mochua whose only companions, a cockerel, a mouse, and a fly, had died, “marvel not that thy flock should have died, for misfortune ever waits upon wealth.” Here at Glendalough is no rich monastic establishment but the ruins of eight or nine tiny toylike churches, and a round tower once used as a belfry and as a refuge from the Vikings who ravaged the place in the 11th century. The churches are scattered across the valley for a distance of two miles. Kevin’s Bed, a cave above the Upper Lake, is said to have housed the saint for a time, and the little stone hut, known as St. Kevin’s cell, may well have been built by him. St. Kevin’s Kitchen (circa 9th century) is remarkable for its stone roof, most Irish churches of the time being roofed with thatch.
Glendalough is a real hidden gem that is worth a visit on your Ireland tours.