Glendalough ( “Valley of the Two Lakes”) is a monastic settlement in a spectacular natural setting just an hour a south of Dublin or about three hourse north of Cork where we started off. The monastery was founded by St. Kevin, hermit monk who died about 618 AD. The extensive ruins of Glendalough include several early churches, a round tower, and various sites associated with the life of St. Kevin.
The area is ideal for walking at all levels, and it’s save for kids and to bring a stroller.
The story of Glendalough begins with St. Kevin who was a descendent of one of the ruling families of Leinster. As a boy he studied under three holy men and as a young man he went to live at Glendalough “in the hollow of a tree.” He later returned with a small group of followers. Legend has is that he spend a life of sleeping on stones, wearing animal skins, barely eating and making friends with birds and animals. Kevin died in about 618.
Glendalough flourished for the next 600 years. In its heyday, the settlement included not only churches and monastic cells but also workshops, guesthouses, an infirmary, farm buildings and houses. Most of the buildings that survive today date from the 10th through 12th centuries.
This round tower is about 30 metres high, with an entrance 3.5 metres from the base. The roof was rebuilt in 1876 using the original stones. The tower originally had six timber floors, connected by ladders. Round towers were landmarks for approaching visitors and also usedas bell towers but also served on occasion as store-houses and as places of refuge in times of attack.
This stone-roofed building originally had a nave only, with entrance at the west end and a small round-headed window in the east gable. The upper part of the window can be seen above what became the chancel arch, when the chancel (now missing) and the sacristy were added later. The steep roof, formed of overlapping stones, is supported internally by a semi-circular vault. Access to the croft or roof chamber was through a rectangular opening towards the western end of the vault. The church also had a timber first floor. The belfry with its conical cap and four small windows rises from the west end of the stone roof in the form of a miniature round tower.
The two lakes of Glendalough are known as the Lower Lake and Upper Lake. The main parking area, Visitors’ Centre, the Glendalough Hotel, and most of the monastic ruins are located near the Lower Lake on the east end of the site.