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Published: July 19th 2019
Glendalough - Valley of the two Lakes
Valley of the Two Lakes and St. Kevin's Kitchen. Glendalough Monastic Site. Wicklow Mountains National Park.
Our shore excursion from Dublin was again by Paddywagon Tours. The motorcoach tour would take us to the Wicklow Mountains and the Glendalough monastic site, then return to Dublin for a city tour.
The Wicklow Mountains range south of Dublin. The mountain peaks lie mostly inside Wicklow National Park, but there is a considerable amount of private farming and dairy cattle and sheep raising going on in the valleys. It's a very scenic area, and in August the heather was in bloom. Our driver/guide said he regretted that few Dubliners visit this natural area so close to the city. We took the scenic drive up to Glendalough on the Eastern side of the park. Glendalough (Gleann Dá Locha or Valley of the Two Lakes) is the central attraction in the park. The two lakes are referred to as the Upper Lake and Lower Lake.
St. Kevin (b. ca. 498) founded a monastic community at Glendalough in the tranquil valley between the eponymous two lakes. The monastic settlement lasted until an English invasion in 1398, but long remained a pilgrimage site. The ruins of the settlement form the Glendalough Monastic Site. (The site is also known as The Seven Churches
of Glendalough.) Little is known about St. Kevin of Glendalough. He was an Irish bishop of the 6th Century. An ascetic, he lived for a time as a hermit in a cave, known as St. Kevin's Bed. Followers came and the nearby monastic city formed. The Seven Churches of Glendalough are named the Cathedral, St. Kevin's Kitchen, St. Kieran's Church, Church of Our Lady, Trinity Church, St. Saviour's Church, Reefert Church, and Temple-na-Skellig. The latter two are located at the Upper Lake near his cave, while the others are by the Lower Lake. Reconstruction of some of the churches began in the 1870s.
A path leads from the visitor centre along the Glendasan River through a picturesque valley to the monastic city. We first encountered the church known as St. Kevin's Kitchen. Built in the 12th century, St. Kevin's has an intact stone roof and bell tower, but is unadorned inside. (It is so named because its tower resembles a chimney.) A large part of the monastic site is a cemetery. Gravestones are everywhere and Celtic crosses are a common sight. The cemetery has been in use by the local community into modern times. The Cathedral, a ruin, just
up from St.Kevin's, is the largest of the seven churches in Glendalough. It was built in several phases from the 10th through the early 13th century. St. Mary's Church, ruins of a 10th century nave and chancel, is a bit further off. Dominating the scene is the Round Tower. It was the Bell tower of the monastic city. Built ca. 900-1200 it is intact and stands 108 feet (33 m) high. We left the site through the gateway that was originally the entrance. The Gateway is formed by two granite arches and probably also dates form the 10th-12th centuries. The path leads back to the Glendalough Hotel and the car park. (For visitors with more time, another trail leads from the monastic city site to the Lower Lake and then to the Upper Lake and its ruins. Trail maps are available at the Visitor Centre.)
Leaving Glendalough, we made for Dublin by the scenic drive through the centre of the park, via the Wicklow Gap. Heaths, exposed rocky areas, and ribbon lakes formed by glacial activity are all part of the landscape around Wicklow Gap. The Wicklow Gap area was an active copper and lead mining region to the
Glendalough Visitor Centre
Glendalough Visitor Centre. Glendalough Monastic Site. Wicklow Mountains National Park. The Visitor Centre has maps of the hiking trails around the site and the lakes. There is also a film about Glendalough and a model of what the Monastic City make have looked like when active.
mid-20th century. The stone ruins of miner's cottages may be seen along the road. We stopped at a scenic overlook to take in the view of the pass and Camaderry Peak.
On the way down from the Wicklow Gap, we passed through the village of Hollywood. The village is quite small. You are through it almost before you know you are in it. It turns out that Hollywood, County Wicklow, is the reputed namesake of Hollywood California. As the story goes, one Matthew Guirke, a Hollywood native, emigrated to America about 1850. He is said to have settled in Southern California and founded a community he named "Hollywood" after his home village. A pleasant story, though unproven through records. Nevertheless, Hollywood has taken to it with great gusto. There is even a replica "Hollywood" sign on the hill above the village. A banner told of the upcoming annual Hollywood Fair. The village fair celebrates Irish rural life in the pre-1950s era. Hollywood was once a stop on the pilgrimage route (St. Kevin's Way) to the Seven Churches of Glendalough. St. Kevin has two churches named for him here. There is a now disused Protestant Church of Ireland church dating
Bell Heather in bloom at Glendalough.
from the 17th Century and an active Catholic church. A modern hiking trail follows the traditional pilgrimage route from here at Hollywood to Glendalough.
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