Glendalough Lakes Things to Do

  • Glendalough Cemetery
    Glendalough Cemetery
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  • Upper Lake
    Upper Lake
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  • St. Kevin's Kitchen
    St. Kevin's Kitchen
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    Glendalough

    by jmpncsu Updated Sep 30, 2014

    Glendalough, Irish for Glen of Two Lakes, is a glacial valley located in Wicklow Mountains National Park. The valley is absolutely beautiful and renowned for its monastic ruins. We visited on a tour of Wicklow Mountains with Hilltop Treks. We only had about an hour to explore, which is not nearly enough, but greatly enjoyed our time here. The Monastic City was founded in the 6th Century by St. Kevin though most of the ruins date from 10th to 12th centuries. The tallest and most conspicuous structure is the Round Tower, which is nearly 30 m high. I was most impressed with St. Kevin's Kitchen (church). This building has a stone roof that is remarkably still in tact. The largest building is Glendalough Cathedral (that does not have a rood anymore), which you can walk through and see the graves along the ground. Besides the Monastic City, there are two lakes - Upper and Lower - as well as many miles of walking trails, including the long-distance trails Wicklow Mountains Way and St. Kevin's Way. The Upper Lake is particularly beautiful, nestled within the mountains. And Poulanass Waterfall is just a short hike up a well-marked trail from Upper Lake. Unfortunately, we didn't have nearly enough time to spend at this beautiful location and see all the sights. I could easily spend a couple days exploring the valley.

    Glendalough Cemetery St. Kevin's Kitchen Round Tower Glendalough Cathedral Upper Lake
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    Glendalough Visitor Centre

    by SurfaceTravel Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    This is just an excellent place to spend a half or full day with the family. The views are beautiful. There are trails around the place, including a boardwalk over a marsh, that is very easy for strollers/pushchairs. There are many interesting historic buildings and sites to see, two lakes, and longer trails, so a complete day would be easy to fill.

    From the web site listed below: "This early Christian monastic site was founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century. Set in a glaciated valley with two lakes, the monastic remains include a superb round tower, stone churches and decorated crosses. The Visitor Centre has an interesting exhibition and an audio-visual show. French, German, Spanish and Swedish guided tours are available all year by advance booking. Visitor Centre is fully accessible for visitors with disabilities. Access to the graveyard is very difficult for wheelchair users."

    It's a popular place and close to Dublin, so the coaches line up quickly. Arrive early to try and avoid the crowds.

    The Round Tower, Glendalough
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    Upper and Lower Lakes

    by pure1942 Updated Jun 24, 2009

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    The Upper and Lower Lakes of Glendalough add significantly to the spectacular setting of the Valley of Glendalough and the area alongside and around the lakes is a popular place for walkers and hikers as well as picnicking day trippers from Dublin City. Around the lakes are several important monastic sites including Reefert Church, The Caher, St. Kevin’s Cell, St. Kevin’s Bed and Temple-na-Skellig. On the far side of the Lake the Wicklow Mountains rise steeply up from the shores of the Upper Lake.

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    St. Kevin's Bed

    by pure1942 Written Jun 24, 2009

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    Just to the west of the church is a small raised platform with a stone walled enclosure. This enclosure held a small enclave of monastic stone huts. Close to this is St. Kevin’s Bed. This cave set in the rock face about 8 metres above the lake is said to have been a place of solitude and prayer for St. Kevin and later St. Laurence O’Toole who used the cave a as a retreat. The cave is partly natural and partly man made and runs 2 metres back into the rock.

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    Temple-na-Skellig

    by pure1942 Written Jun 24, 2009

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    This small church can only be accessed by boat due to its situation on a awkwardly placed piece of land on the southern shore of the Upper Lake. You can however catch a glimpse of the church as you walk along the northern shore and look back across the lake to the southern shore. The church was partly rebuilt during the 12th century but the original church is much older. Around the church are several ancient stone crosses and grave slabs.

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    Walking Trails

    by pure1942 Written Jun 24, 2009

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    While most visitors come to Glendalough tosee the fantastic monastic treasures on display, Glendalough is also a National Park and Nature Reserve and the park is a walker’s paradise. There are nine marked walking trails in the valley of Glendalough. The walks vary from a short half hour stroll to a long four hour hillwalk. Large maps of the walks are displayed at the Visitor Centre beside the Monastic City and on the Notice Board at the Upper Lake car park. All the walks start at the National Park Information Office near the Upper Lake. Each trail is signposted with colour-coded arrows. Staff at the Information Office can help you choose a suitable route.
    A map of the Walking Trails is on sale at the Information Office at the Upper Lake and from the Visitor Centre at the Monastic City. A copy of the map and descriptions of the walks are posted on the notice boards at the Upper Lake car park and at the Monastic City Visitor Centre.

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    Poulanass Waterfall

    by pure1942 Written Jun 24, 2009

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    Poulanass Waterfall is located a short walk from the UpperLake. The falls are located up a wooded hill on well signposted trail through the woods. The tall but narrow falls are set in a beautiful woodland area and cut through the rock to fall in several steps and form a series of plunge pools along the falls. The name Poulanass derives from the Irish words 'Poll an Eas' which means 'hole of the waterfall'.

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    The Caher

    by pure1942 Written Jun 24, 2009

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    Located between the two lakes is the ‘Caher’ which is a large stone walled circular enclosure. The exact date of its construction is unknown. The Caher would have been used as a fort and meeting point and place of prayer for pilgrims. Nearby are several stone crosses which mark stations on the pilgrims route.

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    Reefert Church

    by pure1942 Written Jun 24, 2009

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    Reefert Church is located in a small wooded area near the western bank of the Upper Lake. The nave and chancel of the church dates from around the year 1100 but most of the surrounding walls and trenches are more modern. The church displays evidence of projecting corbels which indicate that the church once had a wooden roof but none of this survives today. There are several ancient crosses around the church, some of which display some fine examples of Celtic interlacing. The name of the church derives from ‘Righ Fearta’ which translates as burial place of the Kings which indicates that the church may mark the site of an important burial ground.

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    St. Mary's Church

    by pure1942 Written Jun 24, 2009

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    St. Mary’s Church, also known as Our Lady’s Church, is one of the earliest buildings at Glendalough. The remains of the church has some examples of Romanesque moulding and carving while the massive lintel of the west doorway was an unusual saltire cross carving. The church lies to the east of the main monastic city.

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    St. Kevin's Cell

    by pure1942 Written Jun 24, 2009

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    St. Kevin’s Cell sits on a rocky outcrop on a ledge above the upper lake near Poulanass Waterfall. Only small traces of the stone ‘bee-hive’ hut remain at the site but there was once a fine early Christian monastic hut with corbelled roof and was reputedly the place where St. Kevin used to sleep when he first arrived to Glendalough and later when he wanted solitude and peace. All that remains of the 3.6 metre in diameter hut are the foundation stones. For a better impression of what the hut would have originally looked like, you can see examples of stone bee-hive huts on the Aran Islands, the Dingle Peninsula in Co. Kerry and on Skellig Mhicil aff the Kerry Coast.

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    St. Kieran's Church

    by pure1942 Written Jun 24, 2009

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    Just before St. Kevin’s Church are the remains of St. Kieran’s Church. These remains were only discovered in 1875. The church is probably dedicated to St. Kieran who is more famed for founding the wonderful monastic site at Clonmacnoise in Co. Offaly. Clonmacnoise had strong connections to Glendalough during the 10th century.

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    St. Kevin's Church

    by pure1942 Written Jun 24, 2009

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    St. Kevin’s Church (also known strangely as St. Kevin’s Kitchen) is one of Glendalough’s most impressive buildings. It is quite an unusual church when compared to other early Christian Ireland churches mainly due to its strange looking round bell tower.
    Originally the building only had a small nave with one door and one small window but the church was later expanded to include a chancel (which no longer exists) and a sacristy. The steep stone roof holds a croft which had a wooden floor and was accessed through an opening in the eastern part of the floor. The small ‘mini round tower’ belfry rises from the western end of the building and many believe this small tower is what gave the church its nickname of ‘St. Kevin’s Kitchen’ because approaching visitors supposedly mistook the tower for a chimney and presumed the building must therefore be a cook house!

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    Priest's House

    by pure1942 Written Jun 24, 2009

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    Another interesting and well restored and preserved building at the Glendalough monastic site is the Priest’s House. The original purpose of this building is not known for sure but it may have housed relics of St. Kevin. The building got its name from its function as a place for burying priests here during the 18th and 19th centuries. The Romanesque building has a fine decorative Romanesque march and there are several old gravestones and tombs inside the building itself.
    The building has been heavily restored but originality has been ensured by studying and imitating the details shown in many fine sketches made by Beranger in 1779.

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    St. Kevin's Cross

    by pure1942 Written Jun 24, 2009

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    One of Ireland’s most unusual and largest high crosses can be seen at Glendalough. The huge cross is carved from one single piece of granite. The cross is unusual in that it is not pierced through the ring like most Irish High Crosses. (In other words there is no opening through the ring of stone intersecting the haft and arms of the cross. This is certainly the only high cross I have seen in Ireland that is unpierced like this. The arms of the cross are over a metre in length.
    A local legend surrounding the St. Kevin’s Cross at Glendalough says that anyone who can wrap their arms around the entire width of the cross body will have their wishes granted.

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