I had come to Ireland to see green and green is what I found at Glendalough. Site of an early medieval monastic settlement founded in the sixth century by St. Kevin, a hermit priest, a thousand years later it retained its hermit like origins.
Having spent the last couple of days touring the fair city of Dublin, my fiance and I were anxious to leave behind its crowds and congestion. It was too far to make a sojourn to the Dingle Peninsula or the Ring of Kerry in the span of just one day, but Glendalough, only forty miles south of the capital, was completely doable.
The further we drove from Dublin’s city center, the greener the landscape became. Delving deep into the heart of the Wicklow Mountains, the terrain hilly and barren for as far as the eye could see, the landscape appeared as if it hadn’t changed in centuries. I could see why Hollywood directors so often film historic battle scenes there (“Braveheart” and “Excalibur”).
Viewing mile after mile of gorgeous scenery complete with flocks of grazing sheep, Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Graze” appearing in my head, (a song I had learned early on in my piano lesson days), we arrived at the entrance to Glendalough.
Simply put, it was eerily beautiful. Although there were other tourists in addition to our small group, it was quiet. Gone were the sounds of traffic, the mobs of visitors rushing off to the Guinness Storehouse, and in place, another world which appeared as if it hadn’t changed at all since the days when St. Kevin walked the land in his humble apparel.
When I first caught sight of the Upper Lake (Glendalough in Gaelic means “Glen of Two Lakes”), I was entranced. Even the tour guide asked, “Wouldn’t you give the world to be able to wake up to a sight like this every morning?” Yes, I would.
The guide explained how the valley at Glendalough was formed during the last ice age by a glacier which left a moraine across the valley mouth. The Poulanass River, which plunges into the valley from the south, created a delta and divided the original lake into two (hence the Upper Lake and the Lower Lake).
Although it started to rain lightly, that only added to the serene beauty of the setting. I at first opened my umbrella to shield myself from the precipitation, but shortly after I closed it for I felt by having it open, a “modern” invention and all, I was closing myself off from how Glendalough originally looked and felt, centuries ago.
I experienced the biggest thrill when I saw my first ever Celtic cross. Its size was intimidating, its look mightily impressive. I would discover that legend says anyone who can wrap their arms around the cross will receive their wish. I abstained from doing this, for while I didn’t mind the light rain, I drew the line at embracing it on an ancient statue.
The settlement comprised a variety of buildings, some dating from the time that they were first constructed, others having been rebuilt over the years. As is the case for so much of Ireland’s history, Glendalough was destroyed by English troops in 1398. It was hard to imagine a site as peaceful and serene as this being ravaged and decimated and yet it was. Troops with their horses and weapons would even destroy a den like Eden.
Before long, it was time to leave our temporary peaceful existence, for we were to journey farther south to the city of Kilkenny. I loved all the time I spent in Ireland, but those couple of hours walking in the footsteps of St. Kevin and his early followers were among my favorites.