A Visit to Glendalough, Co. Wicklow

Posted on: April 25th, 2014 by Jessica Hickey No Comments

I’m the least outdoorsy person I know of. So, when I heard my class and I had to go on a field course for a week, I was not amused. (I may have shed a few tears) The thought of hiking, getting muddy and drenched in the rain whilst trying to collect bugs and identify rodent droppings did not appeal to me at all.

On the other weather spectrum, being burnt to a crisp in the sun and sweating through my shirt after climbing uphill to bird-watch for 3 hours, was also the last thing I ever wanted to do! The moaning stops now.

On a positive note, the fact that the trip was going to take place in Glendalough really changed my attitude towards it, in that I no longer saw it as a “week of doom”.

Simply put, Glendalough is one of the most beautiful places in Ireland.

Glendalough, County Wicklow

Only an hour‘s drive from the center of Dublin, Glendalough shows no signs of being even remotely close to a city! The area boasts the rolling green hills and forests that the world associates with our little country.

In fact, if you type “Ireland” into Google Images, you’re going to come across numerous photos that have been taken in this valley.

I took up all the memory space on my camera taking photos! I think you’ll understand why. The area is definitely a must see for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts!

Being a zoologist myself, it was a real treat to be able to see squirrels, goats, mice and deer outside of enclosures, in their natural habitat.

Aww, a rare red deer/sika deer hybrid with her baby.


Apart from the breath-taking views and wildlife everywhere, the history of Glendalough is very interesting. The name is derived from the Irish ‘Gleann Dá Loch‘, meaning “glen/valley of the two lakes“. Pretty self explanatory, I think!

The area is a monastic settlement, established in the 6th century by St. Kevin. If you do come here, which I think you should, be warned that basically every tourist stall has some sort of reference to Kevin!

Saint Kevin of Glendalough

The famous holy man died in 618AD and for centuries afterwards, Glendalough flourished. Numerous raids of the settlement took place and they were all noted in the Irish Annals (Annals were the means by which monks determined the yearly chronology of feast days).

Another “claim to fame” of the area is that the longest Viking ship ever found, was built around 1042AD using wood from the valley.

Unlike the other very famous Irish built ship, the Titanic, this one didn’t sink. There is a modern replica of the longship residing in Roskilde Denmark.

For those interested in the construction of the ship, here’s a clip!

One of the most famous and iconic structures in Glendalough is probably the round tower. It stands at in impressive 33m tall and was built around 1, 000 years ago by the monks of St. Kevin’s monastery! What an incredible feat!

Took this one chilly evening whilst looking for bats!

Unfortunately it was hit by lightning in 1876, so the conical roof had to be replaced but it’s looking quite sturdy otherwise!

Round towers served as a look out for monks and a store for their assets. (For guys with a vow of poverty, they sure had a lot of gold and silver..)

The Glendalough Lakes

Despite my apprehension, the trip to Glendalough turned out to be a great experience! The 12 mile hike wasn’t the highlight and my vampire complexion was done no favours by the sun, but the views were spectacular!

Along with the nature, stories and history surrounding the area made it very much worthwhile!

I’m not a travel agent or anything, but if there is anywhere to visit when in Ireland; VISIT GLENDALOUGH!


Hi I’m Jess! I’m a student of Zoology in Trinity College Dublin, but my real passion is to write.

I gain inspiration for writing from everyday life and as an Irish woman, it is a great pleasure to explore Celtic culture and write about it with a fresh modern outlook.

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