Glendalough, ‘the valley of the two lakes’, has drawn people to its beautiful location for thousands of years. It boasts spectacular scenery, a rich heritage, archaeological sites, and a chance to get back to nature; a remarkable combination which makes it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ireland. Situated in the Wicklow Mountains National Park, there’s a wealth of attractions to tempt, amuse and captivate visitors; from its scenic valleys and lakes and multitude of walks and trails to the world famous Monastic site with its spectacular Round Tower.
Home to one of the most important monastic sites in Ireland
Stretching for over 3 kilometres, Glendalough has much to entice visitors to stay, not least of which is its heritage as one of the most important monastic sites in Ireland. Founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century, this ancient Christian monastic settlement draws in people from far and wide to see the round tower, stone churches and decorated crosses nestled in the glaciated valley. While the settlement was abandoned by the monks centuries ago, many of their hand-built stone buildings remain to give us an insight into the monastic way of life at that time.
Visitors enter the Monastic City via The Gateway, one of the most important monuments on the site. Originally a two storied structure with a timber roof, this building is unique in Ireland, and features a cross-inscribed stone on its west wall. Once inside the Monastic city, the Round Tower comes into full view. Thirty metres high, with an entrance at least 3.5 metres up from the base, the tower was rebuilt in 1876 using the original stone. You’ll also find the cathedral, the largest of the churches, outside of which stands St. Kevin’s Cross. Other buildings of note in the Monastic City are the Priest’s House, a small Romanesque building which may have been used to house the relics of St. Kevin, the church of St. Kevin’s Kitchen and St. Kieran’s Church.
Outside the Monastic City you’ll find the Caher, an archaeological monument located on the lawns beside the Upper Lake in Glendalough. Its purpose still remains a bit of a mystery, although it’s believed that it was probably used as a stopping off point for pilgrims on their way across the mountains to the monastery of St. Kevin.
Delight your senses in the Sensory Garden
Built in 2003, the Sensory Garden in Glendalough was commissioned as a place to introduce nature to children via the five senses, and make the beauty of the National Park more accessible for disabled users. The garden was both designed and constructed by National Park staff who used a variety of plants and features that would appeal to the senses. Everything was selected to either make a sound, look good, feel good, smell good or even taste good, and planted in raised beds so that they’d be at a level where visitors could easily appreciate their unique qualities. A tapping rail for visually impaired visitors has also been incorporated into the garden to enable them to negotiate the space with ease. There’s also a pond and waterfall, an area of bamboo and a fenced off space for wildlife. In fact, you can even take your shoes and socks off, don a blindfold and really experience the different sensory effects of the garden.