Glendalough, Ireland Wishes You Were Here

After a dramatic first day in Dublin of driving on the “wrong” side of the road and going on one hour of airplane sleep, I decided to get back in the hire car a day later and head for some of Ireland’s narrowest roads. While this may sound like the worst of ideas, driving the Wicklow Mountains just south of Dublin proved challenging, yet good for this traveler’s soul.

The Wicklow Mountains don’t really look like “mountains”, but I didn’t seem to mind. Driving through a number of gaps and valleys, I found myself on a narrow road and completely isolated. Apart from trying to not shut my eyes in fear when a car came in the other direction, I focused on keeping the white line to my right and the Wicklow Mountains around me.

Between the mountains are a number of deep glacial valleys. One of which is perhaps the most famous, Glendalough. St. Kevin established the monastic city of Glendalough, which you can explore free of charge today, as it should be. He began living as a hermit in a remote location around 570 A.D. He would call a cave his home, which would later be deemed St. Kevin’s Bed. Over the years, his hermit-lifestyle drew attention and by the 9th century a full-blown monastic settlement was alive and well.

What remains of that settlement are a number of churches and an eerie graveyard. Residents of the area are still buried here. Wandering around haphazard gravestones that appear to be leaning either too far forward or too far back, you can feel the spirits in the air. Perhaps it is the mist or how they are stacked one on top of the other, but you can’t shake the feeling you are not alone.

One of the churches was said to house St. Kevin’s tomb, St. Mary’s Church. I peak in through a black barred gate as chills run up my back. It’s time to keep moving as I still feel like I am being followed.

I head on to the Upper Lake area of Glendalough, where trees continue that eeriness in their appearance. Moss covered and scraggly, I keep walking towards the Upper lake where St. Kevin originally set up shop. The scenery continues to impress with little rivers and wooden bridges. You can take a number of hikes in this area, depending on how much time you have.

The irony of this space is that tourists have invaded, myself included. St. Kevin was trying to get away from it all, only to have a number of followers hop on board and follow in his footsteps. After a chaotic, dramatic and needless to say, terrible first day of solo travel in Ireland, Glendalough reminds me of connection. Just like St. Kevin, you can try to get away from it all, but there will always be a presence lingering in the air. That presence is ever felt as I cruise through the Wicklow Mountains, sharing landscapes with seemingly just myself. The spirits of Glendalough however aren’t far away.

 

Comments

  1. says

    Oh my! these shots are stunning.

    I love your description of the cemetery. I kind of like visiting old cemeteries and this one definitely appeals to me. I can relate to your feeling of not being alone there; I had a similar experience in an old graveyard. It was probably my own mind playing tricks rather than actual spirits but it definitely was an interesting experience.

    I look forward to more posts from Ireland :)

  2. says

    Ireland – how exciting! Can’t wait for our travels there. We plan to go to Glendalough as well after reading about it but hadn’t seen any pictures yet so thanks for sharing these; they’re gorgeous! I know what you mean about it looking a bit eerie.

  3. says

    Suzy — The pictures look so…… well, Irish! I’m sure it’s freezing there — it IS March, after all. It always takes me a day or two to get settled into solo traveling when I reach a destination. I always have about 2 hours of, “What was I thinking? What made me think I could do this alone?” Then I settle in and have a marvelous time. I’m looking forward to your updates, stories, and photographs.

  4. says

    I loved visiting Glendalough when I was in Ireland. It has that old, qiuet, eerie feel to it that ancient cemeteries should have. And it’s beautiful, to boot.

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