Visiting Glendalough

Glendalough

Everyone handled the lockdown differently: for many people, the pandemic has altered their emotional landscape; others found themselves by spending more time alone. I myself have escaped into the Wicklow mountains, or more specifically, to Glendalough.

Glendalough is located in the Wicklow Mountains National Park, just a few kilometres away from Dublin. It is one of Ireland’s most beautiful destinations. It is a remarkable place that has made me happy many  times, and I will surely go back and visit again.

Walking through the gates and passing the parking spot, there is a monastic site that was founded in the 6th century by Saint Kevin, followed by a lake, and then a little waterfall. On my first visit there, I did not know the place that well, and went to the little lake and monastery site. We saw people following stairs through the waterfall, so we did too. I wasn’t very excited about it, none of us were, just climbing some stairs through the woods. What more could be there to see than that? 

There was a hill, not very abrupt but enough to leave you out of breath, enough to get bored, make you give up, and go back. My parents suggested I go back and wait for them in the car, which was a bit absurd since when we finished it had taken us about 3-4 hours. Yes, we did continue, I couldn’t bear the thought of waiting in the car for hours in the heat.

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The trees had been cut down there, which did not look so good. There were small ones planted, but the rest was an empty scene. The hill started to get higher and higher in my vision. We had to make a couple of stops to catch our breath and continue again. By the time we got to the top, the clouds started gathering, little rays of sun between the clouds illuminated the beautiful lake that was now smaller than my palm. There was a little wooden path, not very dangerous but slippery enough to fall if not careful.

The view…What a view, my first thought was “Heaven on earth”. The path turned into stairs, and at the right the wooden fencing followed. To think that I could’ve missed this by sitting in the car! The fir trees climbed up the hill, the mountains in the back and the lake turning dark blue, while the weather was getting cold and the sun was disappearing. 

For two hours, we enjoyed walking on top of the hill, the hardest part was behind us. After 10 minutes it started heavily raining. We all had our rain jackets, but that didn’t help at all. We were soaked in two minutes: the more we walked downhill, the harder the sky seemed to pour down. We couldn’t see or hear anything. I guess you can imagine how rain is in Ireland. Well, this was three times worse! It was a storm. It was like the clouds were laying on the ground and we were diving right through them, but it was beautiful, it really was. The hills were bright and calm under the rain, ever beautiful, ever there.

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The turning point is at the end of the wooden path. It’s the sign that you are starting to head back, but not the way you came. The way back is along the river that flows into the lake.

The sky started to clear up, no sun, no warmth, but at least no storm. We could see the hills, the glaciated and largely untouched mountains, and the valley with two lakes and the fascinating Blood River. It’s wide but not deep and shallow enough, splashing as it moved and hopped over the rocks happily, and flickering like glitter.

Getting closer to the second lake, you can see a little mining village, dating back to the 1790’s, where silver, lead, and zinc were mined. It was operating for over 150 years, up until 1957. Almost 2000 miners were employed there. One of the four mining valleys in Wicklow can be found in Glendalough. The others are situated in Glendasan, Glenmalure and Lough Dan. 

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Past the mining village, the lake is more visible, the clouds are gone and the sun distant but blinding. We walked for about three hours next to the lake, on the path that goes back to the entrance, while our feet were burning. Because of the crazy weather we were all covered in mud, wet and exhausted. It was like experiencing three seasons in one day, but it was all worth it.

The lake was peaceful and statue-still in the middle of the quiet valley. Looking back, it’s like the Wicklow Uplands opened out around us, a place with an eldritch beauty all of its own. The rain-wrinkled grass shaken at our feet as we passed through the tall primeval trees, unfamiliar and beautiful.

I took pictures, lots of pictures and videos, I was just amazed by the bright green spread across the hillside, the large and now luminous valley. It was a tiredy walk, with wind, rain, ice, and coolness, but I revisited it three more times, and won’t hesitate to do so again, because I loved it. I found Glendalough breathlessly beautiful and picturesque, a place that demands to be seen.

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About the author

Ana Midoni

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