The English name Glendalough comes from the Irish Gleann Dá Locha which translates to "The valley of the two lakes".
St. Kevin was a descendent of one of the ruling families of Leinster. When he was a boy he learned under three righteous men and as a young boy he went to live at Glendalough. He founded a monastery here in the sixth century which continued to expand for 600 years, but was destroyed in 1398. In its prime, the land included churches and monastic cells and also workshops, guesthouses, a health centre, farm buildings and homes. Most of the buildings that survive today date from the 10th through 12th centuries. The most famous is the round tower which is 34m high and 16m in circumference at the base. A cathedral, stone churches and decorated crosses also survived.
Glendalough is a historic site, whose Gaelic name translates to “valley of the two lakes". It consists of the 6th-century monastery founded by St. Kevin and the famous round tower, standing 112 feet high with a base measuring 52 feet in circumference.
One convenient way of reaching Glendalough is by car. Travellers from Dublin should take the N11 in the direction of Wexford & take the R755 turn-off at Kilmacanogue. From Kilmacanogue follow signposts to Glendalough through Roundwood & Laragh.
Drivers should be aware that in the busy summer period car parking places may be hard to come-by due to the large number of visitors. This is particularly true on Sunday & the August bank holiday Monday.
The St. Kevins Bus Service (+353 1 281 8119) is a locally owned bus service which has been operating between Glendalough and Dublin for almost a century. The journey takes in some of the best Wicklow scenery, therefore it is a great chance to relax and enjoy the Garden County en-route to Glendalough. Buses leave from Dublin (Dawson Street), check the website for the timetable (there are separate winter and summer timetables). The journey takes roughly 90 minutes to Glendalough and costs €13 for a one-way ticket, a return ticket costs €20.
The only way to see everything that Glendalough has to offer is on foot. The monastic village, lakes and round tower are all within a short stroll of the bus stops, car parks and hotels. For the more outdoor minded visitors there are several walking routes around the area which can vary from a board walk around the forest to more intense walks in the nearby hills.
Glendalough is home to one of the most important monastic sites in Ireland. This early Christian monastic settlement was founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century and from this developed the ‘Monastic City’. The ‘City’ consists of a number of monastic remains, and the most impressive being the Round Tower which stands 30m high. The main group of monastic buildings lie downstream near the Round Tower.
- 1 The Gateway. One of the most important monuments and also now one of the most unique in Glendalough, Ireland. It was originally two stories with protecting walls at each end, or antae. There is a stone that has a cross inscribed in it in the gateway. This tower is 30 meters high and 3.5 meters in the base.
- St Kevin's Cross. One of Ireland’s most unusual and largest high crosses can be seen at Glendalough. The huge cross is carved from one single piece of granite. The cross is unusual in that it is not pierced through the ring like most Irish High Crosses. (In other words there is no opening through the ring of stone intersecting the haft and arms of the cross. This is certainly the only high cross I have seen in Ireland that is unpierced like this. The arms of the cross are over a metre in length. A local legend surrounding the St. Kevin’s Cross at Glendalough says that anyone who can wrap their arms around the entire width of the cross body will have their wishes granted.
- 2 The Round Tower. The most visible monument at Glendalough is the fine round tower. The famous Round Tower is about 34 metres high and is 16 metres in circumference at the base. It is still in near perfect condition even though it is almost 1,000 years old! The tower originally had six wooden floors and was connected by ladders. The four stories above the entrance are beautifully lit by a tiny window, while the top story has four windows. The tapering roof was redone in 1876 using the stones that were originally used.
- St. Kevin's Bed. Just to the west of the church is a small raised platform with a stone walled enclosure. This enclosure held a small enclave of monastic stone huts. Close to this is St. Kevin’s Bed. This cave set in the rock face about 8 metres above the lake is said to have been a place of solitude and prayer for St. Kevin and later St. Laurence O’Toole who used the cave a as a retreat. The cave is partly natural and partly man made and runs 2 metres back into the rock.
- The Cathedral. The largest building at Glendalough is the cathedral, which took many different phases from the 10th through the early 13th century. In the late 12th and early 13th centuries the chancel, sacristy, and north door were built and added on to this.
- The Priest's House. Nearby is the Priests’ House, which has been almost completely rebuilt from the stones that were used first based on a 1779 drawing of the original. At each end of this tiny building there is an arch. This cathedral may have housed relics of St. Kevins, but the original use is not known. Priests were buried here and that is where this building gets its name form.
- St. Saviour's Church. This is the most recently built church. This church was built around the same time as St. Laurence O'Toole during the 12th century. Inside the church is decorated with a lion, a serpant and two birds. The birds are holding a head inbewtween their beaks. There is also a staircase that leads from one room to the building connected to the church.
Parks and gardens
Wicklow is known as the ‘Garden of Ireland’ because of its diverse landscape and beauty but it also boasts a myriad of wonderful gardens both formal and informal as well as a number of parks and woodland walks.
- 3 Mount Usher Gardens, Ashford. Are also well worth a visit.
- 4 Avondale House & Forest Park, Rathdrum, ☏ . Easter-Oct: Thu-Sun 11:00-17:00, Mon-Wed closed; Nov-Easter: closed. Is set in 500 acres of forest with short and long walks. It is the birthplace and was home of Charles Stewart Parnell. €7 adults.
- Powerscourt Gardens. The gardens are part of the Powerscourt Estate in Enniskerry.
- Powerscourt Waterfall. The highest waterfall in Ireland near Enniskerry.
Glendalough is famous for its spectacular settings: lakes, hills, a very old monastic site.
It's very busy on a Sunday when the weather is good, people come for a walk to enjoy the nature. You can go around the lakes and into Laragh on good paths; if you want more, climb the hills which also have tracks but can be a challenge at times (wearing walking gear is recommended).
- Angling. Anglers can enjoy excellent angling facilities in Co. Wicklow. Game fishing is available on a number of rivers including the Avonmore, Avoca and Aughrim. There are also a number of fisheries including one in Annamoe and in Aughrim, Co. Wicklow. With all of the amazing scenery and site seeing Glendalough is the spot to start up fishing.
- Cycling. Because of Wicklow’s diverse landscape it offers a varied range of routes and so makes it ideal for both the novice and experienced cyclist although the higher you climb the more spectacular the views. Bikes can be hired in Rathdrum and Roundwood. This amazing trails from side street strolls to up hill adventures lets people take in the beauftil scenery.
- Equestrian. Always having been a part of Ireland, Enjoy the unique Wicklow landscape on horseback. There are numerous equestrian centres to choose from which offer lessons, trekking and lots more. The nearest is just a few kilometres away in Annamoe. All are welcome to discover this adventure, whether they are a first timer or an experienced rider.
- Golf. Wicklow is a haven for golfers with courses to suit all levels from championship courses to pitch & putt. Don’t forget you also get to enjoy the spectacular scenery while you are playing. There are golf courses in Roundwood, Glenmalure, Aughrim, Druids Glen. These add up to about 25 different gold courses to choose from.
- Tennis. There are several tennis courts available to play on in Glendalough as well.
- Swimming. For safety reasons swimming is not permitted in either of the Glendalough lakes but there is plenty of opportunity for swimming in swimming pools in Bray, Wicklow town and Arklow. There are also a number of beaches within about 30 minutes drive where you can dip your toes in Wicklow town, Arklow and Brittas Bay. There are also many indoor pools available. There are many different opportunities to sail, wind surf, boat, and watersports are also available.
- Walking / Hiking / Climbing. County Wicklow is recognised all over the world for the beauty of its landscapes and it presents a diversity of walking challenges from leisurely beach and wooded walks to gentle hills and to testing wilderness mountain climbs. The most famous walk is the Wicklow Way which stretches over 132 kilometres from south Dublin to nearby Co. Carlow across some of the most unspoilt countryside in Wicklow. Walk in the footsteps of St. Kevin by following St Kevin’s Way from Hollywood in West Wicklow to Glendalough (26km). The mountains around Glendalough are an ideal challenge for the experienced climber. Glendalough's granite cliffs, located on the hillside above the north-western part of the valley, have been a popular rock-climbing location ever since the first climbs which occurred in 1948. This climbing location attracts all different level of climbers, ranging from beginners to the more experienced. There are walks in the area around Glendalough which are marked. Maps are available at the Visitor Centre and at the Information Office (at the Upper Lake) or online.
- Sally Gap. From Dublin drive via Glencullen, Kilternan and The Scalp into Enniskerry. From here you can visit Powerscourt Estate and Gardens, which include the highest waterfall in Ireland. Continue to Sally Gap, a notable crossroads situated between Kippure Mountain and the Djouce Mountain, where the road leads to Glendalough, by Glenmacnass and Laragh.
- 1 Wicklow Gap. The Wicklow Gap is the highest point (470m) on the R756 which links East and West Wicklow. It is a wonderful scenic drive which starts from Hollywood and meanders across the mountains to Glendalough with spectacular views en route.
- Laragh, Glenmalure, Aughrim, Avoca, Rathdrum, Laragh. From Laragh on the Rathdrum Road take the Military Road through the scenic Glenmalure. Drive on to the picturesque village of Aughrim and back through Avoca, the home of ‘Ballykissangel’. Stop at the Meetings of the Waters and then head to Rathdrum where you can take in the historic Avondale House, home to Charles Stewart Parnell and head back to Laragh where you can take in Clara Lara Fun Park on the way.
Festivals & Events
- The Walking Festival takes place annually in October and starts from Laragh.
- The Bealtaine Festival takes place in May and is an ‘Arts’ festival to celebrate the older members of the community. The events are varied and include drama, music and dance and are open to everyone.
- The Festival of St. Kevin takes place in June.
- The St. Laurence O’Toole Festival takes place in November.
- The Wicklow Gardens Festival takes place in the summer from May until August where many unique gardens are open to the public.
- 2 Glendalough Visitor Centre, ☏ , . Daily 09:30-17:00 (18:00 mid-Mar till mid-Oct). Last admission 45min before closing. The Visitor Centre is adjacent to ruins of the monastic settlement and has an interesting exhibition and an audio-visual show. Guided tours of the Monastic City are available in multiple languages all year round by advance booking. The Visitor Centre also holds Free Summer Lectures related to Irish heritage and history. €5 for adults.
- 3 Clara Lara Funpark, Vale of Clara, Rathdrum (about 6km from Glendalough, between Laragh and Rathdrum), ☏ . May: weekends only, Jun-Aug: daily 10:30-18:00, Sep-Apr: closed. A 30 acres outdoor adventure park for families and children in the Avonmore river valley. Has tree houses, Tarzan swings, rope bridges, rowing boats, water slides, rafts, canoes, junior go-carts, B.B.Q.s, mini golf, picnic areas and a restaurant. There are also many water sport activities which are both safe and fun for children. Also, playgrounds and beaches are both beautiful and fun to play on.
- Cinema. The nearest cinemas are in the Bridgewater Centre in Arklow (40min drive) or in Bray (30min drive).
There are no ATMs or banks in Glendalough. The closest bank with ATM is in Rathdrum.
There are many different choices of restaurants in Glendalough ranging from small cafes to bars. There are numerous different bars scattered around Glendalough. They all have special home cooked meals and many provide live entertainment as well. The cafes are famous for their hospitality and make you feel right at home.
- May's Tea Rooms. A quite little place if you are looking to grab a small bite to eat and a fresh cup or coffee, or tea. It is actually a piece of history being that it is the last remaining tea room in Laragh.
- Glendalough Fayre. Known for its organic coffee and freshly made delicious sandwiches. These can be eaten in the deli or packed up and taken on a picnic.
- 1 Lynhams of Laragh, Laragh, ☏ . Hotel with bar, restaurant and lounge. Internationally famous rendezvous- family orientated, traditional restaurant - "Olde Worlde" feature ceili house bar. Good food, drink and eclectic ambience in Irish setting. Mains at the bar around €14-15.
- 1 The Wicklow Heather, Laragh, ☏ . A full menu is served from 09:00-21:30 daily. This is a traditional Irish Restaurant with a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Dinner main around €16-18.
- The Glendalough Hotel. See Sleep for details.
There are many B&Bs in Laragh, Glendalough and Annamoe, so if you arrived early enough in the day you could decide on the spot where to stay. Camping is not permitted within the valley of Glendalough.
- 1 The Glendalough Hotel (Town centre), ☏ , fax: . Bar food served. There is live entertainment most Saturday nights offering a good mixture of music.
- 2 Glendalough Youth Hostel, The Lodge (On the road to the Upper Lake), ☏ , fax: . Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. The 5 star all en-suite Glendalough hostel is set in a wooded valley amid spectacular countryside ideal for fishing, rock climbing, pony trekking and hiking in Wicklow.
- 3 Riversdale House B&B, Wicklow Gap Road, Glendasson Valley, ☏ . Double room €40-45 per person. Single room €65.
- Enniskerry — for the gardens in the Powerscourt Estate and the highest waterfall in Ireland