Glendalough, a name that echoes around the world as a place of profound beauty and tranquillity, is located within a valley of two lakes in Co. Wicklow, Ireland. This place is a sacred space, captivating in its beauty and in its serenity. When you take the trail around the lake, you sense you are walking in the steps of our spiritual ancestors. Time in Glendalough will rejuvenate mind, body and soul.
In the 6th Century on the lake shore, a Christian hermit named Kevin established a small monastic settlement. This settlement became one of the cradles of Celtic spirituality and Irish monasticism. After Kevin’s death, from the 6th century to the 12th century a great monastery flourished in the valley. The ruins of this monastic city still remain, with a magnificent round tower, a beautiful 11th Century stone church and the high cross which is at least a thousand years old.
If we allow it, Glendalough offers us an opportunity to view our personal stories in the context of the bigger story of which we are by nature a part. It has always been and will forever remain a place rich in images, moods, sounds, memories and dreams.
On entering Gougane Barra you are met with the natural beauty of the hills which tower over Gougane Barra Lake and the renowned St. Finbarr’s oratory nestled in the heart of this idyllic valley. Just behind the oratory are the remains of St. Finbarr’s monastery from the 6th Century, with beautiful old stations of the cross above the ancient prayer cells.
During Penal Times, when public shows of devotion were forbidden, people made their way to Gougane Barra and gathered secretly around selected mass rocks that are the source of great reverence for pilgrims to this day.
The scenery in this area is breathtaking and it offers the visitor a myriad of beautiful trails in this peaceful valley. The gentle Nature Trail is only 1 km and offers the perfect vantage point from which to view this cathedral of stillness. For the more energetic, there is the beautiful Sli Easa way and the Waterfalls Walk which commands magnificent views of the whole glen and the great mountain wall that encloses it.
Through the middle of the Knockmealdowns, hikers will join St. Declan’s Way, the ancient path that runs from the Rock of Cashel in Tipperary to the Cliffs of Ardmore in Waterford, trodden by millions over the centuries, pilgrims, traders, rogues, warriors and adventurers. Along the way, ancient roads, ruined churches, monuments and follies abound, the secrets of our ancestors locked in their stones. St. Declan’s Way runs through the expanse of mountain range, ending on the spectacular Ardmore Cliffs, at the edge of Ireland where St. Declan founded a monastery in the 5th Century.
The St. Declan’s Cliff Walk in Ardmore is must. This trail brings on cliff top paths, minor roads and laneways, past early Christian St. Declan’s Well, Ardmore Round Tower, 12th Century Cathedral and a lookout post with some stunning coastal scenery.