An Unexpected Stay

Glendalough is a beautiful, almost mystical place, defined by its past just as much as its present.  The two large lakes, sitting aside the cemetery, appear almost timeless—all of it sitting well below the impressive pine tree forests high above either side of the deep blue bodies of water. It’s easy to lose your sense of time, surrounded by the old gravestones and the vast history surrounding the place. It is not difficult to imagine how Glendalough was once the home of St. Kevin and St. Lawrence, long ago (Kilfeather, p.16).

Today, it is not only a place to sit amongst history—for, on the grassy fields next to the modern-day restaurant and bar, it is not uncommon to see the local Irish playing music and eating ice cream with their families in the shade. Though, there are still today winding, narrow paths that go far up the hills surrounding the lakes, featuring views of the tranquil scenery below. I’ve been lucky enough to have hiked these trails, once, and remarked to some passersby that the views reminded me of Switzerland. Unbeknownst to me, they happened to be tourists from Switzerland, and heartily agreed. Even within Ireland, this remarkable place holds a feeling of otherworldliness.

Glendalough, in particular, holds a special place in my heart. One weekend while I was studying abroad in Dublin, I decided to be bold and travel by myself—I signed up for a tour of the Wicklow Mountains, ending with an extended stop at Glendalough. Since I began the tour alone and the tour bus was full, I serendipitously befriended another lone traveler—a confident Brazilian woman in her mid-30s. By the time the tour group made it to Glendalough, we had rather paired up. We completed the hike around the lakes with the tour guide, but, right at that cemetery, got twisted around and misdirected to the wrong parking lot—a parking lot about 1 mile in the wrong direction of our bus. By the time we realized our mistake and made it to the right one, our bus was gone. The man in the parking lot informed us that it had left not one minute before we got there. So, I found myself stranded in Glendalough, alone with a woman I had met only hours before, and no knowledge of how to get back to Dublin. Phone service at the park is spotty, and there is but one bus going daily between Dublin and Glendalough. Thankfully, that bus had not yet left, and so long as we did not miss it, we would be fine. Myself and my new travel companion spent an additional (unplanned) four hours in Glendalough, but, once I was assured of my ride back to Dublin, it was a wonderful afternoon. I am certain that, one day, I will be happy to go back.

1 Comment

  1. Sarah, I think it’s super cool that you had the opportunity to visit some of the places we learned about in Kilfeather’s book! The way you described Glendalough aligns perfectly with the picture you posted. The area appears so serene and beautiful. Was there any new information about Glendalough that stood out to you? Was there any part of Glendalough that went unexplored or did you see all of it?

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