Walk In Ireland – The One With The Best Monastic City.
A strikingly scenic county in Ireland’s Ancient East, Wicklow, the Garden of Ireland, provides plenty of trails for dedicated hill walkers and those who just like a quiet, leisurely ramble.
So put on your walking boots and come explore the one with the best monastic city.
Glendalough, County Wicklow.
The walking trails around Glendalough follow some of the ancient footsteps of St. Kevin, who crossed the Wicklow Mountains in late AD 500, before dedicating his life to spiritual contemplation in the valley of Glendalough, County Wicklow. From the outset the scenery here is spectacular.
The remains of his ‘Monastic City’, which are dotted across the glen, include a superb round tower, numerous medieval stone churches and some decorated crosses. Of particular note is St Kevin’s Bed, a small man-made cave in the cliff face above the Upper Lake. It is said that St Kevin lived and prayed there, but it may actually be a prehistoric burial place that far predates him.
Learn all about this hallowed place in the fine interpretive centre before exploring the site for yourself. If you do, you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the two lakes and a uniquely spiritual atmosphere.
There are nine way-marked walking trails in the valley of Glendalough. The walks vary from a short half hour stroll to a long four hour hill walk. Large maps of the walks are displayed outside the National Park Information Office and at the OPW Visitor Centre beside the Monastic City.
All the walks start and finish at the National Park Information Office near the Upper Lake. Each trail is signposted with colour-coded arrows. Staff at the Information Office can help you choose a suitable route.
The Spinc & Glenealo Valley Loop – Glendalough, County Wicklow.
This popular way-marked trail leads you through some of the most spectacular scenery in Co. Wicklow. The name Spinc comes from the Irish ‘An Spinc’ and means ‘pointed hill’. The trail ascends steeply on a path up by Poulanass Waterfall, before following a zig-zag path up the hill to join a boardwalk with wooden steps leading to a spectacular viewing point overlooking the Upper Lake.
The boardwalk skirts the top of the cliffs (the Spinc), with more breathtaking views, before descending through blanket bog and heath into the picturesque Glenealo Valley. In season, you will sometimes walk through carpets of bogland flowers, including orchids, butterwort, bog asphodel and bog cotton. You may easily see deer, hybrids between native red and introduced Sika. Cast your eyes skyward, and you may spot peregrine falcons soaring and calling to each other with a high-pitched cry. A very rough and rocky track then leads you back down into Glendalough Valley.
Discover the ruined Miners’ Village and the slag heaps, ruined buildings and rusted machinery that are scattered over the valley slopes. Make sure to keep an eye out for the cave, known as St. Kevin’s Bed, which can be seen across the lake.
The trail passes along the shores of the upper lake through a Scots pine woodland, before bringing you back to the National Park Information Office and the Glendalough Monastic Site.
9km/approx 3.5 hours
Start at/Finish at:
National Park Information Office near the Upper Lake at Glendalough.
How to get there:
Access to the National Park is currently easiest by private transport. Two main roads run alongside the Wicklow Mountains – the N11/M11 to the east and the N81 to the west. From these roads, many smaller secondary roads cross through the National Park.
Dublin to Glendalough – From Dublin take the N11/M11 south to Kilmacanogue village (24km). Glendalough is signposted from here. Take the slip-road from the N11 and follow the R755 to Laragh village (25km). Stay on the main road through Laragh which becomes the R756 to the valley of Glendalough (2km). Total distance is 51km.
Check the weather and pack smart – Have a fully charged cell phone; Water; Snacks; Wear layers of appropriate clothing, waterproof jacket and correct footwear/waterproof hiking boots. Bring a camera for the fabulous views.
Leave word with someone about where you are going and approximately what time you expect to be back.
Never leave any items or valuables visible inside your parked vehicle.
After an energizing hike, you’ve definitely earned a treat. Hungry hikers should check opening times in advance and maybe pre-book a table at the Glendalough Hotel, beside the monastic city. Choose between the Barn for pizza, bar food & sandwiches or go for the full evening meal at the Glendasan River Restaurant.
Phone 999 or 112 and advise the emergency crew whether you need an Ambulance, the Gardaí (police), Fire Brigade or Mountain Rescue.
St. Kevin’s Way & Glendalough “Leave No Trace” principles are:
- Plan ahead and Prepare.
- Be Considerate of Others – Respect landowners, their property and their livestock.
- Preserve natural habitats and leave wildflowers undisturbed.
- Travel and camp on durable ground.
- Park in designated areas.
- Take care not to damage monuments, walls or buildings.
- Leave What You find especially the limestone pavements – Leave it as you find it!
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Minimize the effects of fire
Minimize your impact on the environment. Leave nothing but footprints & take nothing but photographs.
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Go n-éirí an bóthar leat!
Note: Featured image at the top of the blog is of Glendalough, Co. Wicklow Photographer: Chris Hill © Failte Ireland & Tourism Ireland
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