Discover County Wicklow
The combination of a well-preserved monastic settlement with a beautiful lake and mountain setting makes Glendalough and the Wicklow Mountains one of eastern Ireland’s premier attractions.
The reclusive St Kevin first established a monastic presence in this glacial valley in AD 570. The remote location was ideal for his hermitic tendencies, but he emphasised them still further by spending time in a cave, accessible only by boat, on the cliffs above the Upper Lough. St Kevin came from one of Leinster’s ruling families and was abbot here until his death in AD 618. He encouraged Glendalough’s reputation for learning and its fame spread across Europe.
This was a place of pilgrimage too; seven trips here were equivalent to one trip to Rome even as late as 1862. Though it survived numerous raids, the settlement began to decline in importance with the wave of French monastic foundations that followed the Anglo-Norman occupation of Ireland. But there were still monks in residence here when the monastery was dissolved in the 16th century. St Kevin’s feast day (3 June) continued to draw visitors to Glendalough into the 19th century, by which time the monks had acquired a rather bawdy reputation.