Back in the 6th century, hermit monk Saint Kevin first sought solace and contemplation in the idyllic surroundings of Glendalough. His followers established a monastery here, which would become one of the most important monastic sites in Europe. The focal point was the 33m high round tower, where the monks could hide away, keen to keep their precious manuscripts from the hands of invading Vikings.
The Glendalough Valley is now part of the Wicklow Mountains National Park. Established in 1991, it now extends to more than 170sq km. Only an hour’s drive from Dublin city, there is a vast array of routes at all levels of difficulty. But Glendalough is best explored on the Spink and Glenealo Valley Route, a high quality loop walk with excellent waymarking and a well-maintained trail.
Back at the Visitor Centre there are refreshments available in the restaurant, or you might want to head for the nearby village of Laragh with its restaurants and pubs. Laragh also makes a great base for further exploration of the surrounding mountains. Experienced walkers might want to climb Lugnaquilla, the highest mountain in Wicklow, while those in pursuit of more leisurely walks can explore historic Glenmalure or the scenic area around Lough Dan.
Slightly further north is the village of Roundwood, with its thriving Sunday market. Further north still the beautiful formal gardens of the Powerscourt Estate lie in the shadow of Sugarloaf Mountain. Don’t miss Powerscourt Waterfall close by, at 130m the highest waterfall in Ireland or Britain. The cascade is impressive at any time of year, but especially dramatic after rain.