Wicklow National Park and one of the most heavily visited tourist destinations of Ireland. Being only an hour from Dublin, many people are drawn to the Glendalough. Glendalough (which means “the valley of two lakes”) is a beautiful park most well known for it’s two lakes and ruins; one of the most popular being the Monastic city which contains a round tower, several small churches, and an old graveyard.
It was about an hour’s drive from where we were staying in Athy. Long drives in Ireland don’t seem as cumbersome because the drive is wondrous and full of beautiful sights to see along the way. Also, it’s exciting because any moment you might have a near accident due to the tiny roads that aren’t really big enough for two cars but no one really seems to mind. On the drive to Wicklow from Athy we drove past several adorable farms and through quaint towns but the most fun town was Hollywood because of the familiarity of the name being from Southern California. It even had a little white “Hollywood” sign tucked up in the hills surrounded by white sheep. We couldn’t resist pulling over to snap a few quick photos and revel in the hilarity of it all.
Nearing the entrance to Glendalough there are a few fun places to pull over and snap a few photos. The first place was at one of the higher peaks before descending into the mountain valley and it was cold, windy, foggy and wet.. but fantastic. I was lucky enough to travel with my sister, Jen and my two best friends (who are also sisters) Lauren and Whitney. We ran from the car to snap a quick freezing photo before high-tailing it back to the car. We are such wimps! The lookout was supposed to be of the heart-shaped Lough Ouler but it was way too foggy to see anything unfortunately.
The next stop was at the Glenealo River Bridge and the “Ruined Cottage” in the Wicklow Gap. There is not a lot of information on the cottage but it is rumored to be associated with the nearby mines that were closed after the First World War. We were able to get ahead of the fog and had bursts of sun which was too ethereal and magical for words or even pictures. It was an amazing experience walking among the heather in the crisp air with only the sounds of sheep, wind and running water to keep you grounded. I took so many photos!
We hopped back into the car for another few minutes and finally made it to Glendalough. It was a seriously popular park with lots of tour buses and a bustling visitor center. I had researched this park before traveling to Ireland so I know I wanted to see the upper lake and take photos there so we found the trail and started walking. It was 1.6km which is just about a 1 mile to the scenic upper lake so we started walking. I love hiking and this hike was chalk-full of amazing sights. There was several waterfalls, mossy trees, creeks, the lower lake, and the monastic city which we explored on the way back. It was like being in a dream and I can now understand why it has a spiritual significance for many people, because it promotes a quiet reflection on life and how beautiful nature can be.
We reached the upper lake and snapped a bunch of photos. We realized the lake was so dark because it has a large drop-off right after the shore and apparently is extremely deep so no walks into the lake unless you want to get drenched.
We walked back and visited the alluring monastic ruins. Trying to cherish the memory of this place is so difficult because the energy is so magnificent. The ruined church and graveyard is by far the most stunning that I saw the entire trip and there is no way to express how inspiring the entire day was. Finally, it was time to return to Athy tired and fulfilled with hundreds of photos to share. If you are going to Ireland and are staying in Dublin or surrounding areas for a few days, seriously consider making the trip to the Wicklow Gap and Glendalough!