I don’t know what I expected, but the miles of rolling windswept hills marked by black streaks of peat waiting to be chopped neatly out of the bogs was a surprise. The Wicklow Mountain National Park is 50,600 acres (204.8-square-kilometres) and as we drove through it, we met only a few other lonely cars.
Most of our journey was isolated. The blue sky was huge above us with clouds floating across it, aloft the same winds that rustled the pale grasses. Hiding in those grasses are bluebells, wood sorrel, bracken, ferns and mosses all shading the grasses with their vibrant colors.
Darkening the bright fields are stacks of black peat which is fascinating for anyone who has read about historical Ireland. Visions of smoky fires filled our heads and we embarked upon our quest to find a real peat fire to enjoy.
The Glendalough Valley was carved out by glaciers during the Ice Age and the two lakes, from which Glendalough (glen of two lakes) gets its name, were formed when the ice eventually thawed.
Kevin, a descendant of one of the ruling families in Leinster, studied at what then must have been the wilds of Glendalough under the care of three holy men. He was to return later, with a small group of monks to found a monastery where the 'two rivers form a confluence'.
St Kevin’s fame as a holy man spread and he attracted numerous followers. He died in about 618. For six hundred years afterwards, Glendalough flourished and became an important center for religious learning, but also was a settlement that experienced its share of Viking raids.
Among the ruins of what remains of the small monastic community are the:
Round Tower which sits away from the main group of buildings, and would have been used for storage, and possibly a place for retreat during invasion.
The arrival of the Normans in Ireland ended the golden epoch of Glendalough. In 1214 the monastery was destroyed by the invaders and the Diocese of Glendalough was united with the Sea of Dublin. After that, Glendalough declined as a monastic establishment and gradually it became deserted.
The buildings fell into decay and more than 6 hundred years elapsed before a reconstruction program was started in 1878 and began the preservation of what you see today.