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Glendalough Monastic Site

Top choice in Glendalough

Nestled between two lakes, haunting Glendalough (Gleann dá Loch, meaning 'Valley of the Two Lakes') is one of the most significant monastic sites in Ireland and one of the loveliest spots in the country, centred on a 1000-year-old Round Tower, a ruined cathedral and a tiny church known as St Kevin's Kitchen. It was founded in the late 5th century by St Kevin, a bishop who established a monastery on the Upper Lake's southern shore and about whom there is much folklore.

During the Middle Ages, when Ireland was known as 'the island of saints and scholars', Glendalough became a monastic city catering to thousands of students and teachers. The site is entered through the only surviving monastic gateway in Ireland.

The Glendalough Visitor Centre, opposite the Lower Lake car park, has historical displays and a good 20-minute audiovisual show. From the Upper Lake (1.5km west of the visitor centre), several good hiking trails head into the hills.

Visitors swarm to Glendalough in summer, so it's best to arrive early and/or stay late, preferably on a weekday, as the site is free and open 24 hours. The lower car park gates are locked when the visitor centre closes.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Glendalough attractions

1. Cathedral of St Peter & St Paul

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The Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul, just southeast of the Round Tower at the Glendalough monastic site, has a 10th-century nave; the chancel and…

2. Round Tower

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The 10th-century Round Tower at the Glendalough monastic site is 33m tall and 16m in circumference at the base. The upper storeys and conical roof were…

3. Priest's House

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At the centre of the graveyard at the Glendalough monastic site, to the southwest of the Cathedral of St Peter & St Paul, is the Priest's House. This odd…

4. St Kevin's Kitchen

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Glendalough's trademark is St Kevin's Kitchen or Church, at the southern edge of the monastic site. This compact structure, with a miniature round-tower…

5. Monastery Gatehouse

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The stone arch of the monastery gatehouse at the Glendalough monastic site is the only surviving example of a monastic entranceway in the country. Just…

6. St Kieran's Church

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There are but scant remains of St Kieran's Church, the smallest at the Glendalough monastic site. It's to the east of St Mary's Church.

7. St Mary's Church

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The 10th-century St Mary's Church, to the southwest of the Round Tower, stands outside the walls of the Glendalough monastic site and belonged to local…

8. Deer Stone

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At the junction with Green Rd as you cross the river just south of the Glendalough monastic site is the Deer Stone, set in the middle of a group of rocks…