top of page

Get out to Glendalough

Retirement brings lots of pssibilities. In can even be difficult to get round to all the things. you want to do. I have encouraged many retirees to try their hand at Tour Guiding.

Firstly, it is something different, interesting and meeting new people with new ideas. Secondly, if you get registered as a guide, there are discounts in all sorts of places. There are courses which are reasonable but if being a full time guide is not your thing, you can start by choosing a couple of places you enjoy and offering to bring friends and/or visiting relatives. There are so many people who would enjoy a visit somewhere, provided that it is pleasant and they have a few 'come away' facts.

I do an interesting, (of course) walking tour of Birr and another of Clareen.

But Ihave been preparing a tour of Glendalough for the foreign students of UCD. and the basic layout of a visit is similar, no matter where you go. Keep it short, snappy and easy to understand.

Guided visits are experienced on at least 7 levels. Refer back to these as you walk along. Do npt have long periods where people have to listen to you. Get the guage of the group and feed in to whatever interests them, adding in a few things that you find facinating.

  1. Geography. Irish geography has had a huge effect on how a place evolves. Glendalough is the result of Glacial Erosion, as the last Ice Age receded. The world is always changing. Coastal erosion is always in operastion. To think that Ireland started off down in Antartica, before Antartica got there and has been making for the north, ever since. But the last ice age had 1 mile high of ice across Ireland. was over 10,000 years ago. As it melted, the huge force of the melting ice dragged rocks and dug huge valleys. It left 1 lake but by the time Kevin arrived out seeking solitude, the confluence of the rivers and water flowing off the stee9 sides had filled some of the lake with silt etc and formed 2 lakes...hence the name. It is covered in trees, streams, vegation and small waterfalls. It has interesting rocks, minerals-lead, copper, tin, limestone with traces of prehistoric worms, limestone with pyrite and micca. It is an area of spectacular beauty. It is also very close tom Dublin, has a huge car park, for a modest 4 euro., toilets, coffee trucks and even a hotel.

  2. History: Glendalough was the chosen place by St Coemgen, which means beautiful shining birth. He was born into a noble family of Leinster and an angel called his family to bring him to be baptised, by Ronan of Roscrea and given a latinised name of Kevin.. He was educated by Petroc of Cornwall and his uncle Eugenius near the area of Glendalough. . He was blessed with good looks, attracting some unwanted attention, including a maiden called Kathleen, but he stung himself with nettles, to resist her wiles. . Once ordained, he came back to Glendalough to live a liofe of prayer, spending his days walking, eating only nettles and herbs, dressed in animal skins and sleeping in a cave, which is known as Kevin's Bed. Probably not quite as attractive then. He was reputed to be wise, holy and learned and other men who wished to live a holy life and learn from him. arrived and a commjunity was formed. He would pray for hours with his arms out-stretched and legend has it that a blackbird built a nest in his outstretched hand, lay an egg and Kevin stayed in the same position til the egg hatched and fledged. The 7 churches/buildings are Romanesque, There is a round tower. and a standing High Cross. There were various raids by the Vikings. How they managed to find it is interesting, probably an indication of how famous it was. Over in Denmark, in the museums are many fine examples of objects taken from Ireland showing fine workmanship. Just for your interest, here are a few words that have come to English from Viking. wrong, berserk, leg, egg, ugly, much, they, them, their, cake, skull knife, by-law, bull dirt, rotten. Nnnnot so bad. Also, seemingly they were clean, or at least cleaner than the Irish , so had no problem getting fine Irish wives to bring back to Iceland and Denmark and their genetic impront is still found in the female line.

  3. Culture. After 7 years as a hermit and people constantly coming for prayer, pilgrimage and guidance, Kevin moved to the place where the churches are now and rough wooden churches were built. Kevin made a visit to Rome. As the Roman Empire collapsed, Christianity, itself heavily influenced by the Romans, filled the gap. Rome fell due to its collapse of moral values, So despite the wonderful learning, amazing artisans, firm grip on trading, Rome fell from within. The Irish monks who travelled to Rome including Kevin, were delighted with the learning, philosophy, legal framework, building techniques, agriculture etc and brought back all this knowledge with them. The famous phrase of how the Irish learned to read and write in 3 languages in 2 generations and saved civilisation has some truth. Everywhere the Irish/Scotus went they wrote down everything- not just Scripture. People still remembered off by heart many of the dramas, poems, philosophical discourses, ethical dilemnas. and the monks were quick writers and could complete a page in 20-30 minutes.

  4. Christianity: Ireland is one of the few countries who embraced Christianity willingly. The Irish were aghast at the story of this good man,, Jesus, who had devoted his life to doing good and ended up cruelly crucified. They had no difficulty in accepting the Trinity, the miracles and the promise of an afterlife provided the people try to live a good life. Many of the chieftans were among the first to embrace thjis religion. They loved hearing the stories of the Bible and even estimated that the first settlers arrived in Ireland when Abraham was 27. There was an explosion in learning. The spirituality was second nature and much of the Celtic spirituality was incorporated in to the new religion. Ir was seen as progressive. They were delighted to learn how to read and write and brought these skills witgh them as they progressed across England,and the continent and were welcomed into communities and encouraged to share their learning. . There was a certain wariness in Rome because the Irish church operated in its own way, giving only lip service to rome. They had their own calender, thier own way of calculating Easter and a different emphasis.

  5. Spirituality: There is definitely a feeling of calm and peacefulness in Glendalough. Take the time to take this in. Walk along, admiring the trees, little streams, waterfalls and allow your mind to rest. Ireland is full of these places. Modern life is full of bustle and noise, but as humans while we are social beings, we also need quiet time. Even when my children were small, we would have quiet time when they could take a book, sit quietly, read or play, but learn to accept silence and enjoy their own thoughts. It is often when the best ideas burble up. . There is a rock at the entrance to the ecclesiastical part has a place where you can put your fingers in the indentations and make a wish. It is so relaxing to have the time to make a wish. Allow Jesus to solve the problem.. The desire for spirituality is greater than religion. The Greeks held that in order to thrive, we humans need to keep the 4 aspects that make us human in harmony-Physical, Emotional, Intellectual and Spititual. It is only in developing these aspects and keeping them in harmony that we can attain happiness.

  6. Ecology: The place has been looked after beautifully by the Office of Public Works. Felled trees are left where they fall to disintigrate and allow insects to make their homes. The visitor centre is run by Irish Heritage. There is careful replanting of trees. goats roam freely, you might catch a glimpse of them as they chew the gorse bushes. There are sheep and deer. Lots of birds fly around. Insects are able to thrive. This was all being done long before people thought about 'Green'. It has been a place of contemplation and so many people over the years have done their best to ensure that any buildings/car parks do not interfere with the overall layout of the site. Unfortunately, during the 17th and 18th centuries, there was dreadful open mining. Lots of the filings are still visible. The conditions for the workers were poor. But as there was little or no work available, they had no trouble finding workers. Finally, after an accident in 1957. the mines were closed down, but the end was clearly visible with the collapse of price of lead, tin and copper. During the 19th century it was often referred to as Van Diemen's land. It is still fairly desolate. Lots of poison was allowed to seep into the lakes. It is totally disrespectful to the planet to mine in this way. .

  7. Conviviality. Humans seek other humans. We are social beings. Even Kevin came down from his cave and participated in building churches, teaching scholars, offering hospitality to pilgrims and providing a place of prayer. It is also important, while respecting the peace and silence, to have a few chats, sit down with your little picnic. have a coffee/tea or a huge 99 as I saw a young couple dig into on Saturday, even though it was bitterly cold. They looked totally happy. Some people in the 18th century took this to another level and used to descend on Glendalough in their hundreds, with music, alcohol, singing, dancing and even debauchery. The authorities moved in and closed it down.

So where to go? There are maps available. It is difficult to get lost. People like to go for a serious hike along the top of the mountain, others try their hand at bouldering. But there is plenty of room to walk. I would suggest, turning left after crossing the bridge and walk down and there is a sign for a church. It is small, but no-one else will be there and it is interesting to look at the building techniques and breathe in the peacefulness and wonder about these holy men who completely dedicated their life to God, with total faith. Then come back and maybe walk pasy the the Ecclesiastical part and continue down by the lakes and take the route out along thew left hand side to the end where all the filings from the mining are just left there. As you walk, there is a sign for the cave where Kevin lived across the lake. difficult to access, only by boat, which suited him perfectly. Then come back go up the path to see the waterfalls. It is a bit steep but very beautiful. On the way down, call into the church on the left hand side. Good place for a photo. Again, few people. There is a stone ring before you come to the toilewts and coffee trucks. Maybe have a rest before going back to the ecclesiastical site. There are lots of grave stones, the cathedral, a well preserved Round Tower, ( am not convinced by the theory of monks running in to escape the vikings. The door is not so high and all the Vikings would have to do is sit around, light a few fires and wait. See the high cross, one of the early ones. It is slightly indented but not as eleborate as Clonmacnoise, but beautiful none the less.

There were the renouned 12 apostles of Ireland. Kevin was in the second tier, but had a huge impact. The 12 were the early, Irish born adapters. St Patrick is not included because he was born outside Ireland.

St Ciaran of Saighir. Ciaran of Clonmacnloise, Brendan of Birr, Brendan of Clonfert/the voyager. Columba of Terryglass, Columba of Iona, Mobhji of glasnevin, Ruadhan of LOrragh, Sennan of Iniscathay, Ninnidh of Lough Erne and Laisren , who was the first Christian king of Munster. Cannice of Aghabo. All of these were students of St Finnian of Clonard. County Meath who taught them and sent them out to spread the good news. They were referred to as De Apostoli deci na h-Eireann.

So having had a read of this, head out and enjoy the visit. Maybe you might have some information on another place worth a visit. Feel free to share . If you send it to me, I will put it up on the site.

Fewer people are seeking positions in companies since the pandemic. Think we are all waiting for things to settle down and awaiting to see if Covid will fade into memory. but as it stands, very few of us are looking for an opportunioty to join the workforce, But there are positions. The important thing is to look around, try something new, stay engaged, keep an eye on your health. It would be no harm to schedule a complete check up in one of the clinics. Blackrock Clinic have a very thorough Heart Health programme for anyone who might have a history of heart problems.

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
No tags yet.
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page