Glendalough (Glen of Two Lakes) is a place you'll love if you have any interest in monastic ruins or early Christian history in Ireland. Located within the beautiful Wicklow mountains, it has a storied history, which I'd highly recommend reading up on prior to your visit. Web sites like Wikipedia have free info which will help explain the importance of the ruins & make your visit more enjoyable. Also, the visitor center shows a free educational video.
Glendalough was established in the 6th century by St Kevin. Through the centuries it flourished as a learning center even after repeated Viking raids. Unfortunately, in 1398, the site was partially destroyed by those most "lovable" neighbors from across the Irish sea, that would be the English. However, Glendalough continued as a monastery until Henry VIII/England's Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539, and a place of pilgrimage long after that. Especially on St. Kevin's feast day of June 3rd.
There are many remaining structures to see between the upper and lower lakes. The gateway into the site is the original entrance into Glendalough. It is believed most of the structures were built between the 6th & 8th centuries. From what I've read many were restored with original stones in the 1870's. The majority of the structures are near the lower lake. The ones I was most impressed with were the famous round tower & St Kevin's Kitchen. The upper lake area contains older structures said to be from St Kevin's time, including St. Kevin's cell, which is believed to have been where he lived.
I'd recommend both the upper & lower lakes if time permits. If short of time, you might be better off sticking to the lower lake, which is closest to the entrance & exit. If you intend to see the lower & upper ruins plan on no less than 2 hrs. Some visitors make an entire day of it. If possible go when the site is least likely to be over run with crowds. Early in the day might be a good time. I was there last April on an unseasonably warm, sunny day. It was mid afternoon and the crowds made it feel more like a day in the park, than a visit to an ancient monastic site. But it was still great. I certainly wouldn't miss seeing it because of the crowds. I'll be visiting Glendalough again next time I'm lucky enough to be in the land of Saints & Scholars, the Emerald Isle.
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