Now that the world is starting to open back up, I thought it would be the perfect time to highlight some of my favorite places to travel. These places include archives/libraries, historical places, cemeteries, and some of my favorite ancestor related places. Basically, no place, be it big or small, local or international, is off limits. Also, if you know of a place that I should talk about, let me know!
In today’s post, we’re visiting Glendalough, County Wicklow, Ireland. This is by far my favorite place in all of Ireland. The scenery, the atmosphere, and the history were all amazing! While I have no genealogical connection to this area of Ireland, visiting still hit me right in my history loving heart.
For those who are not familiar with Glendalough, let me explain it’s significance. Located in the Wicklow Mountains, Glendalough is home to one of the most important monastic sites in Ireland. Founded in the 6th Century by St. Kevin, this area was a “monastic city” where many came to live and learn. The city itself flourished until 1214 when it was destroyed by Norman invaders. Many of the original buildings from the 10th and 12th centuries survived and visitors are able to walk in the footsteps of the monks who lived there.
The Personal Connection
For me, Glendalough and the Wicklow Mountains were more than just home to a medieval city. While driving to Glendalough from Dublin, I began to realize with my ancestors settled where they did when they came to America. You see, the majority of my ancestors came to America in the early to mid 1600s. While they started their journey on the shores of Virginia and North Carolina, many ended up in the Appalachian Mountains. Specifically, they settled in the Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee.
The day I visited Glendalough, the weather was foggy with a light drizzle. I felt very much that I was back “home” in the East Tennessee mountains. It was an unexpected ancestral connection. I came to Glendalough because it was one of the top places to visit in Ireland. I left feeling like I had a better understanding of who my ancestors were. While not specifically from County Wicklow, I have Irish ancestors and while standing on the banks of the Upper Lake (at Glendalough), I felt like I had come home.
Things To See
There are so many things to see at Glendalough besides the 10th Century ruins. I highly recommend going though the heritage center before visiting the ruins. It gives you a better understanding of who St. Kevin was, why people followed him, and how they lived. When you know the stories, it makes walking though the ruins all the more impactful.
Don’t miss St. Kevin’s Cross! The cross’ arms are over 3 Feet across while the cross itself is over 8 Feet tall. There is also a legend that surrounds the cross. The story goes that whoever can wrap their arms around the body of the cross and touch their fingertips, will have all their dreams come true. I tried it…and I wasn’t even close!
After walking the ruins, take your time going through the cemetery. Even though I didn’t have any ancestors buried there, it was very interesting to read the names and inscriptions on the headstones. Take your time and soak it all in.
Lastly, do not miss walking the short trail to the Upper Lake. Even with dreary weather, it was an amazing view. I literally could have stood there all day! Also, if you’ve ever seen the movie “Leap Year”, the wedding scenes take place at Glendalough.
For More Information
If you would like more information about Glendalough, visit their website at https://www.glendalough.ie/