On the first full day of our trip to Ireland, we visited Glendalough, the ruins of a monastic settlement founded by St. Kevin. I went there about 20 years ago on my first trip to Ireland. I had never heard of St. Kevin before, and the main thing I remember about that day was all the snickering I did when I realized my older brother Kevin was named after a saint. This time I was a bit more mature.
Clockwise from top left: view of the cemetery, detail from the Cathedral, St. Kevin's Kitchen in the background, The Round Tower, view of the Tower from the Cathedral, St. Kevin's Cross, flowers, intact rooves of St. Kevin's Kitchen, center: another view of St. Kevin's Kitchen.
The night before our visit, a woman sitting near me in a Dublin restaurant said it was the scariest cemetery she had ever seen. I didn’t remember it that way, but it had been so long I was curious to see it now. The first change I noticed was the newish visitor center, where you can get an overview of the site’s history and watch a multilingual audiovisual show.
The settlement, dating from the 6th century, features churches and dwellings and is dominated by The Round Tower. The tower is about 98 feet high and was built as a bell tower and lookout point, and was probably used as a place of refuge during attacks. The roof was rebuilt in 1876. The Cathedral is the largest building in the settlement. Because it no longer has a roof, it affords some interesting views of the rest of the site. Just south of the Cathedral stands St. Kevin's Cross, the oldest Celtic cross at Glendalough. Still further south is St. Kevin's Kitchen, which is remarkably preserved and even has its original roof.
Maybe it was all the flowers, sunshine and green vegetation, but those tumbling tombstones didn't scare me at all. And seeing the brightly-colored “St. Kevin’s Kitchen” and “Kevin’s Cones” food stands just outside the entrance cracked me up. OK, maybe I’m not so mature after all.