Situated 60 mins from the busy streets of streets of Dublin is a magical place, a place where nature and history converge, Glendalough in the County Wicklow. Arriving there at 6:30 am, I was the first car in 1 of 3 parking lots. The sun was just rising, spilling a golden light over the Wicklow Mountains.
I slowly get out of the car with stiff and tired muscles from driving a manual car. It’s chilly and damp outside so I don on another shirt, rain coat and hiking boots. Grabbing my camera and making my way across the empty parking lot to venture in the place I have been researching and dreaming of for months.
Glendalough is a 6th century “Monastic City”, founded by St. Kevin. “Glendalough thrived as one of Ireland’s great ecclesiastical foundations and schools of learning until the Normans destroyed the monastery in 1214 A.D. and the dioceses of Glendalough and Dublin were united.” (http://visitwicklow.ie/attractions/glendalough-monastic-city/) Within the “Monastic City” you will find: Round Tower, The Cathedral, St. Kevin’s Cross, St. Kevin’s Kitchen, and The Priest House.
With camera in hand I start to explore, taking photos of ancient places, historical buildings and an endless landscape. A pain started in my stomach and I quickly realized I had not eaten in hours. In all of my research, I some how over looked that there is a hotel at the entrance to the National Park. It is called the Glendalough Hotel http://www.glendaloughhotel.com/ . With high hopes, I walked in to see if one had to stay there for breakfast, thankfully the answer was no. I treated myself to a full Irish Breakfast, the total cost, 6 euro.(side note: they were all booked up, I still had no place to stay for the night)
Reinvigorated and ready to go, I set off on a quick hike through the park. Glendalough is known not only for the Monastic City but also for the two lake, the Upper Lake and the Lower Lake. Unprepared for hiking up to the Upper Lake, I stayed close to the paved trails that lead to the Lower Lake. Once there I watched as runners finished a race, passing the Cahr, a stone circle of little know origin (possibly a prayer space for pilgrims in the 12th century) with crumbling crosses surrounding it and watched kids tossing stones into this lake carved out by a glacier thousands of years ago. My head spun trying to grasp the history and that I was really there.
People from all walks of life started to arrive: hikers, walkers, runners, tour buses and school groups. Three miles in, my legs began to ache and needing to find a place to stay; I made my way back to the car.
Once back to the parking lot, I was clearly no longer the only car in the lot. Buses lined the entrance , cars circled the lot looking for a parking space and school girls taking selfies moved passed me with little regard as they hide their cigarettes from the group leader. At the car the boots came off and the flat were put on. I turned on my GPS and there was no signal, due to what I can only assume that to many devices were using the service at once.
With no place to stay, no place to be and only a road map, I took a right out of the parking lot and started to drive.