As a half-day trip from Dublin, we went with a local friend of Becca’s to the historic park of Glendalough in County Wicklow.

Glendalough is one of the most popular day trips for visitors to Dublin, and one of the most famous monastic sites in all of Ireland.

After road tripping on the Wild Atlantic Way, we were ready to see some of Eastern Ireland’s cultural landmarks.

Visting Glendalough was an excellent mix of nature, scenery, culture and history, and as golden hour fell upon us, the place was just a bit magical.

Monastic and fantastic scenery

Driving to Glendalough (pronounced Glenda-lock) gave wonderful views of the Irish countryside as we left Dublin - rolling green farmland with sheep, villages with pubs and farmhouses. When we arrived at 7 p.m., the place was fairly empty!

Our local friend mentioned that going in the daytime will mean seeing heaps of tour buses pour out visitors, but if you go in the evening, you could have the place to yourself.

Steeped in Irish history

We walked on the lakeside trails and enjoyed the forest and nature before coming to the site of Glendalough itself. Glendalough is an ancient place, built in the 6th century by monks. We walked through the remains of a church that was used from 900 - 1200… approximately a thousand years ago! It’s rare to visit somewhere that old.

Exploring the historic graveyard

The monastic site is also now a graveyard, where graves date from the 1700s and possibly before then, if you can make out the faded writing on the weathered gravestones. The silhouettes of the tombstones made for eerie photos as the sun went down and as twilight came over Glendalough, outlining the rounded tower that our friend said was used by monks to fight off invading Vikings.

To finish our evening, we took the 1.6-km path on wooden boardwalks back to the entrance, and it was nearly dark. Glendalough was nearly closing for the evening. We had learned a lot and felt like we were worlds away from the lights and action in Dublin.

How to get there

To get to Glendalough, you can take any number of tours or buses. We drove with Becca’s friend, which was lucky for us, and driving will get you there faster with more flexibility.