Sketching Ireland #3

Detour to Glendalough

road-map-3.jpgWhile researching my next stop in my itinerary of following the M9 Highway to the city of Kilkenny, I came upon promotional touristy stuff on beautiful mountain lakes just east of my last stop. The place is called Glendalough, pronounced as Gleann Dá Loch, meaning “Valley of two lakes”. When I first read the name, suddenly Brigadoon came to mind. Brigadoon was an old movie musical of a mystical village in the Highlands of Scotland starring Gene Kelly. Well, Glendalough may not magically appear every hundred years through the mist, but clearly it does sound like a worthwhile detour to take. However, I had to backtrack back to Ballytore and take country back roads first to the town of Dunlavin. Implementing Street View, I found that the town was quite modern. Frankly, I hoped to see more classical Irish style cottages with its tatched roof and stone walls. So, I continued on northeast to what was a pleasant drive on a well paved two lane road [R756] lined with hedges, wooden fences and fields of barley (I think). I drove by both country estates, quaint houses and farms but no public places like pubs & restaurants. (Note to travelers: gas stations can usually be found on major road junction.)

Anyway, the next stop in our detour, believe it or not, is Hollywood. No… not the one in Los Angeles. For one thing, Hollywood Ireland is smaller but much older than it’s LA’s namesake. Here is a historical note, Hollywood was an old designated stage coach stop. As a travel blogger, I recommend that you stop over at Hollywood and eat. I suggest you stop at either the HOLLYWOOD CAFE and HOLLYWOOD INN. For there will be no place to eat on the long road to Glendalough.



The drive into the mountains of Glendalough is not like driving through the Cascades of Washington State or even the Rockies. These mountains were not as high or sheer, but I really enjoyed riding through them even if I’m watching it on my computer monitor. I can even imagine feeling the cold air through my imaginary Fonzie like leather jacket. As I turned a bend on the highway, I came upon a wonderful sight of Glendalough resting at the bottom of a valley between two mountains. Those mountains are the Tonelagee and the Camaderry enveloping the glacial valley of Glendalough. For a sketching project, I made a perspective map of Glendalough. I love making this kind of maps. You’ll probably see more of these later.

Cascading Stream


When driving into the valley, I look to the right and found to my delight a flowing mountain stream cascading down rocks and mossy boulders. So, I think we’ll camp next to the stream.

Glendalough Monastic Site

Glendalough Monastic Site, also known as the city of the seven churches, was once enclosed within a circular wall of stone. You enter through the Gateway.

The Gateway


There is a delightful feeling of discovery as you walk through the arches and along the pathway towards the settlement. The very picturesque Gateway has the distinction of being Ireland’s only surviving example of a medieval gateway to an early monastic city. This structure was originally two-storied with two fine granite arches. The gatekeeper would have lived on the second floor. The projecting walls at each end indicate it had a timber roof. Very little remains of the enclosure walls. [content from]

Monastic Site Map


The Round Tower was built of mica-slate interspersed with granite. It stands about 30 metres high, with an entrance 3.5 metres from the base. The conical roof was rebuilt in 1876 using the original stones. The tower originally had six timber floors, connected by ladders. The four storeys above entrance level are each lit by a small window; while the top storey has four windows facing the cardinal compass points. Round towers, landmarks for approaching visitors, were built as bell towers, but also served on occasion as store-houses and as places of refuge in times of attack. [content from Wikipedia]

The Cathedral
The largest and most imposing of the buildings at Glendalough, the cathedral had several phases of construction, the earliest, consisting of the present nave with its antae. The large mica-schist stones which can be seen up to the height of the square-headed west doorway were re-used from an earlier smaller church. A few metres south of the cathedral an early cross of local granite, with an unpierced ring, is commonly known as St. Kevin’s Cross. [content from Wikipedia]

St. Kevin’s Cross
St. Kevin’s Cross is a fine example of a plain cross remarkably carved from a single granite stone. The arms of the cross are over a metre in length. The imperforate cross stands about 2.5m tall. It may have marked the boundary of the cemetery in which stands the priests’ house. A local legend surrounding St. Kevin’s Cross says that anyone who can wrap their arms around the entire width of the cross body and close the circle by touching fingertips will have their wishes granted. [content from]

The Priests’ House
Almost totally reconstructed from the original stones, based on a 1779 sketch made by Beranger, the Priests’ House is a small Romanesque building, with a decorative arch at the east end. It gets its name from the practice of interring priests there in the 18th and 19th centuries. Its original purpose is unknown although it may have been used to house relics of St. Kevin. [content from Wikipedia]

St. Kevin’s Church or “Kitchen”
St. Kevin’s Church is an intact stone-roofed structure. The steep roof, formed of overlapping stones, is supported internally by a semi-circular vault. Access to the croft or roof chamber was through a rectangular opening towards the western end of the vault. The church also had a timber first floor. The belfry with its conical cap and four small windows rises from the west end of the stone roof in the form of a miniature round tower. It is commonly known as St. Kevin’s Kitchen as the bell tower resembles a kitchen chimney. However, food was not cooked there. [content from Wikipedia]

St. Mary’s or Our Lady’s Church

St. Mary’s one of the earliest and best constructed of the churches built just outside and west of the Monastic Site. The church belonged to local nuns and was probably built outside the main enclosure. The chancel has an east window with hood moulding. On the outside of the window are two very weather worn carved heads. Built into the altar is one of the many bullaun stones in Glendalough.

Glendalough Bullauns – The Deerstone

At this early Christian monastic site are a number of interesting bullaun stones. Bullaun are large stones first flattened on the top then a bowl shap was carved into it. One of these is known as the Deerstone. The site was founded by St Kevin who died in 617 AD. According to legend St Kevin had no cow so he persuaded a doe to leave milk in the bullaun for him. Situated in and around the valley there are over forty other bullaun stones, a number of which are located on the monastic site.

There are more to check out and I’ll reveal it at later SKETCHING from the Neck Up posts.


Glendalough is also a fantastic recreational area with kayaking on the lakes, rock climbing and numerous trails for both hiking and mountain bikes. One of those trails led me to my final drawing of an old stone crusher with an abandoned miner’s village on the background.

Well, we got to head back to the M9 and continue with my itinerary.


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Thank you.

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