Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ireland, Day 3:Saint Kevin's Hideaway in the Hills

I left my last Ireland post at the point where we were on our way to Glendalough (pronounced glen DA Lock), or the "Valley of Two Lakes." The rain continued to pour but we were going to see the upper lake and our driver assured us that the rain and mist would create the perfect atmosphere for our visit. What a salesman he was! And he was completely right.

We disembarked near the Glendasan River (why is this river's name in the usual order and not said with the "River" first?) and entered through The Gateway, the oldest surviving entrance to a monastic settlement, according to the Glendalough Connect website.

 Two round pillars guard the gate. There was once a building atop the Gateway, and historians have wondered how on earth it actually stayed up there, given the way it was constructed. As before, I hung behind the tour to take my photos, and got thoroughly wet in the bargain. I did my best to keep my camera lens dry but it was not easy, so please pardon the quality of these shots. Between being very, very cold and wet, and the steady rain it was a challenge.

 Celtic crosses, everywhere in the churchyard of St. Kevin's Church. There was once also a cathedral here,

 but all that is left of it are the ruins you see in the background. Cromwell left his mark here too, it seems.
The round tower once had 5 floors, which were of wood, with a slit of a window for light on each floor. These towers were used for storage, for bell towers, and also for refuge in case of attacks.

I had to photograph the stone on the left--it's another Susanna. My name seems to have been quite popular at times, although in recent days I seldom meet anyone who shares it with me.

This is St. Kevin's Cross, carved from one solid piece of granite. The circle on this cross in not pierced. According to the Kevin of Glendalough website, if you wrap your arms around this cross and make a wish, your wish will come true. Wish I'd known that while visiting! 

I was glad to be far behind the others, just to soak in (literally and figuratively) this ancient place.

 Saint Kevin's Church, with its round steeple and stone roof, dates to the 11th or 12th century. Imagine building a roof of stone! Locally, the church is referred to as St. Kevin's Kitchen. It is called that because people at one time thought the bell tower was actually a chimney for a kitchen, but that was really not true.
Yes, our guide was right. A rainy day is the best for visiting this haunting place.

Church, nave and bell tower.

When we left the church we followed the river through a magical forest, covered in moss and ferns, with tall crooked trees, many rocks and hiding places for the little people. By this time I was too cold and my camera card was full so I contented myself with one photo of the river, and deleted photos as I walked so that I would have room for a few more shots.

I am so glad I did. This is where our forest path ended: 

 In the photo above you can see an outcropping on the left. There is where one could visit, if one was able to make the steep climb, Kevin's Bed, a very small cave where the saint is believed to have spent a great deal of time.
 We took a group photo or two and then...Dennis, our tour guide, went back to the bus and came back with a bottle of Jameson Whiskey and some small cups. A tot for all! It. Was. Marvelous.

 As we headed back to Dublin, Dennis regaled us with more stories, and a recipe for making Irish Coffee. We rocketed down the steep, one-lane, narrow road as he took us step by step through the process, waving the half-full bottle of whiskey as he talked. I think there were a few nervous tourists in the front seats.

Our day in the hauntingly beautiful Wicklow hills was over. I was wet through and through, tired and yet exhilarated and full of all that we had seen and heard. A bus tour might not be the best way to see a place, but for this one day, it gave us what we wanted: a trip back in time to the glory of Ireland's past.

For more about St. Kevin, check this website. Stories, history and miracles, all in one place.

Come back tomorrow for the recipe for Irish Coffee, according to Dennis' instructions. Or go here to read a similar recipe.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

Ah, the Irish have a way of making their weather sound attractive - "a soft day!" they'll often say. I was once in a bus in the Italian Dolomites when the driver began steering with one hand while he spoke on his phone. Often the hand came off the steering wheel to enable him to gesticulate (as Italians are obliged to do when talking. On one occasion he neatly tucked the phone on his shoulder to gesticulate with BOTH hands!

Pat MacKenzie said...

You're having my dream day I will visit Ireland and the place of my ancestors. It really is green isn't it.

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