“It is said that once upon a time St. Kevin was kneeling with his arms stretched out in the form of a cross in Glendalough…” -Seamus Heaney
This weekend we were lucky enough to visit one of the most beautiful places in Ireland, a centuries-old monastic settlement called Glendalough. The monastery here was founded in the sixth century by St. Kevin. 15 centuries later, ruins of the community still stand surrounded by ancient graves.
The name Glendalough is Gaelic for “glen of two lakes.” The lower lake is right by where the monastic settlement stood, visible from the medieval style round tower, which many consider to be one of the most beautiful structures in the country. A good walk further past the lower lake will take you to the upper lake, where you’ll find one of the most incredible views you’ll ever have.
Hidden away in the woods to the side of this lake, St. Kevin dwelled in secluded serenity among the astoundingly beautiful nature. The most famous story of his life is of how he stood by the lake one day with his arms stretched out like a cross, when a little bird landed perched in his hand for a rest. If you feel like hiking, you can even find the areas where he slept and prayed.
A short bus ride away from the Glendalough Visitor’s Center is the hotel where we stayed, Lynham’s of Laragh. It’s owned by the Lynham family, who lived for a while in Eastwall next door to my dad when he was growing up in Dublin. My mom tells me that sometimes my grandmother, Mary (who I called “Nanny”) Weldon, would go down to Glendalough with the Lynhams and stay there in their hotel in the same part of the building where Jakob and I stayed. Growing up in America, I only saw Nanny once every few years at most, so having the opportunity to see a place she was so familiar with before her dementia set in was a very nice experience.
Glendalough is in Co. Wicklow, one of my dad’s favorite parts of Ireland. I remember seeing pictures of the mountains on his computer when I was younger. My mom tells me that as a small child I played in the downstairs pub at the Lynham family’s hotel, so it’s cool to think that I could come back nearly two decades later (and be old enough to drink there!) and see it all again.
Jakob and I stopped at a little street vendor shop to look for souvenirs and decided we wanted to get Claddagh rings there. Claddagh rings are an Irish symbol of love, loyalty, and friendship. The symbol is of a pair of hands holding a heart with a crown. They are meant to be given as a gift, either to a lover or a friend. If you are single, you wear the ring on your right hand with the heart facing away from you (toward your pinkie). If you are in a relationship, you wear the ring on your right hand with the heart turned toward you (toward your middle finger). If you are engaged, you wear the ring on your left hand with the heart turned toward you. We had been planning to get Claddagh rings together, and at this little street vending stand we found ones that we loved for each other.
I ended up getting into a conversation with the man who sold us the rings and told him we were staying at the Lynham’s place. He told us he used to be married to one of the Lynhams. I told him about how my dad’s family lived next to them in Eastwall and his eyes lit up as he said “Weldon!” He started talking to me about my dad and my aunts and uncles and how my Uncle Ken was an electrician. It was fun to run into someone who actually knew my family!
Overall, Glendalough was an absolutely incredible experience and a very hard weekend to top. I had never seen a place so beautiful and serene before, so I’m ecstatic to return someday. There are several other places that I plan on visiting in Ireland, so tune in every week for #WeldonWednesdays as I check out more of my #IrishRoots!