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Glendalough "the glen of the two lakes", is a truly spellbinding place - an
ancient monastic settlement and two clear water lakes beneath the sheer cliffs of a deep
valley which was carved out by glaciers during the Ice Age.
The monastic settlement has been a centre for pilgrims and visitors since its
foundation by St. Kevin in the 6th century. Kevin is thought to have come from the
more fertile lands of county Kildare and like many other men of sanctity in early times,
desired solitude for his life of prayer and contemplation. Thus he withdrew into
the thinly peopled mountains and set up his hermitage at Glendalough.
settlement expanded and flourished for many years before being finally destroyed in the
16th century. The present remains, some of the most important of their kind in
Ireland, tell only a small part of the monastic story. The buildings which survive -
round tower, cathedral, stone churches and decorated crosses - probably date from between
the 8th and 12th centuries.The famous Round Tower, about 34m high and 16m in
circumference at the base, is still in near perfect condition even though it is almost
1,000 years old.
The excellent Visitors' InterpretiveCentre provides regular
exhibitions, informative guided tours of the monastic site as well as an
audio-visual show about the rich heritage of the area.
Elsewhere around the upper and lower lakes there are a number of well-known walking
routes, which allow visitors to take in as much or as little of the surrounding scenery as
they wish. These walks cater for both the experienced walker and for family day outs.
Once the monastic capital of Europe, Glendalough attracts up to 500,000
visitors annually. The ruins of the seven churches and the 6th century round tower owe
their origins to St. Kevin, the hermit who founded the monastic city and who lived in a
cave - St. Kevin's Bed - overlooking the Upper Lake.
Laragh village lies at the junction of several large Wicklow valleys and many scenic roads meet here,
the most important one being the road to Glendalough. Unless you approach this monastic site travelling
east from the Wicklow Gap, you must go through Laragh. There are two options to the Laragh Walk, through woods,
then over Brockagh Mountain and finally through the monastic site at Glendalough.
Laragh is an anglicised form of láthrach, meaning a site or location. In his Placenames of County Wicklow,
Liam Price says that Laragh is identified with Láthrach Dá Arad, the site of two charioteers, which is in the
same neighbourhood as Mágh Dá Chonn, the plain of the two heads. It is interesting that an old Gaelic manuscript
describing the portions of meat to be served to persons of importance at a ceremonial feast, says that
"heads are the portion of charioteers"!
Laragh is a quiet peaceful village but at the top of the triangular green stands the old police barracks,
which is well worth noting. The Glenmacnass River running through the village which lies on the Wicklow Way route, a 132km/82mile Way-Marked Way following a North-South line over the eastern flanks of the Wicklow Mountains.
Trooperstown is a forest location 1.5km/0.9miles north east of Laragh on the R755 to Roundwood. Laragh and Glendalough can be busy on many weekends as most people head for the honey-pot of the monastic site and lakes. Trooperstown Hill lies a little aloof to the east and receives very few visitors by comparison. It also yields splendid views up into Glendalough and over the nearby hills.The townland is so named because it is said that British troops camped here during the 1798 rebellion.
There is a pleasant picnic spot here on the banks of the Avonmore River beside a new bridge to replace the one carried off by "Hurricane Charlie" in 1986. Facilities include access to the river, canoeing, fishing.
Clara Lara Funpark
The 100 acre funpark is situated about 4.4km/3miles from Laragh on the Rathdrum Road. Here in the spectacular surroundings of oak trees and water are assault courses, water slides, boating lakes, kiddie karts, tree houses and woodland playgrounds. There's the breathtaking Aqua Shuttle, the biggest slide in Ireland, and children can sail away to wherever they fancy on the Pirate Galleon.