It's a rare day. Our walk this Sunday is a short 20 kilometers. The elevation change is a modest 657 meters – at least in the minds of the hill-climbing Irish. And there are cultural treasures to be explored en route.
Within an hour of leaving our bed and breakfast in Laragh, we find ourselves in Glenalough, on the doorstep of one of Ireland's oldest religious sites. It was founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century and has continued to operate in some form, despite raiding English and changing religious needs, through the 19th century.
It's an overcast morning. Low-lying mist hugs the surrounding hills and renders a moody, mysterious setting for the ruins and cemetery of this ancient monastic city. The all-stone St. Kevin's Church, though tiny in form, dominates the site. Even its steep gable roof is stone, hiding the barrel vaulted stone ceiling structure on the interior. A little further into the city is the tall Round Tower, a 30-meter high spire that served as a bell tower, a store house and a defensive structure. Stone ruins of the Cathedral and few other structures dot the site. In between is a crowded landscape of headstones, new and very old.
The remainder of the day's walk consists of climbing all those meters of Wicklow hills. Climbing out of the mist and clouds and into an unexpected display of sunlight. Then, steeply, plunging down into the valley of Ballyboy Brook and our night's accommodation at the Glenmalure Lodge. A popular place this. We arrive to a busy scene of locals and tourists thronging about the many picnic tables set in front of the lodge, the intersection of a sunny Sunday and many pints of beer.
For our part, the day ends in the cozy bar for a meal of venison and turkey washed down by pints of the local beer, aptly named St. Kevin's Red.