The great thing about Ireland is that if you turn up at 7.30 am on a wet February morning pretty much anywhere, you’ll have the place to yourself. And so it was with me on Sunday morning two weeks ago in Glendalough, Co. Wicklow. I was in Laragh for the weekend (the nearest village, a couple of kilometres away), and I reckoned I couldn’t go without visiting the ancient monastic settlement of Glendalough (I hadn’t been there since the early Nineties). Though the place is jammed with tourists most days, I didn’t meet another person while I was there. Better still, soon after I got there, the rain stopped and the sky began to clear.
There’s an attractive wooden walkway that leads from the graveyard to the lower lake, and as I walked along it, I thought my hiking boots were making a creaking noise. Instead, it was a frog chorus – dozens of them mating and spawning in the water pools beside the walkway and the male frogs croaking for all their worth in order to see a little action.
While I was wandering around the site, with the round tower and the remains of various churches, I couldn’t help but think of all the monks who have wandered the same paths in prayer and meditation over the last millenium. I wonder how many of them paused during their morning walks to note the sight and sounds of the frogs massed in the pools and streams near the monastery. The monks are gone but the frogs croak on.
Iconic monastic buildings of Glendalough, including the Round Tower.