The Hollywood Stone, St Kevins Way & Glendalough

The Hollywood Stone got its name because it was was found near Hollywood, Co. Wicklow in 1908 by a group of men hunting ferrets.  It was lying face down in a grassy lane at Lockstown Upper, cutting off the angle between the Holly-Glendalough road and the road which comes from Black Ditches.

The boulder is large, measuring about 1.2 m high, by 0.9 m wide, by 0.8m thick.  The labyrinth design is approc 70cm in diameter.  A small section of the labyrinth is missing.  The labyrinth appears to have been carved using the classical seed pattern.  It is not known what way the labyrinth was orientated, although from the shape of the remainder of the Stone it may have been sited with the entrance at the bottom.

The exact purpose of the stone is unknown, although it is almost certain that the stone had some connection with the Pilgrimage to Glendalough.  It may have been used as a marker on St Kevins Road.  It may have been a 'station'  along the route where pilgrims stopped to pray.

There are also other medieval cross slabs in the vicinity of Kevins Way. At Woodenbridge (on the high road from Valleymount), there is a small road-side boulder that is inscribed with an early medieval Latin cross. There is an interesting and strikingly located medieval cross-inscribed pillar on a shoulder to the north of the top of Tonelagee mountain.

Labyrinths have many associations with pilgrimage, particularly in the Christian context.  Christians had a religious practice of going on pilgrimages to holy sites; many wanted to make the journey to the holiest shrine of all Christendom, Jerusalem. That pilgrimage was, however, expensive, arduous, dangerous, and often impossible while the Holy Land was in the possession of the Muslims. Consequently a substitute was needed - a pilgrimage to a famous cathedral where a labyrinth was installed as a symbol of 'the road to Jeruslaem'. 

Interestingly, at one stage two pilgrimages to Glendalough was considered the equivalent of one pilgrimage to Jeruslaem.  However, in later times, it took seven pilgrimages to Glendalough to be equivalent to one to Jerusalem.

St Kevin's Road:
This was an incient pilgrims road leading from Hollywood in West Wicklow, over the Wicklow Gap to Glendalough.  It was partly excavated in 1972 by the National Museum of Ireland revealing a paved roadsurface in places, where granite slabs were laid onto a bed of small stones or directly onto the peat.  Much of the paving has collapsed and is barely evident in spots.  Some of this is still visible across the Wicklow Gap.  More recent UCD School  of Archeology excavations on the road at Brockagh have also revealed new evidence for this routeway.

In 2001 a 29 kilometer pilgrims path was re-established, following as closely as possible the ancient route, althought the exact route or routes are not fully known.

Glendalough gets its name from the Irish Gleann Dá Locha which translates as ‘the glen of the two lakes.  Glendalough was made famous by Saint Kevin who came to the area in the sixth century CE. He was looking for a place of solitude and having found it, remained and lived a rather hermitic life. In 498CE, he founded his monastery in Glendalough which attracted thousands of people who were intrigued by St. Kevin's simple and scholarly ways. Over time, a school developed, attracting thousands of students from Europe. St. Kevin died in the year 618CE at 120 years of age.
The settlement continued to expand for 600 years and was destroyed in 1398. The buildings which survive date from the 8th and 12th centuries. The most famous is, of course, the round tower which is 34m high and 16m in circumference at the base. The roof had to be replaced in 1876 when it was struck by lightning. The Glendalough round tower was originally built as a bell tower and a place of refuge when the monastery was attacked. There are many stone crosses and churches to see.

Glendalough Visitors Centre
There is a visitor's centre located at the entrance to the Valley. It houses a very comprehensive exhibition on Glendalough detailing the history, archaeology, and wildlife.

There is a lovely seven circuit classical labyrinth in the grounds of the visitors centre in Glendalough.  Constructed by Kevin O' Kelly, it has gravel paths with grass fields.

1. UCD School of Archaeology, Exploring a medieval pilgrims’ church at Templeteenaun, Co. Wicklow
Principal Investigators: Aidan O’Sullivan and Graeme Warren
2. Goddard H. Orpen, 'Carved Stone near Hollywood, Co. Wicklow'. Journal of Royal Society o f Antiquaries of Ireland 41(1911), 183-5.
The Hollywood Stone
St Kevins Road, Wicklow Gap
St Kevins Road, descent into Glendalough
Church & Round Tower, Glendalough
Labyrinth at Visitors Centre, Glendalough
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