Glendalough in Co. Wicklow is renowned for being one of the most beautiful spots in Ireland. The glacial valley, which cuts through the Wicklow Mountains, is named for the Irish Gleann Dá Loch, meaning Glen of Two Lakes. Within the valley lies the remains of a 6th-century monastery partially destroyed by English soldiers in 1398. Today, Glendalough is part of the Wicklow Mountains National Park and is a favored destination for walkers, hikers, mountain bikers, and those seeking beautiful views.

Some 3,700 miles away in Minnesota there is a peaceful and pristine stretch of land where prairie meets hardwood forest called Glendalough State Park. It offers almost 2,000 acres of land and 1,000 acres of water to be explored.

The name Glendalough came from the fourth person to own the tract of land, F. E. Murphy, who owned the Minneapolis Tribune. He named it after the Glendalough in Co. Wicklow, which was a popular tourist destination as far back as the 1800s.

The land was first developed in 1903 by a man named Ezra G. Valentine and operated as a summer retreat called Valentine’s Camp. When Valentine died in 1905, the land went to his children, who sold it to Fred A. Everets. It was then bought in 1928 by F. E. Murphy, who capitalized on the cheap land prices during the Great Depression to buy up surrounding land. There he started a game farm.

When the Cowles Media Company bought the Minneapolis Tribune in 1941, they also gained the rights to Glendalough. They used the land and Glendalough lodge as a personal and corporate retreat. The lodge has hosted many famous names over the years, including Presidents Nixon and Eisenhower, and can still be rented out for holidays and events.

Cowles Media officially transferred the title of Glendalough to the Nature Conservancy in 1990. Two years later, the title was transferred to the State of Minnesota, and Glendalough was declared a state park with an Earth Day celebration ceremony on April 22, 1992.

In the nearly 13 years since then the park has become a treasured, if not widely known, local attraction. Thunderstorms in 2004 and 2005 wreaked extensive damage, but with the help of volunteers and park staff, Glendalough was quickly re-opened and restored. 

The park is home to white-tailed deer, red foxes, and raccoons. It’s a prime bird watching site, and Annie Battle Lake is a heritage fishery, with a daily catch limit and strict regulations about vehicles and boats.

Glendalough’s 9.2 miles of undeveloped lakeshore stretch across five lakes called Annie Battle, Molly Stark, Emma, Sunset and Blanche. Molly Stark Lake is named for the wife of Revolutionary War hero John Stark, whose mother was from Derry in what is now Northern Ireland. Stark himself was born in Londonderry, New Hampshire, another town that has been featured in this series.

Camping is available year-round, bike rentals are available and there are a number of annual events, such as the Candlelight Ski.

If you live in or know of a city, town, or even a street with a distinctly Irish name and history, let us know in the comment section! There's so much Irish influence to be explored.