Saint Kevin’s Cave

From time to time to get away from the crowds at Glendalough, Saint Kevin would walk twelve miles west over the hills via the Wicklow Gap to the village now known as Hollywood, where he stayed by himself in a cave called Kevin’s Bed (not to be confused with the cave in Glendalough also called Kevin’s Bed). Kevin probably discovered this cave when he went to that area to start a new church. That time, he was carried in a litter by servants. When they reached the village then called Cnoc Rua (Red Hill), from the colour of the summer vegetation on the hill south of the village, they found their way blocked by a wood, and they stopped.

“Why did you stop?” said Kevin.

“There are trees in the way,” they said.

“Don’t worry,” Kevin told them. “Just keep walking.”

They walked toward the wood, and the trees fell down in front of them to make a road. Kevin blessed the wood and promised “hell and a short life to any one who should burn either green wood or dry from this wood till doom”. That is how the village got its name, Holy Wood (“Sanctum Nemus” or “Sanctus Boscus” or “Seinbois” in medieval records), which by the 16th century became Hollywood. (A local man, Matthew Guirke, was responsible for naming Hollywood, California.) It is also called Cillín Chaoibhín in Irish, which means “Kevin’s Chapel”.

A hermit who lived in the cave in the 1960s told the children he was Saint Kevin, and they believed him. He left an inscription painted on the wall: “Help me Lord to find my true home.”

Help me Lord to find my true home.

This is the exterior of the cave, with friend Elvira.

Exterior of Saint Kevin’s Cave, Hollywood

From Tales of the Wicklow Hills.

About Richard Marsh

Bardic storyteller and author
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