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CELL-BUY DATES; Now you can get away from it all by booking a hermit pod.

Byline: ANDREW BUSHE

FED UP with the stresses and strains of modern life? Fancy a change of scene and pace?

Then the men from the monastry may have just the right place for you.

They are to open five new hermit cells for anyone who wants to book some time away from the hustle and bustle of urban life.

The cells, or cillins, in Glendalough, Co Wicklow, are already attracting worldwide interest with bookings from Britain, America and Canada.

The project received pounds 250,000 funding from the National Millennium Committe and the cells will be formally opened by its chairman, Minister Seamus Brennan, and blessed by Cardinal Desmond Connell.

"There is a big interest in these cells, especially from America," said Father Sean O'Toole, the parish priest behind the idea.

"We have an American Episcopalian priest and his wife booked in for a fortnight in July.

"Executives and people fed up with laptops and mobile phones are also very interested."

Fr O'Toole said there would be no rules banning modern communications devices.

He said: "You couldn't frisk people going in. They are not Big Brother places.

"The only man watching them will be the one above.

"We expect that people will be looking for solitude and tranquillity and it would defeat the purpose if they brought those sort of things."

The project harks back to Glendalough's history as one of the oldest religious settlements and pilgrimage sites in Europe.

St Kevin is credited with founding what became a monastic city 1400 years ago.

He lived as a hermit in a local cave and Glen-dalough flourished as a religious centre for 600 years.

At one stage in the Middle Ages there were about 1,000 monks living there.

Fr O'Toole said the cells are like small bed-sitting rooms.

"They are fairly austere with only the basic necessities although there will be an open fire, a kit-chenette and bathroom."

The scenery in Glendalough attracts about a million tourists a year and Fr O'Toole hopes that if the hermitage takes off, a further cluster of five cells will be built.

"We will have to wait and see. The big obstacle is finance."

There will be no set charge for the use of the cells, but Fr O'Toole hopes visitors will make generous donations equivalent to the cost of bed and breakfast locally.
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 3, 2001
Words:390
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