St. Colmcille (521-597), also known as St. Columba the cille added at the end of the name means of the churches, is the patron Saint of Derry and is one of Ireland’s most famous sons. It is thought that St. Colmcille was born in Garten not far from Glenveagh National Park, he famously founded over sixty monasteries and churches in Ireland. Sli Cholmcille is a ‘camino’ or trail developed to follow the footsteps of St. Colmcille from Gleann Cholm Cille in South West Donegal to the Scottish Western Isles. The Sli regions are; Glenn Cholm Cille, Tory and Tullaghobegly, Gartan, Derry, Argyll, Iona, Tarbat Ness, and the outer Herbrides.
The region closest to us at GrassRoutes, is the St. Columba trail Garten. The earliest biographical writings about the saint mention;
‘the holy Columba was born of noble parents
having as his father Fedelmith, Fergus’s son,
and his mother, Eithne by name, whose father
may be called in Latin “son of a ship”,
and in the Irish tongue Mac-naue’ (Adomnán).
In Gartan you will find:
Colmcille Heritage Centre
Information relating to the early life of St. Colmcille can be found at the heritage centre, where visitors can immerse themselves in the fascinating history of this direct descendant of Nail of the Nine Hostages.
Leac na Cumha
Is the flagstone at Lacknacoo, is where is is said that Colmcille’s mother gave birth to him, the flagstone may date back to the bronze age. The stone is also known as the ‘stone of sorrows’ as it was often visited my emigrants the night before their departure, it is said that those who lie on the stone will not feel loneliness. There are many local stories of people visiting the stone after the departure of a loved one to seek consolation, as to whether it works, why not try visiting yourself…
Is said to be the place where Colmcille’s family lived. The site was used to build a monestery in the 16th century, two stone crosses still remain in the old graveyard. Here you will find pilgrims walking barefoot between the five stations on the site.
Doon Fort and Doon Holy Well
Doon rock is where a fort belonging to the O’Donnell’s existed until the 16th century. The water in Doon well has been blessed by a Columban monk and is linked to many miraculous cures, here you will here many stories from visitors who have been cured of their aliments by praying at the holy well.
St. Colmcille was fostered by a holy man in Kilmacrennan called Cruithneachain O’Ceallachain, he was educated here and was known as the ‘dove of the church’. The prophecy of his future was written here, that his territory would lie on both sides of the sea (Ireland and Scotland). St. Colmcille was fond of Kilmacrennan and the following verse he wrote displays his sadness at leaving:
‘Half of my name from the church,
This I cannot deny.
Kilmacrennan my holy rest,
Leave it willingly not I’
It is said that St. Colmcille was baptised at Temple Douglas or Tulach Dubhghlaise (Mound of the dark stream), here remains a 16th century medieval church and nearby the location where St. Columcille took his first footsteps.
A conference and workshop on Sli Cholmcille will take place between the 20th – 22nd of June in the Altain Hotel in the Donegal Gealtachacht for more information follow this link http://www.colmcille.org/News/3/conference