Turas, Gleann Cholm Cille Valley, Co. Donegal
Route: within Gleann Cholm Cille Valley
Distance: 5.4 kilometres (3.4 miles) all year round. Alternative route 7.2 kilometres (4.5 miles)
Dates: 7 June – 31 August (Sundays only)
Gleann Cholm Cille is a broad and secluded glen in western Donegal with one of the finest collections of pillar stones anywhere in Ireland. These are spread over a wide area of the valley floor and are located at the fourteen stations on the route. Although some of the stations can be visited all year round, the practice of pilgrimage is based on the willingness of local landowners to allow pilgrims to enter their lands on Sundays between 7th June and 31st August each year. The pilgrimage itself takes place on 9th July, the feast day of St. Colm Cille. Participation on the day is an uplifting experience, bringing one back into the atmosphere of the old Irish pilgrimage as practised a thousand years ago.
Not only are the prayers recited in the beautiful Donegal Irish, but each station has its own dignified and time-honoured ritual. For example, the pilgrim must lie down on St. Colm Cille’s bed and turn over three times in a recumbent position before taking some earth from under the bed, while still lying down, as a protection against fire and a cure for other ailments. The pilgrimage traditionally starts at the nineteenth-century St. Culumba's Church in Gleann Cholm Cille. In due course, the route proceeds to Beefan, the most westerly point on the route.
From Beefan, the pilgrim begins the return journey down Mullach na Cainte, ‘the slope of conversation’, traditionally the only place along the route where pilgrims are allowed to talk. The route then leads through a marsh - where exposed pavement stones may have formed part of the ancient pilgrimage road - and returns to the starting point via Drumroe.
Further information about the route is available from Oideas Gael. Visit www.oideas-gael.com or call (073) 97 30248.