The Colmcille Heritage Trail is packed full of history, culture, stunning scenery and folklore, journeying from the mountains, lakes and rivers of the birthplace of Colmcille, County Donegal, to the Gaeltacht Island of Tory, onto the Walled City of Derry and the town of Limavady
Colmcille Heritage Trail
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The Colmcille Heritage Trail welcomes you to secluded loughs, biking or hiking through country lanes, exploring geological marvels and romantic castles. Following in the footsteps of Ireland’s foremost saint and scholar, the Colmcille Heritage Trail asks you to immerse yourself in one of Europe’s most ancient culture in Ireland’s Gaeltacht, where Irish is still the first language of the community and traditional music, poetry, story-telling and dancing are as vibrant now as ever. Take time out to visit the magical Island of Tory, where the people are anxious to welcome you to a rhythm of life little changed over the centuries.
As you journey around the Colmcille Heritage Trail, why not check out Donegal and the North West Region’s most iconic visitor attractions like Europe’s Highest Cliffs at Sliabh Liag, or Ireland’s most spectacular National Park at Glenveagh. Or take time to visit the historic city of Derry, taking in the City Walls, Museums, and Cultural attractions, before visiting the Roe Valley and the attractive town of Limavady.
Legend has it that Colmcille and his followers lived in Gleanncholmcille for some time. It has also been said some of Colmcille’s relics could possibly be buried in the area. A joy to visit at any time of the year. Both shore and hills change dramatically with the seasons, heightening the attraction for any visitor.
Explore Gleanncholmcille’s faboulous loop walks. The Drum Loop is one of the best walks in the area, as is the Tower Loop, a shorter version of the same route. You’ll pass by inscribed Christian pillars and a 500 year old Megalithic tomb, feel the wind in your hair, enjoy heart stopping views at Glen Head, and see a watchtower built to guard against the French invasion. Click here for more information
Europe’s Highest Sea Cliffs, Sliabh Liag. Leave your car at the car park and walk the few miles to the cliffs, and prepare yourself to be blown away by the majesty and beauty of Ireland’s most spectacular visitor attraction. There are terrific views of the Atlantic Ocean, the Sligo Mountains, Donegal Bay as you walk towards the terrifying high top of Sliabh Liag, where the cliff fact rises over 600m.
Oideas Gael offers courses in all aspects of Irish Culture including Irish language, dancing, music, hillwalking, archaeology. Classes are for adults at all learning levels. For more info click here
Did you know that The Railway Station Man, starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie was filmed in Gleanncholmcille.
Colmcille chose Tory Island or Toraigh as a place of retreat and meditation for his monks. Toraigh’s remoteness has led to the preservation of the traditions and way of life of its resilient and independent people. Their music, dance, song and stories are living expressions of an ancient Gaelic Culture.
Take in the rugged attractions on the Tory Island Loop walk. This gentle walk will allow you to explore a range of interesting historical sites including a round tower once protected by monks from Viking raids, the ruins of Colmcille’s 6th Century monastery and the intriguing Tau Cross that suggests early seafaring links to the Coptic Christians of Egypt. The walk should take about 1 hr 30 mins.
The ancient custom of the crowning of the ‘King of Toraigh’ is a tradition alive and well today. A visit to Toraigh will give you the chance of encountering Ireland’s only monarch on your travels!
Tory Island is famous for its abundance of rich flora and fauna. The Island is home to several species of rare birds such as the endangered Corncrake, the Sea Crow and the Little Tern. The Puffin has a large colony on the Island, and the avid bird watcher can also see Peregrine Falcons, Ravens, Choughs, and Razorbills.
Did you know that Tory Islanders are the first to cast their vote in an Irish General Election.
In 521, Colmcille was born in Gartan, a picturesque, rural townland located just outside the village of Churchill not far from Letterkenny. The site of his birth is marked by a large 19th Century Cross, and is not far from the ruins of an abbey said to have been built by Colmcille.
Visit the Colmcille Heritage Centre located on the shores of Lough Gartan. The centre tells the story of the growth of Christianity in Ireland and throughout Europe, in the period at the end of the Roman Empire. The life of Colmcille is depicted in a fascinating audiovisual piece, as well as a special tapestry display of the Derryveagh exhibitions and a heritage trust art collection. Seasonal Opening. Website: colmcilleheritagecentre.ie
Glenveagh National Park and Castle is only a short drive from Gartan along the Colmcille Heritage Area. Set in some 16,500 hectares of mountains, lakes, glens and woods, with a large herd of red deer, Glenveagh Castle is a 19th Century mansion built between 1867 and 1873. There is an abundance of walks from easy to difficult in terrain, and a delicious café to quench your thirst and fill your belly at the end of a long day taking in the beauty of this idyllic National Park. Website: glenveaghnationalpark.ie
Gartan Outdoor Education Centre is superbly located for its many adventure courses and events, on the shores of beautiful Lough Gartan. Set on their very own rambling 87 acre estate, the centre boasts stunning views of Lough Gartan and the Colmcille Heritage Zone. Website: gartan.com.
Did you know…
Colmcille is said to have bestowed special powers on the soil at Gartan as a gift to his clan. Today, visitors come from near and far to get some of this world famous ‘Gartan Clay’.
The City of Derry takes its name Doire Colmcille, meaning Oak-Grove of Colmcille, from its close association with the saint. after Colmcille. Colmcille founded a monastic settlement in AD540 on the banks of the Foyle. Colmcille is said to have set sail from Derry to found his new monastery on the Island of Iona in AD 563.
Take a walk around Derry’s Walls (b.1613-1618). This is the best way to take in this splendid city crammed full of history, heritage, and vibrant cultural scene. Londonderry, also known as Derry, is the only remaining walled city in Ireland, and one of the finest examples of Walled Cities in Europe. Website: derryvisitor.com
The award-winning Tower Museum located within the City’s historic walls houses two permanent exhibitions: ‘The Story of Derry’ tells the story of the city from early prehistory, through the time of Colmcille to present day. ‘An Armada Shipwreck – La Trinidad Valencera’, is a superb depiction of one of the largest ships in the Spanish Armada that sank off the Donegal Coast in 1588. Website: derrycity.gov.uk/museums.
A walk across Derry’s newly built and iconic Peace Bridge and into St. Columb’s Park, is an excellent way to experience the City’s future. Passing by the evolving Parade Ground of the former Ebrington Barracks, looking out onto the majestic River Foyle gives the visitor a real sense of the hope that is in the Derry Air.
Did you know:
Nobel prize winning poet Seamus Heaney, poet Seamus Deane, and playwright Brian Friel all hail from Derry.
Colmcille returned to Ireland for the convention of Drumceatt in 575AD, where the High King of Ireland, nobles, clerics, poets and historians met at Mullagh Hill., located at the Roe Park Hotel estate. Presiding over the meeting, legend has it that Colmcille was blindfolded and wore sods of Alba (Scotland) on this feet, so that he could keep a promise he made on exile from Ireland in 565AD.
Visit Roe Valley Country Park, on the outskirts of Limavady, contains three miles of beautiful and tranquil scenery. There are plenty of riverside and woodland walks, with opportunities for salmon and trout fishing. The Park acts as a living history of Limavady. Besides the beauty of the surroundings, there is also The Visitor & Heritage Centre, and Ritters Tearoon,. Website: ni-environment.gov.uk.
The peaks of Binevenagh and Benbradagh mountains are a sight to behold. The views from the top are exceptional, providing views to the southern Sperrins and County Donegal. Website: limavady.gov.uk.
Michael Palin referred to the trip between Derry and Coleraine as one of the most beautiful rail journeys in the world. Boarding the train in Derry pass Lough Foyle, Magilligan, Benone Beach, Downhill and the strong profile of Binevenagh. Website: translink.co.uk.
Did you kow…
Jane Ross, who composed the Melody of the famous ‘Londonderry Air’ was born in Limavady. “Oh Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling.”