Glencolumbcille: A Burren Walk with Pius

Saint Colmcille, of Derry, Durrow and Iona, has a picturesque valley in the heart of the Burren, County Clare named after him. It’s called Glencolumbcille.

Colmcille (Latin: Columba) is one of the three major saints of Ireland. Brigid and Patrick are the others. Colmcille’s Pattern Day is celebrated on June 9th. at many of the pilgrimage and sacred sites associated with him.

Colmcille was born in Gartan, County Donegal, in AD520 or AD521. The annals say he died on the Isle of Iona, Scotland, on June 9th., AD597.

We may wonder what brought Colmcille to the Burren pre-AD560. He visited Saint Enda, who was considered to be the “Father of Early Irish Monasticism”, on Inis Mor, Oileain Arann (Inishmore, Aran Islands) County Galway, to study under his tutelage.

When he left the island, Colmcille is said to have visited the Burren and stayed for a time. Colmcille’s brief sojourn in the beautiful, remote, karst valley of Glencolumbcille is remembered in local folklore over 1400 years later.

The concept of “imprint culture”, that the story of the holy man or woman is to be evidenced in the landscape, applies to Colmcille and Glencolumbcille.

In the valley we find the imprint of the holy man’s fingers in a limestone rock, a holy well, which is especially significant in the area, with a cure for eye and leg ailments due to the spiritual presence of Colmcille and the ruins of a 14th. century church, the church of Saint Colmcille, within which is the reputed location of Colmcille’s 6th. century cell.

Colmcille’s story, after the departure from the tranquil Burren is quite remarkable.

A dispute with Finnian of Moville, in AD561, over the secret copying, by Colmcille, of Saint Jerome’s version of the Bible, the Vulgate, which Finnian had acquired, led to the Battle of Cul Dreimhne, County Sligo and the subsequent self-exile of Colmcille to Iona, Scotland in AD563, where he established the renowned monastic settlement on May 13th. in that year.

His dispute with Finnian led to the copyright rule “To every cow her calf and to every book its copy”, so Colmcille was directed by Diarmaid, the High- King, to return the copy.

However the dispute led to the massacre of many at Cul Dreimhne, for which Colmcille took responsibility, hence the self-exile. He never set foot on the island of Ireland again.

While I was walking along the western  bank of the River Foyle, Derry City, during the Fleadh Ceoil na hEireann 2013, I came on a riverside plaque which stated: “Colmcille, first emigrant from Derry”.

  “Yesterday I was clever so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise so I am changing myself “ – Rumi

If you would like to go on a fantastic Inspirational Walk in the mystical valley of Glencolumbcille, the Burren, County Clare, contact Pius on 087 9828173.

If you would like to buy a voucher for this walk or a walk like this in the Burren or on Inisheer, visit our shop.


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