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The beautiful cross pillar at Station 13 at Glencolumbkille.
The beautiful cross pillar at Station 13 at Glencolumbkille, looking east.

The Glencolumbkille Turas

The legend of Glencolumbkille tells that Columba either came here to wrestle with his demons, or came here to do spititual battle with the demons already present in the Glen. Whatever the case, it is one of the most interesting early Christian pilgrimage sites surviving in Ireland today.

The pilgrims come to the Glen on June 9th, the feast-day of Columkille, and perform the stations set on a 'turas' around the valley, where a cairn of stones and ancient cross slab represent the stations. The best-known monuments of the Glen are the small cairns of stones, and the many cross-slabs, a form of early high cross which is basically an engraved standing stone. There are some 32 of these in the Glen.

The cairn at Station 10 in Glencolumbkille.
The cairn at Station 10 at the east end of the valley, looking west to the Church of Ireland where Stations 1, 15 and an early Christian settlement are located on the remains of a neolithic court cairn.

Columba is one of the most interesting figures of the early Christian period in Ireland. He was a Donegal prince, born at Gartan into an important royal family. He chose the spiritual rather than the earthly kingdom at an early age. There are many stories and tales of Columba, who founded many well known monasteries in Ireland.

Columba was responsible for the Battle of Drumcliffe, which was fought over a book, and in which several thousand men were slain. He went to Inishmurray to confess to St Molaise, who banished him from Ireland as pennance. From Inishmurray he left for the Scottish Island of Iona, where he founded one of his most famous monasteries. At Iona, Columba set out to convert as many souls as had been slain at Drumcliffe.

A small weathered cross slab at the west end of the valley near Columba's church.
A small weathered cross slab at the west end of the valley near Columba's church.

The Glencolumbkille turas involves a good trek and takes several hours to complete. Sometimes it is performed at night, beginning at midnight.

Station 2 at Glencolumbkille
The Second station of the Glemcolumbkille Turas, a beautiful shist pillar stone carved on both sides, stands on a rocky outcrop. Station 1, built into the remains of a court cairn, is beside the sheep at the Church of Ireland.