This tiny, coastal hamlet lies between Glen Bay and a barren moorland, and is part of Donegal's vanishing Gaeltecht (Irish-speaking) region. A quaint atmosphere still surrounds the village, which is tucked into a hidden sea-cliff. Its rural Irish charm is reflected in the homespun décor of the pubs and residences.
Saint Columba Connection
The Irish name for the village is Gleann Chom Cille, which means St. Columba's valley. St. Columba, one of Ireland's most famous early Christian missionaries, lived here in the 6th century with a group of his followers. Born in Donegal in AD 521, Columba was one of the pioneers of Christianity in Ireland.
There are many myths surrounding St. Columba. Many of the myths in fact involve the numerous megalithic tombs and cairns that littler the area. The small oratory perched on a cliff north of the village is said to have been his home, hence it is called the House of St. Columba. Stone formations located inside were reputedly his bed and chair.
Each June 9th, the locals honour the saint in a ritual procession. They begin their walk barefoot, at midnight, and call it "An Turas", or, the journey. The ritual takes participants in a circular pilgrimage around 15 sacred sites that include medieval crosses and ancient cairns, similar to the Catholic devotional Stations of the Cross.
The village hosts an excellent Folk Museum in a complex built by a local priest named Father Mc Dyer, in connection with a cooperative created to bolster efforts at increasing, or at least slowing the decrease in the rural Irish population.
The museum includes an 1882 schoolhouse, a nature walk, an interpretive centre, teashop, and a craft shop that prides itself on selling locally made goods, including wines made from fuchsias and bluebells. Small, thatched cottages are furnished to represent the manner of life in rural Ireland in the 1720's, 1820's and 1920's.
The 35km coastal area surrounding Glencolumbkille is renowned as among the best hill-walking sites in Ireland. The Slieve League peninsula boasts the tallest sea-cliffs in Europe, with stunning and jagged pinnacles that soar to three times the height of the Cliffs of Moher.
Glencolumbkille. Image: James Stringer