3.3 Churchtown

Churchtown Graveyard, Donegal, Ireland. © David Neumeyer

Churchtown - Ráth Cnó - is said to be the place where Colmcille’s family lived. According to tradition they later gave over the land so that a monastic settlement could be created here.

The site is still used as a turas by pilgrims who walk barefoot between the five marked stations. Believers follow the turas between Colmcille’s feast day on 9th June and the end of the turas season on 15th August, performing a series of prayers and actions at each stop.

Churchtown was one stop on a longer medieval pilgrimage route which linked a number sites in the Gartan area associated with the early life of Colmcille.

It is said that this abbey was built by Manus O’Donnell in the 16th century. O’Donnell’s 'Life of St Colum Cille' was completed in 1532 and is the main source for the links between Colmcille and the Gartan area.

The centre of the graveyard is said to incorporate the foundations of a monastery.

Stone Cross Churchtown Graveyard, Donegal, Ireland. © Lucy Harland

This stone cross is one of two surviving on this site. Originally four crosses would have marked the boundaries of the monastic settlement here.

The area marked by the crosses offered protection to people who had been accused of committing a crime - they could be looked after in safety within the monastery's land until such time as a trial could take place. So the monastery offered protection from arbitrary punishment.

 

Getting there

From Lucknacoo head back down the hill to a T-junction where you turn left. The Churchtown site is a short distance along this road on your left.


 
   
  • Colmcille Heritage Centre, Gartan Lough, Donegal, Ireland.
     

    3.1 Colmcille Heritage Centre

    The Colmcille Heritage Centre sits on the shore of Gartan Lough on the edge of Glenveagh National Park. Displays in the centre tell the story of Colmcille’s early years in the Gartan area.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.
     

    3.2 Leac na Cumha

    This flagstone at Lacknacoo is one of the places where Colmcille’s mother Eithne is said to have given birth to him.

  • Churchtown, Gartan, Donegal, Ireland.
     

    3.3 Churchtown

    Churchtown - Ráth Cnó - is said to be the place where Colmcille’s family lived. According to tradition they later gave over the land so that a monastic settlement could be created here.

  • Clootie Tree, Gartan, Donegal, Ireland.
     

    3.4 Doon Fort & Holy Well

    Until the 16th century, the Rock of Doon was the inauguration site of the O’Donnell chieftains.

  • Kilmory Knap Chapel carved graveslabs
     

    3.5 Kilmacrenan

    This is where Colmcille is said to have lived with his foster father Cruithneachán. There are two parts to the site - the left hand side is linked to Colmcille while the right side is the site of a 19th century Church of Ireland church.

  • Temple Douglas, Donegal, Ireland.
     

    3.6 Temple Douglas

    Temple Douglas was an ancient monastic site which used to stand on the old road out of Letterkenny and so was on the main route for travellers passing through the area.