5.4 Camus

The red sandstone fragment of the early medieval Camus cross now stands in a graveyard on the west side of the River Bann to the south of Coleraine. The cross is carved with religious scenes on the front and back - the Ark and the murder of Abel on the west face, and the baptism of Jesus and (possibly) his arrest on the east side.

Sperins cross © Alan Sproull

Adomnán - Colmcille’s biographer - tells a story which links Colmcille with this place. Adomnán describes how the saint was travelling back to the coast from the Convention of Drum Ceat with Abbot - later Saint - Comgall. Camus was one of Comgall’s monasteries and was probably located at the graveyard site. It overlooks what was a well-known ford on the River Bann and it was probably here that Colmcille crossed the river on his way to Coleraine. The two men sat down to rest,

Water for them to wash their hands was brought to the saints from a nearby spring in a bronze basin. St Columba took it and said to Abbot Comgall who was sat beside him:

‘The day will come, Comgall, when the spring from which this water was fetched for us will be unfit for men to use.’ ‘For what reason will the water of the spring be tainted?’ said Comgall.

‘Because it will be filled with human blood. For my near kindred and your kinsmen according to the flesh (that is the Uí Neíll and the Cruithin) will make war on one another, fighting a battle at this fort of Dún Cethirn near here. One of my kindred will actually be killed in this spring, and his blood with that of others will fill the site of the spring.’

Life of St Columba by Adomnán of Iona, Book I Story 49

The site of Dún Cethirn is thought to be the Giant’s Sconce.

‘Cam uisce’ means ‘bay or river bend’. For thousands of years people have crossed the Bann here at the ford near Loughan Island - as demonstrated by the many archaeological finds from the river. At nearby Mount Sandel archaeologists have found the remains of the oldest known human settlement in Ireland dating back at least 9,000 years.

camus ford © Alan Sproull

There is a bullaun stone on the north side of the graveyard. The water in the large hollow in this stone is believed to have holy properties and it is said to never dry out.

 

Getting There

Head south out of Coleraine to the A29 ring road. West of the bridge over the River Bann, head south on to the A54. Drive through Castleroe, taking a left turn to stay on the A54.

As you drive south there are woods on your left. Just over a mile south of Castleroe, you leave the wooded area and the open river appears on your left. The graveyard is up behind a stone wall on your right. There is parking on the left side of the road and a pathway behind a barrier between the road and the river.


 
   
  • Drum Ceat, Limavady, Ireland.
     

    5.1 Drum Ceat, Limavady

    According to later legend when Colmcille left Ireland it is said that he vowed never again to set foot on Irish soil. However he appears to have returned at least once - for the Convention of Drum Ceat.

  • Giant's Sconce, Sperrins, Ireland.
     

    5.2 Giant’s Sconce

    From the top of the Giant’s Sconce, it is easy to see why it would make a good place to build a fort. There are views in all directions and it is a short distance by land to the River Bann and the sea beyond.

  • St Patrick’s CofI, Coleraine, Sperrins, Ireland.
     

    5.3 St Patrick’s CofI, Coleraine

    The earliest record of Coleraine appears in Adomnán’s Life of St Columba where he mentions that Colmcille stayed with the Bishop of Coleraine on his way home from the Convention of Drum Ceat.

  • Camus, Sperrins, Ireland.
     

    5.4 Camus

    The red sandstone fragment of the early medieval Camus cross now stands in a graveyard which sits on the west side of the River Bann to the south of Coleraine.

  • Ballintemple, Sperrins, Ireland.
     

    5.5 Ballintemple

    It is believed that the first church on this site was founded by St Adomnán (c.628-704), Abbot of the monastery at Iona from 679 to 704 and the author of the 'Life of St Columba'.