It is not clear how Colmcille came to build his monastery in Iona or who gave him the land. Conall ruled large areas of modern Argyll so may have granted Colmcille permission to use the island.
The west coast of Argyll is a place of ancient woodlands, long sea lochs and island views. Here you can discover the story of Colmcille’s first weeks in Scotland as he sought a place to set up his monastery.
Follow the story of Colmcille’s journey from his first landing place at the bottom of Kintyre, up to Dunadd the fortress of the local ruler, Conall mac Comgall. Colmcille is said to have visited Comgall before heading to the island of Iona to set up his monastery.
Colmcille left Derry in June 563 and set sail for Argyll travelling with 12 monks. Not long after he arrived, he is said to have visited king Conall, the ruler of Argyll, at his seat of power – probably his fort at Dunadd.
Conall’s people were the Gaelic-speaking Dál Riata whose kingdom included land in both the north of Ireland and the west of Scotland.
The story of Colmcille’s meeting with Conall reflects the fact that the saint was already a man of some political influence and importance when he arrived in Scotland.
In years to come, Colmcille’s network of monasteries spread across the islands of the Hebrides. It is highly likely that Colmcille continued to get support from the kings of Dál Riata who controlled the area.
Across the sea
At the heart of this story are the close links between Ireland and Scotland – at the nearest point the two territories are only 13 miles apart.
Standing on the west coast of Argyll, Ireland is clearly visible. It is a reminder of how differently people saw the landscape when it was easier to travel by boat than over land. Distances that now seem far by land, can be reached quickly and easily by water.
In Colmcille’s time the same Gaelic-speaking ruling clan – the Dál Riata – held power in the north of Ireland and the west of Scotland. The short journey by sea would have meant that the Dál Riata were in regular contact across the water.
Allow 1-2 days to cover all the Sli stops in Argyll.
Or you can start with Colmcille’s first landing place in Southend and head north.
Away from the main routes, some roads are narrow with passing places so allow time for your journey.
The slower roads give plenty of opportunities to explore the area and enjoy the peacefulness of the lochs and woodlands.
Bòrd na Gàidhlig
Great Glen House
Scotland, IV3 8NW
(+44) 01463 225454
Foras na Gaeilge, 2-6 Queen Street
(+44) 028 9089 0970
Foras na Gaeilge, An Chrannóg
Na Doirí Beaga
Donegal, Ireland. F92 EYT3
(+353) 074 9560113