There are three lakes in the centre of County Donegal – Lough Nacally, Lough Akibbon and Lough Gartan. According to tradition, Colmcille was born, brought up and educated in the Gartan area.
The links between Gartan and Colmcille mostly come from Manus O’Donnell’s ‘Life of Colum Cille’ which was completed in 1532, almost 1,000 years after the saint’s death.
There was a medieval pilgrimage route which linked several places in the Gartan area that had a connection with the early life of Colmcille. Many of the Slí Cholmcille stops in this area were part of that pilgrimage.
Manus O’Donnell’s 100,000-word book in Irish brought together in one place all the existing traditions and stories of Colmcille. It provides the most detailed accounts of Colmcille’s birth and early life but there is little contemporary evidence to confirm much of the content.
Colmcille’s biographer, Adomnán who wrote 100 years after Colmcille’s death only mentions Colmcille’s early life briefly:
‘the holy Columba was born of noble parents having as his father Fedelmith, Fergus’s son, and his mother, Eithne by name, whose father
may be called in Latin “son of a ship”, and in the Irish tongue Mac-naue’