Blog by Gifts of Ireland

St. Columba History

St. Columba History

It was a grand journey I embarked upon to visit the birthplace of the esteemed St. Columba (Known as well as St. Colmcille or Colmcille) in Gartan, County Donegal, Ireland.

Watch my short video:


With the wind at my back and a sense of reverence in my heart, I set out to explore the very lands that shaped this

St. Columba (Colmcille)

In the lush countryside of Gartan, near Glencolmcille, where the hills wear their emerald green cloaks, I wandered with full of wonder.

to Birth place 

As a young lad, on the 9th of June every year, I attended the ‘Pattern of Durrow’ in my home turf of Offaly. This was a celebration of St. Colmcille himself because he founded Durrow Abbey. 

Anyway, the humble place of Gartan welcomed me with open arms. Here, in this ancient hamlet, St. Columba first drew breath in the year 521 AD.

I got a little lost driving up the boreen. So a local fella helped point me in the right direction. Now, even Google maps are no use in a small place like this!  

I first called up to where he was said to have been born, where I walked down a crunchy stoney lane and witnessed the wonder of a very big Celtic cross revealed to me as I approached his birthplace. I was fascinated.

This was the exact place of this historic mans birth, and I walked the footsteps he walked! 

According to folklore, Colmcille slept on the flag stone of loneliness at this site, on the night before he departed to Iona in Scotland for his training. 


And then about a mile down the boreen I arrived to Colmcilles Abbey. This was where he first started his mission for life. 

The ruins of this ancient monastery stood as witnesses to Columba's legacy. I stood humbled before their weathered stones, knowing that within these walls, the saint had once prayed and toiled.

Its said that his family gave him the land to build this Abbey and is said to be built inside a hill fort. 

Around the monastery I saw a number of surviving boundary crosses that lay witness to so many visitors like me over the hundreds of years!

It has the ruins of a 10th century church, which Is an old abbey said to have the O’Donnell chieftains buried. As a matter of fact, the O’Donnells were Colmcilles cousins. We Irish have always stuck together!

One of my favourite sites here was the lovely Holy Well which was visited by many over hundreds of years where pilgrims would bathe their feet at the well and pray. 

And finally, my favourite part, The lovely church of St.Colmcille which was built in 16th century by Manus O’Donnell in memory of his cousin. I love how the alter was still intact and had what was probably a birthing Stone. It was said to have been used for prayers till the 1800’s.

His tireless efforts to spread the Christian faith among the Irish and Scots, and his dedication to forging a unity among the Gaelic people, resounded within me. Colmcille then headed off to Iona in Scotland for his training and came back to found numerous monasteries that still stand today.

View from the Chapel.

With the setting sun casting its golden hues upon the landscape, I bid farewell to Gartan. The journey had filled me with a profound appreciation for early Christian Ireland and the enduring spirit of a saint whose legacy continues to bless this blessed isle.


Watch my Short Video:



Why not check out:

Our Celtic Cross collection: Click. 

and I think you’ll love this blog about my trip to The monastery of Clonmacnoise! Click here.

Sláinte! ☘️


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1 comment

  • David M
    Jul 30, 2023 at 23:47

    I love this thank you. We are going back to Ireland next summer and we are adding Donegal to our visit list.


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