Glencolmcille is a straggle of villages on the northwest coast of County Donegal, with a population of 217 in 2016. The main settlement is also called Cashel, indicating its cluster of prehistoric and early Christian ritual sites. The lane then meanders through Malin More to end at Malin Beg. Also described on this page are other sights and amenities on the road out to this peninsula, such as Killybegs and Teelin.
Glencolmcille means "the valley of St Colmcille", better known outside Ireland as St Columba (521-597). He was born and grew up around Donegal, studied on the east coast, then after a dispute fled to Scotland where he founded the monastery at Iona and many others. He later returned to establish churches in Ireland - there's no firm evidence he was here, but he got around by sea and this particular legend is credible.
McGeehan Coach 991 runs once M-Sa afternoon plus in college term on Sunday from Letterkenny to Fintown, Glenties, Ardara, Killybegs, Kilcar, Carrick and Glencolmcille (2 hours 10 min). The morning bus turns back at Killybegs and the service beyond is only drop-off with no return run, so to go back to Letterkenny take the 293 to Killybegs then the 991.
By road from Donegal Town follow N56 west then R263 through Killybegs and twisting and turning over the hills, if the sheep can be bothered to shift their fat ovine backsides off the road. From Derry or Letterkenny you could go via Donegal Town or go cross-country on R250 to Ardara, then the scenic R230 via Ghleann Gheis.
You need wheels to explore this scattered area.
- St Columba's Church (C of I) was built in 1828. There's a 10 m stone set into the west wall of the graveyard which was probably part of a court tomb (like Cloghanmore, below) then was used for monastic buildings. There's also scraps of an 8th century souterrain. The east side of the graveyard is Catholic, with an intricately carved pillar, now broken. 100 m west of the church is a 1.85 m stone pillar inscribed with a cross.
- Farranmacbride 400 m north of the church is another ruined court tomb - it was used as a livestock pen - and has a decorated perforated standing stone 2 m tall. Through the perforation, heaven may be glimpsed by the pure and devout; needless to say there have been no recent credible sightings.
- 1 Glencolmcille Folk Village, Glencolmcille (on R263), ☏ . Daily Apr-Sept 10:00-18:00, Oct 10:00-16:30. Small but impressive outdoor folk museum, with 18th-20th century schoolhouse, fisherman's dwelling, pub-cum-village store and other cottages. Adult €6.50, conc €5.50, child €3.
- 2 Cloghanmore is a megalithic court tomb: these were mostly constructed around 3500 BC but re-used for much later burials. It's aligned east-west so the mid-winter sun peaks over the mountains to shine into its chambers. Reach it up the lane L1025 that branches inland from Malinmore.
- 3 Malin Beg is the small village where the road ends at Silver Strand / An Trá Bhán. Steps lead down to the scenic horseshoe of a cove (no boat ramp); the sea-stack at its west end is popular for rock-climbing. The Uaig is the next inlet west, small and rocky with a fishing pier. Temple Cavan is the scrappy ruin of a medieval church to St Kevin, looking like a derelict cow shed.
- 4 Rathlin O'Birne or Reachlainn Uí Bhirn is the small island seen 2 km off Malin Beg, uninhabited since the lighthouse was automated. It's a popular area for sea-angling, and you're permitted to land, but these waters are hazardous. In June 2017 some anglers were lucky to be rescued when their Rib ran out of fuel near the island. A month later they did the same again, only this time their bodies were found by the lifeboat.
- 5 Teelin or Teileann is a small fishing village. It has accommodation and you come this way for Slieve League.
- 6 Slieve League or Sliabh Liag is a mountain of 596 m / 1955 ft, with its south face etched into great sea-cliffs. The usual viewing point is Bunglass: branch off R263 into Teelin. Sept-June you can drive up the narrow lane to the free car park, hoping you don't meet a campervan coming the other way, then it's an easy paved walk of 1 km. July-Aug the lane is closed to visitor cars, you have to park in Teelin and take a shuttle bus (€6). Tourist guides will bend your ear about how much higher these are than the Cliffs of Moher, but they're sloping not sheer. South across the bay is Sligo's Ben Bulben. Trails lead to the summit of Slieve League: One Man's Pass and Pilgrim's Path will get your attention as they teeter along the sharp ridge with the wind blasting up off the cliff face.
- 7 Killybegs is the village near the turn-off from N56 onto R263, so it might be your first or last stop on the way to Glencolmcille. It has the best harbour on this rugged coast and is an active fishing port. Outside St Mary's Church is the elaborate 16th century grave slab of Niall Mór Mac Suibhne or MacSweeney, depicting a chain-mailed warrior and grappling wrestlers. The carpet weaving factory closed in 2003; it was turned into a heritage centre but that too has closed. There's a sprinkling of B&Bs, see Sleep, so you could base here and day-trip further west.
- “And whereas the superstitions of Popery are greatly increased and upheld, by the pretended sanctity of places, especially of a Place called St. Patrick’s Purgatory in the County of Donegal and of Wells to which Pilgrimages are made, by vast numbers at certain seasons . . . Be it further enacted that all such meetings and assemblies shall be deemed and adjudged Riots and unlawful Assemblies.”
- - Proclamation of Queen Anne in 1703
- Turas or the Pattern Walk[dead link] is a religious procession on 9 June, the date of St Colm Cille's death. It's a 5 km walk to 15 holy sites, which traditionally was done barefoot starting at midnight.
- Away to Me demonstrate sheepdog working at Malin Beg, plus lamb rearing in season. Adult €12.
- Atlantic Coastal Cruises sail from Killybegs to the cliffs of Slieve League.
- Golf: see Glenties for Big P Golf Club at Ardara.
- The Wild Atlantic Way is a coastal itinerary from the north tip of County Donegal to Kinsale in County Cork, 2500 km in all. The local section leaves N56 at Ardara and hugs the coast to Assaranca Waterfall, then winds over the hills by Owenree to pick up R230 into Glencolmcille. Leave on R263 to Killybegs and rejoin N56 into Donegal Town.
- Glencolmcille has Byrne's Food Store and filling station (daily 09:00-21:00). The Post Office is next door.
- Malinbeg has a small food store.
- Carrick has Doherty's XL (M-Sa 08:00-21:00, Su 09:00-21:00).
- Glencolmcille has An Chistin (W-M 12:00-20:00) and Benny's Chipper (Th-Tu 17:00-21:00).
- Malinbeg: the only eating place is Silver Strand Cafe, open daily 11:30-17:00.
- Teelin has Póg mo Lón (F-Su 09:00-20:00, M 10:00-17:00) and The Rusty Mackerel (daily 12:00-23:30).
- Carrick has Wild Atlantic Tae and Chinese and fish & chips takeaways.
- Glencolmcille bars are John Eoinín's (F-Su 16:00-23:00) and Roarty's which has rooms.
- Sliabh Liag Distillers make gin in Carrick near Teelin; no tours. Their whiskey distillery is under construction near Ardara.
- Evelyn's Central Bar is in Carrick.
- 1 Dooey Hostel, An Dumhaigh F94 P621 (above Folk Village), ☏ . Hostel open April-Nov with camping space, dorms, private rooms and a group house. It's well equipped and wheelchair accessible.
- 2 Gleann Dobhar, Gannew F94 WP64, ☏ . Smart welcoming B&B 1 km north of main village, open May-Sept. B&B double €80.
- Ionad Siul is a fairly basic guesthouse in the main village.
- Millstone B&B is on R230 east end of the village.
- 3 Aras BnB, Malin More F94 HH31, ☏ . Clean modern B&B with some 20 rooms, dog-friendly. B&B double €70.
- Malinbeg Hostel at the entrance to Malinbeg didn't open in 2021.
- Silver Strand B&B at the end of the Malinbeg road didn't open in 2021.
- Teelin has accommodation in three neighbourhoods. Carrick is on R230 at the turn-off and has Slieve League Inn, An Sean Ostan and Lios Na Siog B&B.
- Teelin village has Teelin Bay House and Slieve League B&B.
- Derrylahan is east side of the harbour, with a hostel / campsite.
As of Aug 2021, there is a patchy mobile signal from Three and Vodafone, but nothing from Eir. 5G has not reached this area.