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Glencolmcille Loop

The stretch of coastline between Slieve League and Slieve Tooey in southwest Donegal is a fine spot for walkers eager to breakaway from the trappings of modern living. The entire 35km coastline bristles with jagged rock pinnacles and soaring cliffs and, nestled in the midst of all this glorious scenery, is the village of Glencolmcille.

Wonderfully remote, Glencolmcille began as a settlement for Neolithic peoples, and the area is littered with Megalithic tombs, so insights into the country’s heritage are plentiful.

There are plenty of walks that start and finish at St Columba’s Church in the village, but two of the best are the Drum Loop and the shorter Tower Loop. Both take the same route, however, the Drum Loop takes a detour only to join the Tower Loop again at a later stage.

Route Summary

Head west from St Columba’s Church to one of the best cross-inscribed early Christian pillars in Ireland. From here, the route meanders towards a beach along a quiet lane, before heading north onto a steep mountain track. Views of the village and Skelpoonagh Bay are breathtaking; and you can visit a small shrine and statue alongside a mound of stones, which marks Colmcille’s Well. A short detour takes you to Glen Head, where the cliffs drop 200m into the Atlantic. While there, check out the watchtower that was built to guard against French invasion. The track continues over the southern shoulder of Beefan and Gaveross Mountain and then descends into a lane. Drum Loop Detour: Take a left to follow this loop, which climbs around the eastern summit of Beefin and Gaveross Mountain before going down again towards the village through the townland of Drum along a steep track, and rejoining the Tower Loop. The Drum Loop means you have bypassed only a few hundred metres of the Tower Loop, which won’t take long to explore. The beautiful lanes back to the village are lined with old stone walls, and you pass the 5,000 year old Mannernamortee Megalithic Tomb and more cross-inscribed pillars along the way. Once back in the village, take the opportunity to reminisce about life in traditional rural Ireland in the 18th and 19th centuries with a visit to the Folk Museum.

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