Finding Columbanus (Carlow) – Report

On the 8th October 2022 a small group from Bangor joined the Carlow Friends of Columbanus group to walk one of the Columban Way ‘feeder routes’.

We walked a 7km section of the Columban Way, St Mullins to Clashganny day, but in reverse so ending up at the extensive ruins of St Mullin’s Monastery.

Walking the banks of the River Barrow

Walking out of Graiguenamanagh (from the Irish for the village of the monks) we were met by a full-size sculpture depicting one of its former inhabitants!

What was once a workplace, the Barrow towpath, is now a place of gentle recreation

The landscape along the gently meandering River Barrow is extremely attractive with natural woodland alternating with small fields and Brandon Hill rising steeply on the far bank.

At St Mullin’s we left the river to climb up to the extensive Monastic remains nested in the slopes above. As well as being an ancient and important religious site it was also strategically important, overlooking the former navigational limit of one of the major transport waterways of this region. The Norman invaders fully appreciated this and built a large Motte to dominate the location.

View of the Monastic site from the top of the Norman Motte

Later during the time of the penal laws, the Motte found a different use as a lookout point when Mass was being said at the nearby Penal Alter.

The hole in the altar gave sight of the lookout thereby enabling the Priest to escape should the authorities be seen approaching.

Saint Moling founded a Monastery here in the early seventh century. He is associated with the introduction of rye into Ireland and was actively involved in milling and the distribution of food in times of hunger. Traditional also tells that he worked miracles to protect the people of the area from unjust taxation from the King of Leinster by making impounded cattle escape homeward in a summoned mist!

A succession of churches have filled this site over centuries
The group approaches the procession of old churches
Brigid Fox our excellent guide explaining the history of the round tower which once stood here
Truncated remains of one of the St Mullin’s High Crosses

The day ended in Carlow with an excellent Concert in St Mary’s Church of Ireland, featuring a range of performers associated with the well-known Carlow College of Music.

St Mary’s Church Carlow