Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba – Gaelic Place-Names of Scotland – Blog

by michelle – 16:08:36 on 2011-11-11

Calum Cille/Colmcille or Columba was an Irish saint, born in County Donegal in the North-west of Ireland in 521. Colmcille studied under St. Finian at Clonard Abbey and eventually became a priest. It is said that he became embroiled in a quarrel over a copied manuscript, which Calum Cille refused to surrender. A battle followed and as a consequence Calum Cille was exiled to Scotland, with the order that he must convert to Christianity as many men as were killed in the battle.

Calum Cille first landed in Kintyre ~ Cinn Tìre, on the South-western tip of Argyll. Eventually he was granted land to found a monastery on the island of Iona~ Eilean Ì, where he died and was buried in 597. For centuries since, pilgrims have been coming to Scotland to follow in the Saint’s footsteps and visit the numerous historical sites associated with him.

To this day the legacy of Calum Cille’s mission is traceable in place-names throughout Scotland. One only has to think of the profusion of kil or cill(e) place-names, cill(e) being a word for church in Gaelic and Gaeilge.

Colmcille is a partnership programme between Foras na Gaeilge and Bòrd na Gàidhlig, promoting the use of Irish Gaelic and Scottish Gaelic in Ireland and Scotland and between the two countries. One of Colmcille’s initiatives is the Sli Cholmcille or Slighe Chaluim Chille, the St. Columba Trail, which officially launched on Friday 11 November. This is a web based project that allows visitors to follow in St. Colmcille’s footsteps across Northern Ireland and Scotland. There are 72 stops on the trail, which are located in some of Scotland and Northern Ireland’s most beautiful and historically significant landscapes. A map of the trail and more information on each stage, including images and historical notes can be viewed at

Some Scottish locations include:

Kilmory ~ Cille Mhoire, Keills ~ A’ Chill and Kilmartin ~ Cille Mhàrtainn in Argyll and Tarbat Ness~ Rubha an Tairbeairt near Tain on the North-east coast.

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