Kerry Pilgrim Routes

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Summit Of Brandon Mountain


This is an article by Maire O’Dwyer

IMAGINE YOURSELF walking through a valley where

fuchsia droops and clouds throw shadows across the mountains. You are following an ancient route to a holy place, to pray for favours or for-giveness.

The tradition of pilgrimage is strong m Ireland, with thousands of people taking part each year in pattern days and pilgrimages that date back centuries.

We will look at pilgrim routes around County Kerry.

In each case the origins of the Christian pilgrimage lie in ancient pagan celebrations, and are a continuator of the spiritual life of the land from

the days of Lug and Crom Dubh to the days of St Patrick and Christ.


Crom Dubh- “The Black Crooked One” appears in the story of the pilgrimage to Mount Brandon. The journey starts at Ventry Strand and travels over the Dingle peninsula along the Saints ‘Road. This Pilgrimage is believed to be a continuation of the Celticcelebrations of Lughnasa, and is associated with the gods Lug andCroni Dubh.

In this story Saint Brendan is the Christian warrior battling the old pagan gods, and in various accounts he ousts Crom Dubh from the mountain, or converts him to Christianity a carved stone head in the old church at Cloghane was believed to represent Crorn Dubh.

Many physical objects in the modern landscape suggest evidence of the early Christian pilgrimage. Gallarus Oratory is situated near the route, and it has been suggested that this dry stone structure was built for the practical purpose of sheltering pilgrims during bad weather; however, Gallarus remains something of a mystery and there is no agreement either as to its date and purpose.

A boulder at Kilcolman is inscribed ‘Colnián the Pilgrim’, and the Arraglen stone pillar on the slopes of Brandon is carved with the Ogham inscription - ‘Ronan the Priest’.

At Kilmajiceader there is a medieval church, with a number of bullaun stones. The stones were believed to be sacred and pilgrims may have splashed rainwater gathered in the hollows onto afflicted areas.

On reaching the summit, pilgrims could rest against ‘Leac na nDrom’ — the stone of the backs, which was reputed to cure backache and rheumatism.

Pilgrims made nine circuits of St Brendan’s well, and carried home water from the holy well.

In modern times the pilgrimage is made on the last Sunday in July - Crom Dubh Sunday, and St Brendan’s Day - May 16th.

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