Begin your journey in Inveraray, the stronghold of Clan Campbell and the Dukes of Argyll. From this pretty little town on the western shores of Loch Fyne, head south towards the ancient chapel of St Brendan and Saddel where Somerled, Lord of the Isles, founded a Cistercian Abbey. It is here that medieval pilgrims would set sail for Arran and the Holy Isle, now home to a Buddhist retreat.
Continue onwards to where Columba first set foot in Scotland near the Mull of Kintyre and pay a visit to St Columba’s Chapel before heading to Tayinloan where you can catch a ferry to Gigha. Hop across to some of the other Hebridean Isles such as Jura, Islay and Colonsay, where Columba’s influence can still be seen in everything from place names to crumbling ruins where religious sites once stood.
Once back on the mainland, head north to Knapdale to see the exquisite medieval carvings at St Brendan’s Chapel before continue onwards to Achahoish where you can visit St Columba’s Cave and other sites connected to the saint. More medieval carvings can be seen along the route to Lochgilphead and Crinan before you enter a part of Argyll that boasts an unrivalled number of sacred sites. See the remains of a citadel where Columba participated in the inauguration of kings and uncover cairns, standing stones and other tiny, secluded island before arriving in Oban.
From here, catch a ferry to Iona which, although commonly known as Columba’s Isle, has a spiritual heritage that extends back long before the saint landed here. It is from here that Columba and other Christian pilgrims set off on missions to the Scottish mainland, or Alba as it was then known, to convert the indigenous pagan population.
Head north to Mallaig and continue onwards along the former military road to Spean Bridge where the 15th century Cille Choirill Church is located. The roots of this church can be traced back to Saint Cairell, an Irish monk who introduced Christianity to the area in the 7th century.
Continue the journey taken by Columba and his fellow saints through the Great Glen to what was once Pictish territory at Fort Augustus, where he is said to have banished the Loch Ness Monster. You will soon arrive at Inverness, the centre of the Pictish realm where he successfully converted its king. Take in the city’s fine churches, including the Episcopal Cathedral of St Andrew, pay a visit to Portmohomack where Columba established another monastery, before ending in Tain with its Royal Pilgrimage Centre dedicated to Saint Duthac.
You can find information and maps of the full route below.