Early Christian Heritage Tour
Of the many small early medieval Christian settlements on the western coast of Ireland, Illaunloughan is the smallest island site and the one closest to shore, situated only 400m west of the village of Portmagee.
Normally accessible only by boat, it is possible to walk the 200m channel once or twice a year when the tide is at its lowest. One such time is often St. Patrick’s Day (17th March).
2. The area is probably best known for its christian or ecclesiastical sites. The root word ’keel’ (Cill) meaning church is common. The early christian monastic site at Killabuonia is of major interest to archaeologists though it is in poor repair
3. The medieval church at Keel was built near the site of St Finian’s Monastery and was the parish church for the Glen and Portmagee for Centuries.
4. In Ballynabloun stands Temple Cashel Oratory, a small church which was said to be used by nuns. Nearby, is a walled kitchen garden on an acre of ground built by the O’Connell Landlords in 1831
5. Keelonecaha is another holy site and it is said to be where a fight between the Irish and the Danes took place.
6. St Michael’s Well, Dún Gégan, Ballinskelligs
The water of the well was thought to have miraculous powers from the mid 18th century.
St. Michael’s Feast day is on the 29th September. It is called the Pattern or Pattern day. When the Holy Day took place, huge crowds would attend and the pilgrims stayed for two days.
The pilgrimage involves walking around the well either three times, six times or nine times while saying the rosary. When you start you should take ten stones and throw the tenth stone away. When you have made a round, you should add a stone to the stone heap until you have made nine rounds. The right hand should be to the Well while making the Pilgrimage. A pin, penny or button, or a piece of cloth is left at the Well, or somewhere among the stones, when you leave. (Sean O’Conaill’s Book by Seamus O’Duilearga 1981) When the rounds were all done at the well people rushed to join the celebrating. There was plenty of eating and drinking, courting and fighting in the village. In the old days there were booths for the sale of drink and sweets. The card man would be there, and also a man selling toys. The day would be spent with sport and pastimes. Many people used to drink during the day, and would quarrel and sing at night.
The pattern was not approved of by the clergy in the old days because of the drinking and fighting, so it was not celebrated for many years. In recent years it has been revived and now every year there is a Pattern Festival which lasts for three days.
7. The Skelligs Experience Centre, Valentia Island
Here, through re-creations and models you can study the works and lives of the Skellig monks of the early Christian period. In The Skellig Experience’s 80-seat auditorium, through a 16-minute audio-visual presentation you can follow the footsteps of those Skellig monks, and wonder at the legacy of architecture that they left behind
8. St Brendan’s Well
St. Brendan ‘The Navigator’ (486-578 AD) is believed to have baptised people at this well on his way from Dingle to St. Finán’s Bay.
This water of this well, in common with that of other holy wells in the area, is said to have curative powers. There is an ancient tradition of holy wells in South Kerry.