As the road from Carrick approaches GLENCOLMCILLE, it traverses desolate moorland that’s dominated by oily-black turf banks amidst patches of heather and grass. After this, the rich beauty of the Glen, as it’s known, comes as a welcome surprise. Settlement in the area dates back to the Stone Age, as testified by the enormous number of megalithic remains scattered around the countryside, especially court cairns and standing stones. There’s evidence, too, of the Celtic era, in the form of earthworks and stone works. According to tradition, St Columba founded a monastery here in the sixth century and some of the standing stones, known as the Turas Cholmcille, were adapted for Christian usage by the inscription of a cross. Every Columba’s Day (June 9) at midnight, the locals commence a barefoot circuit of the fifteen Turas, including Columba’s Chapel, chair, bed, wishing stone and Holy Well, finishing up with Mass at 3am in the village church. (Columba and Columbcille/Colmcille are the same person – the latter is the name by which he was known after his conversion, and means “the dove of the church”.)

Heading northeast from Glencolmcille, the minor road to Ardara runs through the heart of the peninsula, travelling via the dramatic Glengesh Pass before spiralling down into wild but fertile valley land. Just before reaching Ardara, a road to the left runs along the southern edge of Loughros Beg Bay for 9km to MAGHERA, passing the transfixing Assarancagh Waterfall, from where you can embark on a hardy ten-kilometre waymarked walk uphill to the Glengesh Pass.

Maghera itself is an enchantingly remote place, dwarfed by the backdrop of hills and glens and fronted by an expansive and deserted strand that extends westwards to a rocky promontory riddled with caves. One of the largest is said to have concealed a hundred people fleeing Cromwell’s troops; their light was spotted from across the strand and all were massacred except a lucky individual who hid on a high shelf. Most of the caves are accessible only at low tide and a torch is essential. Beware of the tides, however, as even experienced divers have been swept away by the powerful currents. Behind the village, a tiny road, unsuitable for large vehicles, runs up to the Granny Pass, an alternative and very scenic route to Glencolmcille.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Ireland features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

12 dreamy pictures of Ireland

12 dreamy pictures of Ireland

With its remote beauty, rugged landscapes and windswept coastlines, Ireland is a photographer's dream. Here, Philip Joyce shares some of his best pictures of…

23 Aug 2016 • Philip Joyce insert_drive_file Article
8 great alternative UK city breaks

8 great alternative UK city breaks

London, Edinburgh, Cardiff… These are the usual suspects when visitors are thinking about UK city breaks. But there are actually 66 other cities to be explore…

15 Aug 2016 • Greg Dickinson insert_drive_file Article
6 of the best road trips in the UK

6 of the best road trips in the UK

There is something about a road trip that creates an endless state of heightened excitement. It comes with a heart-in-mouth, funfair-like thrill. And no matter …

21 Jun 2016 • Mike MacEacheran insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month