The Lough Derg pilgrimage route from Station Island Visitor Centre to Saints Island, Co. Donegal is a timeless pilgrim route that is far removed from roads, houses and other signs of modern day living. It has many echoes of its early Christian past along the 12 Km (7 miles) long path. The old pilgrimage road to Lough Derg follows in the footsteps of the medieval pilgrims — not to Station Island where pilgrims normally go today, but to the threshold of the larger Saints Island, which acted as its gateway several hundred years ago. The focus of the legendary St Patrick’s Purgatory, Station Island, was a deep pit in which those who spent a day and a night would allegedly be purged of their sins, experiencing both the torments of the damned and the delights of the blessed. The walk starts at the visitor centre near the pier where boats bring pilgrims across to Station Island. Information about the pilgrimage may be obtained at the centre.
At about 1.15km, there is a wooden fingerpost pointing down to the right along a stepped path to St Brigid’s Chair, a naturally weathered boulder of banded gneiss. A little further along the route, another sign points to St Daveoc’s Chair. Associated with a local hermit, the ‘chair’ is partially natural, but seems to have had one or two large blocks added to it, hinting that it may once have been a Bronze Age burial place. This is the point where the modern route joins the old pilgrimage road that would have brought the medieval pilgrims from Templecarne.
At 1.75km, a fingerpost points down to St Brigid’s Well, marked by a modern metal cross which is festooned — like the bush above it — with pilgrims’ votive rags. The goal of the pilgrimage is the edge of the lake opposite Saints Island where one can still see the stones that formed the foundation of the wooden bridge that would have brought medieval pilgrims across to Station Island. The path continues full circle to the visitor centre where the walk began.