Cultural connections project launched at Mod

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An exciting new project to promote the rich cultural connections linking Scotland and Ireland was launched at the Royal National Mod in Stornoway today (Monday).

Sli Cholmcille (the St Columba Trail) is a web based initiative that enables users to follow in the historic footsteps of St Columba. The Sli aims to foster a wider understanding of the cultural heritage shared by the Gaelic communities of both countries.

The Sli is an online resource offering focused trails, maps, images and information on St Columba and the places that he and his early Christian followers journeyed to.

For centuries pilgrims have visited the numerous landmarks linked to St Columba which range from his Donegal birthplace to Iona in Argyll where he founded his monastery in 563. It is hoped that this online resource will inspire modern day pilgrimages to these areas and create a new visitor experience for tourists in Scotland and Ireland.

Each of the 72 stops on the trail has historical significance and many are located in the most beautiful landscapes of Scotland and Ireland. People who follow the trail will find all the key Columban sites but also be led off the beaten track to discover new sites and perhaps view some familiar places through fresh eyes.

The trail is aimed at a wide range of audiences from people interested in heritage and history to people who love the great out doors, from Gaelic speakers to those interested in learning more about the language, from school children to their parents and teachers, from stay-at-home tourists to international travellers.

The facts and folklore surrounding St Columba have been passed down through written sources from the 6th century and generations of oral tradition. The Sli pulls together these many strands under the expert guidance of St Columba specialists Brian Lacey and Gilbert Markus, who make this a very reliable as well as a highly accessible educational resource.

This flagship project was initiated and developed by Colmcille which is a Scottish/ Irish inter-governmental initiative to redevelop the links between Gaelic Scotland and Ireland. Colmcille commissioned the Sli from Scotland’s Gaelic arts agency, Proiseact Nan Ealan, who have devised the 72 stop trail in partnership with Lucidity Media and Design Is Central. The Sli was funded by Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Foras na Gaeilge and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Minister with responsibility for Gaelic Alasdair Allan said: “This is an exciting development which links up the heritage of the west coast of Scotland with that of the north coast of Ireland and will bring economic benefits to these areas. St Columba was an important figure in the early Medieval period and today’s announcement will highlight his role to a new generation as well as firming up the close ties between the two areas and their language.”

Malcolm Maclean, Director of Scotland’s Gaelic arts agency, Proiseact Nan Ealan, said: “It has been a privilege for our team to create the first visitor trail linking Scotland and Ireland. New digital media offer exciting new ways for people to understand their history and access it on location. The Sli can be a personal, family or guided group experience and we

look forward to it developing and extending in the years to come.”

Ferdie Mac an Fhailigh, CEO, Foras na Gaeilge commented: “We are delighted that Slí Cholmcille is now live and available to everyone. It will bring together people from Ireland, Scotland and indeed across the globe. It will allow people to explore the role of Irish and Scottish Gaelic in the future as well as the past”

Stella McDermott, Heritage Lottery Fund said: “This new online resource will link together the sites of interest across several countries, opening up this heritage to new and wider audiences and we are delighted to be involved in this exciting project to celebrate St Columba and raise awareness of this heritage.”

Visit the project and find out more at www.colmcille.org