On The Road to Glenlough

Glenlough Bay
Dan Ward's Stack, one of Rockwell Kent's Ireland paintings
Poet Dylan Thomas

There is no road to Glenlough, not even a well-worn path. This valley, in the highlands of south-west Donegal, is as remote and monumental as it is enchantingly beautiful. It is a place that has attracted a number of notable visitors. These include American artist and illustrator Rockwell Kent, Welsh poet Dylan Thomas and, if strong local tradition is to be believed, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, pretender to the throne of England. This course mixes history, art, poetry and social history to tell the story of a truly unique place.

Participants will discover the fascinating stories of these visitors and the time they spent in the glen:

  • Prince Charles Edward Stuart or Bonnie Prince Charlie is reputed to have hidden out in the parish of Glencolmcille in 1746. The prince was on the run following his failed uprising in Britain where he had attempted to regain the throne for his Stuart family.
  • Rockwell Kent was during the 1920s and 30s one of the most famous and saleable artists in America. He spent much of the year 1926 in Glenlough where produced a stunning collection of art. 25 years later, as an avowed socialist even in the face of the McCarthy era, his passport was confiscated when he attempted to return to Ireland. So began a celebrated US Supreme Court case.
  • The young 20-year-old Welsh poet Dylan Thomas followed in Kent’s footsteps when he arrived into Glenlough in the summer of 1935. He was being chaperoned by literary editor Geoffrey Grigson who was attempting to distance the poet from the bright lights of bohemian London. Little did he realise that he was bringing the young poet into the poteen making capital of Donegal!

But it is not just the famous that have a narrative worth relating. The truly heroic aspect of any account of Glenlough rests with the people who lived and breathed it. Accordingly, participants will learn much about the residents of Glenlough, their work and their pastimes, from farming, fishing, and turf-cutting to distilling and music.

Note: In all but the driest weather conditions it is a 2–3 hour moderately strenuous hike to the Glenlough valley from the nearest road. Thus, it may not be feasible to reach Glenlough itself during this 2.5 day course. Participants will, however, visit a number of spectacular sites closely tied to the Glenlough story such as Port and Malinbeg.

Course Director

Christy Gillespie is an author and former primary school principal who has a particular interest in the history associated with St Colm Cille. As well as this, he spent over 15 years researching the story of Glenlough, the people who lived there and the notable visitors who spent time in the valley. His magnum opus The Road to Glenlough—a 684 page, full-colour book published in 2023—is the result of this work.