From post-medieval times, if not long before, Disert has been a place of pilgrimage, with pilgrims arriving on the 9th of June, the feast day of its patron St Colmcille, to pray at the well and the surrounding monuments. The traditional pilgrim rounds started at St Colmcille’s well with 15 decades of the rosary, the pilgrim then continued to cairns of stones. In times past the pilgrimage was often performed barefoot. Meehan (1997, 14-15) states ‘as well as prayers being said at the well the Rosary was recited and Paters and Aves were said as the pilgrim made his or her way round the heaps or cairns walking on the right hand or deiseal and placing a pebble on top of the cairn as the prayers were said.’ They then walked to the altar whilst saying the rosary. At the altar they circumnavigated the stones found there before mass was said.
In more modern times mass was said in the graveyard on the first Sunday of June followed by the traditional climb of the nearby Carnaween Mountain for an afternoon & evening of dancing and singing. More on Carnaween.
The Disert Heritage project, through targeted historical and archaeological research hopes to answer questions relating the antiquity of the site, its development, use and function through time, to explore its association with St Colmcille and pilgrimage.