Landscape from the edge of the world


The narrow spine of Rubha na Cille, the headland of the hermit’s cell, near Tayvallich is characterised by these stacks and pillars of rock, giving the land an almost unearthly feel. This manipulation is deliberately low-toned to emphasise the strangeness of walking through the landscape.

The Oratory at Kilneuair


This small building to the west of St Columba’s Chapel at Kilneuair is described by the authorities as an oratory. Canmore has the following description:

Probably 18th century. A ‘folly’. Square. Rubble, employing ancient carved stones (probably from the chapel); roofless. Very curious small windows formed as acute triangles with slightly curved sides (New built up).
T S Muir “Characteristics of Old Church Architecture” 1861 p 82.
Muir accepts it as an authentic mediaeval oratory.

What I find interesting about the structure is that it appears to have been built around a well, or at least a deep hole which could have been a well. Like the chapel, it is in danger from the sycamores growing inside it.

Here are the “windows” in close-up for comparison:


St Columba’s Chapel at Kilneuair


This view is of the south-east corner of the chapel building. With the large number of sycamore trees growing out of the walls, it’s difficult to see the building at other times of the year when the trees are in leaf.

The following description is from Canmore:

The remains of a medieval parish church, dedicated to St Columba, with an oratory close by stand in the churchyard which was still in use as a burial ground at the end of the 19th century.

Of fine workmanship, the church is longer than is usual in the area, with two doors on the south side. There is a damaged table-tomb north of the altar site and a piscina with a trefoil arch. A font, now erected at the west end, was found in three parts nearby. Inside, to the east of the nave door, is a sandstone block bearing a now almost invisible five-toed print with nails on three of the toes and which is referred to as ‘the Devil’s hand’.

The church is said to have succeeded Killevin (NR 986 972) as the principal church of the Lordship of Glassary until, in the mid-16th century, the centre of the parish was moved to Kilmichael Glassary (NR 859 935). There is a tradition that the stones for the church were brought from Killevin and that no dressing was required, which suggests that the stones of Killevin church were re-used.

The name ‘Kilneuair’ which is applied to the site (Kilnewir, 1394; Killenevir, 1490; Killenure, 1671) suggests an earlier church, and an older, roughly circular enclosure can be traced inside the churchyard wall, especially on the west and north.

Campbell and Sandeman (1964) translates ‘Kilneuair’ as ‘Coille-nan-Iubhair’, ie ‘Yew Wood’ and suggests that this may be the Columbian site ‘Cella Diuni’ mentioned by Adomnan, which was certainly in the Loch Awe area and has not hitherto been identified.

There are many carved stones in the churchyard, but no very early ones are obvious, although, near the gate, a millstone sunk in the grass may have served as a cross base.