Silent Sunday…. So Off to Church


Saint Mary’s Church, Dunvegan, Isle of Skye

The west coast of Scotland is littered with the ruins of Churches (perhaps best named Chapels).  St. Mary’s Church at Dunvegan is typical of many such once important places of worship. Locations near the coast is a significant clue as to when and why they were built in this far flung places. It was in the 6th century that Saint Columba arrived on the Isle of Iona and set up a religious community that still exists today. So it is no surprise that Pilgrims from Iona , just a short distance across the sea, found their way to the west coast of Scotland.  There were of course many other peoples from other countries to this part of Scotland…. some settled, others stayed for awhile.

Standing on a high mound above the village of Dunvegan, surrounded by a stone wall, St. Mary’s is still a very notable feature of the landscape.

DSC_7949_00001bbSt. Marys is surrounded by a burial ground that tells many stories of the peoples of Dunvegan now long gone. But step inside the ruined Church and you find many more Memorial stones and Crosses.  Like many of the Churches that fell in to disuse and disrepair they took on an additional roll. St. Mary’s like others became a safe custodian of these stones that were brought here for safety.

Highland Churches like this may well be ruins, but are still important historical links to not just the communities past but to the foundations of the Country. Whilst many of the memorials are tributes to Clan Members, others are to peoples from many countries who ventured forth, found themselves in this part of the world, settled and helped shape the countries future.

Why so many ruins…. there is no one reason.  Larger places of Worship were often needed, then of course we had Clan disputes and much later divisions within the Scottish Church. Once a building fell into disuse the ravages of time and weather caused the Heather Thatched Roofs to collapse…. so with no roof any intentions of restoration was probably thought too daunting.  But the walls still stand firm.


Post Script….. I personally find it strange that today there appears to be dislike to peoples from other countries that seek to share our lives in our communities and countries.

Yet we only have to look back at our own histories and recognise the very wide variety of cultures and peoples from far away that have created and shaped the very country we now enjoy.

Just a thought

15th October

(C) David Oakes 2017






Silent Sunday…So off to a Church again


The Macmillan Cross

The day had turned grey and a damp Scottish mist had descended as we drove down the Knapdale Peninsular in Argyll. The peninsular extends like a finger into the Atlantic point towards Ireland.  We knew there was an old Chapel to be found at the point and sure enough there it was Kilmory Knap Chapel…..looking all the world like many other Highland Chapels roofless and partly ruined.


The big surprise was to be found inside.  This Christian Chapel dates back to 13c, but as the area has a religious history that pre dates that, in some place going back to neo lithic times, this Chapel was possibly built on an earlier religious site. It stopped becoming a place of worship when it fell into disrepair and lost its roof. After that it became a place of Burial Enclosure….and that is the clue as you step inside the ruin.

Thankfully some forward thinking individuals had the inspiration to install an inverted glass roof to protect the body of the Chapel and an important collection of over 30 carved Burial Stones and standing in place of honour is the carved Celtic Macmillan Cross of the Knapdale Macmillan Clan.

The Stones were found either within the Chapel or the surrounding grounds. The stones are carved in a variety of styles, some obviously carved with Celtic influences others ornate carvings of familiar images whilst others are more symbolic.  Historians suggested that these memorial stones were created to represents the individuals wealth within their community with some of the stones having been commissioned on the Island of Iona and transport to Kilmory.

There are helpful notes in the Chapel to help you interpret the history of each stone.  This is a large collection of Burial stones, but carved stones like these, whilst not common are not unfamiliar to the Knapdale and Kilmartin region of Argyll. Click the link to read more about Kilmartin and its stones :-

Not all burials in this graveyard are of the wealthy and some simpler crosses have been recovered…


Kilmory Chapel may well be a bleak and lonely location but it is far from being an empty shell.


8th October

(C) David Oakes 2017

Silent Sunday….a Time to Relax


Sunday for many of us is a time to relax and put our feet up (well maybe not everyone and maybe not every weekend).  As the weather forecast for today is not that promising I guess a pot of coffee, some relaxing music on the CD player and a good book may just be the solution.

Sadly my Library of books is not as old, interesting and lavish as the Family Library at Alnwick Castle….  Oh for the chance to explore these shelves.

3rd September

(C) David Oakes 2017


Silent Sunday…..So Off to Church


Valle Crucis Abbey, Llantysilio, Wales

Not really a Church this weekend but an Abbey. It is Valle Crusis Abbey and can be found in a deep sheltered valley at Llantysilio near to Llangollen in Denbighshire, Wales.



Built circa 1201 under the instruction and sponsorship of Madog ap Gruffydd Maelor the Prince of Powys Fadog it was a Cistercian Monastery.  For much of its working life the Abbey was prosperous and productive agriculture centre and the main occupation of the inhabitants who numbered maybe a couple of hundred at its height.  It survived the bitter and bloody Welsh Wars of the 13century and later the Abbey also enjoyed a reputation for a welcoming hospitality for travellers and the needy.

Its downfall was in 1537 and the Dissolution of the Monasteries on the order of Henry VIII.  After that it became and remains a ruin (though part of the Chapter House was later converted for a time to  Manor House).

We are lucky that the main structure still survives which allows us to gain a true feeling of the original size of  Valle Crucis as well as much of the detailed stone Tracery, Vaulting and Corbelling. The Abbey is now well cared for by CADW the Welsh Heritage Organisation with a rather good exhibition centre telling the story of Valle Crucis.


27th August

(C) David Oakes 2017

Silent Sunday…..So Off to Church


The church of Saint John in the village of Horningsham, Wiltshire on the edge of the Longleat Estate and adjacent to the appropriately named Heavens Gate.

Saint John’s is the idyllic English Church, set on a hill overlooking a very peaceful rural scene that has changed little since the church was built in the 12th century. Like most churches of its age it has passed thru phases of renovation, modification, extension and rebuilding, the last rebuild being in 1843.

20th August

(C) David Oakes 2017