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Eileach-an-Naoimh, monastery, Garvellachs

A Scheduled Monument in Oban North and Lorn, Argyll and Bute

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Latitude: 56.2211 / 56°13'15"N

Longitude: -5.809 / 5°48'32"W

OS Eastings: 163956

OS Northings: 709698

OS Grid: NM639096

Mapcode National: GBR DD18.FZN

Mapcode Global: WGZG1.RW0Q

Entry Name: Eileach-an-Naoimh, monastery, Garvellachs

Scheduled Date: 30 November 1981

Last Amended: 3 July 2000

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM90138

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Ecclesiastical: monastery; Secular: settlement, including deserted, depopulated and townships

Location: Jura

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Oban North and Lorn

Traditional County: Argyllshire


The monument consists of the extensive remains of a monastery originating in the pre-Norse period. The site is clearly very complex with a long building history but has never been excavated which makes the interrelationship between features difficult to assess.

The core of the site is a precinct on fairly flat ground which contains two church structures (one of stone and clay construction) a subterranean chamber and several other structures whose function and original form are thought to derive from the ancillary buildings needed for a small monastery. To the east is a substantial burial ground with graves formed as raised rectangular platforms.

To the east of this site are a pair of interconnecting bee-hive cells which are thought to be the oldest structures on the island. The highest part of this structure still stands to over 3.5m high.

There are numerous other structures between the core of the site and the natural boat-landing to the south: for example, cross bases and terracing, apparently designed to monumentalise the approach to the monastery.

To the SW of the core of the site an Early-Christian burial cairn, (known as Eithne's grave) with a cross-marked slab, occupies a natural terrace on the hill side. There is a second burial ground roughly 200m to the SW of the main site.

In addition to the features noted above, there are several features and remains which relate to post-medieval farming on the island, in particular a well preserved corn-drying kiln to the N of the site core, a barn, several alterations of the monastic remains and areas of rig and furrow.

The site is first recorded by John of Fordun who described it as a sanctuary. The site is clearly older than this but is thought to have been in virtually continuous use since its foundation in the Early Christian period. It is now thought that the site is likely to have been founded by St. Brendan the Navigator.

The area to be scheduled includes all the features noted above. It is defined to the SE by the high water mark and to the NW by the edge of the cliffs which run up the NW side of the island. To the NE and SW the area is defined by two lines running NW-SE.

The first runs 50m SW of the SW burial ground and the second 70m NE of the corn kiln. The area measures 510m from its northernmost to its southernmost point by 490m from its easternmost to its westernmost point and is marked in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance because it is the best preserved Early-Christian monastery in Scotland, suffering from very little later encroachment. Located on what is now an uninhabited island, the structures have not been quarried and the archaeological deposits are likely to be well preserved. This site has the potential to enhance our understanding of the history of the introduction of Christianity to Scotland and the impact of subsequent events, in particular the Norse invasions and settlement.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as NM 61 SW 1.


Bryce, T H and Knight, G A, 1934, Report On A Survey Of The Antiquities On Eileach An Naoimh, Trans Glasgow Archaeological Soc. 8 (1926-34), 62-102.
Historic Environment Scotland Properties
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Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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