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Eilean Mor, St. Cormac's Cave, Chapel and related remains

A Scheduled Monument in Mid Argyll, Argyll and Bute

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Latitude: 55.9133 / 55°54'47"N

Longitude: -5.7365 / 5°44'11"W

OS Eastings: 166593

OS Northings: 675218

OS Grid: NR665752

Mapcode National: GBR DF62.R6D

Mapcode Global: WH0JR.VMJN

Entry Name: Eilean Mor, St. Cormac's Cave, Chapel and related remains

Scheduled Date: 30 November 1981

Last Amended: 15 March 2000

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM90139

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Crosses and carved stones: cross slab; Ecclesiastical: chapel; Secular: settlement, including desert

Location: South Knapdale

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Mid Argyll

Traditional County: Argyllshire


The monument consists of a hermit's cave, a later chapel and the remains of numerous related and subsequent structures. St. Cormac's cave is a natural cave which was reputedly the hermitage of the saint. On the wall of the cave are carved two crosses, one hexafoil and the other of chi-rho type. At the mouth of the gully in which the cave is located is a structure which has been interpreted as a chapel but is probably better understood as a shrine building, permitting and controlling access by pilgrims to the cave.

In the middle of the island is St. Cormac's chapel. This is a thirteenth-century building with a fifteenth-century vault over the chancel. It was built close to the Early-Christian cross slab which is said to mark the grave of St. Cormac. It is likely that the chapel overlies an earlier site, a likelihood emphasised by the existence of the remains of an irregular enclosure around the south and west of the chapel and a well to its east.

Between the chapel and the cave, there is a cross base on the highest point of the island (the cross is now in the collection of the National Museums of Scotland) and a stone built bridge or causeway across a natural gully.

In the 18th Century the island was noted for its good grazing. There are numerous structures associated with agricultural exploitation of the island, in particular around the chapel where there are several buildings and a corn kiln. It is possible that some of these structures may be contemporary with the use of the chapel. To the east of the cave are two substantial lochans which appear to have been formed, at least partly, by human intervention, probably to provide a supply of fresh water on the island.

The site was the recipient of the patronage of the family of the Lords of the Isles, with John, first lord, providing the vaulting for the chancel and his wife commissioning the cross which formerly stood on the highest point of the island.

The area to be scheduled includes all the above monuments. It is irregular, defined by the high water mark to the E, S and W. To the North it is defined by a line running SE-NW through the innermost point of the island's natural harbour. The area measures about 640m due N-S by a maximum of 360m due E-W, as marked in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland


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Historic Environment Scotland Properties
Eilean Mor
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Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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