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Cill Challuim Chille, chapel, Keills

A Scheduled Monument in Kintyre and the Islands, Argyll and Bute

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Latitude: 55.8413 / 55°50'28"N

Longitude: -6.1315 / 6°7'53"W

OS Eastings: 141447

OS Northings: 668623

OS Grid: NR414686

Mapcode National: GBR CF78.Q90

Mapcode Global: WGZHT.SFFT

Entry Name: Cill Challuim Chille, chapel, Keills

Scheduled Date: 26 November 1963

Last Amended: 19 March 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2361

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Ecclesiastical: chapel

Location: Killarow and Kilmeny

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Kintyre and the Islands

Traditional County: Argyllshire


The monument comprises the remains of a later medieval chapel and surrounding burial ground. The chapel survives as upstanding, partly turf-covered walls of varying height and up to 1m in thickness. It stands approximately at the centre of the burial ground, which is enclosed by a modern wall. Within the burial ground are numerous grave-markers, including a fine example of a medieval grave-slab dating to the 14th century and at least three notable post-Reformation carved stones. The monument lies at 80m above sea level, on grassland that slopes to the S and E. The monument was originally scheduled in 1963, but the scheduled area was inadequate to protect all of the archaeological remains and the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The chapel is built of locally sourced, random rubble masonry and measures approximately 8m E-W by 4m transversely. The N wall is the most complete and stands to an average height of 1.5m; the remains of a window are visible towards its E end. The S wall is much lower and the masonry is largely turf-covered. The original entrance was situated towards the W end of the S wall. The chapel lies just south of the centre of the burial ground and the ground surrounding the chapel is slightly raised. The 14th-century carved stone lies immediately S of the chapel, just beyond the walls. It is a tapered slab measuring 2m in length and is 0.5m at its greatest width. At the top is a panel which now reads 'DME 1703'; the original inscription was removed by this later one. Below this panel is a galley and then a single-hand sword extending along the length of the slab, flanked on either side by intertwined plant-stems and a pair of opposed animals at the top. At the foot of the slab are a casket and a pair of shears.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan. It includes the remains described above and an area around them in which evidence relating to the monument's construction and use may survive, as marked in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes all active burial lairs. It also excludes the above-ground elements of the wall enclosing the burial ground and all burial monuments of 19th-century or later date, to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

The chapel and burial ground are in a very good condition. Although the walls are not complete to wall-head height, they are very stable. Enough of the structure survives to be able to interpret the chapel's original form; gaps on the N and S walls indicate the presence of at least one window and the entrance respectively. Archaeological evidence for interior fittings and furniture and for the date, construction and use of the chapel is likely to survive beneath the ground. The burial ground as a whole is in good condition and contains a substantial collection of grave-markers indicating the longevity of burial practice here, which continued into the post-Reformation period. The 14th-century grave-slab is a fine example of later medieval art and survives in very good condition, despite 18th-century alterations to the panel inscription. It can contribute towards our understanding and appreciation of West Highland sculpture.

There are indications of an earlier phase of religious activity on the site. The chapel is dedicated to St Columba and the place-name, 'Keills' ('cill', in Gaelic), is one often attributed to early Christian places of worship. The location of a site close to a well may also indicate earlier origins, and there are traces of banks in the western portion of the burial ground which may indicate an earlier extent to the burial ground. The raised ground on which the chapel stands is likely to indicate an accumulation of archaeological deposits and may cover earlier remains. There is good potential for a long development sequence at the site that could enhance our understanding of the origins, use and re-use of places of worship and burial grounds over a considerable length of time. It is likely that important archaeological deposits survive in and around the chapel that could contribute towards our understanding of church construction, burial practices and the origins, nature and duration of use of medieval ecclesiastical sites. The burial ground is highly likely to contain skeletal remains, which could also reveal evidence for health, diet, illness, cause of death and possibly occupational activities.

Contextual characteristics

This is one of several later medieval chapels on Islay, which together can contribute towards our understanding of the organisation of the church at this time. It has the potential for comparison with broadly contemporary sites such as Finlaggan, approximately 2.5km to the SW, which could help us to understand changing religious and political situations over time. The later medieval grave-slab can also be compared with broadly contemporary examples, such as the fine collection at Finlaggan, as well as others on Islay and further afield on Iona. Comparative studies would allow us to develop our understanding and appreciation of West Highland sculpture. There are also significant sites in the close vicinity that can enhance our understanding of the nature and significance of this chapel site. A contemporary free-standing cross stands approximately 300m to the ENE, and a well lies just 75m S of the burial ground.

Associative characteristics

The site is depicted on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map as 'Cill Challuim Chille, Chapel (in ruins)'. The place-name 'cill' is Gaelic, meaning 'church' or 'burial ground' and may indicate earlier origins for the site as a place of worship for the lay population. Historical references indicate that this chapel was part of lands belonging to the Crown, previously associated with the MacDonald Lords of the Isles.

The monument is of national importance because it has the inherent potential to make a significant contribution towards our understanding of the nature and development of the later medieval church. There is high probability for the survival of buried remains ranging from the early medieval period through to the post-Reformation period. Important archaeological remains relating to the origins, use and development of the site are also expected to survive, including burials spanning a considerable period of time. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our ability to understand and appreciate the nature and development of the church and burial practices during the later medieval period in Islay and more widely across the west of Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the site as NR46NW 2. The West of Scotland Archaeology Service SMR reference is WOSASPIN 2707.


Graham R C 1895, The carved stones of Islay, Glasgow, 26.

Lamont W D 1968, Ancient and medieval sculptured stones of Islay, Glasgow, 30-1, 42, 52 illust.

OPS (1855) Origines parochiales Scotiae: the antiquities ecclesiastical and territorial of the parishes of Scotland, vol.2, 2 Edinburgh, 262.

RCAHMS 1984a, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Argyll: an inventory of the monuments volume 5: Islay, Jura, Colonsay and Oronsay, Edinburgh, 161-2, no. 327.

Watson W J 1926, The history of the Celtic place-names of Scotland: being the Rhind lectures on archaeology (expanded) delivered in 1916, Edinburgh, 280.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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