Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

St Columba's Cave, cave and chapel, Knapdale

A Scheduled Monument in Mid Argyll, Argyll and Bute

We don't have any photos of this monument yet. Why don't you be the first to send us one?

Upload Photo »

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »

If Google Street View is available, the image is from the best available vantage point looking, if possible, towards the location of the monument. Where it is not available, the satellite view is shown instead.


Latitude: 55.9314 / 55°55'53"N

Longitude: -5.6014 / 5°36'4"W

OS Eastings: 175139

OS Northings: 676788

OS Grid: NR751767

Mapcode National: GBR DFK1.72K

Mapcode Global: WH0JT.X5VQ

Entry Name: St Columba's Cave, cave and chapel, Knapdale

Scheduled Date: 31 October 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13367

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Crosses and carved stones: cross-incised stone; Ecclesiastical: chapel; Prehistoric domestic and def

Location: South Knapdale

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Mid Argyll

Traditional County: Argyllshire


The Haa at Watsness is a two-storey, three-bay former manse of the Shetland 'haa house' type, built between 1780 and 1833. It is located around 5 miles west of the village of Walls (Waas) on the west coast of Mainland Shetland. It has a large rectangular walled enclosure to the south, a detached outbuilding to the west, and to the northwest, a former stable with two adjoining outbuildings forming a U-plan. The buildings are constructed from locally sourced stone.

The front (south) elevation of the house has a pitched stone porch offset slightly to the right of centre. Windows in the flanking bays and three windows at first floor are symmetrical and set towards the centre of the building. The gables have moulded skews and coped chimney stacks. The west gable is blind. The north roof pitch is grey slate. The interior, seen in 2018, retains fully timber-lined walls and ceilings to most rooms. There is a central timber staircase with carved newels and handrail and an upper landing. Some timber fireplaces and timber shutters survive. A fixed timber ladder stair accesses a large single attic space which has thick rafters and collar beam ties.

The rectangular dry-stone walled enclosure to the south of the house is largely intact and has a timber gate to its north side.

The detached outbuilding to the west is complete to wallhead with a later corrugated cement roof. The former stable is gabled with a partial flagstone floor and a timber door to the east elevation. The walls have been raised slightly using cinder block and the roofing is also corrugated cement sheet. The two buildings adjoining the stable have been modified, probably around 1940, while retaining a significant proportion of their rubble walls. The southernmost outbuilding has a concrete rib and cement sheet roof, while the northernmost building has a round Nissen hut type corrugated roof and two sea-facing window openings.

Later 20th century alterations to the house include a pebble-dash render, a single-storey outshot with half-piended roof to the east gable and a flat-roof concrete porch to the north elevation. Timber sash and case windows have been replaced with side-hung casements with a non-traditional glazing pattern. The slate to the south roof pitch has been replaced with felt tile. There is also a raised concrete path with metal handrail.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance as a natural cave containing evidence for its repeated use from the Mesolithic onwards, including the early Christian period, and an associated later chapel. The monument has high potential to contribute towards our understanding of the origins and development of places of worship from the early Christian period through to the post-Reformation period and, more specifically, of early medieval religious practices and burial rites. It can also contribute greatly towards our understanding of the human use of cave sites and early human occupation in Scotland. The cave retains its field characteristics to a significant degree, and has excellent contextual and associative characteristics. There is high potential for the survival of important archaeological remains within, beneath and around the upstanding chapel remains, and in undisturbed areas of the cave and the immediate surrounding area. The close physical relationship between the cave site and the medieval chapel, together with the area's association with St Columba and the origins of Christianity in Scotland, make this a particularly significant site. The cave itself is one of the most important cave sites in Argyll for its wealth of archaeological remains from the Mesolithic and Iron Age periods, and for its connection with St Columba. Loss of either component of the site would diminish our understanding of the origin and spread of Christianity in Scotland and the development of places of worship over time.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Canmore: CANMORE ID: 189976


Thomas Preston (1781) A New Hydrographical Survey of the Islands of Shetland.

Hydrographic Office of Great Britain (surveyed 1833, published 1838) Admiralty Chart - The Shetland Islands.

Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1878, published 1880) Shetland XLVIII.5, 25 inches to the mile. 1st Edition. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.

Ordnance Survey (revised 1900, published 1901) Zetland XLVIII.5 (Walls). 25 inches to the mile. 2nd Edition. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.

Printed Sources

Cowie, R. (1871) Shetland and its Inhabitants, Edinburgh: Menzies Ltd, p.296.

Shetland Times (05 April 1884) Rev. Archibald Nichol: Obituary, p.3.

Fenton A. (1978) The Northern Isles: Orkney and Shetland. Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers. pp.397-400.

8th Report of the Commissioners of Religious Institution, Scotland (1838) Walls and Sandness Parish - Parliamentary Papers: 1780-1849, Volume 26, Part 1. Edinburgh: W and A K Johnston Ltd, p.565.

Old Statistical Account of Scotland (1798) Walls and Sandness, County of Shetland, Vol. 10, pp.108-109.

Online Sources

Shetland Museum Archives. [accessed September 2018].

Shetland Ordnance Survey Name Book, 1878, Volume 21 (OS1/31/21/108) [accessed September 2018].

The Shetland Haa House, [accessed September 2018].


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Other nearby scheduled monuments is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact for any queries related to any individual ancient or schedued monument, planning permission related to scheduled monuments or the scheduling process itself. is a Good Stuff website.