6.4 Keills Chapel & Graveyard, Keillmore

Keills Chapel and replica cross © Ben Colburn

Keills Chapel sits up on a peninsular stretching out along the west side of Loch Sween. It dates from the 13th century but it is thought that people began worshipping here in the 8th century.

As with Kilmory Knap Chapel across Loch Sween, this chapel does not have a direct link to the story of Colmcille. But it does show that Christians were living here during the centuries after his death.

The chapel is home to a large collection of early and late medieval stones. The most striking is the Keills Cross which stands 2 metres tall.

From the chapel, there are stunning views of the sea loch and the islands of Islay and Jura.

With its simple rectangular shape, the chapel is similar to many built in the Western Highlands. The walls would have been covered both inside and outside with render and possibly some painted decoration.

The Keills Cross dates from the late 8th or early 9th century, reflecting the presence of Christian worshippers on this site.

The cross is carved on one side only. Four lions surround a central circular boss with St Michael represented above and a seated saint sitting below, at the top of the shaft. Below there are panels of interlace decoration and leaf scrolls.

Keills Cross, original. © Ben Colburn

There are graveslabs and crosses on display inside the chapel. Many are carved with decorative patterns, swords and symbols linked to the people commemorated in the stonework.

The Keills Cross was originally positioned on the slope beside the chapel. A replica marks the position of the cross, northwest of the chapel.


Getting there

Heading south from Kilmartin on the A816 turn right on to the B841 at Cairnbaan. At Bellanoch turn left on to the B8025 and head south towards Tayvallich. Head through Tayvalllich and follow the road right to the end. Park by the gate across the road and walk the short distance to the chapel on the slope ahead of you.

more on…

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.

    6.1 Dunadd

    Colmcille is thought to have visited the king of the Dál Riata at Dunadd when he first arrived in Argyll.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.

    6.2 Kilmartin Museum

    Kilmartin House Museum is housed in the former manse of Killmartin Church at the centre of Kilmartin village. Kilmartin Glen has an extraordinarily rich collection of 350 ancient monuments, all found within a six-mile radius of the museum.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.

    6.3 Kilmartin Church

    Kilmartin Glen is the site of more than 350 ancient monuments. These sites - which include 150 prehistoric monuments - lie within a six-mile radius of Kilmartin village.

  • Kilmory Knap Chapel carved graveslabs

    6.4 Keills Chapel

    The chapel is home to a large collection of early and late medieval stones. The most striking is the Keills Cross which stands 2 metres tall.

  • Kilmory Knap Chapel carved graveslabs

    6.5 Kilmory Knap Chapel

    Kilmory Knap Chapel was built in the first half of the 13th century and now houses a collection of early and late medieval gravestones and cross-slabs which used to be in the church and graveyard.

  • Kilmory Knap Chapel carved graveslabs

    6.6 Chapel & Cave, Ellary

    This peaceful location on the shores of Loch Caolisport is said to be where Colmcille stopped for a few days on his journey north from Ireland in 563.

  • Southend. Argyll, Scotland.

    6.7 Southend

    Southend is said to be Colmcille’s first landing place in Scotland. He left Derry on the north coast of Ireland in 563 with 12 companions and landed here before heading up the Argyll coast to meet the king of the Dál Riata.