9.10 Howmore, South Uist

The township of Tobha Mor - or Howmore - lies between the main north-south road on South Uist and the beach which forms much of the island’s west side.

In among the thatched houses of Howmore are the ruins of a church and four chapels. Writing in 1703 in his ‘A Description of the Western Isles of Scotland’, Martin Martin describes one of these churches as being dedicated to St Columba and one to St Mary. A stone slab incised with a cross was found on this site, indicating that there may have been Christian worship here in the 9th century.

Today the largest ruin is the east wall of the Teampull Mòr - or Large Church - of St Mary’s built in the 1200s as the local parish church. The wall contains two windows from the original church. Looking west you can see the position that the church used to occupy - stretching about 20 metres.

Behind the Teampull Mòr wall is a graveyard surrounded by a 19th century stone wall. Within the walled area is the ruined wall of another chapel - Caibeal Dhairmaid - St Dermot's. It was probably 5.7 metres wide and 17 metres long.

Howmore graveyard © Alan Sproull

In the far corner of the graveyard is Caibeal Chlann 'ic Ailein - Clan Ranald's Chapel - dating to 1574. The Clan Ranald stone commemorating John of Moidart - Chief of the Clan Ranald in the late 16th century - once stood in the chapel but is now in the Kildonan Museum just north of Daliburgh on the A865 before the turn off to Lochboisdale.

Howmore © Alan Sproull

To the south of Teampull Mòr are the remains of Caibeal Dubhghaill - Dougall’s Chapel.

As with many of the coastal areas on this part of the Sli Cholmcile, the landscape has changed considerably over time. When it was built, the Teampull Mor was probably surrounded by marshland, creating the effect of an island.

Martin Martin writing in 1703, describes the language spoken here:-

‘The Natives speak the Irish tongue (Gaelic) more perfectly here than in most of the other Islands; partly because of the remoteness, and the small number of them that speak English, and partly because some of ‘em are Scholars and vers’d in the Irish language’

What else?

One of the thatched houses in Howmore is now a youth hostel.


Getting there

From Benbecula head drive south on the A865 crossing by causeway to South Uist. Head 7.5 miles south from Ardmore. Take a right turn into Tobha Mor - Howmore.

Follow the road through the houses until you can see the ruins on your right.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.

    9.1 St Columba's Church

    This late 14th century church - named after St Columba - was later extended in the 15th and 16th century.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.

    9.2 St Moluag's Chapel

    This restored chapel is dedicated to St Moluag or Moluoc. The building is flanked by two small side chapels to the north and south, creating a T-shaped outline.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.

    9.3 St. John's Chapel

    Head west from the crofting township of Bragar to find the medieval chapel of Teampull Eoin - St John The Baptist - on a small headland next to the beach.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.

    9.4 Uig Peninsula

    It is worth heading to the Uig Peninsula not only for the sites relating to early Christianity but also for the stunning beaches of Uig and Mangarstadh.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.

    9.5 Teampall Chaluim Chille, Eilean Chaluim Chille

    The small island of Eilean Chaluim Chille has probably been connected with Christianity since the 7th century. It sits on the eastern extremity of Loch Erisort as it leads out to the Minch.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.

    9.6 Northton Chapel

    Northton Chapel faces south across the Sound of Harris looking towards the Uists. It sits on a small headland - Rubh’ an Teampull - at the foot of Ceapabhal hill.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.

    9.7 St Clements

    This is the largest medieval church in the Outer Hebrides. Of all the churches in the islands, only Iona is larger. It was built in the 16th century but there is some suggestion that there may have been an older monastery on the site.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.

    9.8 Church of the Holy Trinity

    Teampull na Trianaid sits on a mound beside the village of Carinish. There are views west towards the low-lying island of Baleshare. The remains of the Teampull na Trianaid dominate the site.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.

    9.9 Chapel of the Virgin Mary

    The ruined medieval chapel sits in a graveyard which is still in use. The chapel was rectangular and would have had a pitched roof. The walls would have been much higher - you can see the top part of the door in the west wall.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.

    9.10 Howmore

    The township of Tobha Mor - or Howmore - lies between the main north-south road on South Uist and the beach which forms much of the island’s west side.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.

    9.11 Kilbar Church, Barra

    Cill Bharra is the remains of a 12th century church dedicated to St Barr. The site is thought to have been used for Christian worship since the 600s when there was a chapel here dedicated to St Barr - probably the same saint as St Finbarr of Cork.