6.6 Cholmcille’s 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.
He was seeking a meeting with the local king, Conall mac Comgall, whose chief fort was about 15 miles from here at Dunadd. According to tradition Conall agreed at this meeting to let Colmcille use the island of Iona to create his monastic settlement.
The chapel and cave are only a few metres from the sea loch. The chapel is ruined and overgrown. The cave is almost hidden from view behind the chapel. Follow the path through the grass to the back of the chapel to find the cave.
Colmcille’s cave is 5 metres wide and 18 metres deep, large enough to accommodate a group of people.
On the east side there is a shelf supporting an altar. Above the altar there is a cross carved into the wall. An oval basin has been formed in the rock which would have held holy water.
You may find that visitors to the cave have left offerings on the altar. This is one of the few sites in the area that is used by pilgrims in this way.
Archaeologists have made finds in this cave dating back to the Mesolithic period (10,000- 4,500BC) – the Middle Stone Age. A stone coffin and two shallow graves have also been discovered here.
You can see some of the finds made here at Kilmartin Museum.
A stone basin from the cave is now used as the font in South Knapdale Parish Church in nearby Achahoish.
The ruins of Colmcille’s Chapel date back to the 13th century but this site was used for worship for centuries before that.
The local parish church in Achahoish organises an annual service at the chapel and cave.
Bòrd na Gàidhlig
Great Glen House
Scotland, IV3 8NW
(+44) 01463 225454
Foras na Gaeilge, 2-6 Queen Street
(+44) 028 9089 0970
Foras na Gaeilge, An Chrannóg
Na Doirí Beaga
Donegal, Ireland. F92 EYT3
(+353) 074 9560113