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9.8 Church of the Holy Trinity, Carnish, North Uist

Teampull na Trianaid (Church of the Holy Trinity) 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. There was probably a series of settlements on this site before the chapel was built here in the early 13th century.

The Book of Clan Ranald says that Teampull na Trianaid belonged to the Prioress of Iona, Beathag. She was daughter of Somerled who was the Norse rí Innse Gall – king of the Hebrides – in the 12th century. ‘The Book of Clan Ranald’ was written in the 17th century by Niall MacMhuirich. It is one of the earliest known Gaelic books and gives a Gaelic view of the events of the time.

It is thought that the site was enlarged in the late 14th century by Amy MacRuairi (c.1350-1390) who had been married to John, Lord of the Isles.

The chapel and graveyard are enclosed by a stone wall. There is another chapel – the Teampull Clann a’Phiocair – Chapel of the MacVicars – on the north side of the main church. This building may date from the 16th century and used as a priest’s house. It was later used as a burial place for the MacVicar family of scholars.

According to oral tradition, the site is said to have been a place of learning since early medieval times. In the 14th century it was granted to the Abbey of Inchaffray in Perthshire but by the 16th century it was under control of the Abbot of Iona.

In 1601, Carinish was the site of a battle between the local Macdonalds and the MacLeods from the Isle of Harris. As you walk towards the church site, you cross a ditch signposted Fèith na Fala – Ditch of Blood. During the battle, the church and grounds may have been used as a refuge for animals and belongings.

© Alan Sproull

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