Sunday, April 13, 2014

Eilean Chaluim Cille - 2

When I arrived at the crossing to Eilean Chaluim Cill the tide was too high to cross; the sea still a foot above the causeway.  I waited for 45 minutes, crossed over, and then walked to the church ruins and burial ground, which lie a quarter mile from where the causeway reaches the island.

The ruined church of St Columb Kill is a sad sight, as its crumbling walls are half fallen. It is surrounded by a burial ground, and there are also graves inside the church. Sometime in the seventh century a monastery was established here, and the burial ground was still used in the 1800s.  It's been said that the monks had a large orchard on the island, and in the Ravenspoint Visitor Centre in Kershader you will find a mural painting of monks at work in the orchard. When I walked to the island in 2012 I meet a man who lives near the crossing to Eilean Chaluim Cille. He told me local opinion is that the orchard was actually at nearby Cromore, on the mainland of Lewis.

St Columb Kill
The ruin of St Columb Kill - the 'modern' tombstone marks the grave of Kenneth Ross 
Here is what TS Muir had to say about Eilean Chaluim Cille in 1855:

In a shockingly-conditioned burial-ground….is a not greatly ruinated chapel, dedicated to St Columba…..with features much resembling those of the other Long Island chapels. The east elevation, which is nearly entire, contains a flat-headed window, 4 feet by six inches, and in the west gable there is a smaller one of the same shape. The south side contains a narrow lanciform window, and a broken doorway on its left; the north side is down to the ground nearly, except a bit at its west end.

In the 159 years since this was written the 'shockingly-conditioned burial ground is in even worse shape. Still, the old monastic site, isolated on its tidal island, is beautiful. I spent an hour wandering around the island; taking about a hundred photos before walking back across the causeway to Crobeg.

For more info on Eilean Chaluim Cille see this RCAHMS link. An even better reference is a booklet entitled Eilean Chaluim Chille: St Colm's Isle, produced by the Pairc Historical Society in 2008.

Looking back over St Columb Kill to Crobeg
Time to leave - back across the causeway before the tide rises

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