Thursday, September 11, 2014

Annat - Shiant Isles

There are several 'Annat' sites in the islands, and I have been fortunate to have visited the ones on Skye, Killegray, and Garbh Eilean of the Shiants. According to the 8th century Sencheus Mor (a collection of the early laws of Ireland, see page 65 of this link) Annat means:

'...the church in which the patron-saint was educated, or in which his relics were kept, and it ranked first among the various classes of churches.'

The Annat of Garbh Eilean is one of the earliest settlement site on the Shiants, and lies nestled in a beautiful spot at the foot of a glen on the west side of the island. And if the sea is calm it is also the easiest place to get ashore, as there are rock slabs that are easy to step onto from a boat. A small stream drains the glen. Just above where it reaches the sea there are remnants of a man-made platform, some 100-feet across, which may have been the foundation of a neolithic house. Although a sheep fank has been built on the site, you can still see the overall layout of the original settlement in the first photo.

Annat of Garbh Eilean

Adam Nicholson, in his book on the Shiants (Sea Room), discusses the possibility that this spot was the site of a religious settlement, and perhaps a hermitage for St Beccan, who is usually associated with the island of Rum. To quote Nicholson:

The lovely Annat on Garbh Eilean is just the place a Beccan might have chosen: good soil, good water, a place where you can bring a boat alongside... People had lived there before and there was building stone to hand.

The next photo shows the foundation of what may have been a bronze age roundhouse and a small enclosure to keep animals. I can picture St Beccan, some 1200 years ago, discovering this peaceful spot, and making use of the roundhouse as his disert, his hermitage in the sea.

Roundhouse ruin at Annait


  1. David & Margaret GartsideSeptember 11, 2014 at 10:54 AM

    Just found your blog, thanks Marc