Sunday, January 25, 2015

Cill Chatriona - Colonsay

One of the best walks on Colonsay is the trek to the beach of Traigh Ban via Balnahard farm. Traigh Ban lies at the north end of Colonsay, and is a six mile (round trip) walk from Kiloran Bay.

To get there, climb the track that ascends north below Carn an Eoin, the highest point on Colonsay. From the top of the road the summit of Colonsay is easily obtained by making a small detour to the east. A little farther on another detour is well worth the effort; a short side trip down towards the sea to visit St Columba's Well.

St Columba's Well
From the well, return to the track, and then carry on to the north. After a mile you'll pass Balnahard farm, and in another half mile you will come to the end of the track above Traigh Ban. On the hillside here lies the old church and burial ground of Cill Chatriona, (I've also seen it referred to as Cill Cairine and Cill Cabrine.)

Cill Chatriona
All that's left of the church are low walls of rubble, as the site was pillaged for stone in the 1870s. Although there is not much of the church left, there are two interesting stones here. One is a beautiful cross, its black stone polished to a glossy sheen by centuries of cattle using it as a rubbing stone.

Cross/Bovine Scratching post
Another cross once stood here; an elaborately carved stone with four holes in the head (see this RCAHMS page - the cross was given to a museum in Edinburgh in 1881). I'm not sure what the holes represent, and the only other holed-cross I know of is the odd three-holed cross of North Rona

Another stone of interest that is still here is Clach a'Pheanais - the penance stone. It is tilted, four feet high, aligned east to west, and one of several penance stones in the Hebrides. See the February 28, 2013 post for a photo of the Penance Stone on Canna, and see this RCAHMS page for more on Cill Chatriona.

Colonsay's Penance Stone

From Cill Chatriona it is a short walk to the beach of Traigh Ban. Unfortunately, I have no photos of the beach, as I ran out of film shortly after visiting Cill Chatriona. That visit was back in the pre-digital days, when I'd pack a bag of 20 rolls of film whenever I visited Scotland, and then try my best to ration them out over a three-week period. Occasionally, on a hike like the one to Balnahard, I'd forget to take an extra roll, and so there are several sites in the islands I've visited, but returned without any photos. 

don't miss those film-days. Especially the week-long delay after a trip waiting for the film to be developed, only to find out, on far too many occasions, that many of the photos were either under or over exposed. That said, one of the best investments I've made is a film scanner, as many of those film-photos were poorly printed, and when I scanned them, and printed them myself, they turned out much better. An example of that is the next photo of the church on nearby Oronsay. The original print from the developer was dark and disappointing, but the scanned negative turned out much better.

Photo of Oronsay Church from a scanned 35mm negative

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