Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Chapel Factory - Nave Island

It is astounding to think that someone would desecrate a 13th century chapel ruin by turning it into a factory, but that's what happen on tiny Nave Island off the northwest corner of Islay. The chapel dates to the 13th century, and there was a monastery on the island before that - remnants of which can be seen scattered about the hillside above the chapel.

The vandalization occurred in the 1780s, at the height the kelp boom. The kelp had to be dried before being sold (for soap and glass making), and so a drying furnace was built inside Nave Chapel. It looks quite bizarre, a centuries old chapel with a 25-foot-high chimney. The kelp industry collapsed in the 1820s, but Nave Chapel and its chimney remain a landmark for all ships passing to the north of Islay. 

TS Muir visited Nave in 1853, but there is only a brief mention of it in his Ecclesiological Notes on Some of the Islands of Scotland:

Neimh or Neave - In it there is a chapel, which till quite lately, when it was extensively mutilated by kelp burners, was nearly entire.

I don't think Nave sees many visitors, and the 11 of us on Elizabeth G had the island all to ourselves for a few hours. After taking far too many photos of the strange chapel/factory, I spent the rest of the time watching, and being watched, by the hundreds of seals that call the island home.

It is likely that the monastery on Nave was associated with the one at Cill Naoimh on Islay, less than three miles to the south. Cill Naoimh itself may have been associated with a hermitage hidden on the Islay coast, just four miles to the west. And so this corner of Islay, on a direct route from Ireland to Oransay and Iona, was very busy in the early days of Hebridean Christianity.

See the April 4, 2014 post for photos of Cill Naoimh, and the three posts starting on April 7, 2013 for a description of a visit to its hermitage. For more on Nave Chapel see this CANMORE page .

Inside Nave Chapel



    Som what is the story of this place? You mention it has a strange past and say where to find out more only it leads back to the photos and initial nlog.

    1. It is a long story, and is recounted in chapter 9 of book 2.

  2. Thanks for your reply.

    I do not have the book and when I clicked on "Book 2 Ch 9" it only went back to the original blog on it with the two photos. I did check to see if there is an "E Book"....nothing. I'm in Australia so waiting a few weeks just to see what the story is behind it - is a bit too long.

    Was looking at stories about Scotland when I stumbled across your blog, so was curious to see what it was all about with its strange history.

    Is it something like witch suspicions or a family being attacked/killed? A haunting of some kind?

    Is there another source to obtain the information perhaps.

    1. Cooper, send me an email ( and I'll send you the story.