Font Size

100% 150% 200%

Background Colour

Default Contrast
Close Reset

Iona Monastery, Torr An Aba

Cell (Period Unassigned), Cross Base (Early Medieval)

Site Name Iona Monastery, Torr An Aba

Classification Cell (Period Unassigned), Cross Base (Early Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Tor An Aba; Tor Abb; Dum Ni Manich

Canmore ID 21650

Site Number NM22SE 4.01

NGR NM 2861 2453

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2021.

Toggle Aerial | View on large map

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Kilfinichen And Kilvickeon
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll

Archaeology Notes

NM22SE 4.01 2861 2453

(NM 2861 2453) A cell, thought to be that of St Columba mentioned by Adamnan, was revealed by excavation in 1957 on the top of Tor Abb which was formerly known as 'Dun nam Manach' (A Ritchie and E Ritchie 1934) - 'Fort of the Monks'.

Tor Abb was originally a ridge but has been levelled on top by revetting both sides, the revetments being held in place by huge boulders. On the west, the revetting has been left exposed, but on the east, the supporting stones appear to have been robbed and the earth has slipped. On the semi-artificial top of the mound a small, square cell has been built, its low stone walls being carefully keyed into irregularities in the rock. The interior is scooped. The remains suggest that the wall itself has been only a few feet high supporting a 'wig-wam' type roof of wood, turf and heather thatch.

Within the cell was a broad slab of rock, which could have served as a seat or bed, and three shaped granite stones, lined up with a slot in the natural rock. These must have supported a table-top of stone or wood. There were virtually no finds and the cell was filled with clean beach-pebbles as if for preservation. A medieval cross-base partially overlay the cell wall on the north.

The suggestion that this was Columba's cell appears to be supported by all the available evidence.

M Martin 1695; O G S Crawford 1933; C Thomas 1957; R Reece, undated; A C Thomas 1971.

The remains on Tor an Aba are generally as described.

Surveyed at 1:2500.

Visited by OS (RD) 9 June 1972.


Excavation (10 July 1956)

An small area around the corss base on Torr an Aba was excavated by Charles Thomas in 1956. A cutting was made on the middle part of the ridge where, even before the turf was removed, stones were visible in a manner suggesting that they were not part of the natural rock so evident to thenorth and south. Once the turf was removed, the central portion of the top of the ridge was seen to be artificial: 'the main feature seems to be a large square mortared plinth containing a single slab of micaceous rock, with a socket through it for a cross (-shaft)'

Information from E Fowler and PJ Fowler 1988.

Excavation (1 August 1957)

A further small area was excavated by Charles Thomas in 1957 to the south of the cross base (revealed in 1956) on Torr an Aba. In 1956 it had been noted that the southern and south-eastern edge of the plinth of the crossbase overlay further masonry. It was therefore decided in 1957 to excavate a larger area across the slightly lower and more or less flat central part of the ridge-top immediately south of the plinth. The excavations revealed traces of a building, thought to be the cell of St Columba mentioned by Adamnan

Information from E Fowler and PJ Fowler 1988.

Aerial Photography (2 September 1994)

External Reference (28 October 2011)

Scheduled as element within 'The monument known as St Mary's Abbey, Iona, monastic settlement [comprising] the remains of the large early historic monastic settlement founded by St Columba in AD 563, St Martin's Cross, and parts of medieval buildings associated with the Benedictine Abbey of St Mary founded around AD 1200.'

Information from Historic Scotland, scheduling document dated 28 October 2011.


MyCanmore Image Contributions

Contribute an Image

MyCanmore Text Contributions