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Stronsay, 'chapel Of Kildinguie'

Chapel (Medieval), Well (Medieval)

Site Name Stronsay, 'chapel Of Kildinguie'

Classification Chapel (Medieval), Well (Medieval)

Canmore ID 3312

Site Number HY62NE 5

NGR HY 6536 2717

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Stronsay
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney

Archaeology Notes

HY62NE 5 6536 2717.

(HY 6536 2717) Chapel (NR) (Site of) (NAT)

(HY 6537 2717) Well of Kildinguie (NAT)

OS 6" map, Orkney, 2nd ed., (1900).

Nearly all trace of the chapel has disappeared but small hillocks and ridges appear to indicate part of the line of the foundation.

During the RCAHMS inspection in 1928 a small fragment of crude pottery was picked out of the sandy bank high up at the south corner and there were other signs of early occupation, the surrounding stones and sand being blackened by fire and mixed with charcoal. A slab set on edge could be seen projecting from the bank hard by. It is possible therefore that the chapel was built on a prehistoric site.

Adjoining the site is the 'Well of Kildinguie' traditionally said to have been of such high repute as a healing well during the Norse period as to attract people from as far as Norway and Denmark to drink its mineral waters.

It was spoiled several years before 1879 by quarrying nearby, but in that year could still be seen issuing from a rock, and though about 6' below HWM it was still quite drinkable after the tide receded.

Statistical Account (OSA) 1795; Name Book 1879; J R Tudor 1883; G Petrie notebook No.7, 58 in the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS); RCAHMS 1946, visited 1928;

A turf-covered ridge, c. 6.0m long, c. 0.2m high, oriented WNW to ESE, may mark the foundation of one of the walls of the chapel otherwise there is no trace in a disturbed area of ground. "The slab projecting from the bank hard by" was not seen nor any other signs of early occupation, the shore line here being completely turf covered.

No trace remains of the "Well of Kildinguie". (Kildinguie - 'well' (Norse) ?). The name is still known locally and the site is marked by numerous graffiti on the rock.

Visited by OS (RL) 13 July 1970.

A grass grown ridge alongside the shore marks the site of a chapel, traditionally associated with the holy well; the name, the second element of which is enigmatic, may contain the dedication. Structural and occupation traces were reported in 1883 and 1928, but nothing is now visible.

Below the chapel, the Well of Kildinguie, the chalybeate waters of which were widely renowned for their curative properties, issued among the rocks of the foreshore. It was spoiled by quarrying some years before 1879, but the exact spot is strongly remembered, and a 1m square rock-face is favoured for the carving of graffiti of an amatory nature.

RCAHMS 1984, visited June 1979.


Orkney Smr Note (July 1970)

On the banks above [the well, OR 129] stood a chapel, the

grass-grown foundations of which can still be traced. [R1]

Practically all traces of structure disappeared but some

small ridges and hillocks seem to give partial indication of line

of foundations. Pot sherd found in sandy bank high up in S

corner, other signs of early occupation, traces of burning. A

slab on edge could be seen projecting from the bank hard by.


A turfed ridge 6m long 0.2m high, WNW-ESE, may be a

wall-footing of chapel, otherwise no trace in an area of

disturbed ground. The slab. . . projecting from the bank hard

by not seen, nor any other sign of early occupation, the banks

being turf covered. OS visit Jul 70.

Field Visit (June 1979)

The turfed ridge is a very inderminate feature at the top of

the bank. No projecting slab nor occupation traces in banks

which where not turfed show only loose sand.

Information from Orkney SMR (RGL) Jun 79.

Orkney Smr Note

Dative form keldunni at the well possible but unlikely.

Accented suffix may contain name of saint to whom well and chapel

are dedicated.


Three adjacent springs of chalybeate water found among

rocks. Water is crystal-clear, not unpleasent, but full of fixed

air. Called Well of Kildinguie. Tradition says that is was held

in such high repute that when Orkney belonged to the Crown of

Denmark people of the first rank came from Denmark and Norway to

drink the waters. Waters were taken in conjunction with eating

of dulse on the rocks at a place called Guiyidn 2 miles SE.

Current proverb The Well of Kildinguie and the dulse of Guiyidn

can cure all maladies except black death. Cf OR 153, [R1]

Well was spoiled several years before 1879 by nearby

quarrying, but could still be seen issuing from a rock 6 feet

below high-water mark. [R2]

Spring-tides flow into the well but it clears again in

several minutes. On S side of well is a stone seat said

originally to have had arms on it. In front is an indentation in

the rock said to have been made by the feet of the officiating

priest who sat there offering water to pilgrims. A similar seat

said to have been on the N side of the spring, destroyed by the

masons building house of Hunton. [R3]

G Petrie drank the water of the well at 7.15am on Wednesday

29th July 1863. Petrie notebook no 7, in RMS.

Adjoining the chapel site is the 'Well of Kildinguie'.

(No further description). [R5]

No trace of the well, but name is remembered. Numerous

graffiti on rock. OS visit Jul 70.

The graffiti-bearing rock noted by OS is just above MHWOST.

It is noteable that the graffiti are confined to this particular

slab which is less than 1m square. All the graffiti, except for

one indecipherable one in the corner, are C20th and are mainly of

the AB loves XY kind.

Information from Orkney SMR (RGL) Jun 79.

See also Chapel of Kildinguie, OR 130.

Information from Orkney SMR [n.d.]


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