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Eilean Mor, Saint Cormac's Cave

Cave, Chapel (Medieval)(Possible), Cross Incised Rock (Early Medieval)

Site Name Eilean Mor, Saint Cormac's Cave

Classification Cave, Chapel (Medieval)(Possible), Cross Incised Rock (Early Medieval)

Canmore ID 38642

Site Number NR67NE 6

NGR NR 66591 75030

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish South Knapdale
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll


Field Visit (16 May 1973)

As described. The remains are known as St Cormac's Cave (DoE nameplate).

Surveyed at 1:10,000.

Visited by OS (DWR), 16 May 1973

Desk Based Assessment (1973)

NR67NE 6 6658 7504

(NR 6659 7502) Cave (NAT)

OS 6" map (1924)

Near the SE end of Eilean Mor, a gully is walled with thin courses of drystone work, enclosing a rectangular area - the 'cell', described by Donaldson as 11' square, within 4' - 5' thick walls, with a doorway c. 2' wide, to E, and steps. At NW, fallen stones probably cover a passage and entrance to a tiny cave "Uamh nam Fear" now entered from above. A hexafoil and a Maltese cross are carved on the E side of this cave, said to have been used as a retreat by St Abban.

M E M Donaldson 1930; M Campbell and M Sandeman 1964.

Information from OS.

Field Visit (August 1984)

Eilean Mor is the largest and most westerly of the group of islands lying in the Sound of Jura at the mouth of Loch Sween, and known locally as 'the MacCormac Isles'. It lies about 6km SSW of Keills (No. 45) and 5.8km SW of Castle Sween (No. 119), and was undoubtedly the oilen l-suibhne ('island of Loch Sween') of the 17th-century Book of Clanranald (en.1). This records the repair by John, Lord of the Isles, in the middle of the 14th century, of the existing chapel of early 13th-century date. Although the surrounding waters are affected by strong tidal currents, an excellent anchorage is provided by a large sheltered inlet 150Ih NNE of the chapel. This building, with its associated cross of Early Christian date, stands at the S edge of a marshy area dividing the northern third of the island, situated on limestone, from the rockier S part which is composed of vertically bedded schists. The island was noted in the late 18th century for its excellent pasture (en.2), but evidence for cultivation is confined to the NW part, where there are numerous enclosures and clearance-cairns. Several buildings and a corn-drying kiln are situated close to the chapel, which was itself adapted for domestic use in the post-Reformation period. Some 250m SSW of the chapel (NR 665750) there are the remains of a drystone building, possibly another chapel, at the entrance to a small cave whose walls bear two incised crosses of early type. This site was probably used in the Early Christian period as a hermit's retreat, and the revival of this tradition is indicated by the inscription on a late medieval cross (infra, number 6), which formerly stood at the highest point of the island (NR 666751).

RCAHMS 1992, visited August 1994

[a detailed description of the chapel, the chapel (possible) and cave, settlement, and the funerary monuments and crosses can be found in RCAHMS 1992, No. 33, pp.66-74]


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