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Red Priest's Stone, Skail

Burial Ground (Period Unassigned), Chapel (Period Unassigned), Cross Incised Stone (Early Medieval)

Site Name Red Priest's Stone, Skail

Classification Burial Ground (Period Unassigned), Chapel (Period Unassigned), Cross Incised Stone (Early Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Clach An T-sagairt Ruidhe

Canmore ID 6185

Site Number NC74NW 2

NGR NC 7147 4722

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Farr
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Sutherland
  • Former County Sutherland

Early Medieval Carved Stones Project

Strathnaver, The Red Priest’s Stone (St Maelrubha), Sutherland, cross-slab

Measurements: H 0.70m, W 0.30m, D 0.30m

Stone type: granite

Place of discovery: NC 7147 4722

Present location: in situ.

Evidence for discovery: recorded for ECMS around 1900.

Present condition: top right corner damaged but carving good.


The north face of the slab bears a roughly pecked outline cross, with a round-topped upper arm, expanded side arms and an open ended shaft.

Date: eighth to tenth century.

References: ECMS pt 3, 55.

Compiled by A Ritchie 2016

Archaeology Notes

NC74NW 2 7147 4722.

(NC 7147 4722) Burial Ground (NR)

(NC 7148 4722) Red Priest's Stone (NR)

OS 6" map, (1962)

The site of a pre-Reformation chapel (Pennany 1774) and its burial ground, the only surviving evidence of which is a cross-incised pillar, 2ft 4ins high and 1ft 2ins broad, which is known as 'Clach an t-Sagairt Ruidhe', 'the Red Stone of the Priest' (ONB 1873) or 'the Stone of the Red Priest'. 'The Red Priest' was one of the names given to St. Maelrubha (d.722), from which it is assumed that the chapel was dedicated to him, nothing further is known of it except that its stones are said to have been removed c.1825 to form the embankment of the river opposite Riloisk (NC 706 454), and its font lay on a grassy bank half-way to the embankment (ie. c. NC 708 465) in 1906 (Mackay 1906). The outline of the burial ground is shown as triangular in 1873 (OS 6"map, Sutherland, 1st ed., 1873) and the cross-marked stone is said to have stood in the north angle (ONB 1873) or even outside the burial-ground (Joass 1865). Neither position seems typical of a grave-stone, especially as the cross is on the north face, so MacKenzies suggestion that it is a girth-cross (Information contained in letter from Rev D MacKenzie James Loch to OPS 1854) seems feasible. None of the other grave-slabs was sculptured but some bear natural tracery in the form of raised quartz veins.

T Pennant 1774; Orig Paroch Scot 1855; J M Joass 1865; Name Book 1873; J R Allen and J Anderson 1903; A Mackay 1906

A small unenclosed area of rough pasture in the corner of an arable field. 'The Red Priest's Stone' is 0.7m high and 0.3m. square, with a roughly incised, almost equal-armed cross with a rounded head, on its north face. A slab, now embedded in the ground, bears no inscription, but may be a grave-slab. The font was not located and local enquiries proved negative.

Visited by OS (J L D) 6 May 1960.

The Red Priest's Stone (name verified locally) and the graveyard are as described by the previous field investigator. The name 'Clach an t-Sagairt Ruidhe' and 'the Red Stone of the Priest' are not known locally. No further information concerning the chapel and font was encountered.

Revised at 1:10,000.

Visited by OS (J B) 21 July 1977.


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