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Clachan, Farr Church Of Scotland Parish Church, Cross Slab

Cross Slab (Early Medieval)

Site Name Clachan, Farr Church Of Scotland Parish Church, Cross Slab

Classification Cross Slab (Early Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Clachan Cemetery, Farr Old Church, Bettyhill; Farr Stone; Farr Museum

Canmore ID 6406

Site Number NC76SW 11

NGR NC 7142 6225

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. 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

Farr, Sutherland, cross-slab

Measurements: H 2.29m, W 0.62m, D 0.23m

Stone type: blue schistose slate

Place of discovery: NC 7142 6225

Present location: in situ in graveyard at east end of church (now Strathnaver Museum), facing east.

Evidence for discovery: recorded by Stuart around 1850.

Present condition: some wear but mostly good.


This sophisticated monument bears carving on one broad face only. The slab has been carefully dressed to a rectangle with a plain flat-topped pediment with sloping concave sides. Face A is heavily carved in relief within a plain border, the whole dominated by a ringed cross on a D-shaped pedestal. The ornamentation is dense and elaborate but lightened by plain spaces between the arms of the cross and by panels on either side of the shaft containing airy spiralwork. At the top is a panel of diagonal key pattern within a plain and narrow roll moulding. The cross fills the width of the slab and its upper arm touches the top panel. It has rectangular terminals and widely rounded armpits, and a central raised boss carved with a fat triple spiral. Small triple spirals link the boss with the squares of key pattern in the terminals of the upper and side arms. The squares of key pattern can also be read as crosses. The lower arm, shaft and ring are filled with interlace. The basal pedestal has a border of interlace within which is a D-shaped panel enclosed by a narrow roll moulding and containing two swan-like birds, their necks entwined. The cords of the spiralwork on either side of the shaft become space-filling tight interlace above and below, and similar interlace fills the spaces beside the upper ring of the cross. Below the base of the cross is a densely packed panel of key pattern. The basal portion of the slab is hidden below ground.

Date: ninth or tenth century.

References: Stuart 1856, pl 35; ECMS pt 3, 53-4.

Compiled by A Ritchie 2016

Archaeology Notes

NC76SW 11 7142 6225.

(NC 7142 6225) Cross (NR).

OS 6"map, (1964)

An upright cross-slab standing in the graveyard of the former parish church which was built in 1774 but which stands on the site of its predecessor, mentioned in 1223 to 1245. That the ecclesiastical origins are older still is indicated by the Celtic decoration of the cross-slab, which is of blue schistose slate, 7ft 6ins high, 2ft wide and 9ins thick, sculptured in relief on one face only. The main element is a ringed cross with 'arm-pits' and a central boss, springing from a semi-circular base within which are two intertwined birds. There are also panels of key-pattern and interlacing infill.

The Clachan Burn previously formed an island between the present channel and the graveyard which was known as 'Eilan tigh - an t-Sagairt', Island of the Priest's House; and the stone (NC76SW 19) is said to have been the boundary of the Priest's Croft (Morrison 1883).

Orig Paroch Scot 1855; H Morrison 1883; J Anderson and J R Allen 1903; RCAHMS 1911, visited 1909.

The cross-slab is as described. The site of the Priest's House was not located.

Visited by OS (J L D) 28 April 1960.

Cross-slab surveyed at 1:2500 scale.

Visited by OS (R L) 6 July 1971.

The cross slab is still in situ. The church has been restored and is now a museum. Said to be known as 'St Columba's Church' (Information from Strathnaver Museum pamphlet, Bettyhill, Sutherland).

Visited by OS (N K B) 2 August 1977.

Architecture Notes

Mr George Hay states that he has recorded this to some extent.


Publication Account (1995)

A fine cross-slab, 2.3m high, stands in the graveyard outside the west end of the church at Farr. It has no Pictish symbols and is carved in relief on one side only, an unusual feature which may indicate it originally stood close to a wall so the back was not seen. It is best seen at midday (1pm summertime) when the sun is sideways on to the stone and shows up the detail. A ringed cross in high relief occupies the greater part of the carved face with panels of key pattern above and below, much of the lower pattern being hidden in the ground. The cross and its ring, and the background, are decorated with tight interlace and curvilinear patterns. On the central boss is carved a triple spiral, and in the curved base of the cross is a pair of birds with their necks crossed.

The church at Farr was built in 1774 as the parish church, on an old site, and is now the Strathnaver Museum. Its unusually large and handsome pulpit with a reader's desk in front, dated 1774, is still in position between the long windows. Among the exhibits, mostly connected with crofting life or the Clearances, are a collection of fine 18th-century tombstones from the churchyard and from Bighouse in Strath Halladale, and a small dark-age cross-slab from Grumbeg in Strathnaver. (If the museum is closed, ask at the Tourist Office for the key-keeper.)

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: The Highlands’, (1995).


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