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Navidale, St Ninian's Chapel

Chapel (Early Medieval), Pictish Symbol Stone (Pictish), Well (Early Medieval)

Site Name Navidale, St Ninian's Chapel

Classification Chapel (Early Medieval), Pictish Symbol Stone (Pictish), Well (Early Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Navidale

Canmore ID 7438

Site Number ND01NW 23

NGR ND 0419 1615

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

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

Early Medieval Carved Stones Project

Navidale (St Ninian), Sutherland, Pictish symbol stone

Measurements: H 0.94m, W 0.43m, D 0.08m

Stone type: purple sandstone

Place of discovery: ND 0419 1615

Present location: Dunrobin Museum (ARC 559), Dunrobin Castle.

Evidence for discovery: found in the graveyard in 1968, close to the seashore.

Present condition: the wear on this slab is likely to be the result of wave action.


The slab has two incised symbols on one broad face. The uppermost is a well-cut triple disc, with detail of the fitting on either side by which the smaller discs (the handles of the cauldron) were attached, and a circle in the centre of the large disc. Below are faint traces of a Pictish beast, and it has been suggested that the carving is unfinished but it seems more likely that it has simply worn away.

Date: seventh century.

References: Fraser 2008, no 147.

Compiled by A Ritche 2016

Archaeology Notes

ND01NW 23 0419 1615

(ND 0419 1615) Site of St. Ninian's Chapel (NR)

OS 6" map, Caithness, 2nd ed., (1909).

The site of St. Ninian's Chapel of which no trace now remains (OS [WDJ]). It is said to have had a sanctuary (Mackay 1894) and to have been burned by the MacKays in 1556.

This site is presumably the source of the 'named' element in the name 'Navidale' the implication of which is that the Norse found a 'nemed' or sacred place here and named the 'dale' after it (Watson 1926). This pre-Norse foundation would appear to be confirmed by the finding of a Class 1 symbol stone in the burial ground, which is still in use and in which burnt stones are occasionally found during grave-digging.

Within the modern, hexagonal graveyard, which may preserve the outline of an earlier enclosure, is a roughly made oval, mounded area, covering the greater part of the interior and merging with the walls on the northwest and southeast (Macdonald and Laing 1973). St. Ninian's Well lies nearby,on a pasture stretch on the shore but could not be located in 1960 (OS [WDJ]).

Within the graveyard was found a burial consisting of human bones, a flint implement and part of a palmated antler of one of the larger, extinct deer (Scott 1918).

The symbol stone, (found 1968) now in Dunrobin Museum No 25, is an un dressed rectangular slab, of local red sandstone, measuring 3ft 2ins by 1ft 6ins, and bearing, incised, a 'cauldron' symbol and a possible unfinished 'Pictish elephant'. This, together with the fact that the stone shows tooling towards the base, suggests that it is an unfinished work, produced near its findspot (Macdonald and Laing 1973).

Metric measurement - 0.94m x 0.43m x 0.08m thick.

Visited by OS (W D J), 26 May 1960.

R Gordon 1813; J Mackay 1894; A B Scott 1918; W J Watson 1926; A D S Macdonald and L R Laing 1973.

No trace of the chapel remains.

Visited by OS (J B), 24 June 1976.

Class I symbol stone bearing a triple-disc over an elephant

A Mack 1997.


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