Scheduled Monument

St Ninian's Chapel 70m ESE of Naviedale FarmSM2820

Status: Designated


Where documents include maps, the use of this data is subject to terms and conditions (

The legal document available for download below constitutes the formal designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The additional details provided on this page are provided for information purposes only and do not form part of the designation. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within this additional information.


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Ecclesiastical: burial ground, cemetery, graveyard; chapel
Local Authority
ND 04195 16149
304195, 916149


The monument is the buried remains of a chapel within a burial ground probably founded in the early historic period. The chapel is visible as a slight platform around 0.3m in height within the centre of the graveyard. It is aligned roughly east-west and measures about 18m in length by 8m transversely. The chapel is located at 20m above sea level, in a prominent position on a hillside immediately above the foreshore.

The scheduled area is irregular on plan, to include the remains described above as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduled area extends up to, but excludes the surrounding wall to allow for its maintenance. The scheduling also specifically excludes all memorial stones and burial lairs where rights of burial still exist. The monument was first scheduled in 1969, but the documentation does not meet current standards: the present amendment rectifies this.


Statement of National Importance

Cultural significance

The monument's cultural significance has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

The site of the chapel is located within a stone walled enclosure, probably of 19th century date, and survives in a stable condition at present. A slight platform, aligned roughly east-west, is visible within the centre of the graveyard and may represent the buried remains of an early chapel. Burnt stones uncovered during grave digging may relate to this chapel, which is recorded as having been burnt in 1556. Therefore there is good potential for the survival of archaeological deposits including structural remains, human burials, artefacts and environmental remains such as charcoal or pollen, within, beneath and around the remains of the chapel.

A chapel was present from at least the 16th century, when it is recorded as having been burnt by the Mackays, but it is likely to have had a much longer development sequence. A Pictish symbol stone, comprising an undressed sandstone slab with triple disk and elephant decoration, was uncovered in the burial ground in 1968, indicating an early foundation and it is possible that this site has been in continual use since the early historic period. Scientific study of the form and character of the probable chapel would enhance our understanding of the date and development sequence of this site and of early chapel sites in general, while the chapel, graves and related archaeological deposits offer high potential to study changes in belief and culture.

Contextual Characteristics

There are few confirmed early chapel sites in Caithness. St Ninian's, therefore, represents a rare example of a probable early chapel with a long sequence of use. The sites of two further pre-reformation chapels can be identified in Helmsdale (St John the Baptist's Chapel 1.8km southwest; Canmore ID 7431. Gartymore 3.5km southwest; Canmore ID 7490), though there are other unconfirmed records of chapels in the region, suggesting that St Ninian's was part of a network of chapels and burial grounds. The remains of this chapel could enhance our understanding of the organisation and spread of Christianity in northern Britain and there is potential to compare it with other early historic or medieval chapels in the north of Scotland.

Associative Characteristics

It has been suggested that the name 'Navidale' may be a hybrid name from the Gaelic neimhidh, a sanctuary or holy place, and Norse dalr meaning valley. This may imply that there was a 'neimhidh' or sacred place at this site before the Norse arrived which they used to name the glen or dalr.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant contribution to our understanding of the past, in particular of early chapel sites in the north of Scotland. There is high potential for the survival of archaeology that can make a significant contribution to our understanding of early church architecture and burial and to the development of belief and culture. Its importance is enhanced by the recovery from the site of a Pictish symbol stone dating from the mid-1st millennium AD. The loss of this monument would diminish our ability to appreciate and understand early chapels, the role they played in the adoption and spread of Christianity, and the development of belief and practice. 





Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 7438 (accessed on 17/06/2016).

The Highland Council HER references are MHG10290 and MHG45522 (accessed on 17/06/2016).

Gordon, R. (1813) Genealogical history of the Earldom of Sutherland - 1630-1813.

Jackson, A. (1984) The symbol stones of Scotland: a social anthropological resolution to the problem of the Picts. Kirkwall.

Macdonald and Laing, A D S and L R. (1973) Early ecclesiastical sites in Scotland: a field survey, part II', Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. 102, 1969-70.

Mack, A. (1997) Field guide to the Pictish symbol stones. Balgavies, Angus.

Mackay, J. (1894) Sutherland place names', Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, vol. 18, 1891-2.

Ritchie, J N G. (1985) Pictish symbol stones: a handlist 1985. Edinburgh.

Scott, A B. (1918) The Pictish nation: its people and its church. Edinburgh.

Watson, W J. (1926) The history of the Celtic place-names of Scotland: being the Rhind lectures on archaeology (expanded) delivered in 1916. Edinburgh.

HER/SMR Reference

  • MHG10290

About Scheduled Monuments

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Scheduling is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for monuments and archaeological sites of national importance as set out in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

We schedule sites and monuments that are found to be of national importance using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Scheduled monument records provide an indication of the national importance of the scheduled monument which has been identified by the description and map. The description and map (see ‘legal documents’ above) showing the scheduled area is the designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The statement of national importance and additional information provided are supplementary and provided for general information purposes only. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within the statement of national importance or additional information. These records are not definitive historical or archaeological accounts or a complete description of the monument(s).

The format of scheduled monument records has changed over time. Earlier records will usually be brief. Some information will not have been recorded and the map will not be to current standards. Even if what is described and what is mapped has changed, the monument is still scheduled.

Scheduled monument consent is required to carry out certain work, including repairs, to scheduled monuments. Applications for scheduled monument consent are made to us. We are happy to discuss your proposals with you before you apply and we do not charge for advice or consent. More information about consent and how to apply for it can be found on our website at

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Printed: 22/04/2024 01:00