Scheduled Monument

Kilnaughton, chapel, carved stones & burial ground 135m N of SamhchairSM5266

Status: Designated


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Date Added
Last Date Amended
Crosses and carved stones: effigy; tombstone, Ecclesiastical: burial ground, cemetery, graveyard; chapel
Local Authority
Argyll And Bute
NR 34434 45227
134434, 645227


The monument comprises the medieval chapel of Kilnaughton, the medieval burial ground surrounding the chapel, and a group of carved stones, some of medieval date. Researchers have suggested that the E end of the chapel may date to the 12th century, with the rest of the building dating from the 15th century, but the dedication of the church to St Nechtan, a Scottish saint of the 7th century, indicates the potential for buried archaeological remains that pre-date the standing building. The medieval chapel is a simple rectangular structure orientated roughly E-W, measuring 11.7 by 4.5m within walls 1m thick. The gables stand almost to full height. Two grave slabs and a slab bearing a full length effigy of a man in armour are visible within the chapel. They date from the 14th to 15th centuries. Two burial enclosures of 18th- or 19th-century date adjoin the E end of the chapel's N wall. Beyond, the topography of the burial ground indicates that the chapel lay within a possible oval enclosure, measuring at least 40m N-S by 30m transversely. The monument lies between 5m and 10m above sea level, just above the sandy beach of Kilnaughton Bay on the S coast of Islay. The monument was last scheduled in 1992, but the scheduled area was inadequate to protect all of the archaeological remains and the documentation did not meet modern standards: the present amendment rectifies this.

The scheduled area is irregular on plan. It includes the remains described above and an area around them in which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as marked in red on the accompanying map. On the NW side, it extends up to but excludes a gravel path. Elsewhere, it extends up to but excludes the wall enclosing the burial ground. The scheduling specifically excludes all burial lairs where burial rights still exist and all burial monuments of 19th-century or later date.

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

The walls of the chapel are substantially complete, though they have been repaired in early modern times. The original masonry is of uncoursed local rubble and beach boulders laid in lime mortar, with quoins and dressings of the same material. The S wall is now concealed beneath a deep build-up of soil and the ground surface of the interior is also raised above the original floor level. A variety of architectural features are visible. There is evidence for two opposed doorways near the W end, two splayed windows in the N wall and one in the S wall (these have all been blocked). There is one small slit window set high in the E gable and an L-shaped aumbry in the lower SE corner. The gables are inset internally at wall-head level. There are stone corner shelves in the NE angle. In the W end are a pair of opposed socket holes, which suggest there was a loft here. Further archaeological evidence for interior fittings and furniture and for the date, construction and use of the chapel is likely to survive beneath the ground. The burial ground as a whole is in good condition and contains a substantial collection of grave-markers indicating the longevity of burial practice here, which continued through the post-Reformation period to modern times. The 14th- and 15th-century slabs are significant examples of later medieval art and can contribute towards our understanding and appreciation of West Highland sculpture. In addition to the visible stones, a further slab bearing a 15th-century foliageous cross-head was found in 1963 and subsequently reburied; this demonstrates the potential for further carved stones to be present below ground.

Researchers have suggested that the association of the church with a 7th-century saint suggests that an early chapel may have been established here soon after that time. There is good potential for a long development sequence at the site that could enhance our understanding of the origins, use and re-use of places of worship and burial grounds over a considerable length of time. The church and burial ground are also highly likely to contain skeletal remains, which could reveal evidence for changes in health and diet, and the occupational activities and causes of death of those buried here.

Contextual characteristics

This is one of several later medieval chapels on Islay which together contribute towards our understanding of the organisation of the Church at this time. It offers the potential for comparison with broadly contemporary sites such as Kildalton, 13km to the ENE. Kilnaughton seems to have lain within the parish of Kildalton until the Reformation. The later medieval stone slabs can also be compared with broadly contemporary examples, such as the fine collection at Finlaggan in the NE of Islay, as well as others further afield on Iona, offering the opportunity to develop our understanding and appreciation of West Highland sculpture. The site can also be compared with several other chapels in the island that may have originated as small Early Christian foundations, among them Cill Chomhan which lies 5km to the SW. The site has the capacity to enhance our knowledge and understanding of the spread and organisation of Christianity in western Scotland.

Associative characteristics

The site is depicted on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map and is labelled 'Burial Ground' and 'Chapel (In Ruins)'.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has the inherent potential to make a significant contribution towards our understanding of the nature and development of the Christian church in Islay, from as early as the 7th or 8th centuries until after the Reformation. There is high probability for the survival of buried remains spanning this period which could reveal the origins, use and development of the site, and the changing character of its use. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our ability to understand and appreciate religious architecture, burial practices, stone sculpture and parish evolution during the Early Christian and medieval periods in Islay and more widely across Argyll.



On 23 March 2012 Andrew Fulton wrote to Argyll & Bute Council to inform them of the scheduling assessment. Richard Heawood and Rachel Pickering met John MacIntyre, Cemeteries Manager, on 14 May at Kilmeny and visited this monument on 15 May. Andrew Fulton wrote to Argyll and Bute council on 28 June confirming our intention to proceed with this rescheduling. No issues have been raised.

RCAHMS record the site as NR34NW 5. The West of Scotland Archaeology Service SMR reference is WOSASPIN 2211.


Graham R C 1895, The carved stones of Islay, Glasgow, p. 71-3.

Lamont W D 1968, Ancient and medieval sculptured stones of Islay, Glasgow, 24, p. 31, 39.

RCAHMS 1984, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Argyll: an inventory of the monuments, volume 5: Islay, Jura, Colonsay and Oronsay, Edinburgh, p. 217-9, no. 373.

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 showing the scheduled area is the legal part of the scheduling. The statement of national importance and additional information provided are supplementary. 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.

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Printed: 29/02/2020 14:00