Scheduled Monument

St Magnus' church,burial ground and hospitalSM5413

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
Ecclesiastical: burial ground, cemetery, graveyard; church, Secular: enclosure; hospital, hospice
Local Authority
ND 15881 54875
315881, 954875


The monument consists of the remains of St Magnus' church, hospital and graveyard, situated on the farm of Spittal Mains.

The hospital is first recorded in a Royal charter of 1476. There was a church attached to it mentioned as, "the rectory of the church of (Spittal) called the hospital of St Magnus in Caithness." The chapel of the hospital served as the parish church of Spittal until the sixteenth century. The surviving upstanding remains belong to the chapel, the hospital having been demolished in the nineteenth century.

The chapel sits within a raised stony bank, containing a

burial ground used by the Clan Gunn. Burials partly overlie the footings of the hospital buildings, the S wall of which can be seen in the stony bank to the S of the chapel. The chapel itself is rectangular, of drystone construction, 19.9m E-W by 5.7m within walls 1.2m thick. Its W gable and side walls are reduced to a height of 1.7 to 1.9m.

The E gable stands to a height of 2.7m. The entrance is in

the S wall near the E end. A grave stone dated 1819 lies in the nave of the church. The complex is surrounded by the remains of a turf- covered stone enclosure wall.

The area to be scheduled is irregular, measuring a maximum of 100m E-W by 70m N-S, being within a recent boundary fence surrounding the chapel, hospital and burial ground. This area is marked in red on the accompanying map.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it contains upstanding medieval ecclesiastical remains which can be documented, by a Charter of James III to William Sinclair, son of William Earl of Caithness, from 1476. The monument's importance is enhanced because it is the site of a hospital which was an important stage on two pilgrimage routes; the route N to St Magnus' in Orkney and that S to St Gilbert's at Dornoch.

There may be evidence to establish the range of international contacts brought about through the important medieval pilgrimage trade. The monument is a valuable resource as it provides evidence, and has the potential to provide further evidence, through excavation and analysis, which may increase our understanding of secular and religious architecture, monastic settlement, parish evolution, medical history, burial practices, and material culture during the medieval and early modern period.



RCAHMS records the monument as ND 15 SE 1.

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

Find out more about scheduling and our other designations at You can contact us on 0131 668 8914 or at


There are no images available for this record, you may want to check Canmore for images relating to St Magnus' church,burial ground and hospital

There are no images available for this record.

Search Canmore

Printed: 26/06/2022 21:38