Exciting Archaeology at Kilmun

Exploring Celtic Christan Landscapes in Cowal

Gilbert Markus

Gilbert Markus

ex-priest, professor of history, eminent academic, and the original Faith in Cowal pilgrim trails development officer

One of the central sites of the Cowal Faith Tourism/Pilgrimage experience is Kilmun – and this for all kinds of reasons. It is dedicated to a saint with strong Argyll connections; it was a very important church in the late Middle Ages, served by a college of clergy; it has a carved stone cross which appears to be Early Medieval in date; and there are medieval records of the saint’s bachall or crosier – his staff of office – being kept as a relic by a hereditary keeper or deòradh (dewar).

A recent archaeological survey of the area round the ninteenth-century church and the fifteenth-century tower has raised a new and exciting piece of evidence. The project included a resistivity survey (a scanning of the ground for changes in the electrical conductivity/resistance of the subsoil, which is a good indicator of features located up to half a metre under ground). This is the result:

Resistivity Survey of Kilmun kirkyard in 2012 (reproduced with kind permission of John Atkinson, GUARD Archaeology)
Resistivity Survey of Kilmun kirkyard in 2012 (reproduced with kind permission of John Atkinson, GUARD Archaeology)

The fascinating question raised by this survey relates to what looks like a circular or sub-circular feature running round the church.  It is not perfectly continuous, but this may be because it has itself been disturbed by grave-digging and so on. But it looks very like an early Christian enclosure – they were often round or D-shaped rather than square in plan. If it is a curvilinear enclosure, as the survey suggests it may be, it is certainly earlier than the fifteenth-century tower, as it runs right underneath it.

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Stay Safe

Click the image for current guidance

Most of our sites are still open, and will make for a nice, socially distanced way to celebrate your faith, or to partake in a pilgrimage.


They are small sites, with small parking areas. If there is already a car in the parking areas, THINK TWICE about visiting. Perhaps try a different location. Don't stray too far from home (there are sites all over Cowal), and stay at least 2m/6.5ft away from other groups at all times. Please stay up to date with with current government guidelines (click the picture link).