St Blane's Chapel

(St Blane's Church, Saint Blane's Church)

An important religious site in a sheltered wooded dell in the S of the Isle of Bute, the ruins of St. Blane's Chapel are to be found at the roadend, a mile (1.8 km) north of Garroch Head and 2 miles (3 km) south of Kingarth. Access is via a designated path to the north of The Plan, which gives fine views over Dunagoil towards Arran.

This atmospheric site has been the focus of Christian worship since the 6th C. when a monastery was founded here by St. Cathan, which became the base for his nephew, St. Blane, who travelled around Scotland converting the Picts. Although destroyed by Viking raiders towards the end of the 8th C., some stonework and the fragmentary remains of cells most-likely date from this early foundation. A structure known as the Devil's Cauldron, with massive walls (2.5m / 8 feet thick and still standing 1.8m / 5 feet in height) has been interpreted as a either part of the original monastery or an older dun.

The most prominent building on the site is a 12th-C. church, with much of its nave and part of the chancel surviving, including a finely-carved Romanesque chancel-arch. The remains of a well and the foundations of a manse, which was still in use in the 16th C. can also be seen. At one time this church served the entire island of Bute but it fell into disuse following the Reformation. At that time, the resident priest, Sir James McWararty, refused to embrace the new Protestant faith, but also refused to leave the church. He is recorded as still living in the manse in 1587, and it seems the authorities simply left the church to decline rather than trying to evict Sir James.

The churchyard is divided into a upper enclosure, said to be for men, and a lower enclosure for women. There are many Mediaeval graveslabs, but also the graves of 7th and 8th C. bishops and abbots. Here too is the family plot of Prof. Sir William MacEwen (1848 - 1924), the notable surgeon who lived at Garrochty, just to the south.

The chapel and its surrounding structures were subject to a careful and sympathetic restoration in the later 19th C. by John Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute (1847 - 1900), and his architect Robert Weir Schultz (1860 - 1951). Schultz surveyed the site before rebuilding boundary walls and stabilising the church. He inserted slivers of slate beneath his new masonry to mark the extent of the original stonework. The site is now cared for by Historic Environment Scotland.

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