May 9, 2023

Eilean Finnan and Mallaig

A bit of adventure this morning before heading to Mallaig.  Tom hired a boat for us to putter out to Eilean Finnan, an island in Loch Shiel which has been the burial place for Clanranald for centuries. This island is another magical place that lends itself to a feeling that the ghosts of the past are walking among you. The setting is stunning – and this time of year the trees are just beginning to unfurl their leaves and the lichen is turning green.   The island is another significant place along the footsteps of the Lords of the Isles. Being out on Loch Shiel in a small boat was just perfect!  The website says this about it: “Eilean Fhianain, St. Finan’s Isle, is the largest island in Loch Shiel and, as part of the Loch Shiel National Scenic Area, is known for its outstanding natural beauty. The long-standing history of the isle is held in similar regard with its chapel and burial ground designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

Little is known about the early history of Eilean Fhianain apart from the fact that the isle takes its name from St. Finan, believed to be St. Finan the second bishop of Lindisfarne (Ordnance Survey 1970; Wild About Lochaber [no date]). An Irish monk who trained at Iona Abbey.

The medieval stone chapel on the island is believed to have been constructed on the site of St. Finan’s cell by Alan MacRuaridh – an early chief of Clanranald. With the chapel in place, the island became a site of pilgrimage and a burial ground for the Clan Ranald family until the end of the 16th century. The chapel also served as parish church of Sunart until the formation of the Ardnamurchan parish following the Scottish reformation. The island is still used for burials to this day.

We then traveled to Mallaig and, as all good grave slabbers will do, we stopped at at, Mary’s Church in Arasaig to view yet more medieval slabs. It was a lovely day all around and tomorrow we are off to Skye.