May 10, 2024

Kilchoman and the Machir

One of the last historic places we wanted to explore was the iconic Kilchoman Cross and Old Parish Church.  When I visited in 2022 I could not access the church yard as the gate was locked.  This time there was even some barbed wire fencing surrounding the church itself as it was deemed unsafe.  Being undaunted I simply climbed over the wall to access the yard and get a close up look at the famous cross carved in the Iona style probably in the 14h or 15th century.  The east face of the head of the cross depicts the crucifixion with Christ surrounded by saints including St Mary, St John and St Michael. The side arms of the cross are decorated with carved angels.  One can only imagine what it looked like when it was first erected.

Kilchoman Old Parish Church was built in 1827, replacing a medieval church which was declared unsafe in 1824. This earlier church appears to have been built in the mid 1300s, though it in turn probably replaced an early Christian chapel. Nothing remains of the medieval church, but the surrounding churchyard still has a wealth of evidence of its presence.  Next to the cross is a grave slab depicting the grave of a parish priest.  There are other medieval slabs in the churchyard and I photographed them to add to my “slab photos” file! 

After the visit to the churchyard it was down to Machir Bay, truly one of the most beautiful beaches in Scotland.  Machir is a  Gaelic word meaning fertile, low-lying grassy plain, ‘machir’ refers to a unique habitat that is one of the rarest in Europe; only occurring on the exposed west-facing shores of Scotland and Ireland. Rock hunting for the jewelry collection we are creating was especially good here!

The next stop was a tour of the Kilchoman Distillery, one of the only farm-to-bottle distilleries in Scotland, and one of very few that still have a traditional malting floor. The weather could not have been more perfect for all of this exploring today with plenty of sunshine and warmth – well warmth is relative in Scotland no?