The browser you are using is out of date and is no longer supported. To view and use this site correctly, please update your browser to the latest version.

Chapel Finian

Remains of a small chapel built in the Irish style

Chapel Finian

The foundation remains of a small chapel in an enclosure, built in the Irish style, probably as a chapel for pilgrims on their way to Whithorn, having landed at the nearby shore.


Finnian’s chapel

Chapel Finian is named after the Irish saint Finnian (or Uinniau), the great scholar and monastic founder who taught St Columba. Finnian was educated at nearby Whithorn and died around AD 579. There is a current scholarly view that Finnian was the real historical figure we know as St Ninian, the founder of Whithorn.

The chapel is very simple. It comprises a single rectangular room, measuring 6.7m by 4.1m. The entrance is through a door in the south wall. The walls are built of large, roughly dressed stones bonded in mortar. The two long walls are buttressed externally. Excavations in 1950 found little evidence of the internal arrangements, other than traces of wall plaster and a stone bench encased in wood along the eastern end of the south wall. A drystone perimeter wall surrounds the church. It housed a well (which still survives), and probably a house for the priest and a burial ground.

A pilgrim’s watering hole

Judging by its structure and parallels in Ireland, the chapel probably dates from the 10th or 11th century. However, it is possible that an earlier chapel stood on the site. Chapel Finian was located above the shingle beach overlooking Luce Bay to serve as a stopping-place for pilgrims. Most of these travellers came from Ireland to visit the shrine of St Ninian at Whithorn. Similar chapels of this type were common in Ireland at this date. The chapel would have been a welcome resting place after a rough sea crossing. The well is likely to have been ascribed with healing qualities.

Highlight

The location – right by the shingle beach; you can almost hear the pilgrims coming ashore.

Location

Region – Dumfries and Galloway

5m north west of Port William on the A747.

Grid reference - NX 278 489