There are many different religious sites on Scottish Islands. Below, I will detail five of the most interesting sites with religious significance:
The island with the most religious significance is the island of Iona, which is part of the Inner Hebrides. St Columba brought Christianity to Scotland in the sixth century, when he moved to Iona from Ireland. Iona Abbey has been on the same site since Columba lived on Iona, when the first places of worship were built on the island. The Abbey was made significantly larger around the 12th century and has been a place of pilgrimage ever since. The Abbey fell into disrepair in the late medieval period, but new life was given to the Abbey when restoration was begun in the early 20th century under the Iona Cathedral Trust and continued by the Iona Community.
Another island with religious significance is the Isle of Bute, which has the remains of St Blane’s Church, located at the southern tip of the island. The Church is a12th-century Romanesque chapel set within an early Christian monastery and is set in stunning scenery. The Church overlooks the Scottish mainland and is reached by a tiny car park at the end of a 2 mile single track road. In 1863 a hoard of 12th century gold coins was found about 350 metres from the church. With the coins were several gold ornaments of the same period.
Another famous religious site is St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, on mainland Orkney. The Cathedral was built around the 12th century and has been extensively rebuilt since then. It is situated in the heart of Kirkwall and is built out of red sandstone, quarried from the nearby island of Eday. The Cathedral is the northern-most Cathedral in the United Kingdom and is a must see on any trip to the Orkney Islands. Also, it is the only cathedral in the British Isles with a dungeon.
Bowmore is the administrative capital of the isle of Islay and it has has one of the most unique churches in the UK. Known simply as ‘the round church’, Kilarrow Parish Church was built in 1767 as part of the planned village of Bowmore. It has been suggested that the circular design was intended to ensure that there were no corners in which the devil could hide. The unusual design of the church, makes it the only complete circular church in Scotland.
There are many other sites of religious on the Scottish islands, such as the Cathedral of the Isles on Cumbrae, Church Cave, a natural cavern on the eastern side of Rona, 12th century St Boniface Church on Papa Westray, Lunna Kirk on mainland Shetland and even Holy Isle and Papa Stronsay, which have both been bought by religious communities to use as retreats. There are other religious sites that have been used for thousands of years, such as the Ring of Brodgar, the Standing Stones of Stenness and the Callanish Standing Stones. There are also a lot of Scottish islands called Pabbay, or have the prefix Papa (Papay), which means “island of the papar” (i.e. monks). The best part about these sites is that they are all open to the public. I have visited them all and they well worth a visit. Most of them are set in peaceful locations and it is easy to just sit back and relax in the wonderful surroundings.