MHG26675 - Earthwork, possible chapel site - Meikle Phoineas, Kilmorack


A possible chapel site at Meikle Phoineas.

Type and Period (2)

  • STRUCTURE (Undated)
  • CHAPEL? (Early Medieval to Medieval - 561 AD? to 1559 AD?)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

Rectangular feature surviving as earthworks.

(On boundary between parishes of Kirkhill and Kilmorack).

The Inverness Field Club, led by Donald Coghill, surveyed a number of sites in the Aird area between 1987 and 1989.
No 41; Nest of Meikle Phoineas.
In an area of old turf walls there is an approx. rectangular earth work about 35 yards x 22 yards, consisting of the outer ditch upcast forming a raised platform of soil. The west corner (which is the easiest to examine) is sharper than a right-angle. The site is very eroded and is extremely difficult to trace owing to bushes and scrub birch etc. There has been digging close to the east side, this may have been to obtain soil for the infill. This may be the site of Paslaidh, which according to local tradition was an old Celtic church in this immediate area. If so, it must have been a very early timber building in the wood on the other and south side of the road near Brockies Corner (approx. OS 527441) which seems to be too far away from the earthwork. It is difficult to see this earthwork being constructed for a secular purpose as it is not in a good defensive position if used as a lookout for the Stockford of Ross. It may have been a practice construction, or connected with the Montrose wars, or a drovers' stance. <1>

A short distance to the south of this site there is a low mound situated in dense forestry. <2>

On a later inspection of this site, prodding with a rod revealed rectangular stone footings 28 yards x 7 yards and with what appear to be rounded ends. It is aligned north to south, close to and parallel with the section of ditch at the east and upper side of the site. There are indications that a doorway was situated close to the end of the building at the South West. This ditched site which has no interior rampart appears to have had an entrance at the west corner and the turf dyke 20 yards to the north has a 9 feet wide access gap opposite this entrance. This straight linear earthwork which may be of a later period is the parish boundary between Kiltarlity and Kirkhill. A deep hole has been dug for some unknown reason, close to the North East corner of the enclosure and appears to be recent, perhaps dug when the nearby electricity pylon was erected. From near the South East corner of the site there are faint traces of a straight non-drainage ditch running 120 yards eastwards to reach the boundary dyke of Meikle Phoineas Farm. This arable field or the one next to it adjoining the public road at Brockies Corner, was known as 'Ach an t-sagairt' (the priest's field).

At OS 529445, there are faint traces for 40 yards of a rampart with its ditch at the north east running south-eastwards towards the boundary dyke. This earthwork may not be unconnected with some of the fragmentary linear earthworks at Site No. 102 and possibly enclosed the inner church lands of Paslaidh. Chisholm Batten in his 'History of Beauly Priory' mentions the lands of Lusfinan as one of the several lands in the parishes of Kiltarlity and Kirkhill, the multures of which John Bisset of Lovat gifted to Beauly Priory in 1231. This place name comes next to Lovat at the head of a list which seems to indicate that it may not have been too far distant from Lovat. Archibald B. Scott in his 'The Pictish Nation, its People and its Church' states that St. Finan was one of the missionaries of the Ninian Church who were active in the last quarter of the 6th Century, at the foundation of chapels in Pictland. It is probable that the lands of Lusfinan were situated in the Phoineas-Dunballoch area adjacent to Paslaidh and derived its name from its associated saint.

This enclosure at Paslaidh has almost the same dimensions as the later Roman chapel site at Dunballoch half a mile distant which was transferred to Wardlaw shortly after 1210. It is rectangular in shape, 42 yards x 22 yards, and slightly elevated above the surrounding field, and as at Paslaidh it is also aligned north to south. Normally the footings of a Celtic church would be aligned East to West. The somewhat diamond shaped enclosure at Paslaidh which is surrounded by conifers, has been left unplanted. It is possible that local tradition is mistaken about there being a burial ground in the wood situated on the other side of the public road but probably correct about a lady known as Annie Paslaidh who resided at Paslaidh perhaps about the beginning of last century. The width of the stone footings within the enclosure appears to be too wide for a humble domestic dwelling of that period, but perhaps she occupied a turf walled abode within or without the site or which no trace can now be found. Paslaidh is a place name that now appears to be unknown locally. It is, according to Professor Watson in his 'Gaidhlig Place Names in Scotland' a word that comes from the Latin 'basilica' (a church). <3>

Note: Site not visible on aerial photographs so location based on grid coordinates. (T. Blackie 21/07/23)

Sources/Archives (3)



Grid reference Centred NH 5280 4440 (20m by 20m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NH54SW
Civil Parish KILMORACK
Civil Parish KIRKHILL
Geographical Area INVERNESS

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (0)

External Links (1)

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