MHG33336 - Church Cave, Rona


Large natural cave which has had a church built inside. It was investigated by the Scotland's First Settlers Project in 2002.

Type and Period (3)

  • CAVE (Early Iron Age to 19th Century - 550 BC? to 1900 AD?)
  • CHURCH (Post Medieval - 1560 AD to 1900 AD)
  • MIDDEN (Early Iron Age to 19th Century - 550 BC? to 1900 AD?)

Protected Status

Full Description

The monument comprises a post-medieval church built into a large natural cave on the the east coast of the island of Rona, off Skye. The area is irregular with maximum dimensions of 45m NW-SE and 57m transversely - EM 06/2004.

This site was investigated by the Scotland's First Settlers Project in 2002. A large cave, Church Cave (40m OD, 30m from sea), was used as the island church regularly until 1912, and is still occasionally used for services (see Illustrations 60, top left & 61, bottom left). It is a large east-facing cave, 28m deep×17m wide×4m high. It contains rows of stone used as pews and a low stone pillar at the entrance which was used as a pulpit (see Illustrations 130, top right & 131, bottom right). Towards the rear of the cave is an area of shell midden and another area, currently empty with a floor of cave earth. One test pit was dug in each of these areas.
There were four lithic finds, two regular flakes of quartz and two pieces (a regular flake and a debitage flake) of chalcedonic silica. One bone tool one piece of copper alloy and four sherds of coarse pottery came from test pit 2. One is decorated with incised lines probably forming a chevron pattern. A total of 153 bones were recovered from Test Pit 1, and 3524 bones from Test Pit 2. Periwinkle was present in test pit 1, and limpet, periwinkle, oyster and mussel was present in test pit 2.
This site was visited late on in the project and it was not possible to obtain C14 dates for the remains. The pottery is indicative of an Iron Age or later date, while the cpper alloy lace end is a common find from 15th–17th century contexts elsewhere in Scotland. This is a prominent cave which has clearly been of significance in recent times but it would not be surprising to find that it also has evidence for earlier activity. <1>

Sources/Archives (1)



Grid reference Centred NG 6270 5696 (80m by 80m) (Buffered by site type)
Map sheet NG65NW
Geographical Area SKYE AND LOCHALSH
Civil Parish PORTREE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Investigations/Events (0)

External Links (2)

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