Cille Bharra & Kilbar Cross, Barra, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

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 While we were on the Isle of Barra in The Outer Hebrides, I read about a little hill top church, and so we went off to find it, which we did, but also found a coach full of tourists.  It was really strange, as we seem to have had the Island to ourselves apart from the cyclists, which seem to be a long unrelentless stream, so it was strange to find tourists on-mass.  Nothing wrong with tourists, myself included, if they were see-through, which they were not.  But I have got very good at dodging the bodies, although sometimes I do miss a good shot because I want it to be bodiless.  So back to this ancient church and some of its history.


We found the church Cille Bharra located north off the A888 near the village of Eoligarry (Eòlaigearraidh) and about one mile north of the Traig Mhor Airfield, near the northern tip of the Isle of Barra, just incase you ever want to visit.


Cille Bharra is the remains of a 12th century church dedicated to St Barr.  The site is thought to have been used for Christian worship since the 600’s when there was a chapel here dedicated to St Barr – probably the same saint as St Finbarr of Cork.  The roofed building is the 15th century north chapel and houses some wonderful grave slabs.  The south chapel is just a pile of stones and there is more of the main church in the centre, some walls and windows remain.

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Inside the chapel you will find a copy of a 10th century stone cross ‘The Kilbar Cross’ The cross is carved from local stone and is 1.36m high.  The stone is unusual in combining both Christian and Nordic symbols and a runic inscription on the reverse reads: ‘This cross has been raised in memory of Thorgeth, daughter of Steinar’   The Kilbar stone was found here, but the original is now in the National Museum of Scotland, although efforts to return to Cille Bharra have been under way since 1980 ‘the centenary year of its abduction’  Its a good copy, but theres nothing like the real thing in its rightful place.

The North Chapel also contains four grave slabs belonging to the MacNeill Chiefs.  These stones were carved by men from Iona and Oronsay and are similar in style to those found all along the west coast of Scotland.


One last point of interest at Cille Bharra, is the grave of noted writer Sir Compton MacKenzie.  Mackenzie, author of the humourous novel Whisky Galore, is buried beneath a simple stone cross in the upper graveyard.

8 Replies to “Cille Bharra & Kilbar Cross, Barra, Outer Hebrides, Scotland”

    1. No the church is not used in the sense of everyday, but I think people come and have a quiet pray and give thanks, as there were candles and little notes around the Madonna, its a very peaceful place 🙂 and I have just realised that I forgot to put the photo of the altar on, I will rectify that now 🙂

  1. What a lovely find! Look at all those carved stones. That’s a lovely place for Sir Compton Mackenzie to be buried. So St Finbarr is where the name of Barra came from? Really interesting! You did well to dodge the tourists. I’m surprised to hear there were so many!

    1. Yes lots of lovely stones, they didn’t come out really well, the interior was quite dark and I was rushing really to try not to get bodies in the photos. It was a coach load of older Scottish people, they were very nice and told me about Sir Compton Mackenzie greave. I think they were on one of those Islands and Loch tours. As to the name is either after St Finbarr or St Barr a great grandson of a 4th century Irish King called Niall of the Nine Hostages 🙂

      1. I love the carvings on the stones – so many symbols and it would be really good to know what they represent. I would also be looking for Templar connections although the stories about the Templars seem to fascinate and repulse me in equal measure!

      2. You need to write a book with lots of photos to explain them all…….because I have taken so many this holiday and really have no idea what they mean. I am working my way through our trip in the posts, so lots more to come 🙂

      3. I know, but I am still reading about them myself! And no one really can explain them all. There are some symbols on stones in Kilmartin that are baffling historians. Really enjoying your posts. I love writing about places I’ve just visited, it’s like going back there in your mind for a while!

      4. Thank you and totally agree, its like a 2nd trip 🙂 Still if we knew about everything it would be boring, half the fun is finding out 🙂

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