The Medieval Graveyard and Chapel of Baile nan Cailleach, Isle of Benbecula, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

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We were on the Isle of Benbecula, part of The Outer Hebrides on holiday in 2014, when we suddenly passed this cemetery……. so of course we reversed, a little difficult in a large motor home, but husband was getting better with each passing day.  I had spied a little ruined building, which I just had to find out about.  Again there was an information board, as there are so many sites on all of the islands, it would be really difficult with out them.   We had come across the ‘Medieval Graveyard and Chapel of Baile nan Cailleach’, now that sounds worth exploring.  Luckily the rain held off, although there were some nasty black clouds, so I was able to spent a little time exploring the little chapel and graveyard.

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I took some close photos of the board, really to copy, but they came out quite clear, so I thought I would use them to give you some details of this ancient place.

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The following drawing shows you how the graveyard has built up over time around the little chapel.  I think I would have liked to have seen the chapel a little more consolidated, but really interesting to realise that you are only seeing half of the chapel.  So I was really pleased that we had taken the time to stop and linger a little, in this ancient site.

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On our holiday of May 2014

18 comments

  1. You certainly found some treasures in the islands! Great photos again. I especially like that shaggy lichen. Can’t believe how it totally covered that one stone. I’m also amazed the cemetery could have raised the ground level that much. That makes me wonder what modern cemeteries do with the extra soil, they must have a place to dump it?!

    1. Thanks Pat, yes that lichen was really special, it seemed to cover the older smaller stones, maybe they like that kind of stone. In some of the medieval churc yards in some cities you can see how the church yards are much higher than the surrounding modern area. So no I’m not sure either what they do in modern cemeteries, will have to google it 🙂

      1. I talked to a friend of mine who worked in a cemetery office. She told me they had a place in an unused section of the cemetery where they would put the extra soil. Apparently when choosing the land for the cemetery they looked for a place that had an area they could fill. Now we’ve learned a little something about buying land for a cemetery. 🙂

    2. The ground level would have raised over the centuries with sand blown from the nearby beach (cula bay) , which raises the nearby fields by about a metre ever few years due to costal erosion etc

  2. I’m so glad that your hubby is real good at backing up! I love old cemeteries. I enjoy reading the head stones, and letting my imagination run wild. These photo are so interesting.

  3. So very interesting! What a lovely spot. I thought that the word ‘cailleach’ meant an old hag or witch-like woman, at least in mythology, so it is interesting to see the use of it here, to mean ‘nuns’! I’d love to explore this place.

  4. The ground level has raised over the centuries with sand blown from the nearby beach (cula bay) , which raises the nearby fields by about a metre ever few years due to costal erosion etc , this is obvious all over the island , a beautiful Setting , a few yards from my home

  5. Thank you. My grandmothers sisters/brothers buried there. Visiting few years back and popped into graveyard and saw all their names and she too, got a mention, though not buried there

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