Kildalton Cross

The parish of Kildalton, of which the church was dedicated to St. John the Evangelist, forms the south-east side of the island of Islay. The original church of the parish stood at Kildalton, a few miles south-west from the entrance to the sound of Islay, where its cemetery, walls, altar, and font still remain.

The large cross in these plates stands in a stone base in the burying-ground, on the north side of the ruined church. It differs entirely in form from all the other crosses on the west coast, and also in style of ornamentation from all except that called Martin’s Cross at Iona and the cross at Keils, which it greatly resembles in many of its details, but is richer than either of them. It partakes very much of the character of the Irish crosses — especially in the length of the arms and in the circle which connects them with the stem; and in outline and some details it may be compared with the south cross at Clonmacnoise. The disengaged circle, which is so common on the Irish crosses, occurs only on two of the Scotch ones — viz., the present example, and Martin’s Cross just referred to. It has been elsewhere remarked that on the cross slabs on the east coast this circle appears as if in embryo on the slab, preparatory to the monument being shaped into the form of a cross with the circle cut into a free ornamented band.

Kildalton Cross, Plate XXXVI, Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Vol. 2, 1856.
Kildalton Cross, Plate XXXVI, Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Vol. 2, 1856.

On the east side of the cross the figure of the Blessed Virgin and Holy Child, with a male figure on either side, is cut, and at the extremities of the arms of the cross are groups of figures apparently of ecclesiastics. This cross is, in my opinion, of a style greatly earlier than the class of monuments represented by that at Campbelton, and comes much nearer in character to the Irish examples, which are ascribed to the tenth and eleventh centuries.

The smaller cross, of which the shaft is unsculptured, stands on the outside of the churchyard.

Kildalton Cross, Plate XXXVII, Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Vol. 2, 1856.
Kildalton Cross, Plate XXXVII, Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Vol. 2, 1856.

On the hill of Dun Borreraig are the ruins of a circular hill-fort 52 feet in diameter inside, with walls 12 feet thick, a gallery within the walls, and a stone bench 2 feet high round the area. Near the bay of Knock are two large upright flags called “The Two Stones of Islay.” Monumental stones, as well as cairns and harrows, occur, and stone and brass [bronze] hatchet-shaped weapons or celts, elfshots, or flint arrow-heads, and brass fibulae, have been frequently dug up.

Fertill, Fruitfull, and Full of Natural Grassing

Kildalton Cross, a monolithic high cross in Celtic cross form, in the churchyard of the former parish church of Kildalton (from Scottish Gaelic Cill Daltain, "Church of the Foster Son" (i.e. St John the Evangelist)) on the island of Islay in the Inner Hebrides, Scotland.
Kildalton Cross, a monolithic high cross in Celtic cross form, in the churchyard of the former parish church of Kildalton (from Scottish Gaelic Cill Daltain, “Church of the Foster Son” (i.e. St John the Evangelist)) on the island of Islay.

Nar this forsaid iyle on the west syde of it layes Ila, ane ile of twentie myle lenthe from the north to the south, and sixteen myle in breadth from the eist to the west, fertill, fruitfull, and full of natural grassing, with maney grate Diere, maney woods, faire games of hunting beside everey toune, with ane watter callit Laxay, wherupon maney salmon are slaine, with ane salt water Loch, callit Lochegunord, quherin runs the water of Gyinord, with high sandey bankes, upon the quhilk bankes upon the sea lyes infinit Selccheis, whilkis are slayne with doges learnt to the same effect. In Ila is meikle lead ure in Moychills. In this iyle there is ane guid raid for schipps, callit in Erische Polmoir, and in English the Mechell-puill, this layes at ane toune callit Lanlay Vanych, ane uther raid layes within Ellan Grynard, callit in English the isle at the poynt of the nesse, the raid is callit Leodannis. Within this iyle ther is sundrie-freshe water Lochis, sic as Lochmoyburge wherin ther layes ane iyle perteining to the Bishopes of the Isles. The loch of Ellan Charrin, quherin ther is ane iyle pertyning to M’Gillane of Doward. Loch Cherossa with ane iyle perteining to the Abbot of Colmkill. In this iyle there is strenths castells, the first is callit Dunowaik the biggest on ane Craig at the sea side, on the southeist pairt of the countery pertaining to the Clandonald of Kintyre; second is callit the castle of Lochgurne, quhilk is biggit in ane iyle within the said fresche water Loche far fra land, pertaining of auld to the Clandonald of Kintyre, now usurped be M’Gillayne of Doward. Ellan Forlagan in the midle of Ila, ane faire iyle in fresche water.

— Description of the Western Isles of Scotland, called Hybrides; by Mr Donald Monro High Dean of the Isles who travelled through the most of them in the year 1549.