Canna has an amazingly rich archaeological landscape – from ancient fortifications to early 19th-century abandoned settlements.

Evidence of early human inhabitants is to be found everywhere. There are prehistoric field boundaries, souterrains and Norse graves, not to mention John Lorne Campbell’s theory that the island was St Columba’s summer residence of Hinba. The Celtic cross at Keill is a must-visit when on the island, to admire its intricate carvings.

Further to the west are the remains of a monastic settlement of Celtic type, Sgor nam Ban-Naomha (Skerry of the Holy Women) – commonly referred to as the Nunnery. The site is isolated landward by an escarpment, and is accessible from the sea only in fine weather. Fine views can be seen from the top of the cliffs, but a descent should not be attempted due to the treacherous nature of the terrain.

Chapel excavation project

The Trust’s Head of Archaeology, Derek Alexander, recently visited Canna with a small team of volunteers to take on the chapel excavation project.

This small chapel stands within the graveyard site at A’Chill. The aim of the week-long project was to expose the walls and floors of the chapel and uncover any dateable material that may provide an age for the building. Although it is believed that much of the stone walls would have been dismantled and reused in nearby field boundaries, or as gravestones, the team (with the help of local volunteers) worked diligently and successfully uncovered a section of wall, foundation and even an entryway – a great achievement for such a short amount of time! The team are keen to return to complete the project in the future, hoping to discover more secrets of the site and establish whether it pre-dates its Christian presentation?

The site is open to the public, and visitors are welcome (and encouraged) to view what remains of the chapel.