St Blane’s is the best preserved of the surviving early Christian sites on Bute.
Tradition holds that a monastery was founded here by St Catan in the late AD 500s. The story tells that his sister Ertha became pregnant by an unknown man, and Catan cast her and her baby, Blane, adrift. They eventually washed up in Ulster, where Blane grew up at St Congarth’s monastery at Bangor.
Blane returned to Bute and succeeded St Catan as abbot of the monastery and bishop of the area until his death in around AD 590.
Surviving remnants of that 1,400-year-old monastery include:
- a stone wall separating the secular world from the spiritual
- foundations of numerous circular buildings
- a well
- a stone base which would have once supported a stone cross
Among the stones
A cemetery at the centre of the enclosure is split into two parts. The discovery of early Christian stones testifies to its use in St Blane’s time.
A hogback stone found here, erroneously known as St Blane’s tomb, dates to the AD 900s or 1000s. It demonstrates that the Norsemen who settled here after the monastery was abandoned eventually became Christians themselves. The oblong structure in the lower cemetery may be a chapel or oratory.
A Romanesque gem
In the upper cemetery stand the ruins of Kingarth Parish Church, built in the mid-1100s. Its Romanesque architecture, particularly the 1300s chancel arch, are exceptional.
The cemeteries at St Blane’s remained in use for a long time. The rectangular footings at the south-west corner of the site probably represent the remains of the parsonage or manse.