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St Columba’s Cave, Ellary, Argyll.

Close to the hamlet of Ellary at the head of Loch Caolisport on the Kintyre peninsula lies a cave.

Surrounded by trees, bracken, jaggies and ferns you wouldn’t know it was there and would be unlikely to find it as there is little sign of anything in the area other than a tiny unpaved car-park, a small sign and a narrow trail leading to the cave entrance beyond a derelict and overgrown little chapel..

This is St Columba’s cave St Columba was an Irish abott and evangelical missionary who was part of the group credited with spreading Christianity to the gaels and picts of Dalriada / Scotland in the Hiberno-Scottish mission which began in 563 a.d..

Columba is documented as landing at Dunaverty at the far South of the Kintyre peninsula before founding his abbey on Iona and local tradition asserts Columba came here en route. My family holidays were spent near Kilberry on the Kintyre peninsula and I guess this is where my fascination with this cave stems from. We must have visited when I was a child and I have since visited several time as an adult. I keep being drawn back … I could not even think of passing nearby with out stopping off. Generally to see what fresh offerings have been made … left on the dry-stone altar these offering range from candles(ticks), painted rocks with devotions, Sr Bridgid’s crosses … all manner of things.

The cave is fascinating, not just for the altar but you will also see a cross carved into the cave wall above the altar and a bowl carved out of solid rock either by hand or a ceaseless drip from the cave roof. Two graves were found lying East to West outside of the mouth of the cave and a further inhumation is reported as having been found in the form of a stone coffin back in the nineteenth century but no information exists as to it’s current whereabouts … lending a nice spooky air to the story. For anyone who is interested there’s an excellent piece on the cave here … much better than I could write and I’d be plagiarising if I just cut and pasted chunks of it …

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