Cille Bharra lies on the eastern slopes of Ben Eoligarry about a mile north east of Barra Airport. Here you find the remains of a medieval church dedicated to St Barr, and two chapels, all set within the Eoligarry burial ground. The collection is a little like the group of chapels found at Howmore on South Uist.
Also referred to by its anglicised name of Kilbarr Church, the church itself comprises the substantial remains of its north and south walls, the gables having disappeared at some point. The upper parts of a doorway and its arch can be seen in the north wall. The fragments that remain suggest that the church was built in the 1100s, probably on the site of an earlier chapel dating back to the 600s and dedicated to St Finbarr of Cork.
South east of the standing walls of the church are the more fragmentary remains of a chapel, known as the South Chapel. What little remains - part of the west gable is the only really identifiable feature - suggest this may have been built in the 1400s.
The surviving walls of the church and the South Chapel have been shored up in recent years with cement filled sandbags as a temporary measure. The eventual aim is to remove these as part of a programme to properly consolidate the ruins that remain.
North east of the ruined church is the only standing building on the site, the North Chapel, probably built in the 1500s. Whether this was originally built as a chapel or as a burial aisle or a mausoleum is open to debate, but it certainly serves as a chapel today, as well as providing a home for a number of medieval grave slabs that have been found on the site.
Standing at the east end of the North Chapel is a replica of the Kilbar Stone, a unique Christian-Nordic Runic Stone dating back to the 900s. This carries a decorated cross on the front and a runic inscription on the reverse: "This cross has been raised in memory of Thorgeth, daughter of Steinar". An explanatory sign notes that the original stone is held by the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and explains that efforts to return it to Cille Bharra have been under way since 1980 "the centenary year of its abduction".
Before leaving Cille Bharra it is worth taking time to admire the superb views to the north and east from the upper parts of the surrounding burial ground. These extend to Eriskay and South Uist, but your attention is drawn mostly to the magnificent array of white shell-sand beaches at this end of Barra and on nearby Fuday. Amongst those whose graves enjoy these remarkable views is Sir Compton Mackenzie author of, amongst other works, Whisky Galore, based on real events on Eriskay.
Visitor InformationView Location on Map