Skip to main page content (AccessKey S)
The ruins of Chapel Finian stand on the inland side of the main road that runs along the shore of Luce Bay some five miles north west of Port William. A Layby is provided for parking and in the field opposite you find a series of low wall lines which is all that today remains of the chapel.
Chapel Finian was excavated in 1950. What emerged was a simple rectangular chapel aligned east-west and internally measuring 6.7m by 4.1m within walls that were 0.7m thick. Each of the side walls had three buttresses. The style of the building is unusual, with large upright stones having been set on edge to produce foundation courses and door jambs.
The chapel was set tightly within a surrounding dry stone wall. The remains of this have since been consolidated and mortared. Just to the north of the chapel, and now just within the wall separating the site from the road, was a stone-lined well. Today this still has wet mud in the bottom.
In 1684 the building was recorded as "a little ruinous chapel called by the country people Chapel Finzian." It is though to have taken its name from St Finian of Moville in Ireland. He was a Christian missionary who became a legendary figure in medieval Ireland. He should not to be confused with his namesake St Finnian of Clonard. Our Finian is traditionally believed to have been a descendant of Fiatach the Fair and born in Ulster. He studied in Whithorn and in Rome before returning to Ireland to teach: among his more notable pupils is said to have been St Columba. He is believed to have died in 589.
The chapel whose remains you can see today seems to have been built in the 900s or 1000s, so the implication is that an earlier chapel may have stood on this site, perhaps dating back to the time of St Finian. The location, alongside the shore on a bleak stretch of Luce Bay, has given rise to the suggestion that this was a landing place for pilgrims from Ireland making their way to Whithorn. This rather begs the question of why such pilgrims would not have taken a similar length sea route across the mouth of Luce Bay and landed much nearer Whithorn itself, but the truth is that we will probably never know one way or the other.