The Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea sits on the south facing slopes that climb above Castle Bay and the village of Castlebay on Barra. The church, named for the patroness of those who sail the seas, dominates the Castlebay landscape and is immediately obvious to all who sail into or out of Castle Bay.
The church was built in 1886 by the architect G. Woulfe Brenan of Oban, with a matching house for the priest to its east. It opened in time for the Christmas service that year. It comprises a north-south aligned nave with aisles running most of the length of both sides.
At the south-east corner of the church is a tower, built in three stages with buttresses at each corner. From immediately below, the tower appears to be topped off with a crenellated battlement surround. In fact this simply conceals the lower part of a tapering slate roof whose apex carries a cross.
You can usually form a view of a church within a few moments of entering it. Some churches feel welcoming and friendly, others anything but. The Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea in Castlebay is one of the nicest and most welcoming church buildings we have ever encountered.
Seeing somewhere with sunlight streaming in through the windows certainly makes a difference, but there is far more to it than than. The feeling of airiness has much to do with the overall design, the shades of the wood in the furnishings, and lining the ceilings, the beauty of the stained glass: all of these play a part. And when we visited the perfume pervading the church from the many flowers on display also had a significant impact.
The stained glass in the windows in the north gable depict the crucifixion, while the south windows show Our Lady Star of the Sea. The stained glass dates back to the early 1950s.