One of the nice features of Loch Gruinart is the historic Kilnave Chapel and Cross, often overlooked by visitors due to its almost invisble position from the road. The majority of the visitors to Loch Gruinart end up at the RSPB visitor centre, the bird hide, or on the east shore where you can make beautiful walks all the way up to Killinallan point and beyond to Rhuvaal if you wish so.
The west side of Loch Gruinart isn't that much different though and it is here, between the RSPB visitor centre and Ardnave farm where you find Kilnave Chapel and Cross, a few hundred metres from the road, close to the shore. The name Kilnave comes from the Gaelic word Naomh which means saint or holy. The chapel at Kilnave was built around late 1300s or the early 1400s and belonged to the parish of Kilchoman.
Kilnave church, now in ruins, measures 29 feet by 14 feet with walls that are well over 2 feet thick. The door which is at the west end is round-headed and very low, and its arch is constructed of thin slabs of whinstone. It is furnished with the long bolt-hole so common in the Highland churches, an arrangement by which a strong beam of wood could be pulled completely across the door on the inside while a sufficient length of the beam remained in the hole to keep it in a horizontal position. The church is lighted by a small round-headed window at the east end, and by a smaller one in the south wall near the altar. There are traces of the foundations of the altar. In the churchyard is one sculptured gravestone.
Another important feature is Kilnave Cross, a beautiful standing cross at the west end of the church. The dimensions of the cross are as follows: From centre boss to top 38.5 inches, from centre boss to unbroken arm 20.5 inches, from centre boss to broken arm 19.5 inches and from centre boss to lowest part of patter 55.5 inches. The thickness of the stone tapers from 2.5 inches at the base to 2 inches at the top. This cross is carved on one side only, and very little remains of the design; indeed, it requires a very good light to decipher what is left. Kilnave Cross shows resemblance with that at Kiells in Knapdale. The long panel on the shaft of the Kilnave cross is very similar to the lowest panel on that of Kiells, and they both have a central boss with a depression in the middle, a peculiarity also to be found on some of the fragments of crosses at Iona, and characteristic of this group of monuments. The scroll work at the very top of Kilnave cross is quite special; here there is a little piece of work which has hardly suffered at the hands of time, one can form some idea of the elaboration and beauty of this cross in earlier days. There are detailed images of the cross and graveslab in the carved stones of Islay book
It's hard to imagine when you stroll though the grounds of the chapel, taking in the views en enjoying the silence and tranquility of the place, that a horrible tragedy took place here, but it did. The battle of traigh gruinart took place in 1598 between the MacDonalds of Islay and the MacLeans on Mull. In the aftermath of the battle the surviving MacLeans, who had taken refuge in Kilnave, were locked in by the MacDonalds and burned. In 2012 the Islay Gaelic Choir set three poems about the Battle of Traigh Gruinart to music and their first performance was at the same place where the battle took place, at Loch Gruinart.