Islay churches and services
St Kiaran’s, Church of Scotland
Location: Between Bruichladdich and Port Charlotte
Service: Sunday 11.30am
About the church: St Kiaran’s is in the Norman style. It was built to serve the expanding population of the villages on Loch Indaal. Begun with the laying of the foundation stone in 1898, it was completed a year later. St Kiaran’s became the Parish Church in 1977 when Kilchoman Church was closed due to the depopulation of the area it had served. It has an interesting interior with a Norman arch separating the nave and chancel, a curved wall with two small stained-glass windows, and some attractive wall hangings. St Kiaran’s welcomes visitors.
Portnahaven Church, Church of Scotland
Service: Sunday 10am
About the church: Portnahaven church is older than St Kiaran’s. It was built in the mid-1820s to plans by Thomas Telford, who had been appointed by the Parliamentary Commission in 1823 to build additional places of worship in the Highlands and Islands. Parishioners could choose whether to have a gallery as an addition to the basic building, and the people of Portnahaven raised the money to have one in their church. Structurally it remains as designed and built, unlike many other Telford churches. Its two entrance doors lead into a light and bright interior with extra accommodation for worshippers in the gallery. A high pulpit is placed centrally facing the congregation. Portnahaven church welcomes visitors.
St John's, Church of Scotland
Location: Port Ellen
Parish: Kildalton and Oa
Services: Sunday 11.30am & 7pm
About the church: St John’s Church, Port Ellen stands on the crescent of the inner bay, a fisherman’s haven long since with a sandy beach, sheltered by the Ard and the large promontory of the Oa towards the south and east. In 1898 it was dedicated as a Mission Church in the Parish of Kildalton and Oa, as there were several earlier buildings ‘up country’, beginning from the 1,000-year-old Cross and Chapel named ‘Chapel of the Fosterchild/Kil-dalton’, back to Columban times. Three churches successively stood at Lagavulin, one at the Oa, but the growth of Port Ellen as principal village was clear from the days of the new Laird of Kildalton, Iain Ramsay, and the new minister, Jas. McKinnon. They were fortunate also in their choice of architect, Sydney Mitchell, and by great local efforts (a three-day bazaar), which raised a very endearing church. The church is always open. There are occasional Gaelic services on Islay, and annual open-air worship at Kildalton.
The Round Church of Bowmore, Church of Scotland
Service: Sunday 10am
About the church: Kilarrow Parish Church, better known as ‘The Round Church’, is situated in Bowmore, the administrative centre of Islay. Building of the round church commenced in 1767 when ‘the Laird’, Daniel Campbell the Younger, brought Thomas Spalding to Islay, for the specific purpose of building the church. It was completed in 1769 and is therefore the oldest church building in which public worship takes place weekly on Islay.
The Round Church is 18.2 metres in diameter and the walls are 0.85 metres thick. The main central pillar is 0.48 metres diameter at the base and is of timber (possibly hemlock oak), harled and plastered. The gallery of the church, which is ‘U’-shaped in plan, was added c.1830 and in some ways defeats the concept behind the original circular design whereby ‘there were no corners in the church in which the Devil could hide’. The Round Church is open daily and well worth a visit.
Kilmeny Church, Church of Scotland
Service: Sunday 10am
About the church: In sheltered wooded grounds, the present church was remodelled in 1828 to plans by Thomas Telford and stands about 400m NE of its medieval predecessor. There is evidence of a number of early Celtic Church foundations within the parish boundary, and nearby is the famous Finlaggan site, administrative centre of the Lords of the Isles. The church has been the recipient of some fine gifts, the most recent being an organ donated by the Caol Ila Distillery Company during their 125th anniversary in 1996. The interior has been upgraded with comfortable pews and padded chairs. Linked with Kilarrow, the church is situated above the main Port Askaig-Bowmore road.
St Columba, Scottish Episcopal Church
The Islay Catholic congregation also uses St Columba for its services
Services: Check the Ileach newspaper for details
About the church: The Church of St Columba, Bridgend, was built by Canon C T Wakeham, Rector of St Kiaran’s, Campbeltown and consecrated in 1888. Until 1931 it was the main centre of Episcopalian worship, work and witness on the island. From 1931, it was hardly used and its condition had consequently deteriorated seriously by the time it re-opened in 1962. During these years the congregation worshipped at the Mission of the Good Shepherd in Bowmore. In 1962 and 1963 the church was repaired and modernised and its facilities improved. A porch and organ chamber were built on the south side of the church and a vestry on the north.
In the sanctuary, Commander J R C Montgomery installed an altar of Italian green marble and put in the east window above it. This window, by George Kirk of Glasgow, contains a design of the Kildalton Cross, one of the finest complete Celtic crosses still in existence. The fine lectern, designed and made by J Holdsworth in 1965, is a memorial to the late Canon Kenneth N MacKenzie, Diocesan Itinerant Priest. The attractive carpet with its representations of the Kildalton Cross and other Celtic imagery, was made by hand for the church by R H H Montgomery.
Islay Baptist Church
Location: Port Ellen and Bowmore
Services: Sunday: 10am Port Ellen, including a Junior Church; 6.30pm Bowmore. For details of other services and/or meetings, please call 01496 810049.
About the church: The Baptist Church was built in 1849 while the Rev. Angus McNaughton was minister. In 1992 during renovation works in the church a ‘Message in a bottle’ was found under the pulpit. The letter was written in 1869 by Alex McDougall describing in great detail the state of the church at that time and the repairs that took place. The original is now in the Islay Museum archives.