Keeills and Cake; Ballaquinnea Keeill, Marown.

Keeills and Cake; Ballaquinnea Keeill, Marown.

Keeill number ten.

With kind permission of Mr Geoffrey Kinvig, Ballaquinnea.

The keeill at Ballaquinnea is dedicated to St. Fingan and sits in a little enclosure of Larch trees known as the ‘Faerie Orchard’, a name which suits it perfectly.  The keeill is entered through a number of large stones standing on end, they make for a rather impressive entranceway to this well preserved and interesting site.

The site is just off the Glen Darragh Road and very close to Keeill Lingan just further up the hill.  It has been fenced off since the then owner of Ballaquinnea, Mr Cowin, offered it to the Manx Museum and National Trust as an Ancient Monument in 1930 and they have cared for it ever since.  I have no idea who planted the daffodils but it was a lovely gesture which added to the peace and beauty of this place.


The Ballaquinnea Keeill was surveyed as part of the First Report of the Manx Archaeological Survey around 1908.  They found the keeill to measure 16 by 10ft. with walls around 4ft. thick, the remains of an embankment was still visible against certain areas of the walls.  The doorway was found in the west end along with three upright jambs on each side, it looks the same as it was when a drawing was made for the ‘Archaeologia Cambrensis’ (1866):


There were traces of the window in the south wall but without the sill although the sill stone from the window in the east wall still remained 30in. off the floor, the window would have measured around 18in.wide on the inside.  The base of the altar was in situ at the east end of the building, it sat 7 or 8in. above the pavement and had two upright pillars still in place which are visible on the photo below from 2016.


The outline of the altar was marked by small stones along the edge (see on plan below) instead of the usual long slab often found in this position and the floor was paved with small stones, the remains of two broken cross slabs were built in to the altar.


Hand coloured 1894 copy of the 1873 Lukis and Dryden plan of the Ballaquinnea Keeill (P.2878 (XA.MR.1.M)


The enclosure measured 43 yards north by 53 east and west, it was artificially raised and had an embankment of earth and stones measuring 5 to 6ft. high at the east end with an outer ditch.  A stream which Kermode thought had been diverted in recent times, would have originally come down to the centre of the western embankment where it divided to flow all around it.  They found ‘semi circular hollows’ marked by stone against the inner face of the embankment which are thought to mark the position of small cells, the site was thought to be similar in appearance to a ‘small fortified position’ which seemed unusual and very different from the nearby Keeill Lingan.  They found some graves and many of the usual white quartz pebbles.


FIG. 6. — Keeill at Ballaquinney, Marown.

 As you can see from the number of photos that were taken, we enjoyed our time in this tranquil little spot.  The keeill is really very well preserved, it’s a good ‘un and we liked it a lot.


What is a keeill?


Keeills and Cake; Knock Rule Keeill, Braddan.

Keeills and Cake; Knock Rule Keeill, Braddan.

Keeill number nine.

With kind permission from Mr Cain.

There are ten known keeill sites in the Parish of Braddan and Knock Rule Keeill is one of only two with visible remains in 2016.  It was partially surveyed as part of the Fifth Report of the Manx Archaeological Survey, published in 1918.

We walked out to the Knock Rule Keeill, Mount Rule, on a wet day in March.  There were actually hail stones as we crossed the field but on the Isle of Man if you waited for a sunny day, you could be waiting a while.  Google Earth was useful as it isn’t shown on the map and no-one seemed to know much about it, the map reference showed it in a clump of trees at the top of a field and that was where we found it, hiding in the corner.

This little keeill was a pleasant surprise as it looked in good order but a little sad and unloved, it felt forgotten.  The tenant farmer didn’t even realise there was a keeill on the land.

From the cow pats inside it was obvious that animals have access to the keeill, however, the structure seems to still be intact and it doesn’t look too different to the photo of it that was taken in 1935.  The Archaeological Survey team were only able to make a partial observation of it as at the time as there were a number of trees growing up through it, these are shown in the photograph (taken from the archaeological survey).



In the Fifth Report of the Manx Archaeological Survey (1918) they applied for removal of the trees so they could make further investigation but although the trees were removed, I couldn’t find any evidence of any other excavation.  What they found in the partial survey they did is below:

KNOCK RULE. O.S. X, 13 (1304). The walls of this Keeill are still standing in the little plantation about 250 vards north north-west of the house at a height of about 390 ft. above sea-level.

Three small trees, ash and sycamore, are growing within the Keeill, which prevent a complete examination and must endanger what remains of the building. It measures about 16 ft. by 8 ft. The walls, of which the north and east have settled inwards, are built of small surface stones in irregular courses; all four corners are rounded (above the surface), and this is probably caused by attempted repairs.

The east end is 3 ft. wide, the south wall 2 ft. 6 ins., the west 3 ft., and the north from 2 ft. 6 ins. to 3 ft. A little digging at the corners proved the foundation to be about 2 ft. below the present surface, giving the heights of the walls north and east 6 ft., south 4 ft. 8 ins., and west 3 ft. 6 ins. ‘There had been a skirting of upright stones as shown by two at the north-east corner, 16 ins. high by 7 ins. wide, and 14 ins. by 8 ins. ; and at the south-east one 22 ins. by 11 ins., and another 29 ins. by 16 ins. About 12 ins. from the north corner remains of the altar were met with, 2 ft. wide and 12 ins. high. The doorway was at the west end.

Application was made for the removal of the trees, without which, further examination was impossible. The aspect is south-east and the orientation (by compass) east-north-east.

This keeill has more visible remains than many of the sites we have visited and is well worth recognising as a good example although without the results of a full survey we cannot be sure exactly what is hiding in the undergrowth.

Update, 31st August 2016:

In a summary of the Fifth Report of the Manx Archaeological Survey, found in the uncatalogued Kermode papers (MS 08979 box 2 of 2), there is more information on the Knock Rule Keeill:

The walls of this keeill are still standing in the little plantation.  It measures about 16ft. by 8ft.  The walls are built of small surface stones.  The remains of the altar are present, 2ft. wide and 12ins. high.  There are three trees growing within the keeill which endanger what remains of the buildings. Endeavours were made by Mr Kermode to have the site made an Ancient Monument, but the condition of the owners that no digging be allowed, could not be agreed to. 

A few weeks ago I examined the site; and found that it is by far the best preserved in the parish of Kirk Braddan.  Another endeavour ought to be made to make it an Ancient Monument.  The trees should be destroyed at once.

The information given that the owners were reluctant to give permission for the excavation is an explanation of why there is no further information on Kermode re-visiting the site for further exploration.  What a pity!

Further in the summary it says:

The only two keeills in the parish worth protecting by rails are this one at Camlork and the one at Knoc Rule.  No delays should come in the way of their adequate preservation.

It is sad that these two keeills are the least protected in the parish in 2016 with Camlork being almost completely destroyed and Knock Rule very neglected.  It is a great pity that the recommendation to fence them both off was not followed up.

We rather liked the Knock Rule Keeill, even in the rain.  The worry is that the keeill will remain neglected and the structure will be damaged by the grazing animals.  Hopefully this will create some awareness of it, the ideal would be that it could be fenced off finally and come under the protection of the Manx Museum but this may be a bit optimistic.

Knock Rule Keeill is not quite forgotten, it’s just waiting to be found!



More about our visits to the Manx keeills in 2016.

Please be aware that these sites are, unless noted as being otherwise, on private land and can only be accessed with permission from the landowner.

Keeills and Cake; St. Patrick’s Chapel, Jurby.

Keeills and Cake; St. Patrick’s Chapel, Jurby.

Keeill number eight.

With kind permission of Mr Cleator.

This rarely visited keeill sitting on the land of West Nappin, Jurby, is thought to be dedicated to St. Patrick.  Kermode in the archaeological survey calls it St. Patrick’s Chapel.  Around 1900, a Father Gillow of Ramsey wrote:

‘At the Nappin, Jurby, we find in the middle of a large field, the remains of what was once a Catholic Church. The northeast gable has a three-light window, embedded in the orthodox red sandstone. In the southeast wall, in the corner, are the two niches for the wine and water cruets, and underneath, the Sacrarium. I was informed that some 200 years ago, the building was cut through the middle in order to make a school. This church was dedicated to St. Patrick, and the east and southeast gables, which are still standing, afford ample evidence of its former uses as a Catholic place of worship. In the south west corner of this field there is a charming green spot, under which is a heap of stones filling up what was once known as St. Patrick’s well, the water from which still flows down to the sea’ (Cain, 2004)

J. J. Kneen (Manx Placenames, 1925) described the chapel at West Nappin as having  a dedication to St. Cecilia ‘St. Keyl’s Chapel’

‘This chapel was dedicated to the Roman Saint Cecilia whose dedication date was November 22nd, but in Mann she was venerated on November 9th (O.S.). This day was called in Manx Laa’l Kickle, ‘Cecilia’s feast-day,’ and a fair was held annually in the parish of Jurby, which in early times must have been held in close proximity to the Chapel of St. Cecilia. The fair is mentioned by Feltham in 1797, and it did not disappear until after 1834.
It may be noted that Cecilia was pronounced Kikilia in Latin and Irish, and as is usually the case in Manx, the final unstressed vowel dropped away.
The ruins of St. Cecilia’s Chapel, now under the care of the Ancient Monuments Trustees, may be seen on the estate of W. Nappin, a little south of the parish church.
The usage of this chapel as a school house in the 18th century has probably been instrumental in saving it from destruction.’ (Kneen, 1925)

The dedication to St. Cecilia is generally thought to be unsubstantiated, however, because of this, the building is also known as Keeill Kickle (a derivation of Cecilia), Keeill Kickle or St. Patrick’s Chapel.

The chapel is under the care of the Manx Museum and National Trust although it is on private land.

The Clarke family farmed at the Nappin for centuries and when there was a desperate need for a school in the area in the mid 18th century, Thomas Clarke used his own money to restore and extend the old chapel which was then used as a school for a time.  This served to protect the earlier parts of the keeill but has also given it a unique character of its own.  The annual fair to celebrate ‘St. Cecilia’s feast day’ was held close to the chapel on November 9th until the early 19th century.


An extract from the Isle of Man Times ( of 1959 gives a good introduction in a description of a visit to the keeill by the Antiquarian Society:

‘This tiny keeill, Church of St. Cecilia, has a remarkable history.  Originally a Bronze Age tumulus, it became a Christian ‘cell’ probably falling into decay in the Middle Ages until in 1749 Thomas Clarke, of The Nappin, restored and enlarge it to make a day school for the children of the neighbourhood,  Now it stands, a bleak little ruin, probably unique. 

Where else would one find in so tiny a building traces of an early Christian Piscina, a window of the Middle Ages and an eighteenth century schoolroom fireplace?’

Where else indeed.


 This photograph taken from the iMuseum ( shows the building in 1911 at the time of the survey in a similar condition to that in which you find it now.  The keeill in 2016 is in need of conservation work with one gable pulling away from the wall, however, it has survived in surprisingly good order which is probably down to it not being easily accessible and therefore rarely disturbed.

The visit to this fascinating little chapel one early evening in March has definitely been a high point. When you think of how simple most of the remaining keeills are, finding the carved windows and a Celtic cross standing inside the building itself really was wonderful.  Keeil Kickle was surveyed as part of the Third Report of the Manx Archaeological Survey, in the survey they call it ‘St. Patrick’s Chapel’ but I’ll call it ‘Kickle’ as that seems to be the accepted name now.  This interesting survey shows the level of architectural detail that has survived over the years.

The survey team found the keeill to measure 20ft. by 11ft. and consists of two distinct parts from different time periods.  The building is built using shore boulders although the jambs and carved stones are all sandstone, the east end uses cement and rough cast and dates from around the 14th or 15th century, the rest dates from around the 17th or 18th century at the time it was converted in to a school.  The keeill was roofed at this time and slates were found inside the interior, there are some projecting stones in the south wall which may have been part of a raised dais for the altar although no part of the altar itself could be found.  The upper part of a decorative window in the east wall was still intact although the sill stones were gone, Kermode suggested the window was from the 14th century and had grooves for lead and glass, a small fragment of iridescent glass was found below the window.

The inside lintel of the window was found to be a broken Scandinavian cross slab which P. M. C. Kermode removed and cast in 1891 with permission from the owner at the time, Mr Clarke.  Kermode thought they slab may have been intentionally placed in the 14th century building as the moulding on the side would have been ornamental.  A recess for a piscina (a stone basin near the altar in Catholic and pre-Reformation churches for draining water used in the Mass) was found in the south wall although the bowl was lost, it is thought this space was used as a cupboard during its use as a school.  There was knowledge of a small ‘stone cup’ which had been kept in the piscina and was possibly the original bowl but this was sadly lost.  Around this recess was a decorative stone arch:


Inside this hollow had been placed by Mr Clarke an early cross slab which he had found in the ruins, this is visible in the photograph above from 2016.  A number of graves were found, some passing under the walls and showing that the current building is not on the lines of the original, many of these graves were covered in many white pebbles.

A fireplace had been built in for when the building was in use as a school.  The survey team found the enclosure to measure 38 yards from north to south by 25 yards, the chapel sits in the centre, Kermode suggests that a square hollow in the ground at the west end of the building may have been occupied by part of the 14th century building, a few foundation stones were found nearby along with cement mixed rubble similar to that used in the east gable.  A lintel grave was found in the enclosure, also covered with pebbles.

It is thought that the site must have been a Bronze Age burial site as a much earlier grave was come across and many years earlier, a cinerary urn (holding human ashes) had been found.


Plan St. Patrick's Chapel, West Nappin, Jurby

Fig. 12. St. Patrick’s Chapel, West Nappin, Jurby.

What an incredible place, I wouldn’t have known it even existed before we started this journey, it really is a building with a rich history and its survival is both surprising and wonderful.  Here’s to it surviving for many more years.

I hope Nicola’s lovely photos tell their own story.


Looking through carved windows towards the ‘new’ church at Jurby.
The fireplace from when the building was used as a school (and William hiding inside).
The carved detailing above the piscina.


Celtic carved cross remains.



On to the Mount Rule Keeill.

Want to know more about keeills?








Keeills and Cake; Sholghaige y Quiggin, Kirk Michael.

Keeills and Cake; Sholghaige y Quiggin, Kirk Michael.

Keeill number seven.

With kind permission of Mrs Caine.

A keeill or not a keeill? That is the question.

We set off one damp and windy child free day to find the Sholghaige y Quiggin Keeill (named from the quarterland on which it is situated) near Little London.  After an hour of hunting in the rain, we admitted defeat.  I remember saying to Nicola that if anyone had seen us with our maps out in the rain and wind, they’d have thought we were mad!

On our second attempt we were armed with the old O.S. map which we’d lined up with the current map, not so easy as you’d think down to field boundaries moving and changing, we also had Google Earth and we needed it.  A further hour of walking up and down fields and climbing over gates and we were about to give in a second time when we realised that a patch of scrub that we must have walked past a number of times was actually the site of the ‘keeill’!, there was great satisfaction in finding it at last and we celebrated with some of Nicola’s homemade fruit loaf and a cup of tea.

Although we knew this was the site that we had been looking for, there really was very little to see, a few stones only but mainly bracken, it was definitely the most disappointing site so far.

The disappointment was compounded on reading the Third Report of the Manx Archaeological Committee when we saw that in their opinion, this site was not actually one of a keeill but an early pagan burial ground!  I have shared the extract from the survey below:

The O.S., VII, 13, (2044), marks “Site of Chapel” on the Intack lands of Sholghaige y Quiggin, about 383 yds. N. N. W. of the last. When cleared, however, this showed a circle of white quartz boulders about 23 ft. 6 in. diam., the inside area packed with small stones mostly quartz. It had all the appearance of a pagan burial-place, and there was no sign of any building. As it was so close to the last, and on the same Quarterland, it is unlikely that there was a Keeill, and it seems probable that the titles of these two on the O.S. had by accident been transposed.

It sounds like the Sholghaige y Quiggin ‘Keeill’ needs to come off our list altogether!

Still, not altogether a wasted experience, we laughed a lot and there was cake of course.




Keeills and Cake; Renshent Keeill, Malew.

Keeills and Cake; Renshent Keeill, Malew.

Keeill number six.

With kind permission from Mrs A. Cain, Renshent.

This very early keeill has no known dedication although the name Renshent comes from Rheynn sheaynt, the Manx Gaelic for ‘blest division’, and was originally part of the ‘Abbey Lands’.  The Keeill sits in landscaped grounds and looks picturesque with its unusual covering of heather, the standard shape is obvious but we couldn’t see any of the stones as the plant cover was so thick.

I found this newspaper extract from the Manx Sun in 1877 describing a visit to Renshent Keeill by commissioners who had been tasked with reporting to his Excellency the Lieutenant Governor on the ancient monuments of the Island, they were a bit more floral in their descriptive language than we’re used to in 2016!  The setting and keeill are still very attractive so I assumed from this article that perhaps the structure had remained unchanged in the intervening years:

renshent1 (2).jpg

This was until I read the section on Renshent in the Sixth Report of the Manx Archaeological Survey.  The Sixth Report was a much later edition published in 1966 where Mr J.R.Bruce reported on the keeills and burial grounds in the Sheading of Rushen in relation to what P.M.C. Kermode and his team found fifty years earlier.  Many thanks to Sam Hudson for lending me his copy, it makes for fascinating reading.

The survey reported that in 1870 O.S. map, the site is marked as ‘Chapel and Burial Ground (Ruins of)’ and the building is shown along with a surrounding bank, around 50 yards in diameter.  However, in the 1957 edition, the bank is no longer shown and it is simply described as ‘Chapel’.  Bruce laments the damage suffered by the chapel over the years:

For many years no protection seems to have been afforded to this monument, nor any examination undertaken, and at a meeting of N.H.A.S, in December 1916 (Proc. N.H.A.S., II, No.2, p.95) attention was drawn to ‘grievous damage’ suffered by the keeill during the year.  The nature and extent of this damage is recorded by P.M.C. Kermode (in a personal letter to Wm. Cubbon, dated 18th August 1917) – ‘Renshent Keeill has been stripped entirely of its stones.  As often the case, the earth mound does not give the lines of the building.  The west end is entirely gone.’ He was apparently able, however, to make some examination of the mutilated remains, clearing the foundations of the E., N. and S. walls, and noted that some floor pavement and an indication of the altar remained.

In 1935, a further clearance of the site, together with the erection of a post and wire fence around the actual keeill remains, was carried out by the Inspector of Ancient Monuments, Mr. G. J. H. Neely (30th Rept. Manx Museum Trustees, 1935, p.16).  The Inspector also reported at this time (Manx Register of Ancient Monuments) ‘that the interior of the keeill showed signs of former excavation – though no record of such has been traced’. The owner of the site was then stated to be Owen Williams, of Bala, North Wales, and the occupier, J. Shimmin.

J. R. Bruce wrote of his findings when he visited the site himself in the early 1960’s, he described the appearance of the keeill to date from the ‘clearing and partial reconstruction’ in 1935, when stones and floor material were used to rebuild the walls and to replace the stones that had been ‘robbed’.  In 2016 it is hard to see any stonewor whatseoever, but in the 1960’s, between one and three courses were visible, internally faced with rough blocks of granite and quartzite.

Above the layers of stone, earth had been piled which raised the total height of the walls to between 3 and 4.5ft. above the floor level.  No stones were visible in the west end, Bruce thought that an opening to the north of the mid point in the west wall may have been the position of the original doorway but no door jambs remained, he found the building to measure 18 by 9ft. internally.

The altar foundations that had been mentioned by Kermode in 1917 were no longer visible and no trace of the burial ground was visible, the farmer had never ploughed up any graves in the area.

So there you are, fascinating stuff.  If you visited this pretty little keeill today above the river and read the newspaper article from 1877, you would think you were looking at the same scene but actually in the intervening years an awful lot of changes have taken place.

However,  despite these, Renshent still remains ‘exceedingly beautiful and interesting’, just as the committee found it almost 140 years ago.

renshentttIMG-20160407-WA0027 (2)renshennnnt

What are keeills?

Keeills and Cake; Keeill Pharick a Dromma, German.

Keeills and Cake; Keeill Pharick a Dromma, German.

Keeill number five.

Keeill Pharick a Dromma, dedicated to St Patrick, was a pleasantly easy keeill to find.  It sits just off the Stockfield Road with beautiful views down to the sea and across to Cronk y Voddy.

Rather than the more familiar keeill we’re used to seeing made up of visible stone walls, this looks to be a very large grass covered mound with a smaller central mound surrounded by an embankment.  To the untrained eye (us!), there were very few features and we needed to do further research to understand the site.

This is where the Manx Archaeological Survey becomes invaluable.

When the keeill was surveyed around 1910, they found an almost circular mound with a diameter of about 20 yards, rising to a height of between 4ft. 6ins. and 5ft. 6ins.  The foundations of the keeill were under the mound and level with the ground outside, the building measured 18ft. by 9ft. 6ins and was built from undressed and irregularly shaped stones and pieces of quartz with a large stone in the doorway, making a rather high step in to the interior.  There may have been a step down on the inside too, as at Cabbal Druiaght and Keeill Vreeshey but this is now lost.

There was no trace of a window as the wall height was below that level, the doorway was 19 inches wide and sat in the middle of the west wall with a jamb still remaining in position, a couple of larger flag stones extended outside from the doorway.

The west wall was constructed from a facing 12 inches deep which was packed with soil and small stones and stood at a height of between 19 and 30 inches, only the inner face remained of the north wall and was 36 inches at the highest point.  The foundations of the south wall were 30 inches wide and between 18 and 27 inches high with a facing inside and out and packed out with earth.  The lower levels were faced with the usual skirting of stones set on edge and many of these still remained in place on the south and west walls.


The remains of the altar were found against the east wall, it measured 4ft. long and 23 inches wide with a projecting stone at the north end which suggested that there had been a 6 inch high step in front.  The stones still in place can be seen in the plan of the keeill above, taken from the survey.

Three lintel graves were found around 12 inches below the floor of the keeill, the damp soil had preserved a portion of the interned skeleton although nothing was found with the body that placed it from a certain time period and of course, there were none of the modern methods of testing that would have been used in the 21st century.

Interestingly, in the middle of the keeill was found layers of bright red clay and wood ashes about 2 inches thick above the level of the floor, Kermode suggested these may have been caused by the burning of the thatched roof of the building or, in a slightly less interesting scenario, from the burning of gorse and briars inside the keeill when the roadway was altered.  Across the west wall on top of the ruined surface appeared some walling showing the building may have been put to temporary use as a sheepfold over the years.

The enclosure was found to be greatly reduced in size and only extended to about 20 yards outside the foot of the embankment, a number of lintel graves were found, both in the field and under the road, suggest that the original size must have been over 70 yards in diameter.  A number of quartz pebbles were found in the keeill.

Kermode and his team set large white boulders under the sod immediately above each of the hidden corners, so as to mark the position.  And so the keeill was covered back over.

I found this description of the Keeill taken from the Mona’s Herald of 1877 in the Newspapers and Periodicals section of the iMuseum (, if only there was a photo with it!:


Once again, we have to be grateful to Kermode and his team in explaining these mysteries in the landscape.


Find out more about keeills.

Keeills and Cake; Keeill Lingan, Marown.

Keeills and Cake; Keeill Lingan, Marown.

Keeill number four.

With kind permission from the landowners.

Keeill Lingan and the Braaid Circle shown on the 1869 O.S.



The remains of Keeill Lingan sits in a beautiful setting in the grounds of the newly built Ballingan House just before Ballacotch Lane in Marown.  From the name of the farm ‘Ballingan’, it is thought that the keeill may have been dedicated to either St. Fingan, Finnian, Lingan or Ninnian.

This area of the Island has a number of Celtic Christian sites in close proximity to each other; the keeill at Ballaquinnea is just a few fields away down the Glen Darragh Road and the church of St. Runius nearby is also thought to have been built on an ancient chapel site.  There were two further keeills to the west at Ballachrink but sadly these were ploughed in to the ground over one hundred years ago although we did visit their locations out of curiosity.  Of course we don’t know that these chapels were all in use at the same time.

Ancient thorn tree below the second keeill site at Ballachrink.


Near to Keeill Lingan are the remains of a Norse farmstead (visible on the 1869 O.S. above) thought to have been built on a stone circle site and used from the time of the Iron Age or even earlier and is known as the ‘Braaid Circle’, this is a beautiful and interesting site.  The Braaid Circle has public access from a footpath opposite a layby on the road from the Braaid to the Cooill and is well worth a visit.

Braaid Circle.

Also in the locality is ‘St. Patrick’s Chair’, a number of standing stones that show simple Christian crosses carved in to them although the stones themselves are thought to pre-date Christianity from possibly prehistoric times.  It is not known what the stones were used for, whether marking burial sites or a meeting place, there is local legend that Saint Patrick himself sat there but this is thought to be unlikely, in fact it can’t be proven that Patrick himself even visited the Island.  This site has public access from a footpath on the road from The Garth to St. Runius.



keeill ingan 3

There is a lot to be seen in this area not far out from the busy roads of Douglas but for me, the most lovely site is Keeill Lingan itself.

What an absolute pleasure it was to wend our way down the field to this little early medieval chapel on a sunny day in March.  Sitting in a valley with a bank surrounding it, the whole area is fenced off from the rest of the field and is thought to be built on a Bronze Age site.  As we entered the enclosure we could feel the peace of this place, it felt a real privilege to be there.  The keeill is mentioned by J. Oliver in his ‘Antiquitates Manniae’ (1860-62) who called it ‘one of the best specimens existing of our insular keeills’:

‘The annexed view of the ruins of St. Lingan’s Treen Keeill and enclosure, Marown, will give the reader a correct idea of one of these old places of worship. It is situated on the Ballingan estate adjoining Ballaquinney, about a mile and a quarter from the Peel Road, and is one of the best specimens existing of our insular keeills. The enclosure in which stands the keeill is one hundred and eight feet long by sixty-three feet broad, ovicular in form, and in an excellent state of preservation. This is the necropolis of the church. In the south east part lies St. Lingan’s. The portion of the walls remaining measure four feet high by three feet thick, but the masonry is of a much superior description than is usual in keeills of the sod and stone formation. In the west end there has once been a window, but it is now entirely destroyed by visitors using it as a short cut into the church. The doom-way is in the south east angle, and formed by two inclining monolithic jambs supported by rubble stonework, so regular as to have the appearance of ashlar masonry.

In the north-east angle of the church, deeply embedded in the ground, lies the font.  It measures one foot eleven inches long, by ten and a half inches broad. The interior walling of the west end is concave, and gives it the appearance of a couched semi-circular absis. It is, however, nothing more than irregular masonry producing this effect. The gentleman*[J. J. Carran, Esq.] who owns the property, with a laudable motive, has planted the enclosure with trees to protect it from injury. An example we should wish to see more followed.’

Keeil Lingan was also visited by ‘The Archaeological Commission’ in 1877 who called it ‘one of the best specimens’ and found it ‘in an excellent state of preservation’, they also mentioned the font lying inside the keeill.

Seeing just the foundations of these small buildings, it can be difficult to visualise them as once sacred spaces and to imagine the culdees or hermits preaching from them over 1000 years ago, a life that would very likely have been isolated and hard.  Most of the chapels are so old that they predate modern folklore and because of this it can be hard to make a personal connection with them, certainly at the start I found this to be the case.

Keeill Lingan was surveyed for the First Report of the Manx Archaeological Survey around 1908,  they found it sitting in an almost rectangular enclosure with the usual bank outside just about traceable three feet from the walls.  The keeill was measured at 13ft. by 9ft. 6ins with the doorway sitting in an unusual position at the east end of the south wall.  The threshold is crossed by a step that is 9 inches high.  The walls were faced with unhewn stone against a bank of earth and stones and stood around 4ft. high from the floor level, the same height that Oliver had found at the time of his visit.

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There was no trace of an altar or a paved floor by the early twentieth century or at least no paving was visible through the grass.  The enclosure measured 90ft. north and south by 70ft. east and west and was found to be artificially raised to a level, the surrounding embankment was made of earth and stones.  From a drawing made for ‘Archaeologia Cambrensis’ in 1866, we can see how the keeill and enclosure looked 150 years ago:


A hollowed stone called a ‘font’ but thought to be too shallow to have been used as one, was found inside the keeill.

From graves that they found under the keeill and below the foundations and also from the remains of cinerary urns, they were able to ascertain that the site had been a Bronze Age cemetery before it was converted to a Christian use as has been found to be the case at many of the sites.  It seems that the Celtic Christians were reluctant to turn their back on the sacred sites and burial grounds of their ancestors and built their churches on top of these sites, giving a tradition of worship in the same spot for possibly thousands of years.

The keeill and enclosure are in the care of the Manx Museum and National Trust and were fenced in 1939 which has much to do with its excellent condition, they are also doing a great job at cutting the grass down which was good to see.

From reading the survey and looking at the site in 2016, I think it stands in pretty much the same state as it was 100 years ago which is great to find.  The font was still in the keeill in 1953 when it was mentioned in a description of a visit to the keeill by the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society, however, we didn’t see it at the time of our visit, it may well now be in the care of the Manx Museum as many are.


This was a place steeped in history and felt particularly special, it is definitely one of the ‘thin places’.  If I had to pick a personal favourite out of all the keeills we have visited, it would be this one.

Keeill Lingan was a place for reflection. And cake.

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Please be aware that these sites are, unless noted as being otherwise, on private land and can only be accessed with permission from the landowner.

More information on our visits to the Manx keeills in 2016.