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Islay – a round church, a square lighthouse and other architectural highlights

Portnhaven Church, Isle of Islay

Portnahaven Church was designed by Thomas Telford and built in 1828. The two doors are reputed to allow the populations of Portnahaven and the neighbouring village of Port Wemyss to enter separately and remain segregated when inside. Very Christian!

It is one of the best remaining examples of a ‘parliamentary church’, part of a wave of church-building (funded by Parliament) designed to better serve churchgoers in remote areas. Thanks Maraid for the tip-off.

The Round Church in Bowmore, Isle of Islay

Kilarrow Parish Church, more commonly known as The Round Church sits at the top of Bowmore’s main street. It was built in 1767 and is one of few round churches in the UK. The story goes that it was designed to be round so the devil couldn’t hide in any corners, but this seems to be more fiction than fact.

The church is not usually open apart from Sunday mornings, but you can arrange a visit by contacting the parish clerk on the number at the entrance.

Carraig Fhada Lighthouse, Port Ellen, Isle of Islay

Carraig Fhada Lighthouse on the Mull of Oa is a beautiful thing from any angle. We visited at 7.30am on the hottest day of the year.

It is Scotland’s only square lighthouse, and was commissioned by Walter Frederick Campbell, the Laird of Islay, in memory of his wife Lady Ellinor Campbell who died young in 1832. There is a beautiful dedication to her on one side of the lighthouse.

You can walk across the little path to get right up close (except at high tide). The lighthouse itself is not usually open to the public.

Further reading: a great tour of the lights of Islay and Jura by a very dedicated lighthouse-bagger.

The Royal Arch Masonic Hall, Bowmore, now the Bowmore Lodge

And finally… a pleasing doorway. Bowmore’s Royal Arch Masonic Hall has been beautifully restored and is now Bowmore Lodge holiday accommodation.

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St Patrick’s, Kilsyth

St Patrick's Church, Kilsyth - altar

This is St Patrick’s church in Kilsyth.

St Patrick's Church, Kilsyth - Stations of the Cross

Designed by renowned architecture practice Gillespie, Kidd and Coia, it opened in 1965 and is Grade ‘A’ listed.

St Patrick's Church, Kilsyth

It was built around the same time as St Bride’s in East Kilbride, another huge brick box designed by GKC. St Patrick’s is not quite as ornate as St Bride’s (although it’s strange to describe either building as ornate) but it is still striking.

St Patrick's Church, Kilsyth - view to back of church

The use of windows and roof lights to let in the light in interesting ways is one of its best features.

St Patrick's Church, Kilsyth - front door

There is a very good paper on the history of St Patrick’s and development of other Gillespie, Kidd and Coia buildings on the St Patrick’s website (PDF).

St Patrick's, Kilsyth - balcony

The church and GKC buildings are feted in the architectural world. The paper (PDF) balances this with tales of leaky roofs and drafts that would knock old ladies off their feet.

St Patrick's, Kilsyth - Mortuary Chapel

Thankfully St Patrick’s has been carefully looked after and is a remarkable church to visit.

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Clifton Cathedral

I recently visited Clifton Cathedral in Bristol, or the Cathedral Church of SS Peter and Paul, to give it its Sunday name. [Wikipedia]

Clifton Cathedral interior
The Nave with original Robin Day chairs

The Roman Catholic cathedral was designed by Ronald Weeks and a team from the Percy Thomas Partnership, and was completed in 1973. It is now Grade II Listed.

Clifton Cathedral altar and organ

Hexagons and equilateral triangles are key to the design of the whole building.

Clifton Cathedral, Bristol

It had just reopened for services again as restrictions were lifted.

Clifton Cathedral - William Mitchell Stations of the Cross
Stations of the Cross by William Mitchell

“Originally intended to be executed in stone (it was thought that these would be damaged by later building work), the Stations were made by William Mitchell using Faircrete (a mixture of concrete, resin & nylon fibres). The artist was asked about what reaction people had to his work: ‘Well the work is a bit hairy I suppose, but then so was the experience of crucifixion.’” – from Wikipedia.

Clifton Cathedral - concrete bin

Even the bins are carefully designed. The walls show the shape of the timber used to cast the concrete.

Clifton Cathedral, Bristol

Enjoy a virtual tour in David Essex’s video for Oh What a Circus.