Donald Bell of the Finlaggan Trust Committee describes how people come to this part of Islay as it was the administrative centre for the once powerful Clan Donald, the Lords of the Isles. Bell believes that for centuries the centre here was as important as the royal court of the Stewart monarchs in Edinburgh.
The story is told in a cottage interpretation centre overlooking Loch Finlaggan. There is no castle on the site because the first Lord of the Isles ‘Good John of Islay’ was married to Margaret Stewart, King Robert II’s daughter – so there was no feuding at that time with Lowland authority. Instead there was banqueting and celebration on this site, with copious local produce and wines brought from France.
Bell shows a replica of the Footprint Stone used in the inauguration ceremony of these Lords of the Isles. He also points to a stone carved cross found during an archaeological dig on the site. The ‘crosslets’ at its head are particularly indicative of the Lords of the Isles.
There were several other on-site excavations with some of the artefacts now on display in the interpretation centre. Some local grave slabs of women and children are also on display. The Lords themselves were buried on Iona.
He indicates an ‘aketon’ or ‘gambeson’ on display – a replica made to represent the garment usually worn under chain mail and padded with sheep’s wool to resist sword blows. This garment, with its distinctive grooved appearance, is often represented on grave slab carvings of warriors.
Finally, he relates how the chapel building has been stabilised and several grave slabs are on display, protected by glass from further weathering.