hill of the angels

Knochan burial ground (1)It seems appropriate to go upwards, along a narrow winding path, all the way towards the top of the hill that is known as the Hill of the Angels or Cnoc nan Aingeal, Knochan. It is an old burial ground near the beautifully set parish church of Kirkton, overlooking the Sound of Sleat and the blue masses of the Skye mountains in the distance.

Knochan burial ground (10)For a burial ground, it seems a very unlikely place being a small and rocky hilltop. But  settlement was scarce in those days and the location had a certain charm to it. There had been a prehistoric kind of fortification on this knoll.

Cnoc nan Aingeal, the Hill of the Angels – the name sugests two things: A resting place for the remains of angelic humans or a grave close to heaven and therefore close to the angels. The latter is more likely of course.

But it could also be a simple quote. St Columba had prayed with the Angels on Iona, the little knoll where he had done so was then named Cnoc nan Aingel. Maybe the people of Lochalsh just wanted a place equally holy and communicative when they named the knoll, maybe it was a tribute to St Columba’s experience with angels. But maybe not and there had been angels here as well. Who can claim to know?

Knochan burial ground (2)

Hillgraves are not the most common form of graveyards in Scotland. As much as it makes sense, to bury the beloved close to the bereaved and close to heaven at the same time, it must have been hard work to carry the coffins up there and to dig into the hard, stony ground. For the elderly or the infirm it must have been virtually impossible to visit, access being as strenuous as it is.

And a hillgrave can be much worse than just uncomfortable.

It can cause health problems as water runs downhill and therefore a hillgrave might pollute the drinking water. A well known fact among lovers of the Victorian novel: Haworth, where the family Brontë dwelled and died, also had a burial ground up the hill, right within sight of the Brontës and the drinking water of the village had indeed caused concern.

Knochan has no literary stories to tell. It is very much a small, local and shallow burial ground that is not used any longer.  Though certainly a special one, since the big graveyard of Kirkton is not even a mile down the hill of the angels. Makes you wonder who those people were, that were buried up here. They must have been special.

12 thoughts on “hill of the angels

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    1. Hi Derek, there is no chapel on the hill but at the bottom (about five minutes walk) is the church of Kirkton, I will try and find some pictures for you .

    2. I went through all my photos but could not find any of Kirkton. I was sure I had some. Will go there again in the near future and post them on my blog afterwards.

  1. Was there last summer (2018) and told by 2nd cousin, that 5 generations of “Murchisons” are buried up on the hill. It is indeed a hike, but once on top, the most beautiful view, you will never forget! They were from Ross-Shire, that must of been some hike from where they lived to this cemetery (Hill of Angels) The family plot is the one with a raised bar around it and a brown cross head stone.Yes I got down and laid in there for a pic, no disrespect intended, but I came a long way! Was told, this area was chosen to protect from “grave robbers”and that after burial, a guard was posted for 3 days or until the body was no longer worth taking! One of the best trips I ever had, thanks to my cousins; McCabe and Finlynson’s

    1. Is there a record of who is buried in that cemetery? I do have family from that area and was wondering if any might be buried there. It is a beautiful spot!

      1. I am sure there is. Try the local council, they might be able to help or the parish I think in that case it would be Kirkton. I have never tried to access burial records myself, so I’m not the best person to give advice unfortunately. You could also try the website Find a grave.
        Good luck!

    2. I’m looking for information on Murchison’s from Auchintyre, because my g.g.grandfather married Margaret in 1800. Do you have any information that you’d be willing to share? micmacdc@aol.com

      1. Thank you for getting tin touch, Ian. I am sorry I do not research registers and only occasionally look into a specific gravestone or person, therefore I am afraid I can be of no help. Good luck for your research and kind regards, Nellie

  2. I really enjoyed this post. I wonder if you can help. I have helped create a database of saints in place-names in Scotland (www.saintsplaces.gla.ac.uk) and would love to add Cnoc nan Aingeal as one of the entries. But I’d need some evidence (and old map, old book, document or whatever) to refer to the general use of the name. Can you point me towards one.

    Have a look at the database. You might find it interesting.

    And if you can give me a grid reference, or an accurate location for the site, that would be very much appreciated too.

    1. Hi Gilbert,

      I am glad you enjoyed the post. I have checked your database a few times in the past and it has been very helpful. Great work!

      The grid reference of Cnoc nan Aingeal is 57.286147, -5.599865.

      For almost all other graveyards I have written sources I could point out to you, in this case unfortunately I don’t. I relied on local sources.

      Kind regards,


  3. I was there about one year prior to my brother with my wife and cousin. The location is breathtaking over looking the loch below. The graveyard was guarded by sheep at the top and 4-5 big orange longhorned cattle we saw walking up the hill. This hill would be tough for Pallbearers to climb in wetter weather like when we went. But, what a beautiful place to rest.

    There is a much larger graveyeard next to the church by the loch below.

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