At the heart of Lancashire’s Ribble Valley, standing close to the banks of the River Ribble and overlooking Pendle Hill, is the church of All Hallows, Great Mitton. Within its walls is a remarkable collection of effigy graves, dating from the 16th to early 18th Centuries, all commemorating members of a local family whose fates were intertwined with some of the major political and religious upheavals of those centuries. Their elaborate graves also reflect the changing fashions both in clothing and in funerary architecture from the Tudor period through to the Stuart and early Georgian periods.
I first came across the ruined chapel whilst on a wildlife trek – we had stopped near the little town of Salen to watch harbour porpoises in the Sound of Mull. Intrigued as I was by the ruined chapel and its surrounding burial ground, there wasn’t time to stop and explore and I had to return a few days later to get a good look around the site. My stay on the beautiful Scottish island of Mull had been blessed with warm sunshine, but on the final day of my trip – when I finally had time to visit the chapel and the burial ground surrounding it – the clouds had arrived.
This is Pennygown burial ground, and it is still used by the people of the Mull today.
Today, the tiny Scottish island of Iona is not the easiest of places to get to. It’s a long drive across the Isle of Mull to Fionnphort from the main ferry link with the Scottish mainland at Craignure. However, in the past Iona was the centre of Christianity in the region, as well as being a site of political significance. Travelling by boat, it was easier to reach than its geographical isolation suggests.
I visited the island on a mild September day, after a long drive from the eastern coast of Mull. The sea was clear and calm and made for a smooth passage on the short ferry trip from Fionnphort; later on a pod of dolphins could be seen in the Sound of Iona. It is a peaceful place, with beaches of white sand and outcrops of pink granite. Since the 7th Century it has been a place of pilgrimage, and it continues to welcome thousands of visitors every year.