A few miles up the single track road that leads away from the three southernmost distilleries on Islay (Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg), stands an old derelict church and to its side, the best-preserved Celtic Cross of Britain. We are in the parish of Kildalton (from Gaelic Cill Daltain, “Church of the Foster Son”) and on the maps and signs, this place is referred to as the “Kildalton Cross”. It is a lonely place, and even though there are still scattered people living in this area, it is quiet and peaceful when we are here.
Before I investigate the church and the cross, I take a little walk away from the monuments, and soon I find myself in the midst of the countryside with no one visible around. And then it hits me, a sense of such complete belonging here and now at this place that tears fill my eyes and the only thought in my mind is one of extreme and utter happiness. A “peak moment”, if there ever was one. This is something that happens to me frequently, but only at certain places. Very often it happens at ‘places of significance” like the Egyptian Pyramids, the Borobudur in Indonesia or the Grand Canyon in the USA. But in Scotland, it can strike anywhere, as I have noticed this phenomenon many many times. It feels at that moment as if the land itself is talking to me, directly into my soul. Have I been here in a previous life, perhaps? Who knows?
When this “special communion with the land” has subsided, I walk back and start exploring the roofless church and the cross itself. A plaque tells me it is from the 9th Century C.E., so with that in the back of my mind, I am completely astonished how beautifully well preserved it is. And then I notice the similarity of this cross with the symbol that I am wearing today: what I call an “elemental” cross as it depicts a magical circle with the four elements in it. It is almost an exact copy of the upper half of the Kildalton Cross.
And I notice something else: in the centre of the cross is a tiny flower chiseled out, and it looks suspiciously like a rose. The Rosy Cross is a very important and potent spiritual symbol, connected to things like Balance, Divine Love, Grace and Mercy. I am quite excited to find this symbol of Divine Grace here in the countryside as it gives me a key to what the land might have been “telling” me before. And if that weren’t enough, some good soul has put some boxes with cakes and implements for coffee or tea on a picnic table, with an honesty box underneath and with a sign to help ourselves to a “Coffee at the Cross”. This is still a blessed spot and it is great to see people continue this blessing. After a coffee and some reminiscing, we return to Ardbeg for our tour there, but all the time I feel touched by a higher being…until the complimentary dram, that is!