CC BY, Nigel Brown


tales of the morar highlands, alasdair roberts, 2011

Location: Road to the Isles and Knoydart
gaelic culture

Our Lady of the Braes

The half-way point in the Road to the Isles is the lovely white-washed Polnish church spectacularly sited on a hilltop with striking views down Loch Ailort and across to Arisaig. Famously used in the film Local Hero, Our Lady of the Braes was built in 1872 in simple Gothic style for the now deserted communities of Polnish and Ardnish at a time when the largely Catholic population of the Rough Bounds was finally getting over the Potato Famine of 1846.

Before that, they had to worship in the open at a Mass stone or in a small thatched building, not dissimilar to their own black houses. Served by the Arisaig priest who rode the nine miles to Polnish every three weeks, the church was also attended by the Catholic gentry nearby: Christian Cameron and her husband David Head from Inverailort House which they had transformed into a monumental castle enjoyed by their many deer-stalking guests. Their daughter-in-law Pauline Cameron-Head OBE, locally known as Mrs CH, installed a stained glass memorial window in honour of those buried in older times at Innes na Cuilce, the island of Reeds, in the Ailort river. Other members of the Cameron-Head family are similarly commemorated alongside the MacLeods from Ardnish and the men and women of the Parish of Arisaig who gave their lives in the two world wars. The last mass celebrated in the church was in 1980, and it is now in private hands.

More information on visiting the area can be found here.