The building of the Cathedral of the Isles and the College of the Holy Spirit, which is attached to the Cathedral, began in 1849 and was completed in 1851 when the Church opened for worship. Both were designed by William Butterfield, the famous London ecclesiastical architect, and commissioned by the Hon. G.F. Boyle, later 6th Earl of Glasgow, at a cost of approximately £30,000.
Set in 8 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds, the site was chosen because of its monastic isolation. The buildings stand on grass terracing at the top of a hill so that their picturesque qualities are at once obvious.
The plan is roughly cruciform with the chapel projecting, facing the panoramic view of the hills and the Firth of Clyde.
Local stone was used in the construction, all quarried within the grounds. Over the entrance porch is a steeple, 123 feet high. The great Western window, which was blown in the night of the Tay Bridge Disaster, was given by the builders of the cathedral as a thanksgiving for there having been no accidents during the construction process.
The Cathedral is said to be Britain’s smallest cathedral accommodating up to 70 worshippers. Despite its size, it is an architectural gem, with its interior containing beautiful examples of brightly coloured tiles and stained glass windows. The chancel ceiling depicts the variety of wild flowers that can be found on the island.
In the entrance porch there can be found an interesting collection of Celtic crosses, all of which were excavated on the island during Victorian times.
The College was opened primarily as accommodation for 5 Canons and 7 choristers. The teaching function has now ceased and the building is now used as the island centre for the worship of Episcopalians. It is now a combination of a guest house and a Christian retreat.
The Cathedral and College offer a wonderful resource for worship, music, retreats and events. The Cathedral is open every day to visitors for services or simply quiet times and reflection. It also hosts regular concerts, particularly throughout the summer. The grounds are open 24 hours.