To make it easier for contributors to add new sites, the pages for Scotland are currently being reorganised according to the present Scottish Council areas.
A map of these can be seen on the Gazetteer for Scotland website.
Hunter-gatherers roamed Cairngorms 10,000 years ago
Excavations at sites deep in the glens, on the National Trust for Scotland’s (NTS) Mar Lodge Estate in Aberdeenshire, have produced radiocarbon dates which demonstrate a human presence as far back as 8,100 BCE.
TWO of Scotland's main heritage bodies are to merge, it has been confirmed.
The Scottish Government published a strategy document for the "historic environment" yesterday as Fiona Hyslop, the culture secretary, launched a Bill to address the management of the nation's built heritage... continues...
Reclusive American leaves Scotland his £2.5m fortune
A 79 year old recluse has left his fortune to the National Trust of Scotland. He had never visited apparently and his conception of Scotland was based on the film Brigadoon. His only friend, the barber, got the pug and a vet's bill.
Ramblers Scotland is backing a petition to force a Scottish Government review on unsightly vehicular hill tracks and electrified deer fencing in the Scottish countryside. "Neither requires planning permission and both cause scars on our wild landscapes" says Helen todd, Ramblers Scotland's development officer... continues...
Mathematical analysis of Scottish Stone Art points to lost language?
At New Scientist web site:
"Elaborate symbols and ornate depictions of animals carved in stone by an ancient Scottish people have given up their secret – to mathematics. Statistical analysis reveals that the shapes are a forgotten written language... continues...
In a silent move, the RCAHMS switched to a state-of-the-art update of the good old Canmore database on 11th March 2009.
It really looks much better and there are obvious advantages over the old format like direct access instead of a log-in procedure and, when available, a 10-digit gridref... continues...
The Hunterian museum is re-assembling his(mostly Northern Isles) donation and adding this to their catalogue as they go http://www.huntsearch.gla.ac.uk
At present this is text-only but images will be added over the coming months
The name "Thunderbolt" was also given in Scotland to stone axes until within recent years. A finely formed axe of aphanite found in Berwickshire, and presented to the Museum in 1876, was obtained about twenty years before from a blacksmith in whose smithy it had long lain. It was known in the district as "the thunderbolt," and had probably been preserved in the belief that it had fallen from the sky.
In Shetland stone axes were said to protect from thunder the houses inwhich they were preserved. One found at Tingwall was acquired from an old woman in Scalloway, who believed it to be a "thunderbolt," and "of efficacy in averting evil from the dwelling in which it was kept;" while another, believed to have "fallen from the skies during a thunderstorm," was preserved in the belief that "it brought good luck to the house."
In the North-East of Scotland they "were coveted as the sure bringers of success, provided they were not allowed to fall to the ground."
In the British Museum there is a very fine axe of polished green quartz, mounted in silver, which is stated to have been sewed to a belt which was worn round the waist by a Scottish officer as a cure for kidney disease.
The late Sir Daniel Wilson mentions an interesting tradition regarding the large perforated stone hammers, which he says were popularly known in Scotland almost till the close of last century as "Purgatory Hammers," for the dead to knock with at the gates of Purgatory.
Mr. Stuart adverted to the varying circumstances under which flint arrowheads were found. The popular belief which long regarded them as "elf-darts," and which was not confined to Scotland, had been expressed by the well-known Scottish geographer, Robert Gordon of Straloch, about two centuries ago. After giving some details about them, he adds that these wonderful stones are sometimes found in the fields, and in public and beaten roads, but never by searching for them; to-day perhaps one will be found where yesterday nothing could be seen, and in the afternoon in places where before noon there was none, and this most freqently under clear skies and in summer days. He then gives instances related to him by a man and woman of credit, each of whom while riding found an arrowhead in their clothes in this unexpected way.
Described on p174 of 'The Gentleman's Magazine' Jan-June 1861.
Insular stone Circles :-
In a talk on Wednesday by Colin Richards his subject was the Stone Circles in Orkney and Lewis, which contrary to expectation turned out to be of different natures and for different purposes. Those in Orkney are constructed of material from seperate areas (Stones of Stenness five different sandstones, Ring of Brodgar twelve different geologies in distinct segments of the circle that significantly aren't always curved arcs) whilst those on Lewis are built of rock from their immediate vicinity (also the evidence is that both Orcadian circles were intentionally incomplete, from which he infers the rituals of the construction were an end in themselves). His ?new idea is that those on Orkney had place as the key factor (place of origin, spatial community) whilst those on Lewis had folk as the key factor (family, dispersed community [moiety ?] }.
From which is extrapolated that our obsession with geometry and algnments isn't theirs, that what looks incomplete to us is meant as is, and that whatever comes after is most likely not the original intent, that being the construction process itself.
"I left Banks very happy and made my way to the Tomb of the Eagles. In comparison to Banks this place seems better organised in terms of signage and parking. I paid my entry fee (£6.80 I think it was) and was led into an adjoining room where a member of the staff was talking to a small group of visitors about the tomb."
"I was awoken at 5am by some other person arriving and parking right next to me with their radio blasting out… what is it with people and their need to make as much noise as possible regardless of what other people might think… I was very glad when the ferry arrived and I booked in, boarded and sat down somewhere quiet."
"After successfully transferring from train to bus and finally plane, I arrived in a reasonably sunny Inverness. It was about 4pm and after picking up the hire car I made my way towards the Bronze Age Clava Cairns, a short distance east from the city. On the way I noticed a sign for the Culloden battle field and decided to take a quick look (well, I was already going past it after all)..."
Since this chambered cairn stands within private property prospective visitors might wish to plan ahead to avoid potential disappointment. Yeah, do it properly rather than replicate my farcical attempt.
If so contact e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Funnily enough it's more-or-less 200 years since that little preening Corsican, Napoleon Bonaparte, came to a field near another Waterloo and saw his imperial power base sink forever in Belgian mud stained red with blood. Not surprisingly I've no plans to build an empire of my own; instead finding myself rather more interested in furthering my ongoing stony destiny at this Inner Hebridean Waterloo - or Achadh a'Chuirn, should you prefer the vernacular... which I do.
The linear hamlet occupies the western base of the Ardnish peninsular forming the eastern flank of Broadford Bay... albeit a bit of a gloriously wonky one. The dwellings of its inhabitants stand to the landward of a single road skirting water's edge, this terminating at Rubh' Achadh a'Chuirn and proferring a magnificently iconic view of Beinn na Caillich rising above Broadford.. as well as the site of another, massive chambered cairn immediately across the water at Liveras. It is possible to leave a car or two in strategically placed laybys here without inconveniencing the locals. I leave my vehicle in one such before heading approx north to, quite literally, the end of the road. My plan is to head to the right and subsequently double back southwards behind the settlement to (hopefully) locate the chambered cairn in its own, enclosed crofter's strip field.
Needless to say the execution of said plan was not supposed to feature stepping knee deep into bog on two separate occasions, my reward for such privations to eventually locate the monument behind serious barbed wire... not to mention in full view of the gauntly staring windows of the adjacent house. Now I've never actually been diagnosed with Scopophobia - assuming that is a possibility? - but nevertheless decide to retrace my steps (further encouraged to do so by the cacophony made by nearby horrible hounds) and - unlike the emperor with the dodgy hat - retreat to fight another day. In a manner of speaking.
Anyway, in one of those bizarre coincidences that occasionally manifest themselves I discover that I have actually parked immediately in front of the required house, identified by a name plate as 'Geol na Maira'. I duly knock... only to find classical music emanating from an upstairs room repeatedly masking my exertions. That would be Brahms Third Racket, I believe? Boiling over with frustration, the proverbial 'one last try' thankfully alerts Fiona, the occupant, to my skulking presence. She's only too happy to grant me access to her 'back garden'.
The ground is churned to mud by livestock, which would be a problem if the monument was of earthen construction. However since it's a stone pile - and a bloody big one at that - I guess this is not an issue. Yeah, it has to be said that rather a lot of cairn still remains in situ, albeit somewhat imperfectly camouflaged with turf (see Carl's Misc entry for details). Furthermore, as surmised by the pros back in 1972, I can confirm that the monument most certainly possesses a chamber, as evidenced by a couple of small orthostats still in position. There are hints of more detail lying beneath the surface....
I sit and munch - a very belated - lunch as the watery sun plays hide 'n' seek with the fast moving cloudbase, so allowing washes of light to flood the monument and its immediate landscape whilst rain falls from darker skies above the bay. That'll be 'changeable' weather, then? Once again the curvaceous - or as Aldous Huxley would have perhaps said, 'pneumatic' - profile of Beinn na Caillich dominates the western skyline. I guess I'm probably biased since the peak is blessed by the apparent tomb of "Saucy Sue"... to use the local moniker, according to Fiona. However I really think it is something special.
So, in the end I have my audience with Achadh a'Chuirn's great cairn. There is no Lion's Mound here as at that Waterloo burned indelibly into European consciousness. But then, considering what I've found tucked away in this obscure croft strip of this small hamlet... I reckon Skye has got the better deal.
Emerging from a rain-lashed overnight stop upon Mam Ratagan.... I decide to rectify an omisson dating from my previous visit to the environs of Loch Duich before finally - and not before time - crossing once again to the wondrously misty Isle of Skye. Yeah, reckon the time is nigh to determine what - if anything - remains of the henge said to stand near Shiel Bridge. Well, as it happens there is quite a lot....
Now to say, with any conviction, that the prevailing weather conditions have improved depends, I suppose, upon your definition of 'improved'. Suffice to say that the introduction of periodic intervals between hitherto incessant downpours, such respites enlivened by bursts of golden light slanting through cracks in the clouds, constitutes a welcome progression to this traveller. Nevertheless conditions are still pretty shite, it has to be said.
The 'hengiform enclosure' stands within very soggy pasture due west of Glenshiel Lodge. In fact the enclosed field is so wet as to almost require a sub-aqua visit... so what the local herbivores make of it is anybody's guess. Anyway, I park up by the cattle grid sunk within the minor Ratagan road and kit myself out in waterproofs, having neglected to pack any diving stuff. Gingerly entering the pasture it soon becomes apparent that here, standing in almost complete obscurity at the south-eastern end of a glowering Loch Duich, we do indeed have a pretty well defined, albeit diminutive henge. Marvellous. And what a location, too!
According to the Ordnance Survey [JM 1974] - who, rather paradoxically, do not feature the monument upon either the current 1:50 or 1:25k maps - the monument consists of a "level central area, 7.8m in diameter" with a "surrounding bank, c. 3.4m wide x 0.2m high", this best preserved upon the eastern arc. There would appear some doubt as to whether the henge possesses two causeways, one to east and west; in the OS report it is alleged that only the western is original, the eastern merely a "mutilation". I couldn't form a clear opinion owing to ongoing erosion being caused, judging by the footprints, by grazing livestock. This really is not on. I understand - from a passer by - that the landowner is a Scottish patriot? If so I would suggest an active appreciation of the cultures of the peoples that lived here before the Scots arrived would be a good base line?
The weather fronts arrive, unleash their contents and subsequently move away in timely procession. I receive a bit of a pasting.... but it is worth the effort before the pull of Skye becomes too much.
Well, this is a challenge. How to describe the small, round cairn which stands here in more-or-less total obscurity - in sublime isolation - beside the fast flowing River Etive as it prepares to enter its loch and, henceforth, the sea? How to adequately convey why I reckon the intense vibe, allied to preservation, makes this is one of the finest sites of its genre in all Alba? Hmm. How indeed... since, as Thom Yorke said, "Just 'cos you feel it, doesn't mean it's there". All I have is personal opinion.
Having said that - and running with the assumption that these monuments' raison d'etre was to manipulate human behaviour through the generation of emotions above and beyond what we homo sapiens have the cerebral capacity to process in a rational manner - this modest example furnishes everything I look for when out and about in the field. Whether that 'everything' can actually be defined in a rational manner or not. In short, I reckon this monument absolutely nails it.
I approach in somewhat low spirits following a necessarily truncated visit to the indefensibly maltreated cairn at Gualachulain, located a little further south-west at the head of Loch Etive. Unfortunately that's one of the penalties of actually giving a damn, but there you are. Passing Loch Druimachoish (on my left) and subsequently crossing the Allt nan Gaoirean, two dirt tracks are soon encountered in quick succession. The right hand of the pair leads to the 'Forester's House', the cairn standing in pasture bordering the river beyond. The fenced field is accessed by an unlocked gate, my low expectations immediately blown asunder by both the sheer serenity of the spot and the apparently intact condition of the monument slumbering beneath a mossy carapace. Truly, the rotting, apparently unsafe remains of a walkers' bridge crossing the river notwithstanding, time appears to have been upon an extended hiatus here.
The cairn is small, yet perfectly formed... "Bowl shaped in profile it measures 8.25 metres in diameter by 1.6 metres in height.. constructed with a kerb of boulders on which a second retaining course of stones has been carefully set." RCAHMS . The archaeology is more than matched by the quality of the surrounding landscape, most notably the dramatic profile of Beinn Ceitlein soaring above the far bank of the River Etive to the north-east. Then again the snow-streaked, mountainous skyline to the approx south-west is pretty dramatic, too, it has to be said. However the former is particularly arresting owing to the deep 'V'-shaped chasm carved by the Garbh Allt to the right of Stob Dubh. Now clearly the question as to whether this scenic idiosyncrasy influenced the placement of the cairn or not is rhetorical... and, in any event, likely to raise the ire of tiresome pseudo-feminists should I comment further (don't you so prefer the real thing?) Whatever, shielded from the road by a blanket of forestry and but a short distance from the wondrous, fast flowing river, I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that the person compiling the Oxford English Dictionary had this location in his/her mind's eye when finalising the entry for 'idyllic'. Really, I wouldn't.
So, the anticipated 'quick visit' instead morphs into a protracted chill out, any notion of getting to Skye today (once again) shelved until tomorrow. Yeah, it appears Glen Etive is actually a pretty good place for a Citizen Cairn'd to spend a few hours or so after all?
As it transpires I actually make Loch Duich before nightfall, the pristine blue sky of the morning comprehensively swept into oblivion by an overwhelming front of driving rain. Nevertheless a short visit to the enigmatic Dunan Diarmid rounds off the day before retiring to Mam Ratagan.
This should be a beauty. Standing at the head of Loch Etive, almost at the terminus of the sinuous road traversing the length of Glen Etive, surely one of Scotland's premier glens? Sadly, it's not... the anticipation that had been steadily building during the long drive from the A82 to the north-east dissipating in something not unlike a damp squib upon arrival. A fanfare with brass instruments dunked, bell first, into the cold waters of the loch.
OK, in my opinion the natural scenery can not be faulted. At least not the towering, mountainous skyline of Ben Starav and Glas Bheinn Mhor rearing up beyond the loch's northern extremity... however the cairn - or more accurately, perhaps, what remains of the monument - suffers greatly from lying within devastated terrain that is so characteristic, archetypal even, of harvested forestry. Even worse is the sundry refuse and jagged detritus scattered around the site, this presumably originating from the occupants of nearby Gualachulain, assuming the blackened footprint of a fire scorched into the tortured soil immediately adjacent to the cairn is indicative? If so, the sheer lack of awareness of heritage - the sheer lack of any class - is contemptible.
Furthermore loch side is a busy place to be this morning, what with numerous, almost comically stereotypical motorbikers - German, I think - noisily breaking camp... not to mention many other visitors crowding the car park. Clearly the vibe is keeping well away and consequently this is not a place to linger today. Nevertheless the ancient cairn can still - thankfully and not a little surprisingly - be discerned, albeit with the dimensions of "7.7 metres in diameter and...1.6 metres high" cited by the RCAHMS (following a 1971 visit) appearing to bear no relation to the current position. Well, certainly not in respect of height. The horizontal plane is perhaps open to debate owing to the disturbed nature of the environs.
So... is it worth the effort of the long diversion away from the tourist route... only to find a myriad tourists where you expected none? Thankfully the answer is actually a resounding 'Yes!' Yeah, I know. I was surprised, too. To clarify the apparent contradiction, not only is Glen Etive's rugged scenery superlative... so is the superb, apparently intact round cairn a little north at Invercharnan. Chalk to the Gualachulain monument's cheese.
Or to put it another way... what most certainly is the real deal can be found there. As opposed to what might have been, here at Gualachulain. What might have been, eh? Better than nothing at all.
Together with its larger neighbour Creag a' Chapuill - also well worth a visit... but better appreciated from the B840 at Loch Ederline - the copiously craggy Dun Chonallaich comprehensively controls the northern approach to Kilmartin Glen. Indeed, standing dramatic sentinel above the A816, the sheer perpendicularity of the site is a little off-putting to the prospective visitor. Well, at least this one, fresh from a contemplative - OK, lazy - morning at the Baroile chambered cairn. However with said morning's very low cloud base having dissipated, albeit reluctantly, I decide that today might as well be the day to finally determine what actually resides upon that fearsome rocky little height. Curiosity, eh? To be honest I can't imagine any characteristically lethargic member of the family Felidae venturing up Dun Chonallaich, so cat lovers needn't concern themselves.
Dun Chonallaich overlooks the Abhainn Airidhcheoduin (sort of) shadowing the A816, the water course suddenly thrown into spasm, executing an abrupt series of looping convulsions immediately to the south-east of the fort... as if reluctant to flow onward through Kilmartin Glen to the sea. Whatever the geological reason for this apparent disinclination to yield to the force of gravity the outcome was no doubt handy for the former occupiers, the linear water obstacle and associated marshland further enhancing the apparent impregnability of the site to an assault back in the day. This idiosyncrasy also ensures a modern day visit is no easy skate either, albeit thankfully without rocks, arrows and - no doubt - insults aimed at one's person.
No off-road parking is available beneath the site... so I elect to stop in the entrance to a forestry track a little to the south and walk back to the bridge across the river. Incidentally this is as good a spot as any from which to approach Creag a' Chapuill along the northern edge of the forestry. But I digress... once across the bridge a very rough scramble steeply upwards to the east through scrubby woodland brings me to an area of significant scree which, due to its apparent regularity, I take to be the collapsed remains of defensive outworks? From here trending to the left (north) appears the path of least resistance to the summit, although Christison (1889) cites an entrance to the south-east. Unfortunately I neglect to check this out upon my descent getting carried away in the moment.
Whatever the original approach... mine, to the approx north, is certainly covered by the remnants of dry stone walling, my not inconsiderable exertions encouraged by glimpses of more of the same perched above my head. Anyway... and not before time... I finally clamber up to emerge upon the summit into a fierce wind, finding most of the top occupied by a rocky ridge, this in turn encircled by a pretty substantial wall enclosing an area "about 37m by 16m" [RCAHMS 1988]. A couple of dry stone structures are notable, the most obvious of which is a modern looking circular enclosure which was apparently erected to serve as a film set a little before the RCAHMS's visit. Such a 'who gives a damn?' mentality might well have encouraged significant vandalism of the summit wall soon afterward. I would say 'you couldn't make it up', but there you are. Clearly - very sadly - there is no need to make this kind of disgraceful act up. Nevertheless, to focus upon positivity as one must try to do in such circumstances, far more ancient walling remains in situ than I ever imagined, with further stretches covering the eastern approach to the summit area. Yeah, this is a pretty damn fine Iron Age fort regardless of the actions of morons/film directors.
And then there are the sublime views to be enjoyed from this isolated little peak. Southward the course of the aforementioned Abhainn Airidhcheoduin leads the gaze between (and beyond) Creag a' Chapuill and the great cairn of Carn Ban to Kilmartin itself and the distant coast; the northern arc (apparently) features another dun crowning the similarly rocky height of Dun Dubh to the right. However it is that to the east which, for me, takes the plaudits with ease... a fantastic vista looking along Loch Awe to distant Ben Cruachan, with Loch Ederline winning 'best supporting water feature' to the right, incidentally complete with crannog and nearby standing stones. Yeah, it really is something. In fact such is the vibe up here upon this miniature mountain that I decide to linger and forgo plans to venture to Skye today... and subsequently even Glen Etive... to settle for a camp within Glen Orchy. Not a hardship, to be fair.
Particularly with a short visit to the chambered cairn at Cladich (at the north-eastern end of Loch Awe) to be enjoyed en route. A fine way to round off the day.