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Carn Liath, Kensaleyre

Chambered Cairn


This is something else. Really, it is. Since I don't know where to begin I'll simply quote a part of the retrospectively sourced Canmore record: 'Carn Liath, a chambered cairn of uncertain type, about 80' in diameter with sides rising steeply to a height of about 18'.' Yeah, that's not a typo. 18 feet. Outside of Ireland - which, let's face it, is a law unto itself.... truly away with the fairies, in the best possible way - the thought of stumbling upon such a virgin TMA site was unthinkable in the extreme. Never considered the possibility. However this is Skye. Clearly we need to do a lot more 'work' here, people!

Sitting upon the wondrous Dun Artreck this morning (incidentally another highly recommended site) the eye, glancing across the old 1:50K OS map - as it does - notes several 'chambered cairns' not mentioned upon my TMA notes. 'Hey, guess it's time for the 'cherry-picker' of sites to record some of the more mundane more-or-less-destroyed sites', thinks I. One such monument indicated lies a little west of the A87 near the small settlement of Kensaleyre, the nomenclature a reference to Loch Eyre, south-eastern extension of the great Loch Snizort Beag. Now I'd passed by previously, coming 'home' - well, to my midge infested tent at Glen Brittle, anyway [seriously, an excellent campsite] - from Trotternish... and didn't notice a thing. Duh! Today I cross the bridge across the River Haultin and park - self consciously and rather awkwardly (in character, I guess) - some way before a strikingly scary white chapel.... or church. There, looking west, sits an overgrown mound looming across barbed-wire. I check the map. Yeah, guess that's it then. The barbed wired is high, rough ground beyond ensuring I must literally take my balls in my hands as I cross. The ground is certainly 'undulating'... boggy also. However the relevance is lost as I draw closer and realise just how substantial this chambered cairn really is. Blimey! What's more it appears, to all intents and purposes, intact. How can this be, a short distance from the A87? And upon a major tourist destination?

Truly gobsmacked, I clamber to the top. Surely a possee of enraged locals will swarm to intercept the interloper daring to violate the secret of Kensaleyre? But, of course, no retributive local throng materialises. Carn Liath is clearly forgotten, ignored. No HS information boards, no kissing gate access. But here we have (arguably) Skye's finest chambered cairn.... without the need for the 8 mile walk to the magnificent Rubh an Dunain. The cairn is truly in the 'Ireland' class, sited where the River Haultin makes a final - and perhaps significant - meander before reaching Loch Eyre. Another look at the map discloses a hillfort upon Dun Cruin to the north-west, not to mention a number of standing stones and cairns in the vicinity. I sit upon the cairn and try to take in the moment... to appreciate what is but a fleeting hour or so in my life. There are so many questions, chief amongst them - perhaps - is what drove the people who erected this structure to do so? Dunno. But whatever the reason, it mattered. In a way I envy them.... to have such a certainty of purpose. Whereas I am but a swirling cauldron of... to be honest I don't know what? Raw emotion dueling with the reluctant requirement to conform to a society that falls some way short of my expectations... you know, where most things don't really seem to matter? Whatever, the on-going quest, the search for 'meaning' certainly appears to bring me nearer to that elusive mental state where the individual can perhaps begin to embrace altruism. An impossible dream, maybe. But places such as Carn Liath seem to amplify the attempt, by many degrees of magnitude. Yeah, perhaps it is all a fallacy.... self delusion. But, if so, is it not a noble one?

P.S. prospective visitors to this wonderful site should note that there appears to be a much easier access to the site just monument-side of the bridge... no need to risk the tender, sexy bits - be you male or female.
1st July 2012ce
Edited 30th July 2012ce

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