The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian




What new madness is this? A Scottish site I'd actually heard of before donning the boots this time around! OK, that's not strictly true since it appears the hill fort is referred to locally as 'Knock Farril'.... but I'm assuming it's probably pronounced more or less the same. Correct me if I'm wrong. Regardless of nomenclature, it's certainly a good 'un requiring precious little introduction - thankfully - to the hardened Scottish 'hill Head', not only due to the fine location, straddling a narrow NE-SW ridge approx midway between the spa-town of Strathpeffer and Dingwall (the latter upon the shore of Cromarty Firth looking across to those curiously alien oil platforms), but because of the extensive vitrification of the defences. Ah, 'vitrification', that seemingly almost mystical process whereby dry stone walls of hill forts, most particularly in Scotland, were subjected to severe, uniform heat - aka fire - causing the stone to fuse to a hard glass-like substance. Or something like that. The reasoning behind such acts has, not surprisingly, been the subject of much academic debate... for what it's worth I favour the 'ritualistic decommissioning' option at time of typing. So that's that settled, then.

The hill fort towers impressively above the aforementioned Strathpeffer, which incidentally possesses a Pictish Clach Tiompan, or 'sounding stone'. Needless to say, however, I approach from Loch Ussie to the south, a rough track actually allowing visitors to park upon the ridge to SW, if they so wish. In my ignorance I leave the car a little further down beside the farm house and make my way on foot... in retrospect it is more appropriate, I think. The ascent to the 'fort is quite steep, passing a vitrified outwork described by Canmore as a 'look-out post'; there is another to the NE of the main enclosure, so my interpretation is they might have also functioned as 'barbicans' protecting the main approaches from sudden assault? There is certainly quite a substantial volume of vitrified rock remaining in situ from what must have been a very powerful univallate defence in its day (Canmore gives an average of c4.5m for wall thickness).

Interestingly.... Anna and Graham Ritchie (Oxford Archaeological Guide to Scotland) cite Knock Farril as being the location of the earliest recorded excavation in Scotland during 1774, the dig resulting in the trio of 'distinct troughs' to be seen. More interesting still, perhaps, they also state that analysis of the vitrified rock yielded a destruction date of c1,100 BCE. Blimey, that is early, is it not? As I wander around taking in the fabulous views, special mention accorded the vistas looking eastward toward Cromarty Firth and north to Ben Wyvis, Auld Alba decides to add a primeval vibe by introducing fast moving fronts of violent hail, tempered by exquisitely sublime rainbows. Just to make the visit to this wondrous hill fort even more memorable, you understand, and not to give me a randomly generated kicking. Thank you Mam.

Incidentally I learn later that my nephew's little girl, Evelyn, upon seeing a rainbow at home in South Wales asked the Mam C whether she could 'go for a ride on it', or words to that effect. You know, up here on Knock Farril, I think I know what she meant. Never lose the child inside, my friends. Never!
9th July 2013ce
Edited 11th July 2013ce

Comments (2)

Lovely fieldnotes of a great site in a fine neck of the woods Gladman.

If anyone chooses the approach from the Strathpeffer side the touchstone maze is worth a look on the way up.
thelonious Posted by thelonious
11th July 2013ce
That's interesting actually. Much better than the usual modern stuff. GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
11th July 2013ce
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