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Glen Etive

Round Cairn


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 [1975]. 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.
29th August 2015ce
Edited 30th August 2015ce

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