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Odin's Hall



OODIIINN!! Hell, I've wanted to do that ever since I saw Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis (with Bronx accent - right on!) in that dodgy 'Vikings' film as a kid...

I wake at my Whiteadder camp to torrential rain, Scotland's way of reminding me not to become complacent, I guess. Needing an 'easy' site to visit before the long journey back to Essex, I choose Edin's (or, surely, Odin's) Hall, a Historic Scotland charge recommended in Anna and Graham Ritchie's 'Oxford Archaeological Guide'. That'll do nicely, then. Taking the (un-signposted) Abbey St Bathans road from the A6365, I'm immediately tail-gated by some fool in one of those 'cut price, budget moron-mobiles'.... all tacky spoiler and 'broom, broom' exhaust. Just managing to squeeze myself off the road beside the obscure public footpath signpost, another clown passes by, sounding his horn, then another and another. I mean, how was I to know a rally is being held in Duns today named after some Jim Clark bloke. Whatever.... it takes all sorts, I guess.

The scenic, waymarked path descends sharply, via steps, to riverside before climbing away to arrive at the site in approx a mile. The first thing to strike this visitor is a) the size of the broch and then; b) the fact that there is a broch here at all.... in Lowland Scotland. Yeah, it's certainly a biggie. Too big, in fact, to have plausibly risen to any great height in its heyday, I'd suggest having had more of a low, but incredibly solid, 'blockhouse' profile than that of an elegant, Mousa 'cooling tower' (not that I've been to Mousa yet, I must admit). The drystone walls are immensely thick (we're talking Norman donjon here) with the usual storage chambers, mural stairway and guard chambers incorporated within. The entrance way is pretty 'solid', too, with a cyclopean vibe.

However, perhaps the greatest surprise for me is the extent - and multivallate nature - of the surrounding ramparts of the hillfort. To the west these are very substantial, indeed, and still pretty well preserved to east and south. The broch itself, defended by its own rampart, is set to the north in the most defensible position. Nice. Within the enclosure stand several round houses, one covering a very large area and therefore suggesting a hall or, perhaps, the former residence of the 'Big Man'? Possibly.

Artificial defences were enhanced by the choice of highly defensible site, a steep drop to the Whiteadder Water rendering an assault from north or east more or less impractical. These people obviously knew what they were doing, so I can only conclude that the dominating hillfort, upon Cockburn Law to the south west, was either occupied by a skeleton garrison of 'lookouts', or was not occupied concurrently.

Finally, I guess I should emphasise what a gorgeous location this is, towering above a loop in the Whiteadder Water. Lack of time rules out a visit to Cockburn Law, but Edin's Hall is a fine, somewhat unexpected way to end this tour.
26th June 2010ce
Edited 26th June 2010ce

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