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Kilmartin Retreat, October 2002ce

After a terrible summer (a split from my partner and increasing job insecurity) I decided to take myself off to the Kilmartin valley - a reflective time to be spent on my own in a place I'd wanted to visit for some time. It was a fantastic week - I barely spoke to anybody for days at a time, my evenings spent with a few drinks in the Kilmartin Hotel planning my next site visits. Of all the days spent in Kilmartin, the first stands out the most - the sun shone down and I was left alone to walk the length of the valley stopping off at each site on the way.

The Glebe Cairn — Fieldnotes

This site is definitely worth seeing! Okay, like landells says, it is a pile of old stones, at the end of the day - but seen up close and in context with the other sites in this group it completes the picture. This is more like the other sites would have looked in their final stages of development, after all. The cairn looked wonderful in the frost.

The Glebe Cairn — Images

<b>The Glebe Cairn</b>Posted by IronMan<b>The Glebe Cairn</b>Posted by IronMan

Nether Largie North — Fieldnotes

A great example of a modern reconstruction of a site, done well. The main feature, the slab cover, is fantastic and once sat down in front of it, studying it's decorated surface, was a real bind to leave. Opening the wooden door and descending into the cairn is quite an experience, too!

Nether Largie North — Images

<b>Nether Largie North</b>Posted by IronMan<b>Nether Largie North</b>Posted by IronMan

Nether Largie Central — Fieldnotes

This was probably my favourite of the cairns in this group. It's ruined and the cupmarked stone is difficult (to say the least) to see, but the shape and condition of the whole site is wonderful. Again, the frost made this cairn look amazing. I felt so lucky to be here, completely alone and at peace - what a day!

Nether Largie Central — Images

<b>Nether Largie Central</b>Posted by IronMan

Nether Largie South — Fieldnotes

The sun was just starting to melt the frost making this cairn glisten in the clear, bright morning sunlight. The chamber looks great.

I moved to a safe distance while a group of kids played around the chamber for 10 minute, and just took in my first taste of this incredible sacred landscape. Later on, in the pub, I overheard a group of local kids playing pool, talking about 'the tombs'. A mother of one of the kids, sat chatting with two american tourists, spoke of how 'the kids round here really love their stones!'

Nether Largie South — Images

<b>Nether Largie South</b>Posted by IronMan

Ri Cruin — Fieldnotes

This place gave me goosebumps as I approached - there is so much more to the place than meets the eye. The setting is difficult to place in relation to the other linear cemetry sites, as unlike the others it is completely surrounded by trees. This does give it a unique feel though - something like Wayland's Smithy. I took a long break here as the sun streamed through the trees.

Ri Cruin — Images

<b>Ri Cruin</b>Posted by IronMan<b>Ri Cruin</b>Posted by IronMan

The Great X of Kilmartin — Fieldnotes

On the way up to Kilmartin I vowed not to get distracted and stop off, just get to the B&B and wait till Sunday to explore the sites... this place stopped me in my tracks! It still had me spellbound the next day - the central stone's carvings in clear definition. I sat waiting for the sun to move and bring new detail to the stone, a totally captivating experience.

The Great X of Kilmartin — Images

<b>The Great X of Kilmartin</b>Posted by IronMan<b>The Great X of Kilmartin</b>Posted by IronMan

Baluachraig — Fieldnotes

Arriving here it really struck me that walking from The Glebe Cairn to Ballymeanoch (or vice versa), picking off each site in order you'll always see the last site from the next... The carvings here are great, just a bit more subtle than at some of the other sites in the valley and the setting - wow!

Baluachraig — Images

<b>Baluachraig</b>Posted by IronMan<b>Baluachraig</b>Posted by IronMan

Dunchraigaig Cairn — Fieldnotes

Yet another great cairn sitting on the plateau above the sites immediately surrounding Kilmartin village. The cist at the N side of the cairn lies open to the side, giving the impression of a low chambered tomb - this would have been closed off with a slab, access being original from the top. I got the usual urge to crawl inside... a few minutes later a family of german tourists struggled to reconcile their urge to do the same with the damage this may cause to their pristine jeans - the teenage daughter eventually gave in, and got down on her belly to peer inside, much to the horror of her mother!

Dunchraigaig Cairn — Images

<b>Dunchraigaig Cairn</b>Posted by IronMan<b>Dunchraigaig Cairn</b>Posted by IronMan

Ballymeanoch — Fieldnotes

A great monument, which along with the Great X forms a centre piece to the sacred landscape of Kilmartin. If you're spending a few days in the area, it's definitely worth coming back here a few times, at different times of day and in different light and weather conditions, this site seems to change more than most sites...

Ballymeanoch — Images

<b>Ballymeanoch</b>Posted by IronMan<b>Ballymeanoch</b>Posted by IronMan<b>Ballymeanoch</b>Posted by IronMan

Dunamuck — Images

<b>Dunamuck</b>Posted by IronMan

Dunamuck S — Images

<b>Dunamuck S</b>Posted by IronMan<b>Dunamuck S</b>Posted by IronMan<b>Dunamuck S</b>Posted by IronMan

Achnabreck — Images

<b>Achnabreck</b>Posted by IronMan<b>Achnabreck</b>Posted by IronMan<b>Achnabreck</b>Posted by IronMan

Dunadd — Images

<b>Dunadd</b>Posted by IronMan

Kintraw — Images

<b>Kintraw</b>Posted by IronMan

Carnasserie — Images

<b>Carnasserie</b>Posted by IronMan

Cairnbaan — Images

<b>Cairnbaan</b>Posted by IronMan

Carnasserie — Fieldnotes

Very late addition here (it's about six months since my visit), and I don't know why I haven't posted notes yet... here goes then:

The path leading to these stones can be found by following the sign posts up to Carnasserie castle. While here it's a good idea to take a look around the castle - the reason being, it's possible to see the stones from the SW tower, and it'll make the journey much easier than plodding round the fields aimlessly!

When I visited it was raining, not very hard, but enough so I had my hood up. As I explained above, I worked out the direction to these stones by looking from the castle tower. The castle was very atmospheric, and in the rain it's open roof led an eerie atmosphere to the place. Excited by the sight of these two stones, I span round quickly, ready to jog back down the wet spiral staircase steps. A lintel, unseen due to the peak on my hood, blocked the way. Crack! I smashed my head on it and tumbled down a few steps. I landed with a thud and a very sore head. A bit dazed, I shakily proceeded down the steps. Now this castle is in the middle of nowhere really, and I began wondering if I'd been knocked out, or anything more serious had happened, who'd have found me? Once I reached the bottom I sat down, stars spinning before my eyes, rubbing the nasty lump which had by now appeared on my head.

I soon decided to carry on regardless and made my way to the stones - they were wonderful and I soon stopped feeling sorry for myself as I became acquainted with this pair of fine standing stones. Anyone visiting the Kilmartin valley would do well to track these down - it's roughly a 3/4 hour round trip on foot from the car park, just off the main Kilmartin valley road. Carnasserie cairn lies just above the stones, and as a wise Welsh farmer once advised, it's best to follow your nose to find it. Once you do, and if it's clear, you'll be blessed with a stunning view down the valley to the Nether Largie cairns. This cairn is almost in the same line as these, and if you look behind you you'll see the huge cairn Càrn Bàn on the horizon.

I'd definitely recommend this site, just watch for stray lintels would be my only advice.
IronMan Posted by IronMan
3rd December 2002ce
Edited 17th December 2002ce

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