I was surprised just how short and easy this walk was and just how fruitful the journey was to become with a wonderful array of sites ranged across the gentle lower slopes of Tormusk. They were only discovered in the late 1990's and they include three four-posters, numerous cairns, cists, stone alignments and standing stones spread across the hillside's lower slopes. I strongly advise plotting the sites carefully on an Explorer Series OS map from the Canmore site beforehand. A few feet of peat has been laid down since the sites were constructed, add to that a further two or three feet of growing heather, bracken, grass and reeds which conspire to conceal everything… but that is half the fun – seeing these ghostly, forgotten sites emerge from the undergrowth in front of your eyes! For those who enjoy bird spotting I saw seven different birds of prey (White-tailed Eagle, Golden Eagle, Kestrel, Buzzard, Hen Harrier, Sparrow Hawk, Merlin and Tawny Owl) in the leisurely hour and a half the walk took around this group of sites.
Directions - drive from Lamlash along the unclassified Ross Road two and a half kilometres beyond the Buddhist Retreat Centre. Park at the layby by the green sign marking the footpath to Shiskine. Or if coming in from Sliddery drive ½ km past Glenree Farm and park in the same layby. Take the Shiskine footpath and follow for ¾ km till it joins another path. Follow this path up the little wooded river valley. There is a fence on your right hand side. Descend to the ford (if the ford, riverbanks and riverbed is of red sandstone bedrock you are in the wrong place - return to the main path and follow it further upstream for 300m to the next ford). The path becomes a fine quad track. You will pass what appear to be three large capstones lying by the path. You will then find yourself passing through a gap in a large drystane and turf structure. This is the Teanga Burican and marks the beginning of the surprises! It might seem like the *rse-end of nowhere but this really is the beginning of everywhere – you just have to look carefully!
Standing on top of the Teanga Burican you can easily see a prominent standing stone on the hillside. Keep your eye on it as it is a useful orientation marker for the other sites. Continue up the path until you draw level with the standing stone and strike out confidently across the hillside towards it!
The West of Scotland Archaeological Service (WoSAS) report says that the prominent standing stone has a cup mark. I couldn't find one. Perhaps I'd found a different stone. This one was about 1 ½ metres high and slanting slightly. For some reason the photos came out all blurry – so it'll be next time for those.
Next, I headed up the slope looking for the first four poster 90-odd metres further on. All I could see was the mogre of near waist-high bracken and heather I was wading through. I felt my heart sinking… How on Earth would I find anything in this undergrowth? I counted off a hundred paces up the hill. Suddenly there it was! Right at my feet! The bracken had subsided a bit and the heather revealed a smashing little jaggy-toothed four poster right in front of my eyes! The stone to the North East is fallen, but lies right where it should be, snug in its peat and heather bed. The views back down to Bennecarrigan and the coast at Sliddery are stunning. The four poster sits on a broad gentle tongue just a few hundred feet up, but its elevation and situation on these empty moorland slopes give it a real lofty vibe.
This four poster lies at approximately the same elevation as Allt Cul Corriehiam but at a few hundred metres further East across the hill. You will find it at roughly the point where the broad level tongue starts to drop away. Again one stone lies fallen in the long grass. This four poster is a little smaller than Allt Cul Corriehiam and sits in a slight hollow and a few yards to the South in deep bracken sit two more stones in some kind of setting.
Despite being way out in the open air, I found the site felt quite enclosed and that it had less of the ambience and open-skied vibe of Allt Cul Corriehiam. Perhaps it was because the site perches above a narrow river valley with the steep sides of Burican Hill on the other side of the water. But somehow it felt less like a stone circle and more like a grave, with its two larger stones marking the head and feet.
As I stood up from crouching down to take a picture, a Merlin flew past me at waist height less than five feet away. I was nearly blown off my feet in surprise, but steadied myself and stood grinning like a fool as I watched it fly at breakneck speed down the hillside. I never find my time is ever wasted heading out to sites like these, even if the stones aren't the greatest, Nature often steps in and gives you a wee treat. Particularly on Arran.