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Cairnbaan

Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art

<b>Cairnbaan</b>Posted by tjjImage © tjj
Nearest Town:Lochgilphead (3km SSE)
OS Ref (GB):   NR839911 / Sheet: 55
Latitude:56° 3' 49.49" N
Longitude:   5° 28' 18.42" W


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Fieldnotes

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Visited the evening of 21/5/17:

Found this walk by chance on our first evening. Having been out for most of the day on the way back to our accommodation we noticed a simple sign pointing to ‘cup & ring marks’ just on the corner by the between the Cairnbaan Hotel and adjacent houses. So at around 8.30pm on our first evening (the rain had stopped, the light was lovely) after a pleasant towpath walk to the hotel we found the narrow path up to the Cairnbaan rock art panels. A steep uphill walk through pinewood and bluebells. Small signposts point the way to a clearing where the rock are panels are protected by railings. There were metal steps provided, however, to let visitors have a closer look. There are actually two sites with other outcrops a bit further uphill (look for the sign post). This second site is described as being one of the best examples of cup & rings around.

The lower panels contain mostly pits or cup marks, some of which are surrounded by rings and a few have lines leading out from them to natural fissures in the rock. According to the information board the Neolithic people who created the rock art may have chosen these outcrops for their views over an important route into Kilmartin Glen. The designs would have been pecked out using quartz hammerstones like those found during excavations at Torbhlaren in Kilmichael Glen. Experimental work showed that each pit took 30 to 90 minutes of repeated pecking and much concentration to create.

The upper panels contain a complex arrangement of pits, concentric rings and lines, 29 symbols in all. Again, referring to the second information board we learnt that schoolmaster Archibald Currie was the first person to write about rock art after visiting Cairnbaan in 1830. He suggested the concentric rings could represent planetary orbits around the sun. Sir James Young Simpson (pioneer of chloroform as an anaesthetic) also became a shrewd scholar of Scottish rock art observing in 1867 “They evidently indicate wherever found, a common thought of some common origin, belonging to a common people”

This walk appears as Walk 14 in "In The Footsteps Of Kings" by Sharon Webb.
Fabulous views over the Crinan Canal towards Lochgilphead to the south and hills to the north.
tjj Posted by tjj
8th June 2017ce
Edited 8th June 2017ce

This was the last site I visited in my day out at Kilmartin. By now the rain was torrential and I made my tired and wet way up the narrow track behind the hotel to the site. The effort was worth it although I am sure I would have enjoyed the experience more in better weather! To make things worse I (somehow) took the wrong track back to the car and ended up the wrong side of the hill - resulting in a long walk along the road which runs around the base of the hill - much to the confusion of passing cars! Posted by CARL
8th June 2010ce

We found this site barely accessible with a 3-wheeler buggy. It's pretty steep and rocky on the way up, and very rough, bumpy stuff up at the top. Some of the bumps and ridges between the two panels have hints of natural features used as enclosure/boundaries. Difficult to say though as he natural strata appear to just go their own way and not ay heed to what humans might expect them to do.

The first panel you come to is the one which is allegedly makes use of natural cracks in the schist to create a fishlike motif. It takes a bit of a stretch of the imagination, but I suppose it could be a fish, but only just. It's not exactly fishlike in the way that the Australian rock engravings look like fish, but I suspect the person who first suggested the fish theme may well have seen some of the Aboriginal motifs and may have just imposed the idea onto some otherwise random cracks in the surface at Cairnbaan.

The top panel is a joy to behold. I loved the way the different elements contribute and connect into the whole. High quality rock art.

Careful not to Park in the hotel car park, as the signs indicate that they might get a bit miffed. The space in front of the row of houses is fine though, the path up to the carvings is between the hotel and the houses.
Hob Posted by Hob
6th October 2005ce

You can park up in the passing place if you turn right just before the Cairnbaan Hotel - the stones are well signposted.

Cairnbaan was the first of many places that impressed upon me how well the various authorities have done in preserving and presenting the numerous monuments here in the Kilmartin Glen. The first group of rock carvings you come to here are, like most major groups, fenced off. But the fencing is pretty inoffensive - no spikes, and subtle dark green in colour. On top of that, it's not there to keep you out. There are small metal steps there for you to get inside and see the carvings up-close. The thing is, once you're inside, the fence - and the fact that the ground in the enclosure is well tended and not covered in sheep shit - creates a palpable sense of this being a 'special place'. So, hopefully, people are gently dissuaded from stupid shit like leaving litter or damaging the rocks.

If people really want to vandalise, there's not a lot you can do. This idea, of the enclosing fence that doesn't exclude, is the best compromise between preservation and access I've seen - and almost made me think that a concept of 'sacred space' was being inadvertently rediscovered...
Posted by gyrus
27th August 2000ce

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Cairnbaan on BRAC


rockartuk Posted by rockartuk
6th October 2005ce
Edited 4th September 2007ce