The last time I visited Dafydd was only 1 and Sophie not even a twinkle. Dunadd is a place I had wanted to bring them ever since.
Karen sat in the car while we headed up the short but steep uneven 'path' to the summit. We stopped half way up look at the well. We also read all the information boards. I think these are new since my last visit? In saying that it was pouring down then so perhaps I didn't take so much notice! No such problem today with blue skies and warm sunshine for a change on this otherwise wet Scottish holiday.
What I certainly didn't notice last time was the boar etched into the stone next to the famous footprint or the Ogham script. Dafydd and Sophie took turns trying their feet for size before we headed back down.
This is a great place to visit with extensive views. Should be on everyone's 'must see' list when visiting the beautiful Kilmartin valley.
The cheap car challenge for the day was to visit Kilmartin and end up at The old man of Storr on the isle of Skye. More specifically for the Kilmartin area I wanted to get to the burial chamber at Poltaloch and back up here to Dunadd, it had been so long my archived pictures of the place showed that it had been nearly ten years. So here we go again.
It was about 8am, new (dry) socks for the kids from the garage, sigh and tut.
Eric and Luke shot up the hill with the energy and exuberance reserved only for young children. We practically kidnapped Luke to bring him with us, the poor kids never been to Scotland, the only time he's left England is with us. I'm not sure what he makes of it all.
The first feature reached is the big rock cut, paved entrance, it is very impressive, to say the very least.
Once through the narrow gully it opens out into the lower courtyard. Far right is the well and it's cover stone, and some low tumbled walling can be seen in places. Naturally we keep on going up.
Just below the highest part of the fort is the rock art.
Though rock art is maybe not the right phrase for all of it. The ogham inscription was hard to read but from what I could read was something about the rightful king of Scotland would be a Postman from Crewe.
The foot carving, of which there are two, one very faded, one obvious, it is this obvious one that apparently the king would place his shod foot in to be inaugurated, or something like that. Sounds a tad fallacious to me. The Boar, is pretty faded, only the lower half, the legs and belly of the beast are still clear.
Then it's up to the citadel, or upper courtyard, they don't know which, or it could be a yoga space, maybe even kite flying arena, honestly, even the information board is unclear.
What is clear is the view of the surrounding countryside, twisting rivers going off to meet Loch Crinan and the open sea, rocky hillsides with higher peaks peeking over them. It is a very nice place, when i'm king I shall rehouse my dynasty there, as is my divine right.
Until then I'll go and have a look at some rock art, Achnabreck I think, not been there yet.
Easy to access - 10 minute walk up from the car park. The views from the top are wonderful and yes, you just have to see if your foot fits - mine did! Even though it had been raining and my foot got wet in the process!! One of my favourite sites in the Kilmartin area. Enjoy.
Couldn't see the Boar no matter how hard we looked, but my foot did fit the footmark which was quite exciting. We climbed up the hill at around 7pm and we were the only people up there - it was amazing being able to see the whole glen at 360 degrees. The end of a perfect day in a most perfect place. You really do get a sense of an unchanged landscape - the history echoes all around.
And just in case you are like me and think that it looks like a long walk up to the top - we ran up in 10 minutes and it's really quite easy!
Nestled at Dunadd's foot are a couple of houses that look like they're among the best places to live in the land. The hill itself is so striking, slap-bang in the lowlands of the valley floor, it was surely part of prehistoric mythology before Scottish royalty became associated with it. Perhaps the large basin on top is ancient, and was appropriated into dynastic mythologies by the Dalriada. Curiously, the famous footprint alignes NNE, like so many of the not-quite-north alignments here. A splendid place to see the sun down, though I bailed quickly due to hordes of flying ants and American tourists.
August 1998, Dunadd, Argyll.
We finally met its imposing presence in August '98. Driving down the A816 from our campsite to the North of the megalithic wonderland of Kilmartin, the country suddenly opens up across the Moine Mhor with the River Add twisting and turning its way through the great plain of peat and marsh. The road passes Dunadd, but we are Southbound just now and decide to visit the site later in the evening when the car-loads have all emptied away. The name of Dunadd has haunted me for years, I had read much about this sacred hill of the Picts and images of the boar, foot-print and Ogham script have stayed in my minds eye.
Early on an August evening and I'm finally driving to the base of Dunadd and once in the car park I'm doing my best not to just run to the top! I start to walk up the hill deliberately slowly, carefully and quietly-images flick through my mind from the presentation we had seen the day before in Kilmartin House-images of spectral hooded figures. Up through the ridges of fortification we reach the top and I go off looking for the rock carvings managing to ignore the amazing views for the moment. I find the footprint, take off my boots and socks- but alas- my foot is too big! Kat does the same and it's a perfect fit- the good old Pictish female line! The boar is nearby, but is slowly sinking back into the rock of it's creation with the hundreds of years of weathering, the snout and front two legs just still remaining. Atop Dunadd after many years of waiting and all I fell is sadness. I maybe secretly expected enlightenment, but no- just sadness. I'm not disappointed- no way- this place is amazing, but....
I go and sit on the Westerly side and watch the River Add. My Pictish serpent tattoo reverberates in recognition of the earthly pattern laid out before me. I could watch this river for an age.
... [a] characteristic specimen of a Tanist* stone may be seen on the top of Dun Add... On a smooth flat piece of rock which protrudes above the surface there is carved the mark of a right foot, covered with the old cuaran or thick stocking, eleven inches long and four inches and a half broad at the widest part, the heel being an inch less.
It is sunk about half an inch in the rock, and is very little weather-worn ... Quite close to it is a smooth polished basin, eleven inches in diameter and eight deep, also scooped out of the rock. With these two curious sculptures is associated a local myth.
Ossian, who lived for a time in the neighbourhood, was one day hunting on the mountain above Loch Fyne. A stag which his dogs had brought to bay charged him, and he fled precipitately. Coming to the hill above Kilmichael, he strode in one step across the valley to the top of Rudal Hill, from whence he took a giagantic leap to the summit of Dun Add. But when he alighted he was somewhat exhausted by his great effort, and fell on his knee, and stretched out his hands to prevent him from falling backwards. He thereupon left on the rocky top of Dun Add the enduring impression of his feet and knee which we see at the present day.
*so called from the Gaelic word tanaiste, a chief, or the next heir to an estate... These stones were used in connection with the coronation of a king or the inauguration of a chief.
From 'Footprints' in the Blackwoods Edinburgh Magazine, July 1885, p115.
Turn we now to [..] that curiously conical hill sticking up alone in the centre of the Crinan moss. This, taking its name from the river which winds round its base, is called Dun-Add, and from which time immemorial has been the favourite haunt of the witches and fairies of Glassrie [..]
A farmer laird of Dun-Add had the second sight. One night he was lying in bed with a churn of cream placed before the fire (yes this is a bit of a set up but it's for the story). He saw the fairies enter the room with a child they'd stolen - they washed it with the cream as part of their Strange Rites. When the cock crowed, they dashed off, leaving behind a little bag. The farmer, much to his wife's disgust, poured the cream away in the yard. As it turned out, the dogs that lapped it up fell dead - so that gave some credibility to the farmer's bizarre story.
When he checked the bag he found the following articles:
.. a little stone spade, something like the stone arrowheads which are frequently found and known by the name of elf shots, a little stone pot for making the fairy porridge, some stone balls, and other affairs. Each of these was possessed of different virtues [..]
The spade was laid beneath the pillow of a sick person, and by the subsequent appearance or non-appearance of perspiration the recovery or death of the invalid was to be discovered. The round balls were to be immersed in a pail of water which afterwards was given as a drink to cattle, who thereby were cured of any disease that might have befallen them; and all the other articles had each a virtue which I have now forgotten, if I ever heard of them [..]
On p74, he mentions that the fort of Dunadd possesses "the rare advantage of a good well of water, springing out of the rock almost at the crest of the hill. As everything about this singular place was supposed to have a supernatural character, this well, according to popular belief, rose and fell with the sea tide."
"On the farm of Rudale, but a short distance from Dunadd, there is a singular cavity in the face of a steep rock, bounding one side of a tiny and secluded dell amongst the hills, with sloping grassy banks opposite to the rock, which is known by the name of Fingal's pulpit."
Because Fingal and his friends often hung out at Dunadd, you see. The pulpit is 8ft by 2 and a half, covered overhead, and containing "two low but comfortable seats formed of the solid rock".
Higher up on that hill (Rudale Hill) there's the impression of a foot - well, that's because Fingal's son, Ossian was out hunting when a boy, and was attacked by a huge stag. So he leapt away - once, onto Rudale Hill - twice, to Dunadd, where there's more impressions: one of a foot, and then "he fell upon his knee, forming the circular cavity, and saving himself by grasping with both hands the rock.." (the latter are on an upright rock, if you want to look. Rudale seems to be 'Rudle' today).
Elsewhere, someone is being rational about the Rudall / Rudle marks: With respect to the 'footmarks' about Rudall, I once heard that such a thing or things existed; and on going to examine them found them in abundance; but they were natural marks in the rock. in some of these rocks there are concretions of various sizes, and of a long, oval shape, composed of several layers or coats half worn through, and lying flat in their longest diameter, they have a very close resemblance to a footmark. This may have given rise to the legend of the footmarks on or near Rudall. - Rev. R J Mapleton, Handbook for Ardrishaig p41.
The Boar was the Scottish/Pictish High Kings Standard up till the time of David.
The foot print is the place where the Chief Clan leaders pledged their loyalty to the King.They brought with them a small bag of soil from their home,put it in the foot print and with their foot on their native heath pledged their support. At Scone there is quite a heap of discarded soil from all over Scot/Pictland.
"The history of another stone, the Stone of Scone, which is commonly believed to have originated here (Dunadd).
The story goes that when Fergus, the first king of Dalradia, was crowned here in AD 500, making the first footprint in the Dunadd stone, he also brought with him the Stone of Destiny, which was no less than Jacob's pillow. This was set beside a majic cauldron which always supplied the right amount of food for the number of people needing sustenance"
"There is a case to be made that Dunadd had a prehistory to match its eminence in the historic period, but that case, I accept, is a weak one. There are Neolithic and Bronze Age artefacts from the site, one of them (a Neolithic stone ball) of a specialised type well outside its usual distribution (RCAHMS 1988, 7). There are standing stones athe foot of Dunadd and there are rock carvings, apparently of prehistoric date, on the outcrop itself. Even the famous inauguration stone - a deep footprint carved into the living rock - is matched by a much fainter petroglyph of the same kind. Most probably both date from the Roman period, but similar carvings are known from prehistory, and the difference of preservation could be due to a difference of age. But far more important is the sheer concentration of major monuments in the surrounding area. The distribution of fortified sites visible from Dunadd is not so very different from the distributions of ceremonial enclosures, mortuary cairns and rock art, most of which could still have been identified in the first millennium AD".
Altering the Earth
The Origins of Monuments in Britain and Continental Europe.
Society Of Antiquaries Of Scotland Edinburgh 1993
Monograph Series Number 8
Author: Richard Bradley
Dunadd is one of the most significant archaeological sites in Scotland, and one of the most important early medieval sites in Britain. It is located in the Kilmartin Valley, Argyll, Scotland. The site is a fortified hilltop, important as a royal centre of the early Scots in the kingdom of Dal Riata. The site was excavated in 1980-81 by Dr Alan Lane of the Department of Archaeology, University of Cardiff.
This site gives access to the excavation archive associated with the published volume.