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Dun Chonallaich


<b>Dun Chonallaich</b>Posted by GLADMANImage © Robert Gladstone
Nearest Town:Lochgilphead (16km S)
OS Ref (GB):   NM85440365 / Sheet: 55
Latitude:56° 10' 37.2" N
Longitude:   5° 27' 25.86" W

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Together with its larger neighbour Creag a' Chapuill - also well worth a visit... but better appreciated from the B840 at Loch Ederline - the copiously craggy Dun Chonallaich comprehensively controls the northern approach to Kilmartin Glen. Indeed, standing dramatic sentinel above the A816, the sheer perpendicularity of the site is a little off-putting to the prospective visitor. Well, at least this one, fresh from a contemplative - OK, lazy - morning at the Baroile chambered cairn. However with said morning's very low cloud base having dissipated, albeit reluctantly, I decide that today might as well be the day to finally determine what actually resides upon that fearsome rocky little height. Curiosity, eh? To be honest I can't imagine any characteristically lethargic member of the family Felidae venturing up Dun Chonallaich, so cat lovers needn't concern themselves.

Dun Chonallaich overlooks the Abhainn Airidhcheoduin (sort of) shadowing the A816, the water course suddenly thrown into spasm, executing an abrupt series of looping convulsions immediately to the south-east of the fort... as if reluctant to flow onward through Kilmartin Glen to the sea. Whatever the geological reason for this apparent disinclination to yield to the force of gravity the outcome was no doubt handy for the former occupiers, the linear water obstacle and associated marshland further enhancing the apparent impregnability of the site to an assault back in the day. This idiosyncrasy also ensures a modern day visit is no easy skate either, albeit thankfully without rocks, arrows and - no doubt - insults aimed at one's person.

No off-road parking is available beneath the site... so I elect to stop in the entrance to a forestry track a little to the south and walk back to the bridge across the river. Incidentally this is as good a spot as any from which to approach Creag a' Chapuill along the northern edge of the forestry. But I digress... once across the bridge a very rough scramble steeply upwards to the east through scrubby woodland brings me to an area of significant scree which, due to its apparent regularity, I take to be the collapsed remains of defensive outworks? From here trending to the left (north) appears the path of least resistance to the summit, although Christison (1889) cites an entrance to the south-east. Unfortunately I neglect to check this out upon my descent getting carried away in the moment.

Whatever the original approach... mine, to the approx north, is certainly covered by the remnants of dry stone walling, my not inconsiderable exertions encouraged by glimpses of more of the same perched above my head. Anyway... and not before time... I finally clamber up to emerge upon the summit into a fierce wind, finding most of the top occupied by a rocky ridge, this in turn encircled by a pretty substantial wall enclosing an area "about 37m by 16m" [RCAHMS 1988]. A couple of dry stone structures are notable, the most obvious of which is a modern looking circular enclosure which was apparently erected to serve as a film set a little before the RCAHMS's visit. Such a 'who gives a damn?' mentality might well have encouraged significant vandalism of the summit wall soon afterward. I would say 'you couldn't make it up', but there you are. Clearly - very sadly - there is no need to make this kind of disgraceful act up. Nevertheless, to focus upon positivity as one must try to do in such circumstances, far more ancient walling remains in situ than I ever imagined, with further stretches covering the eastern approach to the summit area. Yeah, this is a pretty damn fine Iron Age fort regardless of the actions of morons/film directors.

And then there are the sublime views to be enjoyed from this isolated little peak. Southward the course of the aforementioned Abhainn Airidhcheoduin leads the gaze between (and beyond) Creag a' Chapuill and the great cairn of Carn Ban to Kilmartin itself and the distant coast; the northern arc (apparently) features another dun crowning the similarly rocky height of Dun Dubh to the right. However it is that to the east which, for me, takes the plaudits with ease... a fantastic vista looking along Loch Awe to distant Ben Cruachan, with Loch Ederline winning 'best supporting water feature' to the right, incidentally complete with crannog and nearby standing stones. Yeah, it really is something. In fact such is the vibe up here upon this miniature mountain that I decide to linger and forgo plans to venture to Skye today... and subsequently even Glen Etive... to settle for a camp within Glen Orchy. Not a hardship, to be fair.

Particularly with a short visit to the chambered cairn at Cladich (at the north-eastern end of Loch Awe) to be enjoyed en route. A fine way to round off the day.
25th August 2015ce
Edited 25th August 2015ce