This is a site I had been keen to visit for a number of years. Now I am here. Was it worth the wait? Oh yes!
We parked at the parking area a little further up the hill and I hurried down towards the stone. The stone looks impressive from a distance but it is only when you get up close do you realise how tall this stone actually is.
One thing I did notice about the stone is the row of 9? finger sized holes running down the side of it. Anyone know what they are? Tiny cup marks? Someone drilling into the stone?
The setting of the stone is wonderful. The hills, the loch, islands in the distance - this place has it all.
This is a place I intend to return to one day. Hopefully that day won't be too far into the future.
Whilst I was visiting I noticed an elderly chap on the other side of the road who appeared to have broken down. I went over to see if I could help? It turned out he was an American tourist who had visited the site the day before with his wife but had forgotten his camera. He told his wife he would make a quick solo return trip (with camera) to grab some photos. Unfortunately he succeeded in driving into the ditch and had become stuck! The police had stopped and radioed for a recovery vehicle - that was over two hours ago! I offered him a lift and some water but he said he would wait for the breakdown people. He said he was enjoying the view. I wished him well. I bet his wife wasn't so happy when he eventually arrived back at the hotel!
It's been nearly six years since my last stop off here at Kintraw, it is for my money one of the best sites in western Scotland. Sure there is only one standing stone, and the cairns are of the non get into type, but this is one of those places that seems to be greater than the sum of it's parts.
I didn't park in the parking place, again (inwardly groans), but by the first gate you come to when driving north, I did not get in anyone's way.
Some standing stones are barely standing at all, but rather a tallish stone lump, some stones are hidden by long grasses, this one is neither. It is tall, pointy, slim and uber graceful, if I were a rich Victorian landowner wanting a folly, this would be my choice for a standing stone.
The menhir stands between two cairns, of vastly different types, the smaller of the two is a nice little kerb cairn, honestly, I'd have stopped off for just that one. But the other cairn is a whopping great pile of stones, with at least two large kerb stones still in place. Next to it is a fallen monolith, and perhaps others lie around as well. Over by the gate where I came in is another cairn, at least I presumed it to be a cairn, there are some suspicious looking big stones upon it.
But that is not all, this is, allegedly, an observatory, not for observing cars as they belt past, but the sun, moon, comets and returning space gods of old ( I made the last two up). Somewhere near here is a so called observation platform but time precluded a protracted wander round. One can almost imagine some kind of priestly old guys making pronouncements made upon observations, this is how science starts, where it ends I cannot guess, hopefully with all the greed heads going off planet.
Then there's the view, it is gorgeous, not the every day gorgeous of other places ive been to, but world renowned gorgeous. The way the reflections shimmer on Loch Craignish and beyond the Loch the verdant green hillsides above Ardfern. Amid the village of Ardfern is a chambered cairn http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/669/clach_an_tsagairt.html Ive not been there yet.
But all that is just to the west of here, there's hills
with forts on and mountains behind them.
Kintraw, greater than the sum of it's parts, I really must try and spend a longer time here next time.
Get ready for this one if driving north. The parking place is directly opposite but out of sight just round a bend as the stone comes into sight. So if following a map slow down and start indicating before you get to the bottom of the hill so as not to surprise the inevitable car that will be right behind you - as luck will doubtless have it. The new kissing gate that Greyweather mentions is now old, broken and tied up and largely hidden behind some bushes. Enter via the adjacent field gate. Great site.
Although it is the 4m high standing stone which naturally attracts most of the attention here, the cairns are also interesting.
The largest (Cairn A) is 15m diameter and has a number of its kerbstones still visible. There was a false portal in the SW (no longer visible but it can be seen in 1699 sketch posted by Paulus) and in front of that lies a 2.3m recumbent monolith which may be in its original position as no stone hole was found.
A kerb cairn (Cairn B) lies to the SW of Cairn A. It is 7.3m in diameter and its kerbstones are still clearly visible.
There is space to pull off the road at the site and a new metal "kissing gate" has been installed.
We visited this site in Feb.2000. What a view. Situated high above the head of Loch Craignish on a steep bend in the A816 a short drive north from Kilmartin village.
The views SE over Loch Craignish towards the mountains of Jura and Islay are outstanding.
We had no time to explore the complex Alexander Thom theory as described in the MA. However, this stone seems to have a definite and precise vertical presence which would perhaps support this theory. The journey here is a must, if visiting the Kilmartin area.
One imagines the fairy hill of the story to be the cairn at Kintraw.
Many years ago, the wife of the farmer at Kintraw fell ill and died, leaving two or three young children. The Sunday after the funeral the farmer and his servants went to church, leaving the children at home in charge of the eldest, a girl of about ten years of age. On the farmer's return the children told him their mother had been to see them, and had combed their hair and dressed them. As they still persisted in their statement after being remonstrated with, they were punished for telling what was not true.
The following Sunday the same thing occurred again. The father now told the children, if their mother came again, they were in inquire of her why she came. Next Sunday, when she reappeared, the eldest child put her father's question to her, when the mother told them she had been carried off by the "Good People" (Daione Sìth), and could only get away for an hour or two on Sundays, and should her coffin be opened it would be found to contain only a withered leaf.
The farmer, much perplexed, went to the minister for advice, who scoffed at the idea of any supernatural connection with the children's story, ridiculed the existence of "Good People," and would not allow the coffin to be opened. The matter was therefore allowed to rest. But, some little time after, the minister, who had gone to Lochgilphead for the day, was found lying dead near the Fairies' Hill, a victim, many people thought, to the indignation of the Fairy world he had laughed at.
Lord Archibald Campbell, Waifs and Strays of Celtic Tradition, Argyllshire Series, vol. 1 (London: David Nutt, 1889), pp. 71-72.
Campbell's source: Mrs. Annie Thorpe née Miss MacDougall of Lunga, Ardbecknish, Lochow.