It's been a while since I was last here, lost photos from the previous trip prompted me to return when next I could, well I can and here I am.
First time it was early morning with my old dog Arnie, we got soaked, though it never rained.
This time it's early evening with my son Eric and his best mate Luke whom we've kidnapped for a few days. Rather than come over to the stones with me they've opted to dare each other further and further into the what must have been a pretty cold loch, if it is a loch at all.
I make my way over to the stones trying to pick a good crossing place over the stream that runs into the loch with no name. Last time I was wearing wellies and had to jump it with a Jack Russell in my arms, we didn't make it. This time, the stream was a lot lower and I could just walk over.
The stones were just as I remembered them, but the surroundings if anything were more sublime, the high mountains have more higher mountains peeking over beyond them, I'm sure the position was precisely chosen for this reason. It is a fabulous place, well, as fabulous as Britain gets, the colour of the sky, the grass and the reflections on the loch. The orange colour on one of the stones is particularly fetching. I'd really like to see the one fallen stone re-erected, just so it would be perfect, if it was a four poster, but who knows, its certainly not a stone row.
But it is an epic place, the bare rocky mountains will fill you with dread as you drive round Loch Slapin, they look so tall when they arise right out of sea level. Epic place.
Ha! What odds that the only previous fieldnote, recording Mr Hamilton's visit, would be posted a couple of days before my own audience with these striking megaliths? I've wanted to come here for a while.... but Scotland is an, er, 'interesting' place, the schedule of the committed antiquarian odds-on not to survive a progress across such a wondrous landscape intact. What a good thing, too.
If you are anything like me - if so, I sympathise... no, really, I do - it'll take a while to get to the beginning of the track to Camasunary, the key to visiting this circle..... assuming you manage to get past the An Sithean tomb, that is. To be honest it would have been quicker to walk around the head of Loch Slapin, such are the 'photo' opportunities offered by the stunningly striking profile of Bla Bheinn and associates. However, eventually.... a little way past Strathaird House there's plenty of available parking on the left. The Black Cuillin present an uncompromisingly brutal profile to the west, the jagged, angular grabbo rock faces every child's vision of what mountains are supposed to be. Nearer to hand, however, look toward the small loch to the right of the prominent copse of trees and a keen eye should make out a trio of standing stones. Worth a look.
Unlike Mr Hamilton, I blunder across the intervening ground and just about avoid a suitably deserved boot full of bog. Just about. However I find the loch inflows as easy to cross as he reports. The short trek is worth it. There are actually four stones here.... hence the classification as 'stone circle' as opposed to 'alignment' or 'row', which would otherwise be justified. The three which remain upright are all handsome examples of the genre, of approx adult human height. The fallen monolith, however, is much more substantial, measuring some 11ft 6 inches in length (according to RCAHMS 1928).
The sun beats down and I decide this is as good a place as any to spend some quality Skye time. Curiously only a small section of The Cuillin rise above the horizon viewed from within the circle, the effect perhaps intentional? Gorsedd-like? As I doze off I sense, am suddenly acutely aware... that 'some one' has arrived and is standing behind me, clearly reluctant to introduce his/her presence. Maybe shy, maybe reluctant to disturb the vibe? Perhaps unsure how to relate to the individual sprawled upon the ground below? Whatever. Nevertheless it eventually begins to irk, so I rise to my feet to find... that... yeah, no-one is there. Just the lapping of the water upon the shore of the loch below. What sorcery is this ?!? I feel a bit of a muppet, but no need, to be fair. Surely such theatrics were 'built in' to monuments such as these 'false stones'. All part of the experience, the traveller simply 'getting' the vibe as intended. Thank you for that, erectors of Na Clachan Bhreige. Hey, was ever a site more inadequately named? Its detractors perhaps protested too much, methinks.
Na Clachan Bhreige Stone Circle on the Island of Skye stands on an elevated hillock, partly surrounded by the lochan of the same name. The best approach is by taking the path from Kilmarie to Camasunary as far as the ford at 540174 then follow the direction of the stream northward. The ground is generally good with just the occasional boggy spot which is easily avoided.
Soon, you will arrive at a fence. Look out for the stile, cross, and circle west then north to avoid the 'tail' of the lochan and a number of streams. There is now only one stream that has to be crossed, and it is very shallow: it can easily be forded through just a few centimetres of water.
Finally, head to the right (eastward) over the raised ground to the Circle, which has three stones standing, and a fourth lying prostrate. The excursion takes just 20-25 minutes walking each way, and provided excellent underfoot conditions all the way despite a recent week of wet weather.
"Na Clachan Breitheach, the Lying, or False, Stones, a name presumably given to them by Christian converts. These were once, if tradition is to be believed, Stones of Wisdom who could both foretell the future and show justice as between man and man."
- Otta F. Swire, Skye: The Island and its Legends, 1961, p. 228.