We didn't have a definite plan for today's itinerary, although I was keen to see Culsh Souterrain. As we headed off, we were once again astounded by the weather which was already hot and sunny. Culsh was my first (and, so far, only) souterrain so I was quite excited as we pulled up in a very small lay-by. The entrance gives no indication as to what lies within and we got our torches out, ready for a bit of investigation. Unfortunately for Vicky, who isn't best suited to dark, damp places the experience wasn't too pleasant, and she decided to give it a miss so I headed in alone, struggling to make sense of what I was (barely) seeing in the torch-light. I loved the red granite stone, which was easy to make out with the little light I had and I was pleased to have read before-hand about the cup marked stone in the entrance, otherwise I am sure I would've missed it!
This is too easy to miss, right on a corner, and with such a tiny entrance that even the sign pointing clearly to the entrance makes you think 'where'? But it's huge!
After an initial squeeze down into the banana shaped souterrain, the head height is more generous and I was able to stand up. Treading carefully, as my torch didn't seem to penetrate the gloom whatsoever, I paced it out at 16 paces and counted seven capstones! Wow!
After the relentless Aberdeenshire sun (and you don't get to write that very often) the fridge coolness of the earth house was most welcome. This was surely a prehistoric food store-cum-bank-cum-insurance policy.
Culsh Souterrain is VERY close to the main road (the B9119), just West of Tarland, but because it's not at all visible you could easily go past it. It's right on the bend in the road and is marked on some Road Atlases. I came from the west, because it's not far from the Tomenaverie Circle. This souterrain is given a whole page in Janet and Colin Bord's excellent 1978 book, 'A Guide to Ancient Sites In Britain', but only a brief mention in TMA (pg 93). The Bord book says you can borrow a torch at Culsh Farm if you need but I'd suggest bringing your own because the house next to the Souterrain now looks distinctly unfriendly with its 'No Parking' sign and chunky big gate. You can just about park off the road near this house's driveway and not get in anyone's way. The entrance to the souterrain is literally 7 metres down from the edge of the road - I somehow expected more of a trek! There is an info board on the grass just a few metres above entrance to the souterrain and you can't see the entrance until you walk a few metres closer - weirdly shocking.
I wasn't prepared, and hadn't brought a torch (doh!). My lighter was fine for a while as I walked further into the underground but became red hot by the time I was in the central part. So on the way out I edged out slowly in pitch blackness. Things like this amaze me. It seemed so long that surely it was underneath the road?! What the hell is going on here? I'm walking (you can almost stand up in the tunnel, and can easily stand up in the main circular bit) into an underground building in the middle of no where on a rainy afternoon in summertime. Moments like this make life great.
I've just found a link to this site and it says it is over 14m long?! Is that right? Wow, no wonder it seemed to go on for ages. The picture on the link is fantastic.
An underground chamber was discovered on the farm of Culsh, about two miles distant from the Church of Tarland, which was cleared out in my presence in the month of August last, and which I shall now endeavour to describe. The cave occurs on a slope, the entry to it being so contrived as not to attract notice. Its extreme length is about 47 feet, it is curved in shape, and closely resembles in form the chamber near Newstead, Roxburghshire.
Its width at the entry is about two feet, increasing gradually as it recedes to an average width of about six feet. The extreme end is of a circular shape. The height from the floor, which is on solid rock, increases from five feet near the entry to an average height of about six feet towards the other end. The walls are formed of boulders of various sizes, and they converge as they rise upwards, the cave being about a foot narrower at the roof than at the base of the walls. On the top of the walls are placed large and heavy slabs of stone as a roof, the whole being covered over with earth, so as to harmonise with the surrounding surface. So well has this been done that it was only from the protruding of one of the covering slabs and its consequent removal, that the cave was discovered.
When it was opened up, it was found to be filled nearly to the top with what appeared to be a rich unctuous earth, resembling that of a churchyard more than the ordinary soil of the country. Analysis of the earth did not lead to any marked result. The earth was removed by the farmer to be used as manure, and there were about thirty cartloads of it. At a spot on the floor, about 18 feet from the entry, were found fragments of an urn, several pieces of bones, apparently those of an ox, a quantity of smooth pebbles, two querns, and a mass of ferruginous matter, which appeared to have undergone the action of fire. Portions of them are now exhibited, as well as a large bead which was found among the earth when it was in the course of being spread on the field. A large quantity of charcoal was mixed with the earth from the entrance to the spot where the relics were found.