I visited this amazing site in January, and after a chat with the very friendly farmer I followed Martin's directions. Someone (the farmer - I guess) had put in a lot of care and effort to clear the site of weeds and cut down the trees. The stumps being left in the ground. So it is possible to get a clear impression not only of the size, but also the complexity of the souterrain. If Scottish souterrains are your thing then dont miss this one ... its very special, just go and sit inside for a while.
Whilst there had obviously been a few visitors as the grass was trampled there was no litter around..so nice one visitors. Also worth wondering why no evidence of big trees growing at the site?
Pitcur Souterrain, Perthshire
Sunday 16/9/01, 11:30am
I'm sitting here at the end of the only remaining roofed section of this massive souterrain writing by the light of my caving helmet. The stillness in here is breathtaking. It's not really as cold as other sites I've been to- I'm sitting in my T-shirt and waterproof trousers. This whole site is, unfortunately, in a bad state. I've read in "The Souterrains of Southern Pictland" by F.T. Wainwright (1963) that there were two botched excavations (i.e.- treasure hunts) and that all of the finds have been lost. The whole place is in need of some clearing- along the unroofed sections I found it impossible to walk due to trees growing in the structure, weeds up to my neck and precariously balanced roof lintels still in place at certain parts. Even back in 1963 in the aforementioned book it was described as "site is most depressing, waist deep in nettles, and with trees and bushes growing in the souterrain". However, this roofed part that I'm in just now is pretty well preserved- and big- about 17 m long and high enough to stand in at sections. At this end the earth floor rises up to meet the roof lintels, but I'm sure this is a recent feature- other souterrains I've been in have all ended with solid stone. I've carefully placed some candles along the length of the chamber, but it's not really too dark in here. There are also many remains of some not too carefully placed candles! Time to go back outsideÉBack at the entrance to the remaining roofed section- it looks as if there was a gate or even iron bars barring the entrance at one time. Whoa! I've just noticed an amazing cup marked stone on the left of the roofed section. There are also two small side chambers off to the right, one just before the roofed section which is blocked with earth and the other just inside- stone lined and v. small. Back up on ground level and to the right of the roof there is a 1 by 1.5 m approx. cup and ring marked rock lying horizontally with about 30 cup marks, many with associated rings. This is a really huge and complex site, but the condition and overgrowth make it doubly difficult to get an idea of- a case of not seeing the souterrain for the trees!
Note- another souterrain- more cup (and ring) marked stones. Most of these sites I've visited have rock carvings, yet, I've read that these were places of storage. Why go to the effort of carving (probably magickal) symbols in a cellar? Doesn't ring quite true with me.
From Coupar Angus (North of Perth on the A94), take the A923 towards Dundee. Just after the second crossroads (signed Collace and Newtyle) look out for Pitcur farm and cottages on the right hand side. Stop off here and ask permission- I spoke to a manny in the second cottage who said the farmer was quite happy for folk to visit- "aye they get school kids and even folk from as far awa as Fife visitin"! He also said he's always meant to have a look at the 'caves', but never gone up with his torch. Back out of the farm road turn back left again and just down the road on the right hand side there's a line of fence/wall/bushes/telegraph poles separating two fields. Walk up this and the souterrain in is the fenced off area- you can't miss the weeds n trees!
It is locally known as "The Cave," but the term "Picts' House," often given to such structures, is also applied to it.
A tradition which a family of that neighbourhood has preserved for the past two centuries, has, in the opinion of the present writer, a distinct bearing upon the "cave" and its builders.
This is that, a long time ago, a community of "clever" little people, known as "the merry elfins," inhabited a "tounie," or village, close to the place. The present inheritors of the tradition assume that they lived above ground, and do not connect them at all with this "cave," of whose existence they were unaware until a comparatively recent date. But, in view of a mass of folk-lore ascribing to such "little people" an underground life, the presumption is that the "tounie" was nothing else than the "cave". This theme cannot be enlarged upon here; but a study of the traditions relating to the inhabitants of those subterranean houses will make the identification clearer.
It may be added that the term "Picts' house" applied to the Pitcur souterrain, is in agreement with the inherited belief, so widespread in Scotland, that the Picts were a people of immense bodily strength, although of small stature.
From 'Pitcur and its merry elfins' by David Macritchie, in Reliquary and Illustrated Archaeologist for 1897, p217. He's ever hopeful, and I know the feeling exactly, of wanting to pin some local tale on a nearby megalithic spot.