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Fieldnotes by tjj

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Kintraw (Standing Stone / Menhir)

Visited Friday 26/5/17:
The most perfect day and, unfortunately, our last full day in Argyll. Kintraw standing stone and cairn can be seen clearly at a sharp bend as you drive towards the village of Ardfern and Loch Craignish and there is a small pull-in parking area opposite the site. This particular day the sun shone, the sky blue and it was warm - the best of sort of summer day. Kintraw is probably the tallest standing stone I've ever stood next to. It is also in the most fabulous location overlooking Loch Craignish and the loch-side village of Ardfern. I did wonder what its purpose was as it was unlike any of the other standing stones we had seen in the Kilmartin area - being almost cylindrical in shape. Although Loch Craignish was visible from the site I don't think the standing stone or cairn could been seen from the loch.
Made a bit of a mistake here though as my companion-in-charge-of-map-reading told me that Kintraw and the Clach an t-Sagairt Cairn were in the same place so we made the assumption it was the cairn next to the standing stone. Have since found out it wasn't and we've missed it.
Anyway after a leisurely lunch in the Crafty Cafe Tea Room in Ardfern we spent a peaceful afternoon visiting the ruined chapel of Kilmarie (Kilvaree) -
which is dedicated to the 7th century Irish monk St Maelrubha of Applecross - and then exploring the remote coastal area nearby.

Torbhlaren (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

Visited 25/5/17 as part of our visit to Kilmichael Glen

Following the road from Kilmichael Glassary northeast out of the village to the bridge over the River Add (where Dunadd gets its name) we continued walking along the quiet single track road which runs along the valley bottom. A little bit further along on in a field on your left there is a single standing stone which has cup marks similar to those at Ballymeanoch and Nether Largie. One more stone is known to have stood in the field (and there may have been others). In the same field there two earthfast rock outcrops which are covered with cup and ring marks. On the day we walked by there was a tractor cutting the grass in the field and the gate was firmly secured - we decided not to climb over on this occasion.

Kilmichael Glassary (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

Visited Wednesday 24/5/17

More wonderful rock carvings on easily accessible panels just behind the local primary school. It is ok to park in the small car park by the school though visitors are asked to avoid school pick-up times.

To quote "In The Footsteps Of Kings" by Sharon Webb (Walk 11):
“Within the fenced enclosure you will see two groups of cup and ring markings carved into earthfast rock slabs. There are many single cups as well as cups with rings and gutters. Look out for the cups with rings shaped like a keyhole which occur on both slabs. Some of the outcrops around the fenced enclosure also have markings, but please don’t be tempted to pull back the vegetation as the carvings are liable to be damaged by stock.”

After examining the panels walked back down to the village - with some free range chickens and an anxious cockerel keeping us in their sights. Next over the Glassary Churchyard to look at some medieval grave stones – apparently the ‘Kil’ element in the place name Kilmichael Glassary indicates an early Christian settlement in the Glen.

Cairnbaan (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

Visited the evening of 21/5/17:

Found this walk by chance on our first evening. Having been out for most of the day on the way back to our accommodation we noticed a simple sign pointing to ‘cup & ring marks’ just on the corner by the between the Cairnbaan Hotel and adjacent houses. So at around 8.30pm on our first evening (the rain had stopped, the light was lovely) after a pleasant towpath walk to the hotel we found the narrow path up to the Cairnbaan rock art panels. A steep uphill walk through pinewood and bluebells. Small signposts point the way to a clearing where the rock are panels are protected by railings. There were metal steps provided, however, to let visitors have a closer look. There are actually two sites with other outcrops a bit further uphill (look for the sign post). This second site is described as being one of the best examples of cup & rings around.

The lower panels contain mostly pits or cup marks, some of which are surrounded by rings and a few have lines leading out from them to natural fissures in the rock. According to the information board the Neolithic people who created the rock art may have chosen these outcrops for their views over an important route into Kilmartin Glen. The designs would have been pecked out using quartz hammerstones like those found during excavations at Torbhlaren in Kilmichael Glen. Experimental work showed that each pit took 30 to 90 minutes of repeated pecking and much concentration to create.

The upper panels contain a complex arrangement of pits, concentric rings and lines, 29 symbols in all. Again, referring to the second information board we learnt that schoolmaster Archibald Currie was the first person to write about rock art after visiting Cairnbaan in 1830. He suggested the concentric rings could represent planetary orbits around the sun. Sir James Young Simpson (pioneer of chloroform as an anaesthetic) also became a shrewd scholar of Scottish rock art observing in 1867 “They evidently indicate wherever found, a common thought of some common origin, belonging to a common people”

This walk appears as Walk 14 in "In The Footsteps Of Kings" by Sharon Webb.
Fabulous views over the Crinan Canal towards Lochgilphead to the south and hills to the north.

Templewood (Stone Circle)

Visited Sunday 21st April 2017.

This was a surprising site, not at all what I was expecting - we walked from the Nether Largie Standing Stones in the rain. Access very easy as everywhere is signposted. The bluebells were still out under the trees which, together with the relatively small size of the stones, gave the site an enchanted atmosphere. I don't think I have done this site justice as at first sight it is unspectacular compared to other stone circles. Strictly speaking this was definitely an ancient burial site which is something we are not able to say about other larger stone circles.

As with all the other sites around Kilmartin there was an excellent interpretation/information board which really helped in the understanding of the site. I have reproduced the information below:

Templewood started as a timber circle about 5,000 years ago. The wooden uprights were soon replaced with stones while a second larger stone circle was built to the south. Between 4,300 and 4,100 years ago, two cairn covered stone graves or ‘cists’ were built outside the southern circle.
Then about 4,000 years ago the northern circle’s stones were pulled from the earth and possibly re-used in nearby burials. A cist was built in the middle of the southern circle, slabs were placed between its standing stones and it was surrounded by a low cairn of cobbles. Cremated remains were buried inside the southern circle about 3,300 years ago.

Into the heavens: The two cairns built inside the southern circle about 3,300 years ago have small stone ‘false portals’ at right angles to their kerbs. Both these fake entrances face south-east towards the midwinter moonrise.

The ‘Archer’s Ghost’: Traces of those buried at Templewood emerged during excavations led by Jack Scott in the 1970s. In one grave he found three flint arrowheads, a scraper and a decorated Beaker pot but no human remains. Analysis of phosphate levels in the grave revealed the position of a person whose body had decayed away. In another grave the tooth of a child aged between four and six was found.

Nether Largie South (Cairn(s))

Visited on 21/5/17 and again on 24/5/17

This is one of the first and oldest monuments in Kilmartin Glen and reminded me a bit of West Kennet Long Barrow back home in Wiltshire. It had been re-used and rebuilt at least twice.

Information taken from the Interpretation Board.
The tomb was used for burial about 4,300 years ago when Beaker pots and flint arrowheads were placed with the dead inside the chamber. A few generations later, in the Early Bronze Age, the monument was remodelled and converted into a circular cairn like the others along the valley bottom. Two stone graves or 'cists' containing the remains of important people were added.

See plan of the tomb - this is what was found:

1. Flint, unburnt human bones, ox bones.
2. Pottery, unburnt human bones, ox bones.
3. Three beaker pots, cremated human bones.
4. Slab covering cremated human bones.
5. Empty stone grave with unburnt bones and pottery nearby.
6. Neolithic bowl.
7. Burnt human bones, broken quartz pebbles, flint knives and arrowheads, a cow tooth.

The Great X of Kilmartin (Stone Row / Alignment)

Visited Sunday 21/5/17

It is difficult to talk about these stones without mentioning the Nether Largie South Cairn and Templewood Stone Circle as they are very close together and seem intrinsically connected to each other.

Drawing on the information on one of the excellent interpretation boards, this X-shaped monument consists of five tall standing stones and the stump of another (no longer visible) 300 metres to the west. A central standing stone with two others at some distance either side.
Three of the stones have rock art symbols on one side and had probably been prised from outcrops decorated about 1,500 years earlier. These decorated stones may have been erected approximately 3,200 years ago about the same time as those at Ballymeanoch.

Alexander Thom (controversial archaeo-astronomer) claimed this was one of the most important lunar observatories in Britain. Recent analysis supports the idea that the stones mark where the moon rises and sets at key points in its 18.6 year cycle. The standing stones also line up with the midwinter sunrise and autumn and spring equinoxes.

Baluachraig (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

Visited Thursday 25/5/17

Stopped off here again as had missed it when visiting Ballymeanoch and Dunchraigaig earlier in the week. Parked in the small car park designated for Dunchraigaig - the path to Balauchraig rock art panel is on the right of the cairn not though immediately obvious. By chance, we came a cross two American men, father and son, who were also looking for the path to Baluachraig. The father was a talker and pretty much told us his life story on the walk down. Not an uninteresting encounter but something of a distraction.
I've posted a photo of the excellent information board which gives a better image of the cup and ring marks than I could capture in the weather conditions the morning we were there.
We later went on to Ormaig from Carnasserie Castle car park. The grey clouds disappeared, the sun came out ... Ormaig blew me away and, blissfully, we didn't see another soul.

Dunchraigaig Cairn (Cairn(s))

Visited Sunday 21/5/17
This was the first site we visited after Achnabreck and did so by chance really as would have passed it on our way to the 'big' sites in Kilmartin. As it turned out it seemed to form part of an astonishing archaeological complex comprising Ballymeanoch standing stones, kerb cairn and henge. And the Baluachraig rock art panel (same small car park on the opposite side of the road and same gate for all three sites).

Dunchraigaig, as with all the Kilmartin sites has a superb interpretation/information board. This one tells us that the cairn was excavated in the 19th century firstly by Rev. Reginald Mapleton and then again in 1864 by Canon William Greenwell. Inside the graves they found two decorated pots, flint chips and human remains. Among the cairn stones were a whetstone for sharpening metal, a stone axehead, a flint knife and pottery. All now lost.

Ballymeanoch

Visited Sunday 21/5/17
This was the first site we visited after Achnabreck in the rain. Or rather I should say after the Dunchraigaig cist/cairn - as you have to walk past cairn to get to the field where the Ballymeanoch stones stand. To the right of Dunchraigaig is a path to the Balauchraig rock art panel - which we visited later in the week. I mention it here as it seems to be part of the whole picture. The small car park is on the opposite side of the road and is signposted for Dunchraigaig.

Ballymeanoch is an amazing, atmospheric place. One field contains:
- A four stone row of exceptionally tall stones, one of which has cup marks on it.
- A two stone row which apparently included a third holed stone. This stone has been moved from its original position and now lies in a different part of the field near the kerb cairn.
- A kerb cairn
- And a henge. Not clearly visible until you walk up to it. The henge is the only surviving one of its kind in Scotland.

Spent quite a bit of time here soaking up the atmosphere before heading to the Kilmartin Museum and cafe.

Achnabreck (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

Visited 21/5/17: We passed the sign for Achnabreck on our way to the accommodation we were going to be staying in at Cairnbaan so it was with no difficulty we drove back there the next day. We could have walked but that morning it was raining ... heavily. We were undeterred and, after a bumpy drive up the forest track, found the designated parking area.
The information/interpretation boards are abundant and full of useful information. We followed the clearly marked trails up to Acknabreck 1. In no way did the rain spoil the enjoyment of seeing my first Kilmartin rock art panels although my photos didn't do them justice. On then to Achnabreck 2. A smaller though as equally impressive panel. We understood there was third panel further on and did walk on a bit to find it, unsuccessfully. Very much wanted to walk back up there from Cairnbaan - as there is a narrow short-cut road just past Cairnbaan Hotel which comes out opposite the sign for Achnabreck - in better weather but one week just wasn't long enough.

Achnabreck - also known as Achnabreac in Gaelic which might contain elements that mean 'speckled'.

Carnasserie (Stone Row / Alignment)

Visited 25/5/17. This is a lovely spot - or was the warm sunny day we visited on the way back from the Ormaig rock carving panels. These two standing stones were not really visible on our outward walk to Ormaig - perhaps they were but as we weren't looking for them we didn't see them until our return walk. Walking back from Ormaig they are clearly visible from a distance and stand just below a cairn on the crest of the hill. They also appear to be visually aligned with the cairn on the opposite hilltop (I think called Cairn Baan though not near the village of Cairn Baan).

Great views towards Carnasserie Castle and Kilmartin village - and whatever the reason for these hillside standing stones they would of acted as an marker for any ancient travellers making their way from the coast to Kilmartin.

Ormaig (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

Visited Thursday 25/5/17 - the sun finally broke through the mist/drizzle of earlier in the week and it was actually hot. Started walk from the car park for Carnassarie Castle following the directions from 'Walk 3' in "In The Footsteps Of Kings" book (purchased earlier in the week from Kilmartin Museum shop) which also contains a clear map and grid references. Distance 7km/4.4 miles.

Quite a strenuous walk through pine woodland but mostly in the open so not much respite from the strange phenomena of strong sunshine. Much of what was forest has now been felled. Still a lovely walk though, with a cuckoo clearly calling throughout. The panels can be seen on the hillside as you approach downhill and the walk back up to them was particularly lovely with a fast flowing stream below, butterflies and moths scattering before us onto the late bluebells and other wild flowers.
The views from the panels towards Loch Craignish were stunning in the sunlight. The interpretation board at the bottom of the slope suggested that perhaps the carvings were made to indicate the way from the sea to Kilmartin Glen burial centre.
There are seven discrete panels exposed, one with the quite rare rosette design, rings, parallel lines and grooves. On one of the smaller stones just cup marks. Now protected as an Ancient Scheduled Monument, one of the lower panels has names carved by John Campbell in 1874 and Archie Campbell in 1877.

The walk back was very interesting as we took time to walk up to the two standing stones and cairn just above Carnasserie Castle, which was a wonderful spot. Perhaps it was the lovely weather or the slightly challenging walk - this visit remains very vivid in my memory.

Cold Kitchen Hill (Long Barrow)

Visited this substantial long barrow in deep Wiltshire near Warminster today. Almost at the top of Cold Kitchen Hill but not quite. Situated just below the brow of the hill - can be seen clearly on the walk up but not from the highest point of the hill. I think there have been discussions in the past on why it seems Neolithic people chose this position rather than the summit of the hill. Visuals perhaps.
A great walk from Longbridge Deverill (traveled by train to Westbury where met by walk friend) then along the ridge to Bidcombe Wood which was full of bluebells and wild garlic. All pretty wonderful.
Not posting a photo of long barrow as can't add anything to Gladman's marvelous sky/cloud photos.

Uffington Castle (Hillfort)

Today (after the nation's collective bad weekend) I had the opportunity to walk up White Horse Hill at Uffington. Probably my favourite place, the place that represents home to me. The moment my feet start to walk up, peace descends and the turmoil of our current political situation fades, not into insignificance but certainly into proportion. This is my England, ancient and symbolic. A profusion of orchids and wild thyme growing on the banks of the hillfort. Sat on a wooden bench up there to have a snack, listening to the skylarks, watching red kite soar up from below and rise high into the thermals, in the distance the London train speeds by - looking almost toy-like from this height . The white horse is currently being re-chalked but paid my usual respects anyway. Then for a walk along the Ridgeway, more wild orchids. Didn't go as far as Wayland's Smithy today, just wanted to see, touch and hear my little bit of old England again. Feeling a better for it - for now anyway.

Kilbeg (Court Tomb)

My final stony entry from my memorable holiday in Donegal. This is thanks to my map reading, tomb hunting companion for the week. After visiting the Muckros peninsula, we found a rather breath taking megalithic tomb at Kilbeg on top of hill overlooking Teelin Bay and the Slieve League mountains. We had to climb over a fence and up a hill to see it - I must admit to being a little reticent but friend went up the hill first before urging me to follow. I did and it was so worth the climb to the top of the hill - siting a tomb in such a place of wild beauty makes so much sense when you are actually there. The tomb is basically what we would describe as ruined but still very recognisable as a court tomb.

Nearest town Kilcar, Map ref: OSI (Ireland) Discovery Series, No. 10, grid ref: 598755. This series of maps has all the megalithic tombs and other ancient monuments shown on it so an 'essential'.

Croaghbeg (Court Tomb)

Visit to what we thought Shalwy Court Tomb 23rd May 2016. Having read Gladman's field notes and studied the existing photos I think we may have found Croaghbeg so am transferring my original field notes from Shalwy to Croaghbeg. Both close to each other and both very difficult to access.

Tuesday dawned warm and sunny and in the morning we set off to find Shalwy /Croaghbeg Court Tomb (east of Kilcar: our ref - OSI 648753).
Using OSI map (my friend is pretty good at this) we parked car in layby on the main road out of Kilcar and walked down a steep single track road, turning right at the bottom. We then walked about a mile along a straight(ish) narrow road to the next right turn back uphill – the walk overlooked the sea which was sparkling that morning, early foxgloves had started to appear, a peat stream fell down the hillside and appeared from under the road on the other side to tumble down the rocks to the sea. Quite a few houses along this road, all well spaced out and beautifully maintained, some unoccupied, probably holiday homes. In fact we asked a woman who was painting her garden bench for directions and it was she who directed us back uphill to the spot where we could a large, newly built grey house on the side of the hill.
Walking back uphill again, we passed a well at the side of the overgrown track – this beautiful wild hillside now has individual houses appearing (something we noticed around Kilcar too) and we finally spotted the rather splendid court tomb - with a four stone chamber standing separately in the court area - at the bottom of the hill behind the houses we had walked past earlier and immediately below the new grey house, which didn’t appear to have anyone living in it (another holiday home perhaps). The court tomb was surrounded by nettles and brambles, the climb down very steep. My intrepid friend was up for it but I wasn’t – mindful of the fact there is often no mobile phone signal in Donegal (and there wasn’t here) I felt it wasn’t worth the risk of turning an ankle or otherwise injuring self so settled for taking a photo with my zoom. Yes, I admit to being a wimp but this wimp went on to have lunch in Killybegs before spending the afternoon exploring a narrow unspoilt peninsular known as St. John’s Head – which has a lighthouse at the end and a coral beach.

Malin More (Portal Tomb)

We visited these on our second visit to Glencolmcille, after going back to Cloghanmore (and last full day of the wonderful week in Donegal) . Our first attempt had been unsuccessful as we weren’t able to find them. This time we asked in the visitors centre/gift shop and were given a little hand drawn map. Leaving Glencolmcille on the road to Malinbeg just over a bridge we turned right up a narrow road to some farms (a house on this turning had a rather impressive garden ornament in the shape of a small portal tomb). The six great portal tombs were not in such good condition – they span two narrow fields both of which had farm animals in them. The three in the first field had three nursing cows with their off-spring standing close by. The cows became agitated by our presence at the gate so we decided to not go in the field. All three of these enormous tombs were unrestored and partially fallen. The other three tombs were in a similar state although the largest one was partially restored with some supporting stonework – also partly in the garden of a nearby house. The second field had a ram and ewe standing guard – again we erred on the side of caution and didn’t enter the field.

This short passage is taken from “Gleancholmcille – A guide to 5000 years of history in stone” by Michael Herity:

“ … towards 2000BC, Gleancholmcille was lived in by a later group of stone age farms with a rather different style of tomb building. Their monuments are portal tombs. This type is well represented near Gleancholmcille – on the north side of the valley behind the school and again across the valley to the of Cloghanmore. At the west end of Malin More valley, six portal tombs arranged in a line are part of one huge, unusual monument, probably 90m long originally”

Edit: Have belatedly posted a photo of a beautiful white quartz stone which incorporated into the field wall by the Malin More tombs. Given the tombs are in a ruinous state I do wonder if this stone was taken from one of them?

Drumskinney (Stone Circle)

I had seen the sign for Drumskinny Stone Circle on the journey towards Donegal and made a mental note to try and visit on the way back as just over the border with Northern Ireland in County Fermanagh off the main road between Donegal Town and the village of Kesh. The monument consists of a stone circle, cairn and stone alignment and comes as something as a surprise as it seems to be in miniature. The peat bog has also been removed around the monument replaced by gravel. There is an information board by the gate into the site which verifies it authenticity - I've recorded it below as some will find the measurements a little odd. Could this be a place of 'the little people' I wonder :)

"Management History: Drumskinny Stone Circle first came under public management in 1934 when it was taken under the charge of the Ministry of Finance (MOF). Lying in shallow upland bog, poor drainage had caused recurring water-logging of the site. This was detrimental to the presentation of the monuments and inhibited inspection by visitors. In 1962 measures to improve the site’s amenities were implemented by the Ancient Monuments Branch of the MOF and involved the removal of peat down to the natural boulder clay and the laying of stone chippings in the area of the monument. As no previous examination of the monument had taken place, these works allowed for an archaeological excavation under the supervision of D.M. Waterman.

The Monuments: The archaeological monument at this site consists of a stone circle, a cairn, and alignment. The stone circle, although not geometrically accurate, maintains a fairly consistent diameter of 13.1m and includes three apparent gaps. Waterman’s excavation discovered 31 standing stones, an additional fallen stone lying adjacent to its socket and the former presence of seven more uprights (indicated by stone socket holes), suggesting an original minimum of 39 stones around the circumference. The stones vary in size and shape with the shortest only 38cm above ground level, while the tallest rises to almost 1.8m.
The circular cairn, lying one metre north-west of the stone circle, is carefully constructed of boulders and slabby stones. It has a regular diameter of 4 metres, and stands approximately 30cm in height at the edges, rising to 45 cm in the centre of the cairn. During excavation, no trace of burial or any other form of deposit was revealed.
The alignment directed towards the centre of the cairn consists of small stone uprights and extends to a distance of 15m towards the south. Of the original estimated 24 stones only 16 remained at the time of Waterman’s excavation. The highest stone still standing rises to 48 cm.

The Finds: during excavation, a small number of artefacts were discovered. A small piece of probable Neolithic potter was found in clay at the east of the stone circle. A hollow scraper was found under stone spread at the north-west side of the cairn. Six further flints were found in the area of the cairn, two them burnt."

Note: After our visit, on the drive back to the main road we noticed three large standing stones in a field opposite a small white church, not far from Drumskinny. Didn't have time to investigate as had to get down to Dublin. I'd very much like to know any information about these stones.

Farranmacbride (Court Tomb)

This site was a complete surprise and ultimately far more satisfying to visit than the easy to find and well preserved Cloghanmore. Firstly, we weren't really aware of it except it was listed in Michael Herity's little book 'Gleancholmcille - A guide to 5000 years of history in stone' as one of the stations of the turas - number 9 in fact. His book was first published in 1998 (reprinted 2005) so some things may have changed. We had gone to Glencholmcille on the first full day of our week which happened to be a Sunday. Wandering around in the sunshine, partly to dry off from an early soaking while visiting Cloghanmore we noticed a large number of young people walking from turas to turas. We walked to a few of them out of curiosity as much as anything - gradually soaking in the ancient atmosphere of the place. Turas number 9 was an unremarkable mound of stones with a cross-pillar but no sign of a more ancient monument.

Just as we were about to leave Glencholmcille, my friend drove back to 'station 9', then while driving slowly uphill along a narrow road I spotted something in a field that looked like a portal tomb. We left the car and walked back downhill, really just following our feet and came to a narrow gate into a field. Still following our feet we walked uphill to another gate into a stone walled enclosure. Here were two what looked like very fine portal tombs - now for the surprise. Next to this stone walled enclosure was another enclosure with a separate gate - here, completely out of sight to the casual observer, was an unreconstructed court tomb facing towards the two portal tombs. The front court still very much intact. All facing down from their hillside towards the rocky hills surrounding Glencolmcille.
This must have been where it all started in this area, with early Christians following in the footsteps of people far more ancient. I was moved in way that just didn't happen at Cloghanmore - here, amid all the early Christian cross slabs and history was something far, far older.
The atmosphere at this site was wonderful, it felt as though the day, which had got off to an inauspicious start, had suddenly given us a gift. I really didn't want to leave.
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Passionate about:
Nature; stone circles and all ancient sites that involve walking through unspoilt countryside/being near the sea; islands around the the British Isles, especially those with ancient monuments.

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