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Fieldnotes by thelonious

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Dun Cuier (Broch)

10/08/2017 – A linear walk today along the west coast near the top of Barra. Starting from Eoligarry, we visited Dun Scurrival first. After a quick bob up Beinn Eolaigearraidh Mhor we walked south along the beach at Traigh Eais. A rocky coastline led past Dun Chlif to Ben Cliad cairn. From here we climbed Beinn Chliad and then headed back to the beach near Cleat. Started getting tired by this point in the day and it had been a long week but I really wanted to see Dun Cuier broch so we pushed on up the road and then along the A888 to the cemetery just NW of the broch. There’s a gate here on the other side of the road and an old waymarked path leading to the site. I think it probably carries on to Dun Bharpa cairn.

If you only have time to visit one galleried dun / broch on Barra and Vatersay this is probably the one to go for. Easy access as well.

Located on a small rocky top, it has good views all round. Nice bits of wall still there and you can make out where the galley is. Section of scarcement on the inner wall also.

The various thoughts of what is a fort, dun, broch etc I find interesting and the discussion on Canmore about this site is worth a read (link below).

https://canmore.org.uk/event/587363

This was the last dun we visited on a great week on Barra and Vatersay. If you like a dun or two it's well worth coming for a trip to these islands. Lots to see and the scenery is lovely.

Ben Cliad (Cairn(s))

10/08/2017 – Canmore has two entries for cairns close to each other near this location. After visiting this cairn and reading the descriptions on both I think they could be one and the same, could be wrong.

I really liked this one. A little tricky to be sure quite what I was looking at though (like a lot of stone settings on Barra I came across). Smallish structure with a kerb of stones. Two larger upright stones on the south side which felt like an entrance into the centre to me.

The location had a quiet feel and was a little lonely (in a good way). A place to come and gaze out to sea with only your thoughts and the cairn for company.

Dun Chlif (Stone Fort / Dun)

10/08/2017 - Nice feeling of away from it all with this one. It’s pretty easy to get to though from either way along the coast. This possible galleried dun is situated on a small tidal islet along a rugged coastline. It was by chance that we reached here at low tide so were able to cross to have a look around the dun. It’s worth a visit just for the location but why anyone would have built the dun here is a mystery to me. Must have been very different times.

Dun Sgurabhal (Stone Fort / Dun)

10/08/2017 – We got dropped off by the bus at Eoligarry. Walked along the road NE to where it turns N and then it was just a short climb S up to the little hill with Dun Scurrival on top. This galleried dun / broch (?) is in a very prominent location. Looks like it could get a bit breezy at times. If you were looking for a bit of privacy I doubt you’d build your dun here. Great views all round, north to the Uists and south along the lovely beach to the rest of Barra

Still walls to be made out but the interior is pretty much covered by fallen stones.

Took me a bit to get going today so I don’t think I gave it my best attention. My brain was like the skies up above – a little cloudy this morning.

Balnacraig (Chambered Cairn)

08/08/2017 – Before the start of our trip I was hoping for just one good weather day for this walk amongst the hills and stones in the middle of Barra. It had been raining on and off the first two days but the forecast looked great for today so off we went.

Starting from Castlebay, we headed NE up the road to the high point and then climbed up to Heabhal (bit of a slog). Then up and down a few minor tops to make the steep descent to Beul a’ Bhealaich, where a lovely standing stone (now fallen) is positioned at the top of the pass. From here we climbed Grianan (Good views and a fine place for a brew). After a rest, we went NW to visit Tigh Talamhanta aisled house and then SW to the wonderful Dun Bharpa chambered cairn. A brief diversion to the top of Beinn Mhartainn (nice top) and then back past Dun Bharpa to Balnacraig chambered cairn. There's a small cairn marked on the OS 1:25000 south of Dun Bharpa but it’s not that exciting.

Tired by the time we reached the last cairn but the sun was still shinning and the stones of Balnacraig looked so nice against the sunlit hills behind. Hard to make out the original shape but I think I could see where the chamber stood. Well worth a visit along with the excellent Dun Bharpa.

We headed west down the track to the main road to start a slow plod back to Castlebay. Very good day out.

Dun Bharpa (Chambered Cairn)

08/08/2017 – Tricky to know what to write about this one other than my usual waffle. The cairn deserves better and I ain’t got the words in my head to do it anywhere near justice.

So I’ll keep this short. Easy access from lots of directions. Easy to find (it’s hard to miss!). Location is near perfect, Barra’s central hills make for a fantastic backdrop. The cairn itself is one of the best I’ve been to and I’ve been to a few, just wonderful. Must see site? Yep. Do you need to come visit? Yes I’m afraid you do :-)

Tigh Talamhanta (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

08/08/2017 - Tigh Talamhanta aisled house. We came from Grianan, to the SE, but it looks like there is an old waymarked walk with posts probably starting at the cemetery parking to the NW and heading here via Dun Cuidhir (looks a nice way to reach here). Ground is a little boggy in places near the site. Canmore states the site’s important as it “demonstrates the layout of a complete Iron Age farm”. Looks like the name ‘Tigh Talamhanta’ means 'the underground house'. Wish I’d read a bit more about it before I went as it was hard to make out what was going on and there does seem to be a lot going on. Nice location for this one with good views.

Beul A' Bhealaich (Standing Stone / Menhir)

08/08/2017 – Canmore only have a very general grid reference for this one but I guessed by its name, if it was going to be anywhere it was at the top of the pass that has the same name. Heading down from Hartabhal to the col before it rises again to Grianan, the stone came in to sight. Fallen now but the stone is still impressive even in its sleeping state. A good 16ft long and not that wide. When standing it would have looked quite fantastic from a good distance away to folk using the old path across the hills.

I’d guess the pass through Beul A' Bhealaich, connecting the east to the west side of Barra has been used for a very long time. It was used in the 19th century by folk living in the West to cross the hills to the Church on the east side each week.
http://www.heritagepaths.co.uk/pathdetails.php?path=179
(sorry about the link and little plug for ScotWays here but I think they do a great job and the Heritage Paths website is very good)

Vatersay (Chambered Cairn)

07/08/2017 - Small chambered cairn with a fine view out to sea. A little passage and the layout of the chamber can be made out. Easy access from either way along the coast, there's a path round.

South Vatersay (Cairn(s))

07/08/2017 - Small cairn with possible kerb. Just to the north of here are a couple of interesting stone settings (I had no clue to what they were but I liked them).

Vatersay (Stone Fort / Dun)

07/08/2017 - Very little to see on top of the rocky outcrop. The walk across the beach to get there is worth it though. Fantastic setting. There's a cairn just below, NW of the Dun.

Fine area for a walk. The Dun is surrounded by lovely beaches and the wild flowers on the machair are wonderful and so colourful at this time of year. The walk from the Dun to the beach to the south and back is great. Nice coffee shop to the north .

Dun A' Chaolais (Broch)

07/08/2017 – Of all the duns/brochs we visited on Barra and Vatersay this was my favourite I think. Easy access from just south of the cattle grid. Position is great on its own knoll with great views all around. Canmore has it as a probable ground-galleried broch. Good wall round it with the gallery visible. Worth a walk up the hill (Heiseabhal Mor) behind if you have time as the views are breathtaking.

Dun Ban (Promontory Fort)

06/08/2017 – Gave up waiting for the rain to pass, so off we went for a circular walk of Beinn Tangabhal in pretty wet conditions. We were on foot from Castlebay but there is good parking opposite the phonebox on the main road at Tangasdal. Waymarked walk over the dunes then coastline to Dun Ban. Easy going and lovely views.

By the time we got to the site it was chucking it down. We tried to find a bit of shelter behind the walls but it wasn’t great so it was soggy butties, a cup of tea did help a little.

Location is good on a rocky outcrop. It has some nice walls. I get a bit mixed up on the differences between forts, duns, brochs etc so didn’t quite know what I was looking at but nothing new there then.

It’s a fine walk and a worthwhile site to visit.

After a look around and a bite to eat we headed on up into the mist to climb Beinn Tangabhal.

Allt Chrysal (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

05/08/2017 - Evening stroll from Castlebay to have a look round Allt Chrisal. What a wonderful place it turned out to be. This multi-period site starts near the road with a neolithic settlement behind the ruins of a house (right of stream), then a little higher up is a wheelhouse (left of stream), climb a little higher from here and stone huts are found (keep very close to stream). From here head across the stream and climb up the hillside to above and behind the biggest rock you can see on the right of the stream to a Bronze Age cairn (I think it was near the 130m contour line).

From the road the site is easy to miss if you are driving. There are nice information boards at the start. I did find the map a little hard to follow and the higher up places a bit tricky to find.

The whole hillside is great to just potter about on and the sites very interesting. I really liked the wheelhouse and the placement of the high up cairn. The evening sun was lovely and the view south to Vatersay and beyond just wonderful. I was very taken with the place, so much so that it pulled us back for a further two visits the following week.

Ballinluig (Clava Cairn)

21/06/2017 – How many times I’ve driven past this one, oblivious to its existence, I couldn’t tell you. It’s right next to the A9. Noticed it on the 1:25000 OS map recently by chance and as I was in the area last week thought I’d have a look.

Quickest way is probably to park in a layby on the A9 (there are ones either side of the road nearby) and head straight for it but there is a barb wire fence to cross.

Much better is the walk round Loch Alvie. We parked just west of the Rowan Tree hotel on the B9152 (small layby). Head past the hotel and take the track (black gates, access OK) to Loch Alvie. The track loops round the loch (Ospreys fishing at this time of year). Turn left before the house and then left again just before the track goes under the A9. This leads straight to the cairn. This approach hides the A9 from you and gives a better feel to the visit.

What a fine ring cairn this is. Good kerb stones on the west side. East side ones have gone. Lovely views across the Loch and to the big hills. I liked this one.

Granish (Clava Cairn)

17/06/2017 – As this site had got the Greywether/Gladman/Drew seal of approval I had been looking forward to my visit.

A few ways to this one. We decided to make a little walk of it and start from Boat of Garten. Heading down the Speyside Way first and then carrying straight on were the Speyside Way turns left under the trainline. After about 1km we took the track west to visit the lovely cairn at Avielochan then back again to head SW for another 1km to Granish Clava Cairn.

This really is a good one. A large cairn surrounded by heather, very different to the grassy setting of the smaller Avielochan cairn nearby. I loved the tree in the middle. We sat for a good while just taking in the view and feel of the place with a brew and a butty or 3.

A visit to Granish and Avielochan makes for a fine walk. Even better maybe take the steam train from Aviemore to Boat of Garten and then walk back via these two, sounds a good day out to me. Very impressed with both cairns.

Avielochan (Clava Cairn)

17/06/2017 – Really liked this one. Good access. We came from the east, across the bridge over the train track. Doesn’t look much on approach, just a grassy knoll with a few nice trees on top. Taking the field edge to the knoll, the cairn seemed to appear out of the grasses from nowhere. Lovely setting. Fine kerb stones and I liked the small slope down into the centre. Well worth a visit.

Borrowston Rig (Stone Circle)

26/05/17 – We started from Lauder on what proved to be as hot a day for walking as I can remember in a long while. Bit too hot to be honest (yes, I know I shouldn’t really grumble). Following the Southern Upland Way, we headed NE past Thirlestane Castle (looks impressive) to the start of the wood just after Wanton Walls. From there we headed north through Edgarhope Wood and on to Dabshead Hill (hillfort & standing stone here). No access problems.

Borrowston Rigg stone circle is about a mile NE of Dabshead Hill. It’s an easy stroll across. Once away from the hillfort, the feeling of the landscape changed to one of a peaceful open moorland with big skies and gentle bird song as we walked along. Head for the old sheep pen, visible from a good distance and the circle is just beyond.

Listed as having 30-32 small stones. We did a quick count and got to 20. Too sleepy to look for more, it was enough. I just wanted to sit down and relax by the stones in the sunshine. It’s a lovely setting and makes for a nice visit on a good weather day.

Quicker access is from Burncastle if needed. Well worth the trip. I was very taken with the whole place.

Borrowston Rig South (Cairn(s))

26/05/17 - Borrowston Rig South cairn is just south of the stone circle. Not in great condition but it does have two nice earthfast stones in the centre. Canmore mentions ‘cup marks’ on the larger stone but like the marks on the standing stone on Dabshead hill nearby, looked more like natural weathering to me.

Burrow Stones (Stone Setting)

26/05/17 – I like a little head-scratcher on a walk and this site fits the bill nicely. About 200m SE of the stone circle (easy fence to cross), the ‘Burrow Stones’ are classed as a stone setting.

On a slightly sloping area of the moor is a smattering of small stones, not dissimilar to the ones used in the stone circle nearby. If you completely ignore the inconveniently positioned ones that ruin the plan you can get some nice long straightish rows of stones :-)

Worth a look if you are visiting the circle nearby.
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