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Fieldnotes by thelonious

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Rossie Law (Hillfort)

08/06/2018 - On route from the Isle of Bute to Aberdeen we decided to stop by and visit Rossie Law hillfort near Perth. I'd looked at the this one on the map many times and had been wanting to visit.

Parking at the start of the track to Tarnavie on the B8062, we started the walk uphill on a decent track. We both felt like zombies. This was on the way back from a fortnight of walking and we were so tired.

After a mile or so the track turns south. We left it here and crossed the Banekist burn to walk up the Slack, which is on the south side of Rossie Law. Gets a little tricky here as the south of the hill is scree. We approached this through the trees and then headed west round it to make the steep final climb to the top. Not too bad and quite fun.

The summit area is large and pretty flat. The surrounding wall quite far down off the top.

It's a good fort this one and the views are great. After resting a while we headed back to the car.

It had been a long 14 days away and I knew I was done.

Carnbaan (Chambered Tomb)

07/06/2018 - Last full day on Bute and we had a tricky decision to make. Where to go? It was a choice between heading north to visit 4 chambered cairns on the coast or heading to Scalpsie Bay and have a walk over a few tops with 1 chambered cairn. Both looked good but we went for Scalpsie Bay, just for the walk really.

Early afternoon found us back at the car and in need of a coffee shop. The one at Ettrick Bay was so fine we decided to go again. Parking at the south end of the bay we walked along the lovely beach to get there. It's a great area for a stroll or paddle in the sea.

Refreshed I looked at the time, it was just past 3. Still thinking about the cairns to the north we started walking the coast road towards them. To visit all four cairns would have been about 8 miles and than another 1 to get back to the car. I was tired already from the morning visit to Bicker's Houses cairn so I thought the walk to see any was too far. An hour later we were closing in on the first cairn. Bit stupid really as my feet were killing. I did like Glecknabae cairn though.

The next cairn wasn't far so on we went again. Up hill now, it's well signposted. The approach to the Carnbaan cairn is lovely through a wood. The sunlight through the leaves and branches was so nice.

When first getting to the site the size of it didn't immediately become apparent. Probably like most visitors my attention went straight to the central chamber, it's great. It's only after you start walking about does the size and length of this long cairn reveal itself. It's massive with chambers at both ends as well. The setting in the trees is lovely but the undergrowth hid things a little. Tricky place to photograph too.

The cairn is positioned close to a stream where just on the banks is a massive stone. I wondered if this was once part of the cairn just a short distance away.

It was getting late now and the car was a long way back. The last two cairns would have to wait for another trip. Always good to have a reason to come back. My feet moaned most of the way back. A long day out and I was sore by the end but well worth it. Tops cairns round here.

Bicker's Houses (Chambered Cairn)

07/06/2018 - Starting from the viewpiont for Scalpsie Bay, we followed in the footsteps of Greywether (hard not to in the highlands and islands) and headed north to find Bicker's Houses chambered cairn.

The path(!) to Bicker's Houses is waymarked from the car park. I lay the challenge down right now. If you ever come here and can actually find and follow the waymarked path all the way to Bicker's Houses, you win the pathfinder of the year award. Don't know whether it was just because we were sleepy, it had been a long couple of weeks away (excuses, I know) but there just wasn't one. We decided we were using up more energy looking for it than just bashing in a straightish line to the cairn through the bracken and grass. Luckily for us the ground was very dry from the good run of weather we'd been having.

It's not a bad walk really and we did eventually get to the site of the cairn. Maybe not the best time of year as the bracken was starting to get high. Only the big stones were showing above it.

Got to admit, I liked this one. Maybe more for the setting and the walk but the stones that we could see were good as well.

We looped back via Barmore Hill and Quien Hill. A nice area for a potter, a little off the beaten (nonexistent) path.

Dun Hill Of Glenmore (Cup Marked Stone)

06/06/2018 – I don’t really know how but here we were, by pure chance, on a hot sunny afternoon, plonked down next to a cup marked rock with a couple of cups ourselves, of the tea variety.

The holiday had been a little different so far then I’d expected. The plan was two weeks of walking. First time in years I’d not really picked places with stones in mind as well. So off we went each day for a walk but even when you’re not looking for it, old stuff is everywhere, it’s hard to miss it sometimes. No more so than on the Isle of Bute. If someone, who hadn’t seen much prehistory before, asked where to go to seek out the past, I’d probably say you could do worse than Bute. It has a little bit of nearly everything, in quite easy to reach places but still with a sense of adventure. I think this is important. Good to have a little Indiana Jones moment or two on holiday even if it’s just dodging cows or bashing through bracken to find a hidden cairn or stone that you’ve spied on an OS map. It’s what makes going to sites fun for me and so different to my 9 to 5 at work, staring at a computer all day, with my soul being slowly crushed (still it pays the bills and for trips like this I suppose). Chambered cairns, long cairns, cists, hillforts, cliff forts, crannogs, stone circles, standing stones, rock art etc, the list is long for an island this size. It’s easy to get about on too and the buses are good so you don’t really need a car.

On a hot and sunny day (the weather is amazing at the moment) we started at Kames Bay, heading past Hilton to visit the chambered cairn there and then higher up to Windy Hill (top of Bute, toughish walk across underfoot). After that we headed round the Lyeing Hill to drop down into Glen More to pick up the West Island Way. A few fences to cross but nothing too bad.

Feeling tired I wanted a sit down. That bit of grass over there by them rocks will do. As we approached, the cup marks on the rock stood out clear as day. What’s the chance of that! History is everywhere, you just need a bit of luck.

Canmore states 11 plus cup marks, I agree and there could have been more. Lovely location for this one and so peaceful in the afternoon sun. We sat for ages drinking our brews and just chatting rubbish to each other and the stone. Finally it was time to head off. The way south had the promise of a stone circle and a tea room with ice cream (turned out they had rum & raisin flavour, could this day get any better!!).

It was a magic moment, a chance encounter with the past. It might not be a wow site but it was my favourite of the trip. One to daydream about now I’m back to the daily grind.

Hilton (Chambered Cairn)

06/06/2018 – Easy parking on the north side of Kames Bay (layby marked parking and picnic area on OS map)

Take the track towards Hilton farm. It’s waymarked as it’s part of the West Island Way. As the track turns left to Hilton, continue straight on up the hill on a small path. Cairn is in the field to your right but you have to pass a lot of gorse. Best to head up higher than the cairn and then once past the gorse head right and then back down a little to the cairn. No problems really.

The location for this one is great. Impressive views across Kames Bay and beyond. The cairn hasn’t fared well over the years though. Lots of stones left but hard to figure out what’s going on. Chamber can be made out and there is a Bronze Age cist in it as well. Bedrock (for want of a better word) has been incorporated into the cairn.

Maybe not the best chambered cairn on Bute but the location is worth the walk. I liked it.

Canmore mention a possible cup marked rock 25m W of the cairn. Very faint marking so I wasn’t so sure.

Glencallum Bay (Cairn(s))

05/06/2018 – The south of Bute really is excellent for a walk or two. We started today at the car park for Blackpark Plantation stone circle. After looking at the stones we headed south to climb Suidhe Chatain and then down to join the way-marked walk round the south end of Bute. Next we passed the remains of St Blane’s church with its mysteriously named ‘The Cauldron’ behind, lovely area here. Then on to the two forts at Dunagoil for lunch. Back to St Blane’s after to pick up the track again heading SE to the coast and Glencallum Bay.

Finding the cairn in an area full of bracken proved our challenge for the day! I was pretty happy once it was discovered. It’s a nice little cairn with the remains of the cist showing.

Our walk continued on north along the coast (great for geology) to Kilchattan Bay and then back to Blackpark Plantation and our car.

We took all day and I think it's probably my favourite walk on Bute. It was a great day out all and all and a nice cairn to visit in the hot sunshine.

Dunagoil (Cliff Fort)

05/06/2018 – What to say about Dunagoil to do it justice? I just loved it. Two forts to look at, a burial chamber and just wonderful scenery. This really is a must visit site if you're on Bute.

Good parking and access from NS 0888 5354. Short stroll to Dunagoil Bay and the first fort (Little Dunagoil). There is a small cave at the front of this one where a shell midden has been found. Walking between the forts, don’t forget to keep a look out for the small burial chamber (it’s good). After that, a little climb brings you to the top of Dunagoil.

The main fort is just great. I love a fort with a bit of vitrification and the walls on this one have loads. It’s one of the best I’ve been too. Such a mystery as to why and how.

The geology of this place is pretty special too and the views!!

Lots to see here. If you are thinking of going, I thought I’d mention two little books I bought at the tourism information centre in Rothesay which I found most useful whist on Bute. They are pretty cheap too.

Reading the Landscape of Bute - Hill & Buist (great for short walks looking at geology)
Archaeological Landscape of Bute - Geddes & Hale (great for prehistory)

We were only supposed to make a flying visit here as part of a longer walk but Dunagoil was too good and we ended up staying far too long. Very hot and sunny day.

Blackpark Plantation (Stone Circle)

05/06/2018 - Of all the sites on Bute this was the one I most wanted to see. Each stone looked so distinctive from looking at the photos on here. Only 3 left but each had it's own character.

The first one is like no other stone I've come across. So thin at the bottom and then ballooning out higher up. A megalithic lollipop.

The middle one is my favourite. Split now and a good size. And the faces!! Once you've seen them you can't un-see them, just great.

The third is smaller and has it's own little booster mound so it can hang with the bigger guys.

Great vibe to the site, surrounded by trees. Easy access and parking, A must see place.

Barone Hill (Hillfort)

04/06/2018 – First morning on the lovely Isle of Bute. Straight off the morning ferry (I love ferry trips, always a sense of adventure about them). First port of call was Barone Hill. Ticks both ‘need to climb a hill’ & ‘look at old stuff’ boxes.

We drove out of Rothesay on the B878 a short way then took the small yellow road south to the end where there is good parking before Loch Fad (NS 07926276).

A track heads up the hill towards works and a dam. As the track turns left near the reservoirs, a path leads up to the summit of Barone Hill (one stile to cross). No access problems.

The fort is quite overgrown but you can follow the wall in places. Still a little overcast this morning so the distant views weren’t great.

Nice fort and hill. Worth a visit as the climb isn’t too bad and the effort is rewarded with a good view of Bute and beyond. I guess you would be unlikely to bump into folk here as well (though probably cows as they’re everywhere on Bute).

After a bite to eat and a sit on the top we took Gladman’s tip and headed back to Rothesay to check out the castle which is really excellent.

The Gouklan Stone (Standing Stone / Menhir)

03/06/2018 - Great Cumbrae is a lovely island just a short ferry ride away from Largs. The ferries are very frequent and cheap (about £6.00 return for the two for us). You don't really need a car on here. A lot of folk seem to go to hire a bike in the town of Millport (buses run there and back from the ferry) and then spend the day cycling round the island.

The walk on quiet county roads to Craigengour Wood is nice. Small paths lead you through the trees to the standing stone, which is near the far end.

At about 6ft tall, it's a good sized stone. I was really taken with it's surroundings. It stands in a little clearing protected by lovely tall trees. I think they look after the stone well, as do the people of Great Cumbrae. It has a small info board next to it with a square thingy you can point your phone at to get more information. The back of the stone has a lot of initials on it, don't know why.

It's a nice stone as is the whole island. Good views from the top and the cathedral in Millport is worth a visit too.

Castle Hill (Hillfort)

02/06/2018 - Nice little hillfort above Largs. Easy access from Douglas Park below. Path is a little steep in places. Great views from it and a fine place for a sit.

Haylie (Chambered Tomb)

02/06/2018 - Managed to get proper lost looking for this one. At least now I could go on Mastermind with the 'Backstreets of Largs' as my specialist subject!

Turned out it is dead easy once you look at the map properly and follow a few signs. Head through Douglas Park to the back and arrows point you to the right and the cairn - simple!

Don't let the town location put you off going to see this one. It's nicely tucked away in a slightly overgrown area of trees and tall grass. Very, very green and sunny today. The heat was something else as well.

The cairn is great. I liked this one. Bigger than I thought it would be.

There is an uphill path behind it to a viewpoint and hillfort which is well worth doing if you have the time.

Cairn Hill (Cairn(s))

31/05/2018 - Looking at the map I liked the look of this one. Old cairn on top of a hill, bit in the middle of nowhere feel. The hill is even called Cairn Hill. Turned out this isn't Nithsdale's answer to Tinto. The Cairn's not that exciting, still the walk was good.

We started from Glenim Cottage on the Mennock Pass (good parking and access). A fine day out, looping round Auchensow Hill, Dalpeddar Hill, Cairn Hill and Meikle Snout. Steepish to start with but after that the walking was good between the tops.

The cairn at the summit of Cairn Hill has a large footprint but is very low lying. Canmore mention traces of a kerb but I couldn't really make one out.

A very similar cairn is on the top of Dalpeddar Hill as well but I can't find any reference to one on the web.

Go for the walk and just take the cairn as a small added bonus.

Though nothing to do with prehistory I thought I'd give the nearby villages of Leadhills and Wanlockhead a plug. They are well worth a visit and surrounding hills make for good walking.

Bizzyberry Hill (Hillfort)

26/05/2018 - Starting from Biggar we took the small path off the A702 (NT 04673824). It's just after the new housing estate and a bit easy to miss. The path goes straight up through the trees then turns right through tall gorse. After that, cross a couple of fields and a final climb up to the top.

It was a busy Saturday in Biggar so it was nice to get away from the rush and spend a peaceful hour or so on Bizzyberry Hill (great name). Sunshine was lovely and the views fine.

I enjoyed my visit to this one.

Langlaw Hill (Hillfort)

26/05/2018 - Easy parking for this one. Layby on A701, just to the north of the hill (NT10343911). Walk south down the road a little and a gate and small bridge gives access to the field. From there it's a short but steepish climb to the top. Cows in the field today but a long way off so no problems.

The hillfort has grassed over double ramparts. It's nice enough and has good views all round. Worth a walk up if you are passing.

Wheedlemont (Hillfort)

19/05/2018 - As the weather was so fine we decided to make a day of it and take the longer approach from the west. We parked at Glackhead (NJ 44382797) on the A971, a lovely scenic road from Rhynie to Cabrach.

A steep climb up Orditeach then little ups and downs over fine rocky tops to Turf Hill. Great view from here east to our way to Cnoc Cailliche hillfort. I've been wanting to visit this area for some time as it looked good from Tap o' Noth. Rocks and boulders everywhere. The walk from Turf Hill was easy going. No access problems.

If yellow has a smell, it's gorse on a sunny day, it was wonderfully strong on the last little climb that brought us to the top of Cnoc Cailliche.

It's a nice fort with grassed over ramparts. Location is excellent and well worth a visit. Great views of the surrounding area.

We made our way back via Red Craig (fine place for a brew). A lovely sunny day out.

Knockargety Hill (Hillfort)

12/05/2018 – What a lovely sunny day to visit this one. Good parking and access from the east. A track then small path leads straight to the top. The place was full of butterflies today enjoying the sunshine, mainly Green-veined White but also the odd Peacock and one Orange Tip which was nice as we don’t see many of them round here.

Not much in the way of ramparts to see of the unfinished hillfort. It covers quite a large area and would have been some site had it been completed.

It’s worth walking on to have a look at Fernyhowe cairn as well.

This was our last visit of the day so we had time to have a sit on top for a while and take in the view. I love this time of year. Everything seems so green and alive.

Little Hill (Enclosure)

12/05/2018 - Good parking at the bend on the minor road just before Boddomend (NJ 5492 0013). Nice track leads north towards Little Hill. After about half a mile or so we passed a biggish borrow pit on our right, then took the next track after that which led to the top of hill. From the top (which had a trace of what might be a cairn) it was an easy stroll east to the enclosure. Not a bad time of year to visit as the bracken hasn't started to grow back yet.

Interesting enclosure. I'd love to know what it was used for and when. It's location is lovely with grand views out across the countryside.

Fine place for a stroll on a sunny day. You can extend the walk with a visit to Mortlich to the NW as well if you have the time.

Easy access with no fence problems.

Binn Hill (Cairn(s))

14/04/2018 - It had been a nice day so far mooching about a few hills between Keith and Fochabers. We were making good time so in the afternoon we decided to head a little north to the coast and visit Binn Hill. I had remembered seeing Drew's post about the cairn on TMA a while ago and thought the location looked good.

Parking and access from the south is good. The walk around Binn Hill is excellent. A very pretty place especially in the sunshine. The cairn wasn't too hard to find at this time of year before the bracken does its thing. OKish cairn with a couple of decent sized kerb stones still left.

If you visit and have the time, it's worth walking round the hill. The top has what looked to me like an old enclosure, very intriguing. From east of the summit you can head down through the 'sea of stones' to the sea. Just a lovely area with one of the most extensive shingle systems in Britain.

I've been a bit fed up recently so it was a good visit to cheer me up a little. Sunshine, a nice place to walk and old stuff to look at, that will do me.

South Ythsie (Stone Circle)

17/02/2018 - Must be well over ten years since our last visit. The reason for our trip was the Prop of Ythsie. Neither of us could remember if we had been there last time (the old memory is going).

What a lovely day yesterday was. Little wind, sunshine and blue skies. A good time of year to visit the stones with everything died back. The circle was a little bigger then I remembered, I had it in my head as just a little thing.

It looked just lovely in the sunshine today. We stood in the middle for ages, looking at the stones and then trying to spot skylarks singing high above against the clear blue sky. Magic visit.

The piece from the split stone seems to have gone. Anyone know anything about this?
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