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Fieldnotes by thelonious

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Auchindoun (Hillfort)

10/11/2018 – A good old castle in ruins is just great. This one at Auchindoun is well worth a visit. There’s a newish carpark now a short drive up the track from the main road. Location is wonderful with fine views of River Fiddich and surrounding hills. I was really taken aback by the size of the ramparts of the bivallate Iron Age fort, they are huge. The medieval castle in the middle of the fort is really fine as well, it took me back to visits to castles in Wales as a kid. Very exciting.

It was a lovely November day out with a walk in the Cabrach in the morning, then a visit here followed by a pop in to see Nether Dumeath stone circle on the way back. All in the fine company of Drew and co :-)

Cairnshee Woods (Cairn(s))

28/10/2018 – I’ve not been here before, stupid me as the cairn is huge and pretty fantastic. Same starting point as Drew. Little bit tricky finding it. Don’t bother trying to follow the track on the OS map, it gets messy. Better really, once you're in the wood, just to head up, you get there in the end. From the photos on here the cairn looked big but it’s even bigger than I thought it would be. Really good and the location is lovely in open woodland. Well worth a visit.

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

06/09/2018 – Long day walk visiting the various tops on south Vatersay today. On the way back we just had to visit the wheelhouse at Allt Chrysal. I just love this place. We visit a lot of the old sites and every now and again we come across one that for some reason just grabs us and stays. Standing in the middle of the wheelhouse I felt very lucky to be back. A special place. It’s a site for daydreamers.

Breibhig (Standing Stone / Menhir)

05/09/2018 – We missed these stones last year. Looped walk from Castlebay over the tops of Hebhal and Hartabhal to visit them this time. The still standing one is just great. Close to 10ft tall I’d guess. Unlike its fallen comrade nearby, this one’s still hanging on. Maybe not as straight as it once was but it had a defiant air about it. Like it was nowhere near ready to be beat by the tag team of time and gravity. It was evening by the time we reached the stones. Meant a lot to get there. A happy visit. If you go to Barra these should be on your list of things to see, easy access by the way from the road.

Totronald (Standing Stones)

04/09/2018 – These two decent sized and fine shaped stones some 10-15 metres apart are very nice. Easy access from the quiet road nearby. Lots of cows about but most seem quite friendly.

Ben Feall (Cist)

04/09/2018 – Easy enough to get to. The walk up to the top of Ben Feall is quite short. Remains of a cist on the summit. What a view from the top. There’s a fort on the west side of the hill too. Well worth going for the walk alone. The beaches nearby are fantastic.

Getting about on Coll is a little tricky if you don’t bring your own car. No public transport so we took a brave/stupid decision to hire bicycles from the Post Office. I’d not been on one for well over twenty years but they say you never forget! The ride to and from the site was a little interesting to say the least but the roads are quiet so not much damage done. Think I’ll stick to walking from now on though.

Druim An Airigh Fhada (Cairn(s))

03/09/2018 – Cairn marked on OS map 1:50000. Very overgrown now and not much to see. The view’s nice though.

Bernera (Cairn(s))

03/09/2018 – Easy enough to find as the summit has a phone mast on it now. Just head for that. The top has the remains of a cairn on it. Not much to see apart from two sides of a cist. I liked the place and the feeling of a wide open landscape is impressive from here.

Dun Anlaimh (Crannog)

03/09/2018 – Excellent crannog and remains of a curved causeway. Makes me wonder if the causeway was always just below the water and curved so only those living in the crannog would know the safe way to cross? Really liked this one. One thing worth mentioning is that it is a pig of a walk to get to. Underfoot very hard going on east side of the loch. We came from Ben Hogh and left NW to climb Cnocan na Ban. Tough day.

The name for this crannog - Dun Anlaimh might seem a little odd. This crannog is actual on Loch Nan Cinneachan not Loch Anlaimh to the south (which does have its only crannog). This crannog was named way back when the two lochs were just one, called Loch Anlaimh.

Loch Nan Cinneachan (Standing Stone / Menhir)

03/09/2018 – Interesting little area this overlooking Loch Nan Cinneachan. On a level terrace west of the crannog there is a couple of cairns (both with kerb stones showing) and a standing stone. The whole place has a feeling that it has been lived in over many years. A little tricky to get to, go on a dry day.

Clach na Ban-righ (Rocking Stone)

03/09/2018 - I'm sure this is the stone mentioned in Rhiannon's folklore post elsewhere that Mr giant threw up to Mrs giant.

It's just so fantastic I had to give it a little hug when I got there. It's massive and just resting on three little stones - impossibly wonderful.

A must see place.

If you are going or have been to Coll, Boswell and Johnson's accounts of their visit to the island are well worth a read.

Most of Boswell's accounts miss out details of his visit to the stone, just saying it did not repay the trouble in getting to it! Link to his full account -
He measures the dimensions of the stone using his handkerchief! A technique I'm sure we have all used at some point in the past to measure stones :-)

Ben Hogh (Cairn(s))

03/09/2018 - Afternoon walk up to the high point of Coll. The view from Ben Hogh is just wonderful and a must visit place when on Coll. It's an easy enough walk from the Hebridean Centre to the top. As well as the view you get an added bonus that the summit has a kerbed cairn. Trig has been plonked in the middle of it though. Kerb still showing best on the north side.

A fine place for a brew and bite to eat. Remember to walk a little way north to the rocking stone as well, it's fantastic.

(The actual top of Ben Hogh is some 500m SW of the trig and cairn)

Dun Hiader (Stone Fort / Dun)

02/09/2018 - Canmore describes this as a probable ground-galleried broch or oval dun. It's in a fantastic location and was probably my favourite of the sites on Tiree that we visited.

We approached down the hill from Carnan Mor. The weather was proper rubbish at this point. The two of us made a very wet climb up the craggy rock to have a look round the dun. Nice entrance and walls still in place. It's definitely a site to sit down and spend a few hours at but the rain just got the better of us and we had to move on all too soon which was a real shame.

The view out to sea and along the coast is great. The walk east to Hynish from here is very good.

Uamh Chaluim Chèaird (Cave / Rock Shelter)

02/09/2018 - The cave of Calum the tinker or something like that. Named after a traveller who used to stay here when visiting the island.

Canmore have this as a megalithic tomb and describe it as a maybe 'earth-fast dolmen'. I'm not so sure.

Still if you are in the area it's worth a look. The bay and the hills behind are very nice for a stroll.

Dun Hanais (Stone Fort / Dun)

01/09/2018 - We approached the dun from the south. It's a lovely walk along the beach. There's a parking area to the south. Turn off the road at NL 9419 4428.

Not much to see of the dun. Very grassy. A few stones still showing. The walk's nice though.

Dun Mor Vaul (Broch)

01/09/2018 - Good parking at the end of the road to Vaul. There's a trigpoint there too if that's your thing (I like trigs). The broch is just a short walk to the west, easy going.

Dun Mor broch is really very good. Gallery and steps still in good nick. Scarcement ledge on inner wall and a nice guard cell as you enter.

Location is strong on a little knoll. Fantastic view out to sea.

I liked the site very much.

We walked on to see Clach a' Choire after. Well worth a visit too. Underfoot was OK but it took a little longer than I thought it would get there. Lovely area.

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.
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