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Fieldnotes by LesHamilton

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An Reidhean (Stone Circle)

Visited: May 23, 2017

The existence of this 'possible' stone circle was announced following a Discovery and Excavation in Scotland exploration on Skye's Strathaird estate in 1998. Don't go expecting to see a monumental structure: like most of Skye's stone circles, there is really very little remaining.

The site is located half a kilometre north of the small community of Drinan, situated half-way down the western margin of Loch Slapin. To visit, step on to the moor immediately north of the cattle grid (on the road, just before entering Drinan) and head north for 450 metres, uphill of the fence (you will have to park down in the village). The walking is excellent on firm, short heather and there are no fences to cross.

Make for the slightly higher ground and look down. The circle occupies a conspicuous grassy spot in the otherwise dark heather of the moor, about 40 metres west of the fence line. Three earthfast stones stand on the southern arc of the slightly raised grassy oval: the rest of the perimeter is devoid of stones. A trickle of stream runs close by it.

This location is about 30 metres northwest of the Grid location quoted by Discovery and Excavation in Scotland. However, I don't consider this significant: after all, the Grid reference they gave for the Cuidrach Stone Setting in 1989 proved to be more than a hundred metres in error.


 

The walk to the site is rather featureless but, as the map above shows, there is a slight 'greening' of the vegetation where the small stream trickles down past the circle. Also, looking east towards the loch, you should be level with a band of trees that straddles the path to the cottage beyond.

Rigg (Promontory Fort)

Visited: September 5, 2017

Though not highlighted on the OS Map, there is a lay-by at NC521581 just east of the A855 Portree to Staffin road, and this is the starting point for a visit to the remains of Rigg Promontory Fort. Be advised though, that this lay-by is deeply rutted - more like the surface of the Moon than a car-park. So drive with care.

From the lay-by, Rigg Fort is visible 130 metres below at the foot of a seriously steep, grassy hillside, as a triangular, grassy peninsula flanked on both sides by vertical 15 metre high cliffs. I would not recommend a descent unless you have a good head for heights, are an experienced hill walker and are equipped with stout hillwalking boots.

Nevertheless, the descent provides few terrors and the gradient, through grass and short bracken, can be eased by careful zigzagging on the way down. Remember: you will have to climb back up again, so a degree of fitness is essential.

The remains of Rigg fort consist of a double wall two metres thick which completely cuts off the grassy peninsula. Only the foundation course, consisting of sturdy boulders, remains today, but it must have been a formidable barrier in its time. There is no sign of walling round the perimeter of the fort, but the vertical cliffs all around would have deterred any intruder. The peninsula abuts a narrow coastal plain where sheep graze today and where a community could have subsisted in isolation. A stream nearby would be a ready source of water.

There are distinct similarities between the Rigg Fort and Dun Grugaig near Glasnakille. Both fortifications consist of a thick wall that isolates a narrow, cliff-girt peninsula from the mainland. In the case of Dun Grugaig, there remains significant broch-like galleried architecture in the protecting wall. At Rigg, the wall is reduced to its foundation level, but who knows what it might have looked like in its prime.

Dun Torvaig (Stone Fort / Dun)

Visited: September 5, 2017

Situated on the 120 metre summit of Ben Chrachaig, immediately north of Portree Bay, little structure remains of the tumbledown fort of Dun Torvaig.

The slopes of the hillside are a jungle of alternate woodland and thick bracken but easy access can be achieved by first following the coastal path from the Coolin Hills Hotel for several hundred metres, as far as the Viewpoint. Take the path up to the grassy Viewpoint, and you will find that it continues into the trees beyond, wending its way, in part via steps, through the trees and bracken, on to the summit plateau. The plateau is undulating, but the site of Dun Torvaig is a compact rocky knoll near its centre, guarded on the east by low cliffs.

There is a short stretch of walling still extant, two courses high, on the dun's western side, and a rather dilapidated entrance corridor to its south. Otherwise Dun Torvaig is little more than a mass of tumbled stone. Nonetheless, the views from this eyrie are superb, particularly towards the Storr, just nine kilometres to its north.

D43 Schimeres (Hunebed)

Visited: July 17, 2017

Revisiting this passage grave after a lapse of several years, I was fortunate to be able to view the stones in bright sunlight, though still to some extent shadowed by trees. But what struck me most was the redevelopment on Noordeinde nearby D43.

The 'Hunebed / Langgraaf' sign and the dirt road leading to the hunebed were no longer obvious as the property by the roadside had turned into a mini-estate, with expansive lawns and a surrounding hedge of trees and bushes.

I made my way to the junction of Noordeinde with Dopheide as previously, faced across the road, and was confronted with the view shown in the 'Maps / Plans / Diagrams' section. You have to walk a few paces up the paved entranceway until you at last see the dirt track that wends to your right, round the northern boundary of this property to the patch of woodland sheltering Hunebed D43 Schimmeres.

D50 Noord sleen (Hunebed)

Visited: July 17, 2017

On this, my third visit to the superb Hunebed D50 at Noord Sleen, I was at last blessed with warm summer weather and was able to enjoy the stones in glorious sunshine (last year heavy rain and gales forced me to retreat).

This excursion was pursued in a manner designed to allow several hours of pleasant woodland walking, and is one which I thoroughly recommend. I took the No 21 bus from Assen and alighted at the Voshaar bus halt, beside Recreation Center Rijmaaran (just south of the village of Schoonoord).

The walk started by entering the grounds of the Center and following the Hunebed sign directing visitors into the woodland and on to Hunebed D49 (the so-called Papeloze Kerk - blue marker). After inspecting the hunebed, I continued in the same direction for about 110 metres to a forestry road and headed south to Galgenberg, a large Bronze-Age burial mound (red marker).

From here, the walk continued through airy woodlands until the N381 highway was reached. Here a path leads left to a stile at the point where the woodland gives way to fields.

Cross the highway and straddle (or duck under) the single strand fence on the far side to gain the metalled road (Hunebedweg) leading to Hunebed D50, 400 metres farther on (green marker).

The total distance walked was just under 5 kilometres.
___________________________________

To complete my day, I continued south to the end of Hunebedweg and turned left along Zweelooerstraat into the village of Noord Sleen to catch the No 21 bus to Emmen, where I spent a further hour visiting Hunebed D43 Schimmeres (the langgraaf) and Hunebed D45 Emmerdennen.

Kampsheide (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

Visited: July 17, 2017

Less than a half kilometre north of Tumulibos lies Kampsheide, a beautiful, compact region surrounding a large kettle-hole lake. The area is a mix of woodland and heath, and paths abound making it a delightful area for walking and enjoying wildlife. The map below illustrates the area and its surroundings, just west of the village of Balloo and a kilometre north of the main Assen-Rolde road. Kampsheide takes its name from the neighbouring Kamps Farm (Bourderij Kamps), and means simply Kamps heathland (not a campsite at all).



Kampsheide is but a remnant of a former much larger cemetery, and contains some fifty grave mounds of varying sizes as well as traces of Celtic Fields. The markers on the map above, shown in greater detail below, indicate the locations of some of the more prominent mounds.



Whatever your interests, this is a wonderful area to explore. I only encountered five of the grave mounds: the determined explorer will surely locate many more.

Information plaques are found by some of the mounds, stating roughly:
The grave mounds that lie in this part of Kampsheide make up part of a much larger prehistoric cemetery that stretched farther to the southwest. Already, by 1833 at the request of C J C Reuvens, the first professor of archeology in the world, a drawing had been made of the environment of this cemetery

Most likely the mounds that you see here today are grave monuments from the Iron Age, between 800 BC and the beginning of the Christian Era. During this period, it was usual to collect the remains of the cremated dead and bury them in an urn. The interment was then covered by a mound. This kind of mound is called a brandheuvel (fire hill). The simple objects that the dead took with them were usually burned (with the bodies).

Tumulibos (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

Visited: July 17, 2017

More than 35 prehistoric tombs have been preserved in the Tumulibos, a small wooded area located immediately north of the the Assen-Rolde road, less than two kilometres west of the village of Rolde.

Originally a much larger cemetery existed here, and as recently as 1833 over 150 grave mounds still existed. But countless graves have fallen victim to local exploitation over the years and today only these 35 or so mounds remain. The graves in this group span a period of roughly 2500 years, the oldest ones dating from around 2900 BCE. The most recent mounds—those dating since 1100 BCE—contain exclusively cremated remains, and are referred to as 'fire hills'.

It's thanks to the Province of Drenthe that this group of prehistoric graves has survived at all, as they had the foresight to purchase the area in 1856, thus guaranteeing its future safety. Stichting Het Drentse Landschap has administered the Tumulibos since 2001. The word tumulibos simply means a ‘wood with grave mounds’—tumulus being Latin for grave mound.

To visit the Tumulibos, take either the No 21 or No 24 bus from Assen and alight at the stop: 'Weg naar Balloo'. Immediately north, across the main road, is Tumuliboslaan, the lane that borders Tumulibos on its east. The entire woodland is very compact, measuring only 240 × 280 metres.

As you walk up Tumuliboslaan you will see several grave mounds under the trees just a few metres into the woodland on your left. Just short of the northern boundary of the woodland, a footpath leads left and meanders between the tall beech trees, taking you past numerous impressive graves, most carpeted with fallen beech leaves. You just cannot miss them.

Offerberg (Round Cairn)

Visited: July 17. 2017

Just a couple of kilometres west of the village of Rolde in Drenthe, in a secluded field, stands a striking Iron Age tomb called the Offerberg. This name means 'Hill of Sacrifices' on account of the ancient cremation remains found there.

The site stands immediately west of Tumulibos, beneath the canopy of a large tree in the middle of a large field of grazing cattle, but cannot be approached directly on account of a perimeter electric fence.

Dun Craig (Stone Fort / Dun)

Visited: May 25, 2017

This small ruined dun stands on a grassy knoll about 30 metres above the coast, to the southeast of Dun Maraig, on the South Cuidrach estate. There is little of note to record, except that Dun Craig occupies a fine vantage point towards the coast.

Dun Craig is hardly worth visiting on its own, but makes a fine walk when combined with other local antiquities (Dun Maraig, Dun Borve, Dun View and the Cuidrach Stone Setting).

A good path, with a stout fence to its east lies between the coast and Dun Craig, but there are stiles both before and after the dun to help you through.

Dun Creagach (Broch)

I had intended to visit this broch during June 2017 but having lost a day of my trip north to atrocious weather, had to leave this for a future visit. However, I did gain a chance view of Dun Creagach from across Loch Naver when visiting Grummore broch.

Canmore tells that this is a 'well preserved and comparatively undisturbed' broch which has been built on a small island, and which is connected to the shore by a causeway. Although much rubble surrounds the structure, the walling still stands over three metres tall in places and can be traced almost all round the broch.

Carn Liath, Farr (Broch)

Visited: June 5, 2017

When motoring north along the A897 from Helmsdale to Melvich, and just over a kilometre north of The Borg, I came across the remains of Carn Liath broch nestling behind Trantlemore cemetery.

Not much to look at, this broch has been extensively robbed, and on approach is just a grassy mound with a scattering of foundation stones littered around it.
The interior has been gouged of much of its detail. It's almost as if a road had been cut through it, but there is a stretch of basal walling to be seen to its south.

This broch is certainly not worth going out of your way for a visit but, as a quick stop on a long drive north, it offers a short excursion to stretch the legs.

Allt an Duin (Skelpick) (Broch)

Visited: June 7, 2017

Located atop a conical knoll, some 85 metres above the river Naver and about a mile east of it, Allt an Duin is protected by steep slopes, and in summer, a jungle of bracken. This is not a target for the casual walker as the ascent is demandingly steep, though it can be eased by making for the southern ridge and completing the ascent from there. Most of the ascent was through dense bracken, until almost at the broch, when heather took over.

The broch is built from large blocks of igneous or metamorphic rock and much of its structure is concealed under a massive expanse of tumbled masonry. Hardly any structure remains in view on the exterior, although the entrance passage on the west is still discernable. Within the broch there are a few stretches of the inner wall that still reach up to eight courses high.

This must have originally been a superb fastness, not only because of its situation—defended by steep slopes—but because of the amount of rock here. If all the rocks that have cascaded down from the hilltop were replaced in the broch, it would be a mighty structure indeed.

Access to Allt an Duin is along the single-track road to Skelpick, which follows the east bank of the River Naver from the point where the A836 from Bettyhill swings to the west.

Follow the Skelpich road for almost three kilometres, passing Lochan Duinte on the way, and park in the large sand-pit on the right of the road. Immediately across the road is a farm road and the broch is prominent on its knoll about 600 metres ahead.

Dun Beag, Balmeanach (Hillfort)

Visited: May 21, 2017

The fort of Dun Beag lies just over a kilometre due south of Dun Vallerain, and likewise on a steep conical hill. Park beside the cemetery 800 metres west of Brodaig from the A855 (blue marker), walk back up to the Brodaig-Uig road, then turn left and continue for around 400 metres till a gate comes into view on your right. Dun Beag now rears steeply above you and looks impregnable, but a path from the gate heads northwards and contours all of the way round to the west of the hill then leads up easy grassy slopes to the summit (red marker). The ascent is about 100 metres.



The upper slopes of the hill are covered in tunbled stones that were once the dun's defensive western wall. The summit is basically a level grassy plain (measuring 37 × 15 metres ) with few redeeming features other than the superb views it provides towards both th sea and the precipices of the Cuiraing. There is a well defined entrance passage bordered by large squared blocks in its upper reaches. To the east and north, the hill falls almost precipitously to the moorlands below and there is little evidence of walling. On the easier western slopes, traces of walling two courses deep can still be identified amongst the tumble. Judging from the quantity of tumbled stones on the western slopes, there must once have been a substantial defensive wall here. In a few places, on the southern and western slopes, intermittent stetches of the foundation course can still be found in situ.

Leadoch (Broch)

Visited: June 8, 2017

Leadoch broch stands on a low, bracken infested knoll about 150 metres west of the estate road near the south of Loch Brora. The site is very dilapilated showing no internal structure at all, and with the outer wall little more than a mass of tumble. This site is hardly worth the effort of a visit unless you are already intending to make you way to the splendid Carrol broch about a kilometre farther up the valley.



Directions are the same as for visiting Carrol broch, except that you only have to follow the path for one kilometre before tramping through bracken on your left to Leadoch (about 160 metres).

Grummore (Broch)

Visited: June 7, 2017

Three miles along the B873 from Altnahara, on the north bank of Loch Naver, you will come to a small parking place beside the Altnahara Caravan Club Site. This is not, perhaps, where you would expect to find a broch, but Grummore stands at the water's edge at the north end of this site.

From outside, Grummore appears as a moss and lichen encrusted pile of stones with no structure remaining and some mature trees rising from its interior.

But the interior of the broch retains many typical elements despite being full of tumbled debris, and in places the walls rise to almost 2.5 metres tall. The entrance lies on the west of the broch, indicated from outside by a slight dip on the structure: but on the inside there is a well formed entranceway with lintels still in pace. Walking around the circumference, there are several places where there is evidence of a ground-level gallery.

There's lots more information about Grummmore on the Canmore website.

Carrol (Broch)

Visited: June 8, 2017

Carrol is a relatively remote, seldom visited broch, located in a large forest clearing at an altitude of about 100 metres, about half a kilometre west of Loch Brora in Sutherland.

At first sight, the broch appears as just a huge stoneheap but there's a real treat in store once you climb up and view the interior. The broch was excavated by the Duke of Sutherland during the 1870s, and its external walling was completely buried by the material removed from the interior, which now stands almost 4 metres tall around the entire structure. To say this is impressive is an understatement: the interior of Carrol broch is little short of overwhelming!

There is an entrance passsage on the east-southeast but this is sufficiently blocked at its inner end to deny the visitor access. Nevertheless, walking round the ramparts—effectively the broch's second level—is quite an experience (just a pity the centre of the broch is inhabited by dense bushes these days).

Three features in particular stand out. On the west, a long staircase of at least a dozen steps, thickly encrusted by moss and lichen, but still recognisable, leads down into the wall gallery to the lower level. At the foot of the stair, is a door-frame faced with massive stone slabs which would have originally led from the gallery into the interior. Then, immediately after comes a long stretch of gallery leading all the way round to the entrance. At the time of excavation half this gallery was still roofed over but now most of it has lost its lintels and is open to the air.

How to get there
The broch stands just 50 metres north of a prominent stream (Allt Coire Aghaisgeig) which flows down into Loch Brora, and this provides the easiest way to locate it as it is not visible from below. Be advised that this visit is not quite a 'stroll in the park'. Stout walking shoes or boots are essential, specially if you lose your way in the forest!




After following the road signposted Doll (to the south of the River Brora from the A9) for 2½ kilometres, there are a few parking spaces at the road's end, beside the footbridge over the river (orange marker at foot of map). Backtrack about 50 metres then follow the estate road through the forest for a pleasant walk before emerging from the trees after about one kilometre. From here, continue along the road for another two kilometres to the point where it crosses the Allt Coire Aghaisgeig.

Now is the most important bit because the broch lies in woodland behind a tall deer fence. Do not cross the stream, but make directly for the fence just before the stream (150 metres over heather) where you will find a tall stile (blue marker). Once over the stile, cross the stream and head exactly south-west to Carrol broch, through woodland now consisting of fairly scattered birch trees. Another 450 metres and you're there (red marker). Alternatively, follow the stream uphill, as it passes just 50 metres from the broch.


There is a lot of information about Carrol broch on the Canmore website.

Baile Mhargaite (Broch)

Visited: June 5, 2017

Across the estuary of the River Naver from Bettyhill stands a steep 80 metre tall hill bearing the broch Baile Mhargaite on its summit.

It's a walk of around 1.5 kilometres from the bridge over the River Naver at Invernaver, a, cross grass then sand to the broch, following a rough path to the south of Baile Mhargaite up a steep stream. It is best to continue a little past the broch as the easiest ascent is from the west.

From the outside, this broch is little more than a tumbled mass of stones, but the interior wall is well preserved all the way round the structure, to a visible height approaching two metres. In reality, the true height of these walls is probably as great as five metres as the interior of the broch is deeply infilled by blown sand (hence this sometimes being dubbed the 'Sandy Broch'.

You can read more about this site at Canmore, who also provide an aerial colour photograph of the area.

Dun Maraig (Stone Fort / Dun)

Visited: May 25, 2017

I parked in a disused quarry half way along the Cuidrach road as the occupants of two mobile homes sat in the sunshine enjoying breakfast on this fantastic morning. The walk down to the shore then round to the neck of land to the southeast of Dùn Maraig is a pleasant two kilometres.

As luck would have it, my visit to Skye coincided with New Moon (on this actual day), which meant that neap tides were the lowest of the month. And to be sure, the islet of Dun Maraig lay absolutely high and dry—the perfect opportunity to make the short crossing and investigate the site. So, armed with two walking poles, I set out across the seaweed-encrusted boulders towards the dùn, taking what looked to be the shortest distance. The poles were a great help in keeping upright on the slippery weed, but the crossing was not difficult at all (stout boots advised, though).

Arriving at the northwest of Dùn Maraig, huge foundation blocks with the remains of four walling courses of smaller stones above them rose above me. But further progress was impossible on account of the seaweed-covered boulders that would have had to be climbed. I continued round the islet, to the southeast along a fairly easy terrace until a dip in the grassy surface above signified what was presumably the entrance to the dùn. Here it proved easy to ascend to the top of the islet's defences. Interestingly, there is no evidence of a 'built' entrance passage, just the slight grassy dip through the boulders. To the east of the entrance, defences resumed in the shape of some particularly large walling blocks, now largely collapsed, hinting that this must have been an impressive fort in its heyday.

The summit of Dùn Maraig is mainly grass-covered, with a splendid bloom of bluebells at the time of my visit. Walking round the islet, it was found to be defended by cliffs the length of its north and east coasts, walling only apparently having been necessary on the lower west and south sides. Canmore refers to the remains of two oblong structures on the islet, and one was just discernable beneath the lush overgrowth of vegetation.

Dùn Maraig was originally attached to the mainland by a gently curving causeway, marked out by large boulders on each side, most of which are now long gone. This was the route I chose to make my departure, and the walking was really firm and easy, much more so than the inward route chosen, and I barely required the walking poles to negotiate it.

For those disposed for exploring off the beaten track, this is a wonderful little expedition. Just one word of warning: consult tide charts (I used data for the Isle of Lewis—just across the Minch—which was the closest I could find) and ensure you don't become marooned by a rising tide.

Dun Mor (Stone Fort / Dun)

Visited: May 23, 2017

After crossing a footbridge across the stream behind Torrin Outdoor Centre, a track follows the coast southwards as far as two cottages. Beyond the second cottage, a footpath can be found rising up the hillside towards Dun Mor. At length this meets a fence, over a metre high, but a strategically placed boulder assists its crossing, and the path continues beyond it into the scrub that encircles the summit of the hill.

This scrub is not impenetrable, and minimal route searching is needed to fight through it for perhaps 50 metres until a stone wall comes into view: this is the latter-day cattle fold that was constructed by destroying almost all the original stonework of the fort. This construction fills almost the entire area of the fort, which is grassy with a number of bedrock intrusions.

The only significant remaining stretch of the original wall of this fort stands in its northwest corner where huge stones reach to almost two metres (topped by a scattering of broken fragments that don't belong there). From outside the cattle fold you can still see evidence of foundation courses of the walling, which was either double—or galleried—as shown in one of the photographs. At the far end of the structure (in the southeast) a few large foundation blocks remain in situ with the modern wall built over them.

Dun Grugaig (Stone Fort / Dun)

Visited: May 23. 2017

During this week on Skye I determined to revisit the amazing Dun Grugaig at Glasnakille, and if possible to find a more direct route to the semi-broch. This time I walked north from the same starting point as previously, and right to the northern boundary of the fenced area (almost opposite the next property on the road). Here I found a stile (which I had used previously, but which simply led into an almost impenetrable tangle of scrub and undergrowth). Ignore this stile!

Instead, walk a couple of metres past this stile, and follow the outside of the fence towards the coast. A reasonable footpath has been tramped here, so Dun Grugaig must receive quite a number of visitors. Follow the path until it levels off at a point where the fence turns to the right and an open area dominated by bracken lies ahead.

Here the path becomes obscured, but actually heads left through the bracken towards the next stand of birch trees. Just walk towards these trees, and you will resdiscover the path running between them directly to Dun Grucaig. Because the birch trees are now quite rampant, you don't actually see the dun till the last moment, when you step out from under the trees.

The map below illustrates the path, including the short dog-leg from the fence through the bracken.


 
With more time to spend at the dun (rather than hunting for it), several previously unnoticed features came to light. To the right of the broch wall (in the interior) is a short flight of three steps, remnant of an original stairway to a second level. Climb these, and you can just catch a glimpse of a section of second-level gallery.

On the left-side of the wall is a promnent scarcement, a row of stones forming a ledge which would have supported one end of the original wooden flooring over the interior court.

The entrance passage is extremely well preserved, although one of its original complement of seven massive lintels has been lost. The broch would originally have possessed a wooden door, and door checks to keep it in place are prominent, as are bar holes in each side wall into which bars to secure the door would have slid.

This is a fascinating site, just five minute's walk from the road. The first part of the path is quite steep and could be tricky when wet, but poses no real obstacle. Good walking boots, though, are recommended.
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A keen hillwalker most of my life, my interest was restricted when the need arose to care for an ageing parent.

With limited opportunities to travel far from home, I 'discovered' the world of stone circles, mainly in my native Aberdeenshire.

This provided the ideal opportunity for short walks of just a few hours duration, and resulted in me visiting many places of interest that I had never considered previously.

Website:
Stone Circles of NE Scotland
Here you will find both Google and Bing maps displaying more than 100 sites of stone circles, the majority in my native Aberdeenshire. The markers on the maps are clickable, to reveal a photo of the stone circle and a link to RCAHMS-Carnmore's Site Record.

A menu at the side of the maps allows you to zoom in to any individual circle, viewing its environs as a zoomable aerial photograph (Google) or an OS Map (Bing).

Hunebedden
I've since extended my interest to the megalithic remains in The Netherlands, where there are some magnificent passage graves known as hunebedden (giant's beds). Despite the fact that The Netherlands is essentially flat and sandy, these 5000 year old monuments from the Funnel Beaker Culture are often found in exquisite woodland settings, nearly all of them in the province of Drenthe. There are almost limitless opportunities for delightful walks between small villages, taking in a diversion to a hunebed here and there.

My TMA Content: