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Fieldnotes by LesHamilton

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Dun Aird (Stone Fort / Dun)

Visited: April 29, 2018

Near the farthest northeast point of Skye's Trotternish peninsula lies Kilmaluig Bay with its mighty Stac Lachlainn, a sea stac of truly immense proportions that towers above the clifftops. And immediately adjacent to the stac, to its northwest, is a small promontory on which stand the ruins of Skye's northernmost fort, Dun Aird.

Like many if its ilk, little of the structure of Dun Aird has survived to the present day other than an obvious grassed bank to the west that is all that remains of its walls and a hint of facing stones on the appwoach to the crag from the gate in the fence. The interior is generally level and grassed over, sloping noticeably down towards the sea.

As with such eyries, the main pay-off comes with the views the dun affords, specially on a sunny day, when the shallow coastal waters of Kilmaluig Bay glisten with myriad hues. To the north the sea stretches off towards the North Pole, but the finest views are southward, towards Stac Lachlainn and the mountainous spine of the peninsula.

Access to the dun seems fraught by fences from all directions. There is certainly a coastal path skirting the bay, and though it is clearly well worn, it still requires the negotiation of at least three stout, gateless barbed wire fences. The other option is to take the metalled road up from the bay for a few hundred metres and then branch to the right past Aird House. This road ends at a gate that leads on to the moor. From here the dun and stac are due east, but again there are fences to negotiate (but no definite path to take - unless I missed it). Finally you arrive at the fence cordoning off the clifftops, which does, thankfully, offer an access gate immediately above the dun.

For the motorist, there is a car-park at Kilmaluig Bay.

Meall An Duna (Stone Fort / Dun)

Visited: May 2, 2018

The rarely visited fort of Meall An Duna stands of a low, crag girt ridge west of Greshornish Hotel and some hundred metres from the shore of an attractive unnamed lochan. Little of the structure remains but the broad vegetated northern arc of its surrounding wall still stands around a metre in height with facing stones peeking out intermittently. At the east of the dun a level rising path leading to the summit might be the entrance passage. On reaching the fort, the reward for the intrepid adventurer is a wonderful view to the east, encompassing Loch Greshornish and the Trotternish mountains beyond.



From the end of the metalled road, just west of the Greshornish House Hotel, a dirt road heads west and curves northward for 250 metres towards a small stand of mature trees. Here, another path branches west through a gate, for about 180 metres, and through a second gate, till it meets a fence line heading due south. Just follow the west side of the fence for 250 metres and you arrive at the foot of the crag bearing the fort of Meall an Duna (marker 'F').

Loch Leum Na Luirginn (Stone Fort / Dun)

Visited: April 29, 2018

Surely few megalithic monuments in Britain can be found in such stunning surroundings as this diminuative dun, just 200 metres north of Loch Leum Na Luirginn in Skye's Trotternish peninsula. Nestling just east of the spectacular Trotternish mountains there are views to the pyramidal Cleat in the south while northward rise the precipitous, cliffs and pinnacles of the Cuiraing.

The dun itself lies 150 metres south of the Brogaig to Uig road, behind the modern cemetery, itself about two kilometres from Brogaig (not the old cemetery adjacent to the community). From the cemetery gate, follow the fence line south outside the cemetery as far as the unnamed stream that flows east into the River Brogaig. Step across the stream where the slope rises steeply (too steep to consider an ascent) for 20 metres, but a path follows the stream to the right (west) towards easier heather clad slopes where an ascent can be made.

All of a sudden you emerge on a plateau with the loch and Cleat prominent, and the site of the dun is obvious as a low, grassy platform amongst the heather. The dun stands at an altitude of 149 metres and has clearly been severely robbed. Nonetheless, though heavily vegetated, its outline is clear, with a pronounced saucer-shaped depression within. Inside the dun sufficient stonework can be seen to surmise that two or three courses of foundation blocks probably lurk beneath the tussocks of grass.

Trumpan (Cairn(s))

Visited: May 2, 2018

The location of this cairn, according to Canmore, lies at the junction of two dykes on a gentle rise directly southeast of the graveyard of Trumpan Church and just 60 metres distant from the back wall of the cemetery.

There is absolutely no mistaking the location, but the site is so completely trashed that there is little evidence of a cairn now. There are a few moss covered stones that could be the remnants of a kerb, but no clear rise in the topography into the 'V' between the two dykes.

Dun Connavern (Stone Fort / Dun)

Visited: April 29, 2018

Dun Connavern sits just 2½ kilometres south—as the crow flies—of the well-known Loch Mealt Kilt Rock viewpoint.

The starting point for the one kilometre walk to Dun Connavern is from the prominent roadside sign on the A855 advertising the Ben Edra Hotel at NG 5144 6341. Here, a small section of old road near the entranceway affords a parking space (marker 'S').

Next, walk 50 metres north along the main road to the sign for the Taigh nam Brathrean self-catering cottage and follow the path that leads between it and the hotel to a gate (marker 'G').



The path beyond this gate, though overgrown, still provides excellent walking, and continues for some 250 metres before curving left (south) for a similar distance before finally making a sharp turn to the right. From here, a prominent fence-line leads directly to Dun Connavern (marker 'D'), first ascending a very steep but short grassy slope, 100 metres beyond which, at an altitude of 140 metres, lies the dun, on the summit of an oval rocky knoll.

Little structure remains of the encircling walls of Dun Connavern, save for a section of walling blocks, two courses high, on its northeast facing slope. But visiting the dun is greatly rewarding, its modest elevation providing unsurpassed views towards the Trotternish mountains from the Storr in the south to the Cuiraing in the north.

Crabs Cairn (Cairn(s))

Visited: April 20, 2018

Crabs Cairn Revealed

With summer in full flow I spent the morning enjoying a ramble round the Tullos Hill Cairns in Aberdeen. And I was delighted to note that major removal of gorse thickets had at last opened up Crab's Cairn to view.

The offending undergrowth had been sawn off about 15 centimetres above ground level, and completely removed from the site. My only complaint is that the remaining stumps of the gorse bushes now represent a significant 'trip hazard' for the unwary.

Hopefully, further work to render this site visitor friendly will be undertaken before long.

Clune Wood (Ring Cairn)

Visited: January 20, 2018

I have visited Clune Hill and its Recumbent Stone Circle more times than I can remember over the years. When time is limited, the forest walks surrounding this site provide atmospheric short excursions. But what seems to have escaped the notice of most contributors to TMA is the ring cairn immediately adjacent to the east of the RSC. A couple of photographs of the cairn do appear on the RSC page, but surprisingly, this site has hitherto received no fieldnote.

Clune Hill Ring Cairn extends some ten metres in width and rises to around ¾ metre in height, but because of the uneven nature of the terrain here—covered with tussocks of grass and heathery hummocks, not to mention the ever-encroaching bracken—only the neat central chamber catches the eye: the edges of the cairn are ill-defined and there is no outer kerb to be seen.

There is a fine image from 'Greywether' which shows the central chamber of the Ring Cairn in 2005 when it appeared to have recently been cleared of vegetation.

This chamber, largely overgrown by heather and bracken, particularly during the summer months, has been built of irregular, rounded stones, which are particularly prominent in the northeast quadrant. The almost continuous kerb consists of graded boulders which increase in size and height towards the southwest: the tallest kerbstone, at 0.8 metres in height, stands on the SSW and the smallest on the NE. There is a gap in the kerb towards its south, about three metres from the nearest stone of the RSC (orthostat No 4), but Aberdeenshire Council's website describes the ring cairn as 'incomplete', and states that there is no evidence for a passage leading to the cairn edge.

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 wall, at least two metres thick, which completely cuts off the grassy peninsula. Only the inner and outer foundation courses, consisting of sturdy boulders, remain 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, which in places stands four metres tall. 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.
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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 ¾ kilometre 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 the 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.
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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 their Canmore 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: