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Dun Carnachaidh (Broch) — Images (click to view fullsize)

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Backies (Broch) — Fieldnotes

Visited: June 25, 2018

Located no more than 3 km west of the A9, and not far from the town of Golspie on the Dornoch Firth, Backies must rate as one of the 'must see' brochs of northern Scotland. Considered to be a solid-based broch, Backies was excavated in 1846, and the spoils simply tossed over its walls to form a stoneheap all around it. In this respect, its profile is almost identical to that of Carrol Broch. Backies stands on a steep rocky knoll just north of the community of the same name, and the only feature evident from outside is the 5 metre long entrance passage and the entrance portal itself, surmounted by a huge lintel.

But the interior is another matter altogether. The foundation course is completely buried in rubble but the second level is virtually complete and still stands 2½ metres tall round the entire structure with a well preserved ledge scarcement at 1.7 metres. The second level is hollow, and a well constructed doorway leads into the intra-mural cavity. A feature of the doorway is a lintel below the top which serves as part of the scarcement ledge.

Canmore states that:
"Backies is a good example of a once well preserved, hollow-walled broch which is steadily falling into ruin. Only its remoteness has preserved it from greater destruction, but there can be little doubt that in a few more decades all the surviving traces of hollow-wall architecture in Level 2 will have disappeared."
There is a huge amount of information about Backies broch on the Canmore website.

To access Backies broch, look out for a sign indicating left to 'Backies' just a few hundred metres north of Golspie, and mid-way between Golspie and Dunrobin Castle. Follow this road for 2½ km till you encounter a sign pointing right to a Scottish Water Treatment Works (marker 'W' on the map). There is room for one car to park on the verge just before this sign. Head up the road to the Treatment Works, where there is a possibility of parking just past their building on the right (marker 'P').



From the Treatment Works, walk up the road for a couple of hundred metres till you encounter a well constructed sinuous road heading to the right (east), not yet marked on the OS map. The road ends at a ruined croft house in sight of Backies broch (yellow line). Although the terrain towards the broch (marker 'B') looks a bit of a jungle of woodland thickets and bracken there is a path to it (though I missed it and had to fight my way round to the broch).

On the path's final bend, just a few metres before the ruined croft house, a drainage culvert passes under the road. The path to the broch, which I only discovered on the way back from it, starts immediately before the culvert and in nearly a straight line to the broch (cyan line on map). In summer, it's just a case of searching for the trampled path beneath the bracken and following it as best possible.

Backies (Broch) — Images

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Balvalaich (Broch) — Fieldnotes

Visited: June 28, 2018

To visit this broch (which lies about 4½ km west of Kilphedir) park on the verge beside a large stone walled enclosure to the south of the road through the Strath of Helmsdale at NGR NC 945 188. The broch cannot be seen from the road, but it lies only about 100 metres uphill. Across the road, a path heads uphill towards a gate bearing a notice that this is part of the Suisgill Estate. Pass through the gate and follow the path uphill, looking to the right for the pile of rubble that signifies the remains of Balvalaich broch, and cut across to it.

Balvalaich broch is severely denuded, having been quarried for stone when the original road was laid through the strath. All that remains in the interior is a wilderness of small stones. Nevertheless, both inner and outer wall faces can still be traced, with some particularly large foundation course stones surviving on both the southwest and eastern quadrants.

Balvalaich (Broch) — Images

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Dun Viden (Chambered Tomb) — Images

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Dun Viden (Chambered Tomb) — Fieldnotes

Visited: June 28, 2018

When you visit Dun Viden broch you will undoubtedly also encounter the Orkney-Cromarty type Neolithic chambered cairn of the same name; in fact, you will most probably walk over it as you leave the path.

Visually, the site appears to be a set of large stones resting on the top of a heather-clad mound. These are residual chamber slabs from the severly robbed tomb. The small stones that once covered the cairn are long gone, and it is surmised that they may well have been used in the construction of the nearby broch.

Canmore adds that: " ... the cairn has been removed and its edge cannot be traced, although the situation dictates that it could not have been more than 11 metres in diameter. The chamber has been about 3 metres wide and entered from the east".

Kilphedir (Broch) — Images

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Kilphedir (Broch) — Fieldnotes

Visited: June 25, 2018

No journey up the Strath of Kildonan would be complete without inspecting the impressive remains of Kilphedir broch. Invisible from the roadside, the broch sits 90 metres up the hillside just east of the Allt Cille Pheadair (Kilphedir burn), and about four kilometres from Helmsdale. There is ample parking at the bridge over the burn, from where a rough land rover track leads uphill, soon revealing the broch as a huge pile of tumbled masonry perched on a knoll some 400 metres to the east. The broch is surrounded by outworks consisting of a deep ditch, an outer rampart wall over 3 metres wide, and an outer ditch, well illustrated by Greywether's photograph.

The external wall face is completely hidden beneath tumbled masonry, the only featrure remaining being the entrance passage on the northwest—almost five metres long—where three lintels remain in place. The interior on the other hand displays much of interest with walls four metres thick rising to eight courses around most of the structure's circumference.

There is a doorway leading into an intra-mural passage where a stairway (no longer evident) was reported early in the 20th century.

You can learn much more about this broch by following this link to the Canmore website.

Dun Viden (Broch) — Fieldnotes

Visited: June 28, 2018

Dun Viden lies in Strathnaver, some ten kilometres south of Bettyhill and just 250 metres to the east of the River Naver. It can be reached by driving to the end of the metalled road to Skelpick, then walking an excellent (though rough in places) estate road for a further 4 km. As the broch comes into view, you will be aware of a number of standing stones just west of the road, the only surviving evidence of a Neolithic Tomb. At this point, cut across the heather to the broch.

The broch sits atop a grassy, twenty metre tall, conical knoll which slopes steeply down on all sides except the east. The structure has been severely robbed, almost certainly to aid construction of the Settlement (a so-called 'Clearance Village') that still stands immediately adjacent to the southeast of its knoll.

Although badly ruined, Dun Viden still has a recognisable entrance passage to its southeast, but most of the walling and interior have been reduced to a field of amorphous rubble. There are, however, a few places where large foundation level stones along the external wall face can still be seen.

Dun Viden must have been a great look-out point in its day; and remains so.

Dun Viden (Broch) — Images

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Dun Creagach (Broch) — Fieldnotes

Visited: June 26, 2018

June 2018 proved to be an exceptionally good time to visit Dun Creagach. Normally perched on a small island, and accessible only via a causeway of rough boulders, the drought had so lowered the waters of Loch Naver that I could actually walk completely round the broch on the dried-out loch bed without fear of getting a boot wet!.

Dun Creagach is huge and mighty impressive. Possibly because of its relatively remote location, stone-robbing does not seem to have been an issue here, as evidenced by the unusually large quantity of tumbled masonry that buries much of the broch's outer walling: certainly there are no dykes or signs of former habitation—so often the prime reason for destructuring—anywhere nearby. Of course, over the centuries, Nature has taken its toll in the shape of vast heaps of tumbled stone, mainly outside the structure. Even so, the broch walls still tower to over three metres almost everywhere around its periphery, and everywhere, the outer face stands at least a metre above the surrounding tumble.

Despite the all-encompassing rubble, there is a lot to see in the interior of the broch. The largely blocked entrance passage with its massive inclined lintel, a large almost square doorway that leads into the intra-mural galleries, and several locations where gaps in the tumble suggest strongly a void within the walls. Indeed, Canmore states that Dun Creagach "is certainly a true hollow-walled broch".

Dun Creagach can most easily be accessed from Altnaharra, from a point just south of the village, walking up the road that heads to Klibreck Lodge. Just 50 metres south of this point, on the A836, is an enlarged passing place, where there is room to park several cars without compromising its use by road traffic.

The distance to the broch is almost exactly 4 km, the first 1.5 km on a metalled road as far as the Lodge. On reaching the Lodge, head right for a few metrers then left round the building to a field gate and continue along a good dirt road that continues east. Two streams (marked 'ford' on the OS map) are actually now crossed by footbridges before the path peters out at the edge of a wooded plantation.

Now comes the tricky part: It is important to continue due east through woodland to a third stream. This is where I came unstuck, losing direction and heading away from Loch Naver. On reflection, I might have been better following the second stream to the shore, then continuing along the lochside to the broch.

In all, it took just an hour and a quarter to reach Dun Creagach, but underfoot conditions were particularly easy with the ground being parched: there were none of the usual bogs to negotiate.

This is a broch for the connaisseur, with much to see and enjoy. It takes more than the usual effort to make its acquaintance—a round trip on foot of some eight kilometres—but has so much to offer in return.

Dun Creagach (Broch) — Images

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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: