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The Western Isles

<b>The Western Isles</b>Posted by ChrisCnoc Ceann a'Gharraidh © Chris
Also known as:
  • Na h-Eileanan Siar
  • Outer Hebrides

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Sites/Groups in this region:

19 sites
Barra and Vatersay
7 posts
92 sites
Lewis and Harris
4 posts
11 sites
St. Kilda


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In his book ‘Behold the Hebrides’, Alastair Alpin MacGregor (1925) explains how the people of the Hebrides are surrounded by the sea and it though the sea is part of them and they are part of the sea. He says it was known as well as though it were a member of their own family and that to them the sea spoke in Gaelic. He says they listened to what it said and from this they prophesied good and bad fortune, at home and abroad, and how by its sounds and moods they could tell what weather was coming. There was the ‘laughing of the waves’ – ‘gair nann tonn / gair na mara’ and sometimes this laughter would be mocking and derisive when a storm had risked life and feeble humans had struggled to survive it. He also describes the laughing of waves across a great stretch of sand on Lewis in calm and frosty weather as being “weird and eerie”.
In the Hebrides there are many descriptions of the sounds and moods of the sea. Here are a few of them.
Nualan na mara – sounds like the lowing of cattle
Buaireas na mara – restless sea
Gearan na mara – complaining or fretting sea
Mire na mara – joy and cheerfulness of sea
Osnadh – sighing of sea, like the breeze through pine and larch at nightfall
Caoidh na mara – lament of the sea.

He says that sometimes the sea is totally still and silent as though it sleeps, and the people nearby are lulled into sleep also; and he says that people who live by the sea derive their vision from it.

Martin Martin, writing of the Western Isles in 1695 says of the inhabitants of one of the small, then inhabited, islands round Lewis, that they took their surname from the colour of the sky, the rainbow and the clouds.

Source: ‘Mother of the Isles’ by Jill Smith
tjj Posted by tjj
22nd July 2013ce
Edited 22nd July 2013ce


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The Hebridean Iron Age: Twenty Years' Research

By D.W. Harding:

This paper reviews progress in Atlantic Scottish Iron Age studies over the past twenty years, with particular reference to a long-term programme of fieldwork in west Lewis undertaken by the University of Edinburgh. It deprecates the survival and revival of older conventional models for defining and dating the major field monuments of the period and region in the face of accumulating evidence for the origins of Atlantic roundhouses in the mid-first millennium BC, and discusses important new evidence for the first-millennium AD sequence of occupation and material culture. The material assemblages of the Hebridean Iron Age are contrasted with the impoverished and relatively aceramic material culture of lowland Scotland and northern England, and the importance of the western seaways in later prehistoric and early historic times as a distinctive cultural region is emphasised.
Hob Posted by Hob
19th September 2005ce
Edited 30th August 2007ce

Latest posts for the Western Isles

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Vallay Strand (Cairn(s)) — Images (click to view fullsize)

<b>Vallay Strand</b>Posted by drewbhoy<b>Vallay Strand</b>Posted by drewbhoy drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
17th October 2019ce

Dun Olavat (Stone Fort / Dun) — Fieldnotes

By the time we reached Olavat the weather had taken a turn for the worse, it wasn't raining but the clouds were getting lower and lower. Like Scolpaig the tracks leading to Olavat had been flooded in the previous two days, earlier we had been warned against walking to the site if the weather closed in. For a change I did as I was told.

More of a crannog than a dun, perhaps more of a settlement than a dun. One thing for certain the original assertion that this site was Iron Age was miles out as discoveries date back to Neolithic times. The causeway is also in very good condition. Aerial pics in the Canmore page are brilliant.

From Scolpaig simply head east on the A865 and take the next minor road north.

Visited 24/7/2019.
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
17th October 2019ce

Dun Scolpaig (Stone Fort / Dun) — Fieldnotes

Dun Scolpaig has become quite famous as the tower built on top of the dun is the picture in Ordnance Survey 18. They had a far sunnier day than us.

We didn't attempt to cross as the causeway seems to be falling apart, besides that the area near it thad been flooded the previous day and it was still decidedly very wet underfoot.

The tower which was erected in 1830 appears to have been built from the stones of the dun.

Follow the A865 from the Clettraval road north and pull in just after the Cross (on the OS map). A minor road indicated is in a ruinous condition and the farm at the end of the road in a similar state.

Visited 24/7/2019.
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
17th October 2019ce

Clettraval (Chambered Cairn) — Links


Extensive fieldnotes of various excavations.
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
17th October 2019ce

Clettraval (Chambered Cairn) — Fieldnotes

Greywether's fieldnotes pretty much describe the chamber cairn perfectly.

However next the cairn there is a wheelhouse which was probably made the Iron Age folks recycling the nearby stones. Two of the wheel spokes or spokes almost remain in place.

To complicated for me describe, the best thing to do is to put up the Canmore link below.

drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
17th October 2019ce

Tigh Cloiche (Chambered Cairn) — Fieldnotes

Like Greywether I thought the Canmore fieldnotes a tad harsh as it looks like, to me, that someone (must have been a giant) has roughly pushed the whole thing side ways. Capstones have been scattered but the chamber appears 'reasonably' all there but fallen in. Side stones, as described by Greywether, remain in place.

Both of us seem to agree more with Henshall's description :

Tigh Chloiche, South Clettraval, a chambered cairn, has been much disturbed by secondary buildings and its present form bears little relationship to its original plan.

The narrow and almost parallel-sided chamber is surrounded on the N, E and S by traces of what appear to be circular buildings. Four orthostats of the chamber remain on the SW but the northern part cannot be traced. The entrance was from the E but nothing can be seen of the passage walls. Large flat stone slabs lie displaced outside the chamber and, whereas the extent of the cairn is fairly well marked to the N. and E., it drops to an extensive low spread to the S and SE.

Finds of potsherds are in the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS).

A S Henshall 1972, visited 2 May 1962.

The size of the site, almost 19m wide and 1.5m tall, suggest cairn. Nobody can dispute the views!

Visited 24/7/2019.
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
26th September 2019ce
Edited 17th October 2019ce

South Clettraval (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Fieldnotes

The second standing stone at Clettraval is short walk of about 300m south west. Sites uphill i.e. the wheelhouse/chamber cairn/standing stone can all be seen.

Absolutely fantastic views of Baleshare, Pabeil and loch after loch after loch. The single hill on Benbecula can also be seen.

The granite stone stands at almost 1.2m, as well as the views it points the way to Tigh Cloiche.

Visited 24/7/2019.
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
26th September 2019ce

South Clettraval (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Fieldnotes

This 'forgotten' standing stone is only a short distance to the north west of the wheelhouse/chamber cairn. Only a small fence to jump.

Standing at 2m wide and 1.5m it gives us clear views to the cairn at Corary and the possible chamber cairn at Cleitreabhal A Tuath. Also on a very clear day, St. Kilda.

A fine start to wandering about the Clettraval sites.

Visited 24/7/2019.
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
26th September 2019ce

Corary (Cairn(s)) — Fieldnotes

Corary is a massive cairn that stands over 27m wide and is 1.5m tall. Most of the stones have been recycled to make a very large sheepfold, being plonked on top of their original position. Two upright slabs remain at the edge of the cairn, others have been built into the walls or used as entrances.

From Dun Grogary I returned to the minor road and headed straight across A865 onto the tarred road opposite. This leads to the Clettraval viewpoint and various military stuff at the top of Cleitreabhal A Deas. Pass the quarry and look for a gate on the west side of the road. This has a track, of sorts, which leads straight to the site via a bog.

A bit of a 'what if' but worth a visit whilst on the way to the more well known sites further uphill.

Visited 24/7/2019.
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
25th September 2019ce
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