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Fieldnotes by LesHamilton

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Dun Borve (Broch)

Visited: September 23, 2018

Dun Borve, situated at an altitude of 180 metres on the hillside just east of the village of Borve, was probably the final outstanding broch I had yet to visit on the Isle of Skye. All too often it had been bypassed en route to other sites to the north and west of the island. But it proved somewhat trickier than I had anticipated.

There was no problem parking at the farm as advocated by Gladman (blue marker), but where was that stile? The hillside now seems to be isolated by high fences and padlocked gates, with 'Danger do not enter' signs attached. So I walked down the road west into the community of Borve, a few metres past the first two houses, to find the moorland just two grassy fields distant: and there were convenient gates for access (white markers on the map above).

Entering the first field from the road, head diagonally left almost to its far corner, where an open gate leads to the second field. Then head diagonally right to its far corner where another gate leads out to the hillside. Thereafter it is just a 400 metre walk to the broch. Time taken, about 15 minutes.

Although Dun Borve is an almost featureless pile of long displaced stones at close quarters, it is well worth venturing up the hillside from where it offers its most striking profile. Down at the broch, the only major structure is a row of a few large outer foundation blocks on the southwest. As stated below, the exercise is well worth the effort for the views the broch offers.

By the way, if you are using an up-to-date map of Skye, the A856 is no more. Both the former A856, and the section of the A850 from Portree to Borve, were reclassified as the A87 when the Skye Bridge opened in 1995.

Clerkhill (Broch)

Visited: June 26, 2018

About a kilometre north of Bettyhill on the north coast of Sutherland stand the ruined remains of Clerkhill Broch. The prominent mound where the broch once stood is now fenced in and is private property. Part of the mound on the east has been excavated, and a house built, while on the very summit now stands a rotary washing dryer.

Even Canmore has little to say about Clerkhill other than that it is:
" a possible broch in Farr, Sutherland, consisting of a turf-covered, quarried mound on the end of a ridge, the east half of which has been removed to make way for the outbuildings of a croft. On the west side is a part of the basal course of the outer wall of a broch-like structure forming an arc about 9.0 metres long."

Achvarasdal (Broch)

Visited: June 29, 2018

Just a few hundred metres from the village of Reay on Scotland's far north lies one of the largest brochs in Scotland: Achvadadsal. After heading east on the A836 out of Reay, the road dog-legs sharply northward. Almost immediately, turn right following the road for about 600 metres and park outside the woodland surrounding Achvadadsal Care Home. It's just a short walk along woodland paths, following 'broch' signs, to the broch.

Achvaradsal Broch is, in area, one of the largest in Scotland with a court diameter of 9.8 metres. The interior of the broch was excavated during the latter part of the 19th century, but the external wall face was not cleared, and remains concealed beneath a sizable vegetated mound. The walling, which rises to 1.6 metres above the central court, is composed in the main of quite small slabs of light-coloured sandstone, giving an appearance rather like brickwork. Achvaradsal has a most impressive, quite narrow entrance passage, a little short of 4 metres long on its east-south-east.

At the time of my visit, the broch was besieged by a major infestation of Giant Hogweed. Even with a walking pole fully extended above me, I could not quite reach the hogweed's flowering heads, which must therefore have been at least 4 metres tall. Achvaradsal is one of the brochs promoted by the Caithness Boch Project, whom I contacted about the problem. They replied that they were aware of the situation and would be taking measures to tackle it. I'm pleased to report that, just three weeks later, I was sent a photograph showing that clearance work had begun. Hogweed, however, is not easy to erradicate, particularly if it has been seeding the area for years, so it may take several seasons to render the site hogweed-free.

You can read much more about Achvarasdal Broch on the Canmore website, including details of finds from the site.

The Borg (Broch)

June 5, 2017

Driving north through Strath Halladale, it is difficult to miss the huge bulk of The Borg looming above on your right, standing atop a mound 38 metres tall and about 200 metres distant. It is an impressive edifice built of large rounded boulders, many of which now form a mantle of tumble all around it.

Although much of the broch wall has degenerated into a field of tumbled blocks, there are still some sections where the structure endures, particularly so in the west where neat courses can be seen rising to a height of three metres. At the other extreme, to the north, the walling has all but disappeared, creating an opening into the central court.

The entrance passage, now largely blocked by debris, lies a little east of south, and can be traced through the entire thickness of the broch wall, and most of its lintels remain in place.

The Borg is most certainly a worthwhile stop on the route north, not least because its elevated position affords splendid views along Strath Halladale.

Trantlemore (Broch)

Visited: June 25, 2018

Just 1½ kilometres north of The Borg, off the A897 as it passes through Strath Halladale, a minor road branches left across the Halladale River towards a walled cemetery. Trantlemore broch lies a kilometre farther on on the right-hand side of the road.

There is very little remaining to be seen, just a vegetated rise about a metre and a half tall in a field a few metres east of the road. On the southwest of the structure a section of vegetated wall can be recognised, but little else. There is no sign of an entrance passage.

Langdale (Broch)

Visited: June 26, 2018

Langdale broch lies about a kilometre from Syre, just north of of the Langdale Burn and 400 metres walk from the road. It stands on the top of a prominent, steep sided grass covered knoll about 40 metres tall, commanding a superb view of the surrounding countryside.

The broch, built from large boulders, is very dilapidated now and little structure of the outer wall facing remains. But the interior walling is still fairly well defined round most of the structure, standing a metre or more high and almost 5 metres wide, though detail of the facing is largely hidden under rubble.

Access is straightforward from immediately north of the farm, where a 4-bar stile gives access through the fence to a steep grassy slope that follows the stone wall round the farm area to a gate, beyond which a path heads past the broch.

Carn Nam Buth (Broch)

Visited: June 25, 2018

This remnant broch, also known as Upper Suisgill, seems only to have been discovered by the OS as recently as May 1961: it is not shown on any previous historical OS map.

Carn Nam Buth is extremely dilapidated, and while it has been categorised as a 'possible' broch on account of size, shape and position, it may simply have been a ditched homestead or dun. It occupies the summit of an impressive knoll that has been artificially steepened, and which would have provided an easily defended position overlooking cultivable land, immediately north of the A897 Kildonan road and 180 metres east of the bridge over the Suisgill Burn.

A visit entails an easy uphill walk over grass to a largely heathery dome showing little remaining structure apart from a hint of foundation course on the southeast flank..

Baile Mhargaite (Cist)

Visited: June 28, 2018

Immediately below the hill of Baile Mhargaite, with its summit broch, lie the remains of a Bronze Age village and burial ground on a sandy plateau some 15 metres above sea level. The plateau undulates a little and includes a number of hut circles and three cists.

The main cist, by far the best preserved of the three, lies at NC 69863 61030, sunk into the summit of a mound (cairn ?) about 2.5 metres tall. The cist, measuring 107x56x51 cm, is perfectly preserved, and open (its capstone lies just to one side of it), and is lined on all sides with flagstones.

Just a few metres away at NC 69856 61027 is a second open cist with one end flagstone and its cover both absent.

The third cist lies in level ground some 22 metres north of the first two at NC 69847 61051. It has no capstone, both end flagstones are missing, and the crypt has infilled with sand.

Dun Carnachaidh (Broch)

Visited: June 26, 2018

Canmore dramatically describes Dun Carnachaidh as: 'The remains of a broch on a cliff overlooking the river valley'!

What cliff?

There's no cliff within sight, and the broch stands just 90 metres west of the Strathnaver road up a steepish grassy hillside.

This broch cannot be seen from the road as it sits on a level shelf about 25 metres up the hillside. It takes but a few minutes to reach it. It is extremely ruinous with few major features extant. The foundation course can be followed intermittently around the structure and there are some impressively large stones of the 2nd course around the southeastern arc. Amongst the tumble to the west of the broch is what appears to be the remains of an intra-mural gallery.

Access to Dun Carnachaidh is straightforward as there is parking in a bay beside a cattle grid on the road just 1½ kilometres north of Carnachy. The fence at the roadside consists only of wire strands which it is easy to wriggle between (no barbed stuff).

Backies (Broch)

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 as you drive north on the A9, 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 narrow footpath to it (though I missed it and had to fight my way round to the broch).

On the road'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.

Balvalaich (Broch)

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.

Dun Viden (Chambered Tomb)

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)

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)

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 Creagach (Broch)

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.

Sgoir Beag (Promontory Fort)

Visited: May 2, 2018

Some 250 metres due north from the car-park opposite Trumpan Churchyard lie the remains of a small promontory fort called Sgoir Beag. From the car-park head northeast up the road for about 130 metres till you cross a stream then immediately enter the field on the left via the gate. Follow the stream which dives down to the sea immediately adjacent to the fort.

The grassy rise ahead quickly leads to a deep natural ditch which cuts off the dun from the east. Descent into the ditch is easy but the face of the dun rises much more steeply beyond. A well worn path to the left eases the climb to the top of the dun, overlooking the precipitous drop into the stream valley.

The surface of the dun is a grassy oval, with only a small fragment of walling, two courses high, showing at its nothern edge.

Geary (Promontory Fort)

Visited: May 2, 2018

Skye's Waternish peninsula is best known for its three brochs: Dun Hallin, Dun Gearymore and Dun Borrafiach. But near the community of Geary on its eastern coast, unmarked on the OS map, lie the scant remains of Geary Promontory Fort.

Canmore's notes from 1990 state:
This fort is situated on a small promontory on the precipitous cliffs towards the N end of the Geary crofts; it is defined by an arc of walling 4m thick and 0.75m in height that cuts across the promontory and line of the cliffs to the E, N and S providing protection on these flanks. At the S end the wall does not run up to the cliff edge, and although the N end is now wasted it can be traced up to the edge of the cliff.

At the time of my visit it was hard to believe that any defensive wall existed. But the location of the site was absolutely confirmed by GPS: I was definitely on the correct promontory.

The promontory is totally overgrown, in part by semi-mature thickets of shrubbery and elsewhere by rank grass and vegetation. I could find no coherent evidence of any protective wall: just a couple of large boulders, an earthfast moss-covered stone, and what appeared to be a thickly vegetated rampart which stretched across around a third of the neck of the promontory.

The only redeeming feature of this site is the views it gives across Loch Snizort to the Ascrib Islands, and northwards along the rugged Waternish coastline.

If visiting by car, parking places are non existent. However a helpful local told me to 'just park in a lay-by'. As there is no through traffic in Geary, the temporary loss of one lay-by for parking is of no great consequence as everyone living there has parking on their properties.

Lochan nan Dunan (Stone Fort / Dun)

Visited: April 29, 2018

About half a kilometre south of Flodigarry, on the A855, you pass Lochan nan Dunan, a small roadside lochan with a parking area beside it. Immediately on the right hand side of the road (if travelling north) is a heathery hillside rising steeply for about 15 metres. A stout barbed wire fence precludes immediate access opposite the parking area, but walking back down the road for 50 metres or so revals twin boulders arranged to form a stile.The fort of Lochan nan Dunan is revealed after making this short climb.

The fort comprises two enclosures, separated by a mighty rock stack twelve metres in height. There is little of real note to see although the grassy stumps of the enclosing wall of the eastern enclosure, little more than half a metre in height, can still be picked out. The western enclosure, located on a gentle slope, boasts an even less significant grass-grown wall.

The best part of the visit is the view it provides towards the mountainous backbone of the Trotternish peninsula. Particularly prominent is Sron Vourlinn, the gaunt flat topped hill to the northwest, and the Quiraing to the southwest.

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 approach 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').
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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.

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).

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: