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Fieldnotes by LesHamilton

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Upper Latheron (Broch)

Visited: June 17, 2019

The forst impression of Upper Latheron broch is of a ratherless featueless gassy mound. But look more closely and there is structure to be seen.

The broch sits atop a rock which is visible as an outcrop on the northeast of the site. On top of this, a neat course of large walling blocks heads west to a dip that presumably signals the location of the entrance. On the east of the outcrop is another exposure of outer walling courses: Canmore says four courses deep though only two were visible due to the rank vegetation.

The broch stands in a field at Upper Ltheron farm, just back from the A9, two miles north of Dunbeath. There is space to park at the junction with the farm access road (no signpost) from where the broch is but a short walk away.

Knockinnon (Broch)

Visited: June 17, 2019

There's not a lot to say abut Knockinnon broch. It's just a grassy mound, although there are small exposures of stonework around the structure, hinting that a broch still lurks within.

Thrumster Mains (Broch)

Visited: June 19, 2019

This broch at Thrumster Mains has endured a chequered past, principally in the late 19th century, when its court was cleared and the stones of its southern arc were excavated and used to build a rectangular 'Summer House'. Thankfully, the broch is well cared for nowadays and walling up to eight courses high in places now stands at least a metre tall around the remainder of the circumference, with both the inner and outer faces mainly intact.

The broch sits on a low grass-covered ridge in the gronds of Thrumster Mains, in which, at the time of my visit, wide paths had been carefully mowed to make access easier. The broch is now tastefully landscaped as part of an ornamental garden.

The broch was originally believed to be solid based, with its entrance at the location where the summer house now stands, but the most recent excavation (in 2011) discovered both an infilled entrance passage on the northwest, and infilled galleries. Steps leading down into a gallery have also come to light.

Claigan (Dun Breac) (Stone Fort / Dun)

Visited: June 25, 2019

One of the tourist attractions on Skye are the so-called Coral Beaches. But just a short walk from the car park are two megalithig relics, Clagain dun and Clagain Souterrain.

To visit the dun, head away from the coast (east) along a well defined farm road for a shade over 500 metres, where you arrive at a metal gate. On your left ia an extensive stone-built sheep fank, and on the rise beyond the gate stand the remains of Clagain. Canmore states thet "Most of the stone was robbed between 1824 and 1836 to build the sheep fank ... and some stone may also have been used in the construction of Claigan farm house and garden".

There is not a great deal to enthuse the visitor here, although grassy ramparts hint at a few buried walling courses and a few larger blocks line a breach in the structure that presumably was the entrance passage.

Claigan souterrain lies a few metres across the fence that surrounds the dun on its south east, and is well worth searching for.

East Kinnauld (Broch)

Visited: June 17, 2019

Stout footwear (preferably boots) is recommended for a visit to East Kinnauld broch. Although the 100 metre ascent starts along a grassy path, the final ascent is up a steep slope clad in grass and bracken. The broch itself is largely a jumble of tumbled masonry with no external walling courses in evidence although the entrance is clear to see.

That notwithstanding, there is a considerable amount of structure remaining to the discerning eye. A sizeable exposure of internal walling courses still stands, and you can still trace an intramural gallery arcing through the debris and disappearing behind this walling under a small triangular lintel. Adjacent to the entrance passage is a well proportioned guard cell.

And the views over Strath Fleet from this veritable eyrie are simply breath-taking.

Carn na Mairg (Carn Merk)

Visited: June 20, 2019

Carn na Mairg stands on the east bank of the River Thurso, just under a kilometre south from Westerdale. There is an excellent access path which starts 80 metres east of the bridge over the river Thurso. A new dwelling, painted blue-green, stands on your left as you walk across a concrete area to a tall fence. Pass through the gate in this fence and follow the path to the broch. The walking is excellent and the broch soon comes into view.

Carn na Mairg is a grassy mound standing at the very edge of the river. On its eastern flank, a large area of the broch wall is internittently exposed to a height of some fifteen or so courses. There is a well built entrance portal and passage on the southeast, though it was badly overgrown by nettles and on the east are the remains of defensive outworks.

But there is little to see of the interior of the broch, which is almost totally infilled. The only feature is a short section of a mural gallery which is exposed to show the neat walling courses on its inner side.

Tulach an Fhuarain (Broch)

Visited:June 20, 2019

The third of a close group of three broch mounds on the bank of the River Thurso in Westerdale, Caithness, Tulach an Fhuarain is a featureless, fenced off grassy mound. It stands cheek by jowl with Tulach Lochain Bhraseil, just 50 metres to its northeast.

Tulach Lochain Bhraseil (Broch)

Visited: June 20, 2019

There's not a lot to say about Tulach Lochain Bhraseil except that it is a grassy mound lying 250 metres northwest of Tulach Buaile a'Chroic Broch in Westerdale, Caithness.

Although it is understood that a broch lurks beneath the mound, absolutely no broch-like features are to be seen.

On top of the mound stands a recent man-made structure.

Achvarasdal (Broch)

Revisited: June 18, 2019

I revisited Achvarasdal broch once more and was impressed by the improvements made since a year previously.

The entrance passage and the central court of the structure have been cleared of weeds, particularly plants of giant hogweed, and are now tastefully laid out with pink gravel chippings to create a much more pleasant visitor experience.

Members of tbe Caithness Broch Project and Caithness Countryside Volunteers are to be congratulated on their efforts, which include installing layers of geo-textile to inhibit future regrowth.

But the battle is not completely over as a number of mature hogweed plants were spotted within a few metres of the broch wall on the northwest. Hopefully work will continue to achieve total eradication of this dangerous, invasive species.

Broch Clean-up
You can read about the clean-up process in these articles from The John O'Groat Journal and Caithness Courier on April 4, 2019 and April 24, 2019

Tulach Buaile a'Chroic (Broch)

Visited: June 20, 2019

One of a cluster of broch mounds in Westerdale, Caithness, Tulach Buaile a'Chroic though rather bland in itself, stands in an attractive location on the bank of the River Thurso.

It has been reduced to a grass-covered mound some 3.5 metres tall, with only the minimalist evidence of masonry. A number of stones protrude from the upper southwest side of the structure, and may be remnants of a foundation course, while there is a small exposure of larger blocks on the northwest flank.

Not a broch to rave about, but the ambiance of the setting is undeniable.

Caisteal na Coille (Broch)

Visited: June 17, 2019

North of Loch Bora, on the lip of a gorge on the Blackwater River, stands a hidden gem of a broch, Caisteal na Coille, sometimes dubbed 'Castle Cole'. For the determined walker it would be possible to set out from the same starting point as for Carrol Broch broch. But this would mean a round trip of some 28 kilometres.

I decided to investigate a shorter alternative by driving through Brora where, immediately north of the River Brora, a minor road signposted 'Balnacoil' heads northwest, hugging the eastern shore of Loch Brora for 13 kilometres (8 miles). Your target is a left-hand bend on the road from which an estate road (marked by two prominent boulders, one on either side) heads to the right into a patch of woodland. There may be space for verge parking for a couple of cars here. If not, you should be able to park close to the bridge (red marker) over the River Brora, 700 metres farther on.

The estate road (yellow track on the map below) provides easy walking for just under 4 kilometres, by which time you should be level with the broch (white marker on map).

As you near your target, you will see ahead a small stand of a dozen or so mature trees just to the right of the track. By now you will see the broch and must make a decision on the best point to leave the track and start crossing towards the broch. I found no evidence of any footpath leading from the road to the broch and surmise that this is simply because it is so rarely visited.

Now comes the hard bit, crossing some 300 metres of blanket bog, firstly downhill, followed by a climb up to the mound supporting the broch. But the effort is certainly worth it ...

Caisteal na Coille stands within an almost level grassy platform on the summit of a small hill that drops vertically into the valley of the Black Water, the northern tributary of the River Brora. The broch is constructed from rectangular sandstone slabs rising to at least a dozen courses at the entrance and twenty or more on its eastern side. On the western flank, which falls down to the river as a cliff, the walling is rudimentary (unless, of course, it was never more than a low boundary wall, since an approach from that quarter would be deemed impossible?)

The entrance is capped by a massive, roughly triangular lintel not dissimilar to those at Dun Dornaigil in Sutherland and Caisteal Grugaig in Glenelg, and leads to an entrance passage almost four metres long. To the east of the entrance lies a large guard cell, now uncapped, and the rampart beyond it shows indications of an intramural gallery. A striking feature of the internal walls of Caisteal na Coille is the number of cupboard recesses on display.

This broch is very much one for the connaisseur, and a visit to it is an experience to be treasured.

Further information relating to this structure can be viewed on the Canmore website.

Whitegate (Broch)

Visited: June 18, 2019

The Caithness village of Keiss can boast three brochs in its vicinity: Keiss South (K), Whitegate (W) and Kirk Tofts (T).

Whitegate is a probable solid-based broch, located on the shore northeast of the village of Keiss and about 175 metres farther on than Keiss South broch (marker 'W' on the map below). It is totally ruinous and was overgrown with long grass at the time of my visit.

All that there is to be seen are a few stretches of walling courses, an entrance passage and a chamber set back in the walling opposite the entrance passage.

There is a considerable amount of additional information on the Canmore website, particularly with respect to recent excavations at the site.

Nybster (Broch)

Visited: June 18, 2019

Nybster broch stands on a cliff-girt headland, protected on three sides by vertical sandstone cliffs and by a ditch that cuts off the promontory on its landward side.

The site is signposted just south of the village of Nybster, and there is a car park from which a good footpath heads south for 450 metres to the broch site. As you approach the broch, the first thing you will see is Mervyn's Tower, a monument built of rough stones by local farmer John Nicholson to commemorate the work of Sir Francis Tress Barry who excavated the site in 1895-6.

Canmore states that Nybster is: 'a site of major signifcance in the study of the development of the broch in that it comprises the ground-galleried block-house of a pre-broch promontory fort, a solid-based broch, and a post-broch settlement. The block-house, which displays broch-like features, including a passage checked for two doors, is probably to be dated not much before the first century BC if not within it'.

Without doubt, Nybster is a complex side, and readers wishing to learn more about it can find copious details of the various structures and finds on the Canmore website.

Kirk Tofts (Broch)

Visited: June 18, 2019
The Caithness village of Keiss can boast three brochs in its vicinity: Keiss South (K), Whitegate (W) and Kirk Tofts (T).

Kirk Tofts broch is situated immediately behind Keiss cemetery, on the A99 immediately north of the village (marker 'T' on the map below). There is ample parking for the visitor in front of the graveyard.

My first impression of the area was of a field thick with ferns, nettles and rampant vegetation, and I could make little progress through it. Returning to my car, I recalled that my hillwalking gear was in the boot, and fitted out with sturdy boots and gaiters, and a walking pole for balance, I returned to the broch.

My initial view was hardly inspiring. After negotiating the field of nettles, I saw ahead a section of drystone walling which I initially took to be a mere remnant of a destroyed broch. But I pressed on, and on reaching this wall, realised that it was an exposed section of the outer wall of the broch, with a well defined entrance passage. Even though this wall must have been close to two metres tall, I did not realise that there was an entrance passage through it until I was right beside it as it was completely concealed by rank vegetation both in front of and within it!

Once through the entranceway, most of the interior is defined by walling many courses high, and generally close to two metres tall. Unfortunately, thick vegetation, mainly rampant ferns growing everywhere, undoubtedly conceals many of the finer points of construction. According to Canmore there is much to see at Kirk Tofts, including two intra mural stairways, but these were not evident to me. Doubtless a visit in early spring, before plant growth has commenced, would prove more rewarding.

When visiting the site, great care should be taken as the terrain is everywhere very uneven beneath the all-concealing vegetation. A walking pole is a valuable asset in maintaining balance.

For those interested, the Canmore website provides a wealth of information relating to the structure of Kirk Tofts broch, the finds discovered within it and the various phases of its occupation, describing it as: 'one of the best examples of a 1st phase broch (1st centuries BC and AD), re-used during the Broch II phase (2nd, 3rd centuries AD) and again during the post-broch era'.

Keiss (Broch)

Visited: June 18, 2019

The Caithness village of Keiss can boast three brochs in its vicinity: Keiss South (K), Whitegate (W) and Kirk Tofts (T).

Keiss South broch, also known as Keiss Harbour broch, is just a 250 metre walk from Keiss harbour back to the hairpin bend on the access road where a signpost indicates 'Keith Shore'. From here, just follow this path for a short distance over the grass to the obvious fenced-off enclosure (marker 'K' on the map below). To enter the area, follow the fence anticlockwise and you will find a gate adjacent to the field boundary north of the broch.

There is a great deal of information about Keiss broch on the Canmore website, including the fact that, as recently as 1910, the internal broch wall survived to a height of about five feet. This hardly seems the case now, the broch having endured severe robbing over the years, and little masonry remains on view.

The entire area is hummocky and was largely obscured by long grass at the time of my visit. Although nothing remains of the entrance passage, its location would seem to be signalled by a dip in the grassy ramparts that surround the broch to its east. Standing at the north of the structure, the impression is of a shallow, grassy saucer with just a small section of walling, three courses high, peeking through the obscuring vegetation. Almost certainly, walling courses do exist benbeath this cover, as exemplified by the exposure of masonry in the rampart of the eastern internal wall of the broch.

Painted Pebbles
Interesting finds discovered by Sir Francis Tress Barry during his late 19th century excavations of Keiss South broch were small pebbles painted with spots and lines. Although their function is unclear, it has been suggested that they may have been used as gaming pieces or as charms. Barry exhibited these painted pebbles during a talk to the Society of Antiquaries of London on May 26, 1898. A watercolour painting of these pebbles is shown on the Canmore website.

Dun Chealamy (Broch)

Visited: June 19, 2019

The remains of Dun Chealamy stand on the top of a grassy mound which falls steeply around most of its perimeter. The broch is in near total ruin, Canmore stating that it "was badly damaged in a search of stones for building a bridge and a dwelling house" in the early 1900s. To add insult to injury, the stones of the broch have again been plundered to erect a cairn in front of it (an event not elsewhere reported as far as I can determine).

It's so sad that even in this relatively remote spot there are people who show our national monuments no respect!

As for Dun Chealamy itself, there still remain short segments of both internal and external walling several courses deep, and there is an exposed section of a mural gallery which also reveals several courses of architecture. But that's about it and the structure has been so badly ravaged that there is not the slightest trace of an entrance passage.

But the views from the broch down to Strathnaver are extensive, and in its day this broch would have been a formidable fastness.

Thing's Va (Broch)

Visited: June 18, 2019

Though highly impressive when viewed from the air, Thing's Va broch has few redeeming features when visited on the ground.

(Image: Caithness Broch Project)

Thing's Va sits atop a low hill just west of Thurso, as illustrated above.
The best starting point for a visit is a lay-by on the A836 at OS: ND 0867 6923.

Walk down the road (towards Thurso) for about 400 metres, and a few metres farther than the gated loop of old road, you will find a gate to a field. Inside the field, a good path heads southwest up the field through mainly grassy terrain with a sprinkling of gorse. You can just make out the broch on the horizon ahead.

If you count the drystane field dykes to your left as you pass them, Thing's Va is on the right just after the 4th dyke. The walking distance is a shade over a kilometre.

Sadly, there is absolutely nothing particularly impressive on the ground at this site these days. The broch rises as a grassy mound within a recently emplaced surrounding fence. Annoyingly, although there is a gate for visitors, whoever installed it drilled the posthole for the securing bolt somewhat on the small side: I couldn't budge the bolt and had to clamber over the gate.

The entrance passage to the broch, heavily overgrown, is still discernable, and there are a few sections where fragmentary masonry protrudes. Also visible is what could be a guard cell as a deep pit in the turf, and here and there can be seen short sections of walling.

Canmore provides considerable information concerning features that have been observed in the past, but with this recent (2007) caveat: "A recent survey showed that most of the features described by the Commission are not now visible".

Historical Note
Thing's Va broch is a drystone, hollow-walled structure built by the Middle Iron Age inhabitants of Caithness. Much later, some time after the mid 9th century BCE, the remains of the broch were used as a meeting place by Norse incomers.
The name "Thing" comes from an Old Norse word meaning a "meeting place", and variants are found in place names elsewhere, such as Tingwell in Shetland and Dingwall in Ross & Cromarty (source: The Public Information Board at the site of Thing's Va).

Anloo (NM45018 Evertsbos) (Round Barrow(s))

Visited: April 18, 2019

National Monument 45018 in the Evertsbos

This area of the Evertsbos woodland contains a group of grave mounds, described in the official monument list for the Anloo district as "seven or eight mounds". There seems some doubt as to the actual number, but as I walked the paths, I encountered the six grave mounds indicated on the map below. They all sit close to paths between 100 and 300 metres south and east of Hunebed D11: you don't have to go searching for them as they are easily spotted from the paths.

All six grave mounds can be visited, along with Hunebed D11 in a circular walk from either Anloo in the north or Eext in the south. A leisurelly hour and a half should suffice. Mounds 1, 2 and 3 are the most impressive, all rising to around two metres. The other three barely reach a metre in height.

The non-intuitive numbering of the mounds is the assignment given by Museum 'Oer', located in Ulft, Netherlands. This link displays two further maps showing the locations of the mounds, plus a photograph each of mounds 1-7.

Galgwanderveen (NM 45020 Anloo) (Round Cairn)

Visited: April 18, 2019

Galgwanderveen, also known as Braamsplas, is a small kettle-hole lake dating from the last Ice Age. Renowned locally as a fishing lake for carp, it is located 2.5 kilometres south of Anloo and 1.5 kilometres north of Eext.

In the woodland surrounding this lake are five Late Stone Age grave mounds, of which this splendid example (marker 'G'), located just a few metres from the water's edge is by far the most impressive, rising to almost four metres in height.

The best approach by car is from the village of Eext, as there is a convenient car park just 200 metres southwest of the mound.

There are grave mounds in several different locations in this area of woodland (the Evertsbos), each identifiable by virtue of its National Monument number.

Anloo (NM 45019 Evertsbos) (Round Barrow(s))

Visited: April 18, 2019

In a clearing in the Evertsbos woods stand two impressive grave mounds, situated 90 metres apart. The smaller western mound rises to almost two metres in height, but is dwarfed by its near neighbour, which probably exceeds three metres tall.

Both are symmetrical, grass-covered mounds, free of rampant weeds and young trees, so must in all probability be well looked after by the Boswachterij Anloo (Anloo woodland management).

To reach the grave mounds, it is a pleasant walk of 1¾ kilometres from Anloo, through woodland, until the trees thin significantly on the left. To track your progress, count the forest tracks you pass on the way.

There are grave mounds in several different locations in this area of woodland (the Evertsbos), each identifiable by virtue of its National Monument number.
Showing 1-20 of 299 fieldnotes. Most recent first | Next 20
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: