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Fieldnotes by LesHamilton

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Dun Ban (Camuscross) (Stone Fort / Dun)

Visited: August 31, 2020

Dùn Ban is a coastal dùn, hidden from general view on a small rocky headland just south of the community of Camuscross, on Skye. As far as I can tell it is only visible to those who actively seek it out.

To visit this dun you have to venture to the end of the minor road (signed 'Camuscross ¾ mile') that heads south from Isle Oronsay on Skye's south coast. Where the metalled road ends at the south of Camuscross Bay, a private road continues across the stream (Allt na Bèiste) to several houses. Between the 3rd and 4th of these houses, a secluded grassy track heads towards a gate and stile.

Cross this stile and follow the path beyond as it curves round to the left, bringing you to a gate in the fence to the left. Beyond this gate, a rough path heads upwards to the summit of a low hill (Ard Snaoiseaig Cnoc an Fhùdair). From the top, continue seawards and downhill to the dùn, which is now obvious.

On the day of my visit the summit of the dùn was guarded by a large cow (with calves browsing near the coast), rendering it unwise to approach the structure more closely. It will still be there next time I visit Skye!

Dunan Choinnich (Stone Fort / Dun)

Visited: August 31, 2020

Dunan Choinnich, which Canmore considers may well be the remains of a broch, must surely be one of the most difficult features of its kind to visit on the entire Isle of Skye.

From the road at Torabhaig Distillery in Teangue, the distance to Dunan Choinnich is exactly one kilometre. But the rugged coastline is not an option: there is no direct path. To reach the dun, start at the distillery where a rough farm track heads off to the right and circles around the Torabhaig buildings before crossing the Allt Ghleann Thorabhaig (a stream). Immedaitely ahead, the path is gated, and an arrow board points to the right where a walkers' path follows the stream to the coast. Ahead is a ruined building with a rusted-red roof; pass this and ascend the grassy slope below the ruins of Knock Castle where you should spot a trodden path heading left (east) to a fence.

Straddle this fence and pick up a good walkers' path that hugs the fenceline of the field to the left. This peters out after anout 500 metres, at which point you must descend the shallow valley carrying the Allt Gairistin Neill burn and ascend the prominent 60 metre high hill opposite.

The slopes are bracken covered in summer but there are plentiful grassy tongues which ease the way. From the summit of the hill, you see Dunan Choinnich sitting at the neck of a rocky peninsula. Descent is through somewhat denser vegetation, but there are grassy tongues and sheep paths to ease you down. It took me a full hour to reach Dunan Choinnich from Knock Castle!

Good strong walking boots are an absolute necessity!

Dunan Choinnich is extremely ruinous, though its grassy central court is evident from afar, surrounded by a vegetated rampart to the east and the tumbled, featureless residue of a wall that originally marked its landward boundary. There are only the scantiest remnants of structural detail remaining of a construction that is most definitely a target only for the determined connaisseur!

Tiantulloch (Broch)

Visited: August 9, 2020

Only a few hundred metres north of the Minera site, but on the opposite side of the road, are the prominent ruins of Tiantulloch croft house and associated outbuildings: the mound of Tiantulloch broch stands tight against these, rising to a height of some three metres. The remains of this broch are altogether more interesting than Minera and the approach from the road on a clear sunny day is impressive with the distant Caithness mountains framing the site.

So similar is the stonework of the croft buildings with the remaining outer walling courses of the broch that it is difficult to dispel the notion that the broch has been plundered in centuries past to provide their masonry. Notwithstanding, there remains a significant stretch of original exterior broch walling on its eastern side, in many places six and more courses deep.

To visit the site, follow the instructions for Minera but drive up to the Buolfruich Windfarm where verge parking is possible. The field containing the broch is guarded by a barbed wire fence, but if you walk up the road to its northern corner, you will find the final stretch free of barbs to assist access. A short walk over mainly springy turf brings you to the broch.

Minera (Broch)

Visited: August 9, 2020

Minera is a largely grassy mound some 3.5 metres tall which Canmore rates as one of the best preserved broch mounds in Caithness. The belief is that the structure contains "substantial structural remains and a largely untouched stratigraphy."

Minera is surrounded by a well-built wall which doubtless consists of stones that were originally exterior walling courses of the broch itself. Nevertheless, there are a considerable number of stones peeking out from the undergrowth and a short stretch where somewhat dilapidated walling is visible. There is a depression running into the mound from the west which contains two large stones which Canmore suggests could have been part of the entrance passage.

To reach Minera, follow the road signed "Houstry 3 miles", a little over quarter of a mile northeast of Dunbeath on the A9, for the full 3 miles till you see the turbines of Buolfruich Windfarm. A short distance before the windfarm, a road branches to the right and there is room to park. Minera is just 200 metres from this junction, probably hidden by the farm outbuildings on the right. To visit, walk about 50 metres up the side road to a field gate, beyond which a well walked path heads past the outbuildings directly to the broch.

Just a few hundred metres farther on is another broch mound, Tiantulloch.

Watenan South (Broch)

Visited: August 8, 2020

Watenan is most famed for the neolithic chambered cairn of Cairn O'Get (Garrywhin), and rightly so. But approximately half-way along the waymarked path to the cairn, a low hill rises on the right. It's an easy walk over grass to its 110 metre summit where stand the remains of a broch, Watenan South.

Canmore describes this as a complex site with a circular central earthwork surrounded by linear grassy depressions that might be intra-mural galleries. Two large isolated stones on the east may be related to an entrance passage, and there is evidence of outer defence banks and ditches on the west and south.

On the west of the broch is a stretch of walling courses, and the bank to the south has a number of internal facing stones peeping through the grass.

Not a great site, but it is well worth making your way to the top for the view across the loch.

Dunbrae (Broch)

Visited: August 6, 2020

The ruined broch at Dunbrae stands about 500 metres north of its more famous sibling at Dunbeath, but is not accessible from the latter. Instead you must take the road signed Houstry 3 about half a kilometre past Dunbeath (when travelling north) and head fror Rhemullen.

The broch stands in the field immediately ahead after you cross the Bridge over the stream. Unfortunately, at the time of my visit this field was occupied by a huge herd of cattle, so the only sight I had of the broch was obteined from the road after circling around the field.

For definitive comment on Dunbrae Broch, see what Canmore has to say about Dunbrae broch.

Thrumster Little (Broch)

Visited: August 8, 2020

The dilapidated remains of Thrumster Little Broch are located a little north of the community of Thrumster on the A9 in Caithness, just a couple of hundred metres along the track to Thrumster Little farm.

The broch is visible from the road as a grassy mound, but as you approach it is seen to possess several courses of ground level walling, comprising quite large, light coloured stones. The interior, however, is completely filled with debris, rising as a grass-covered dome perhaps three metres tall.

On the eastern flank, the exit from the entrance passage can be seen behind the tight embrace of a wire mesh fence.

Loch Rangag (Broch)

Visited: August 6, 2020

This broch, more commonly known as Greystell Castle (sometimes as Greysteil Castle) stands on a stubby peninsula on the eastern shore of Loch Rangag. The structure is severely dilapidated with a tumble of angular blocks surrounding it. Indeed the only obvious signs of structure are a hint of double wall around the western arc and slight signs of a ruined entrance passage on the east.

It has been suggested that the peninsula might well be a man-made structure, perhaps originally a crannog, though it does seem rather too close to the shore of the loch to be the latter.

The easiest access to Greystell Castle, from the car-park, is to follow the main road south until level with the broch. Although the field below is protected by an electric fence, you will find at this point a narrow break in the fence where the electric wire is safely ensconced in a loop of insulation to allow clear passage. It's just a matter now of descending an easy grassy slope to the stile that gives access to the broch.

Wag of Forse (Stone Fort / Dun)

Visited: August 8, 2020

Wag of Forse is a dun associated with an extensive complex of stone structures, including longhouses, known locally as wags. The site is extensive and fairly ruinous. The first feature to catch the eye is the entrance into the dun with its huge wedge-shaped lintel. Rather than try to interpret the scene, I recommend reading the in-depth discussion about Wag of Forse on the Canmore website.



This is not the easiest of sites to visit: there is no path to take you there. My route started at a lay-by on the A9 about one mile north of Latheron (white marker) and followed the good track leading to Corr (yellow line) for about 600 metres to a point where the dense gorse on the right eventually gave way to grass and heather. Leaving the track I headed directly towards the prominent stone wall that surrounds the area, a distance of about 80 metres. This well constructed wall is about 1½ metres tall and is guarded by a double strand of taut barbed wire along its top, making it all but impossible to clamber over.

Fortunately, if you turn left at this point and follow the wall northwards for a short distance, a gate appears, and this allows easy access beyond. Wag of Forse now lies several hundred metres to the southeast over relatively easy grass and heather (cyan line on map), but in a dip in the undulating terrain. This means you will not see any structures until you are relatively close to the site.

Coill'ach a' Chuil (Broch)

Visited: August 7, 2020

Coill'ach a' Chuil is an almost totally ruined broch that sits on the south shore of Loch Naver, some 600 metres west of the point at which the River Naver exits the eastern end of the loch.

At the time of this visit Coill'ach a' Chuil supported a rank growth of bracken which obscured the finer details of what structure remains of the broch. I could find no trace of the stretch of outer wallface, entrance and guard cell cited by Canmore. What was clear, however, is that around and immediately above the waterline, a substantial barrier of very large boulders marks the boundary of the broch, suggesting perhaps that the enture structure had been built atop an artificial platform.

Access to the broch starts at a track leading south from the Strathnaver road at NC 669 385, and which leads to a bridge across the River Naver. Immediately across the bridge, a path heads right towards the adjacent woodland where there are two gates. Take the rightmost gate and follow a walkers' path that roughly follows the loch shore to the broch. The walking is easy, over grass and short heather, and it takes around half an hour to gain the broch from the road.

Dun Ban (Stone Fort / Dun)

Visited: September 6, 2019

Rising above the cliffs, just under a kilometre southwest of Dun a'Chleirich, stand the rudimentary remains of Dun Ban, a striking promontary fort. The dun stood on the summit of a largely grass-covered rock rising steeply above the clifftops and connected to the land on its northwest by a narrow rocky ridge that has the appearance of having been artificially strengthened. From its summit, Dun Ban plunges steeply towards the sea, with just the footings of the stone wall that once surrounded it remaining.

Although only a short distance from Dun a'Chleirich, the thick bracken that plagues the clifftops here makes a direct approach towards Dun Ban well nigh impossible. The best approach is to start from the same parking spot beside the wooden shack then walk down the road for about 10 minutes to a prominent farmhouse and barn on the left.



Just a few metres down the service road here, a gate on the right leads into the field and onward towards the dun, which is now a prominent feature on the coast. Make your way to the bottom of the field where your progress is arrested by a high fence. Follow the fence to the left and you will soon encounter a metal gate. Go through the gate, follow a rough path down to the stream, step across, then follow another rough path up the grassy approach to Dun Ban.

Dun a'Chleirich (Stone Fort / Dun)

Visited: September 6, 2019

Dun a'Chleirich is a promontory fortification on the south coast of Sleat. Driving west, the starting point is at a small parking area on the left side of the road (white marker), just beside a dilapidated wooden hut, approximately 3.75 kilometres west of the community of Ardvasar, at NG 6029 0112.

Here, a convenient gate leads into a large grassy field. Enter the field and follow its boundary fence to the left (east) then down towards the coast to where a second gate leads left to the bracken-infested coastal strip. A walkers' path continues from here, bearing left, past Dun a'Chleirich (which is initially out of sight) to the shore. Though largely concealed by bracken, it was just possible to find a rough path up the northwestern side to the summit of the dun (blue marker).



At this time of the year, Dun a'Chleirich is almost completely clothed by a rampant growth of bracken about a metre tall. Only on its western flank was the bedrock exposed, so any structural elements had to be searched for.

During the climb up on to the dun I had to step over some sizeable blocks that were presumably part of the dilapidated wall that still surrounds most of the structure, and a few metres father on, some blocks that I took to be of the inner wall facing. But the summit was devoid of features.

However, on the northeastern flank of the summit, after clearing some of the bracken, it was clear that there still remain significant remnants of a wall. At the point I investigated, the wall was chest high and up to six courses in height. I daresay that in spring, before the bracken has sprouted, significantly more structure would be apparent.

Skail (Broch)

Visited: June 19, 2019

Situated in a field to the west of the Strathnaver road, and exactly a half kilometre north of the more famous Skail chambered cairn, stands a tall, elongated knoll which supports the remains of Skail broch.

Canmore refers to 'several stones in sufficient numbers to suggest an encircling wall which has been almost completely obliterated' round the periphery, although, perhaps because of the lush vegetation, these were not in evidence.

There is no tumble of masonry downhill, and it seems entirely likely that any stonework from the broch would have been robbed for the construction of the nearby farm and its outbuildings.

A small car-park is conveniently situated just 70 metres south of Skail Farm.

Cnoc Na Cairidh (Stone Fort / Dun)

Visited: June 25, 2019

Rising steeply on the east bank of the Bay River, at the point where it debouches into Loch Bay, stand the remains of a small dun. Little in the way of structure remains: boulders just peeping from the turf on the seaward side hint at a possible defensive wall, as does a line of largely buried boulders curving round the eastern flank. Otherwise, this is just a grassy mound, falling steeply to the north and west, but down easy slopes elsewhere.

To access this site, head north from Fairy Bridge on the B886 for almost exactly 3 kilometres where, at NG272544, an unsugnposted, unclassified road leads off to the left towards the tiny community of Bay. Follow this road for about 600 metres to its end, where there is space to park. A gate leads to a path down to the coast. You can either follow the coastline, or head directly over easy grassy terrain towards Cnoc Na Cairidh.

Ballone, Mybster (Broch)

Visited: June 18, 2019

At Ballone, Mybster, just east of Westerdale, stands a huge grass-covered mound, almost four metres tall and measuring 37×41 metres in size. The mound sits in a field, immediately adjacent to the road to Westerdale, with a convenient gate giving access, and is believed to contain the remains of a platform bearing a broch.

In truth there is little to remark upon. The mound suffered quarrying on its northeast flank when the road was built, and this has revealed a significant stretch of drystone walling that could well be part of the broch's wall. On the southern flank, almost hidden by tall grass, a line of stones could be the footings of a wall.

Dun Mhaigh (Broch)

Visited: June 19, 2019

On heading west across the Far North of Scotland, the frequency of brochs—which pepper Caithness in their hundreds—dwindles to a mere handful west of Strathnaver. Probably the best known is the magnificent Dun Dornaigil in Strathmore, but for the intrepid enthusiast there's another that surpasses even this: Dun Mhaigh above the head of the Kyle of Tongue.
Despite the fact that Dun Mhaigh has seen much better days, the structure of this Iron Age broch still exhibits many features of interest. There is a well proportioned entrance passage in the east, five metres long, which, although missing some of its lintels, still boasts a fine lintelled doorway at each end and a guard cell. And round to the north is a neat intra-mural stair which would have accessed a second level. Though the interior of the broch is full of fallen masonry, the walls still stand a dozen and more courses tall round much of the structure.



To reach Dun Mhaigh, head west on the A838 into Tongue on the north Sutherland coast. At the point where this road hairpins right towards the causeway across Kyle of Tongue (signposted 'Durness'), head left along a good single track road for about five miles, round the head of the kyle until you bridge a river, then turn sharp right (heading back up the kyle). The only decent parking place (blue marker on the map above) is on the left left-hand verge just past this bridge, where there is space for two or three vehicles.

Note: Please do not park in a passing place as this hinders free movement of local traffic.

From here, Dun Mhaigh, which you might have spotted up on the ridge above the road during your drive in, is about 450 metres away, but you can't actually see it because of an intervening rise in the terrain. Best walk back along the road (to the yellow marker 'S' on the map) when all is revealed. The broch sits at an altitude of about 90 metres up a ridge, defended on its west by vertical 15 metre high cliffs, and you can now head across short heather directly to it. It is well worth continuing past the broch for a bit as the view down on it towards the Kyle of Tongue is a sight worth seeing.

There's lots of detailed information about Dun Mhaich on the Canmore website.

Upper Latheron (Broch)

Visited: June 17, 2019

The first 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 other side 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 Latheron 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 that serves them are two megalithic 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 that "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.
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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: