The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Fieldnotes by Neil-NewX

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Dray's Ditches (Dyke)

Apparent boundary earthwork (Scheduled Ancient Monument) at foot of Warden Hill and Galley Hill (bronze age barrows on top of latter), close to Icknield Way

'One of these Iron Age dykes lies on the [Luton] Borough boundary near Warden Hill. It is known as Drays Ditches and consisted of three V shaped ditches, each 6 feet deep and 15 feet wide, separated from each other by massive palisades of posts and packed chalk.'

The Story of Luton (1964) - J. Dyer, F. Stygall and J. Dony

Shrewsbury Tumulus (Round Barrow(s))

[visited 10.12.2006]

The mound is about 600m north of Shooters Hill, part of the old Roman road from Dover to London (Watling Street), which may have been an earlier trackway. Although now surrounded by houses it would presumably at one point have been visible for some distance from below as it is close to the crest of a hill.

It is between the southern entrance to Brincklow Crescent and a footpath, Mayplace Lane. Worth combining a visit with a walk in nearby Oxleas Wood.

Henry VIII Mound (Round Barrow(s))

[visited 9.12.2006]

Situated on the highest point on Richmond Hill, overlooking Thames valley. Easy to find - from the Pembroke Lodge car park on west of park walk towards the Lodge (building with cafe in it) and bear right, heading about as far as you can go within the fenced off garden. The mound is signposted, with a handy free telescope on top to take advantage of the remarkable view through to St Pauls. The official sign at the bottom is quite informative, it quotes from Edward Jesse (1835): 'it has been opened and a considerable deposit of ashes found in the centre of it'.

Shrewsbury Tumulus (Round Barrow(s))

Plum Lane, junction Brinklow Crescent, SE18.
'In the past six barrows existed on and about Shooters Hill. These mounds resembled the round barrows characteristic of the Bronze Age (2000 - 500 BC) but all except this one have been destroyed and sadly no proper examination was made of them before they were swept away. This last remaining mound is situated at the junction of what is now Brinklow Crescent and Plum Lane'.

Winn's Common Mound (Round Barrow(s))

'The burial mound is on the eastern part of Plumstead Common, known as Winn's Common, near Bleak Hill Lane. The mound is about 20 metres in diameter and very worn down. It is thought that it may have been part of a cluster of seven tumuli similar to the cluster known to have existed on Shooter's Hill. The Winn's Common tumulus has been opened some time in the past but there is no record of what was found or who was involved. The dimensions and shape of the two survivors suggest that they may be Bronze Age burial mounds. The barrow on Winns Common and the one in Brinklow Crescent on Shooters Hill Shrewsbury Tumulus are the only survivors. Five were destroyed in the 1930's when the Laing Estate was built on Shooters Hill. One that stood in Shrewsbury Park survived the destruction by Laing but has subsequently vanished'.

Carragh Bhan (Standing Stone / Menhir)

On the way from Kilnaughton to Kintra, this stone is next to the road on the left (it is marked on OS Explorer Map 352). Carragh Bhan means 'white stone' and near to it are 'possible stubs of two other standing stones' (Caldwell). The top of the stone is similar in shape to the hill in the background (Cnoc Mor Ghrasdail?).

Dun Nosebridge (Hillfort)

Believed to be an iron age hillfort, this is an impressive structure overlooking the River Laggan valley. It features a 'flat rectangular summit, about 15m by 25m, enclosed within concentric ramparts - three main ones separated by large ditches' (Caldwell). Easily approached by footpath on road from Bridgend, where it crosses river at Mulindry Bridge. Name derives from Norse for 'fort on the crag', but the site predates the Vikings' arrival on Islay.

Source for quote: Islay, Jura and Colonsay: a historical guide - David H. Caldwell (Birlinn, Edingburgh, 2001).

Tobar na Dabhaich (Sacred Well)

This well is located around 2km north west of Ardbeg. It is marked on the OS map as Tobar na Dabhaich. The name probably means 'Well of the Hollow' - Tobar=Well, Dabnaich='vatlike hole or hollow' (Watson, 1926). This would fit, as the well is set in a hollow in the side of a small hill. It appears to be a natural spring, with a shallow pool in the rock.

An alternative name seems to be St Michael's Well, perhaps linked to the fact that immediately to the south is Druim Claiggean Mhicheil which is "ridge of Michael's good field" (Domhnall MacEacherna). It is close to the ruins of what is reputed to be the remains of a plague village (see folklore).

My father (who grew up nearby) told me that it was a place where people visited for good luck when they got married, and indeed there at least two horseshoes above in the rock when we found it, one old and rusted and one seemingly fairly recent with ribbon attached. I believe there were also coins in the water.

The antiquity of the site's human use is unknown, but it is some distance from the nearest house (and a difficult journey) so it is clearly not a modern (re)invention. It is close to a hut circle, so at the very least could have been a water source in ancient times. It would certainly bear checking out by people more knowledgeable in the archaeology of well-sites. Now the difficult bit – getting there.

My father took me there in 1984 (see photo) from Callumkill, a journey involving going over several hills and getting wet feet in the bog in between, and getting lost (hence teenage sister's fed up expression in the photo). Last year (2005) I attempted to revisit it with 'clear' directions from my uncle Jim, who used to live at Callumkill. This time I headed via a public footpath marked on the OS map heading north east from Ardbeg and passing close to the well. Let's just say it is not as easy as it looks – I got lost in bracken over head height, caught in a sudden storm, lost my map climbing over a fence and stumbled over a dead cow in a stream. A reminder of taking care when you are looking for sites in more remote locations – you won't be able to get reception on your phone to call for help! I didn't find it, but hope that someone else will have more luck.


Domhnall MacEacherna, The Lands of the Lordship (1976), Argyll Reproductions.

WJ Watson, History of the Celtic Place Names of Scotland (1926)

Callumkill (Cairn(s))

Head out on the road from Port Ellen to Ardbeg. After Lagavulin you will come to the junction with the road to Ardbeg on the right. If you turn left instead there is a small road heading up to the farm at Callumkill. As you go up this road, this cairn is visible on the hill to your right. Walking up to it is a bit of a trek through the bracken, best to check with the farm too because sometimes there's a bull in the field next to it.

No idea of its age - doubtless people have built/rebuilt/tidied it up over the years. I first visited it about 35 years ago as a small child, when my grandad worked on the farm as a shepherd. I remember putting stones on it myself (it already existed at this stage of course). On the other hand there were non-naturally occurring stones lying around the cairn, so even if it was (re?)built relatively recently people may have used materials left over from a more ancient monument.

Last visited Summer 2005.

Cnoc nan Nathrach (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

Shown on OS map as a hut circle. Directions: on the road from Bridgend to Bruichladdich (A847), turn right and head north along the B8017 in the direction of Gruinart. Just past Lyrabus, there's a footpath marked on map heading East past Cnoc nan Nathrach. There are tumuli marked on the map (which I failed to locate) and a ruined cottage, then on the right there's this site. I visited in the summer, but the track was extremely boggy. Wellies recommended. Visited July 2005.

Uiskentuie (Standing Stone / Menhir)

'A standing stone, some 3m high with a pointed top, set on a low ridge overlooking Lock Indaal' (David Caldwell, Islay, Jura and Colonsay: a historical guide, 2001). On the main road from Bridgend to Bruichladdich (the A847), this stone is visible in a field on the right about half way along.

(visited July 2005)

Port Ellen (Standing Stone / Menhir)

I have visited this site many times, since my late father comes from Islay and I have been going there since I was a child (most recently in 2005). The stone stands in front of a small hillock called Cnoc Mor - 'The Great Hill' - an odd name as it is only about two metres tall. In the same field, Pairc Bhaile Neill, are the remains of a chapel, Cille Lasrach, and a similarly named ancient well, Tobar Cille Lasrach. Lasrach is form of Lasair, a saint, but Maceacharna in The Lands of the Lordship notes that the word also relates to 'a feminine word meaning a flame'. Interestingly if you pass this site on the small road leading off the the main road from Port Ellen to Ardbeg you soon come to another site - Kilbride. Saint/Goddess Bride is sometimes linked with Lasair.

Source of quote: MACEACHARNA, DOMHNALL The Lands of the Lordship; the Romance of Islay's Names
Argyll Reproductions, Isle of Islay 1st ed 1976.
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