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Henley Bank (Round Barrow(s))

Leaving Churchdown Hill by its southeastern slopes, the M5 and various fast-moving main roads now occupy much of the low-lying plain below (18.1.2015).

This barrow is one of very few surviving prehistoric sites below the Cotswolds escarpment. Although there are plenty of examples in various states of disrepair up on the limestone plateau, most of the barrows down in the vale of the Severn have long-ago succumbed to the ravages of agriculture, or they simply never existed.

I've never made it here before, as the combination of A-Road and muddy fields that provide the surrounding landscape look unappealing enough on a map. But the long-awaited visit to Churchdown makes this an obvious enough pairing.

I approach from Brockworth Road to the west. The OS 1/25000 shows a footpath skirting the fields alongside the A417, but when I get to the relevant spot there's no signpost. I take my chance and follow the route around the field edge. This is yet another of those fields of clinging clay that the farms round here specialise in. It's not too bad on the field edge, but at length I get to the point where the map shows the path cutting northeast across the field towards the little wood where the barrow lies. Although only a couple of hundred yards, I seem to have picked up a large proportion of the field's surface by the time I make it to the woodland verge.

From here it's easier going, a narrow track running alongside the woodland. At the northern corner, a very welcoming post informs me that access to the wood is permitted by the landowner, so getting to the barrow is straightforward as long as the vegetation is kind.

The barrow is near the northern edge of the wood. When I get to it, I'm relieved to find it has not been planted. The woodland itself is young, and a space for the barrow has clearly been left open. The barrow itself is rather disappointing, almost flattened and only really obvious as a mound when viewed from the south. However, the woodland setting is really rather nice. The nearby road doesn't intrude and I can imagine that in spring the new growth in the canopy will make for a very pretty spot.

Despite its relatively poor state, the barrow was rich with finds. Gloucestershire HER mentions 14 worked flints and "a fossilised burrow from a marine boring bivalve that had probably been reused as a bead".

I leave through Primrose Vale Farm to the east, realising as I do that access to the woods is possible - and signposted - directly from the farm shop, so if you're coming by car, this is the way to come (there's a car park at the farm shop).

It's not the best barrow you'll ever see, but the rarity of a site in this low-lying landscape makes it worth the effort in itself, with the tranquility of the surrounding woods an added bonus.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
15th February 2015ce

Churchdown Hill (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

One of two unvisited sites within walking distance of my house, this has niggled and nagged away at me for a few years now. So a beautiful January Sunday (18.1.2015) finally gets me off the sofa to go and have a proper look.

The walk up from Churchdown is straightforward enough, passing the wonderfully named "Criftycraft Lane" on my way. At Churchdown Green the ice makes the tarmac suddenly treacherous, but thankfully it's a short enough bit of uphill skating.

Below the church, the lane is bordered on its right by what appears to be a large bank, the sort of thing that could suggest an inturned entrance to an Iron Age site. However, it could just be a natural crease in the hillside. Overgrown with brambles and scrub, it's not easy to investigate much further.

The lane opens out to a vista of green banks. Not anything ancient unfortunately, just the grassed sides of one of several reservoirs that now fill the centre of the hilltop. Along with quarrying, these may well have destroyed much chance of establishing its prehistoric origins. Round the corner, the church is very striking, perched on top of a huge mound - natural? Hmm.

The corner of the churchyard looks out over the Severn plain with the steep Cotswold escarpment forming its eastern edge. I can count more than half a dozen Iron Age forts and settlements visible from here, with more yet on the Malverns ridge over to the northwest.

Leaving the churchyard and its super-friendly cat familiar, a little gate leads onto a footpath circumnavigating the rim of the hilltop. I'm soon into an area of hideous Cotswold mud, the kind that clings to your boots and adds several pounds. The ground drops fairly steeply, and there appears to be a slight embankment along the top, perhaps suggesting some counterscarping has taken place.

Round to the west the walk would be lovely, under a spacious canopy of deciduous woodland, if it weren't for the continuing hindrance of the mud underfoot. The highest part of the hill is at the southwestern corner, up a slope of particularly slippery mud. Here a toposcope points out the distant Black Mountains, as if their bright white snow covering were not enough today.

The southern side of the hill is the steepest, and there is no obvious sign of anything that could be a man-made or enhanced earthwork here . It is a lovely spot though, as the sun filters through the slender pine trees.

Although nothing about the visit today confirms categorically whether there was a fort here, it would certainly be a fine spot for one, with tremendous visibility in all directions and natural defences from its steep slopes. Iron Age finds have turned up within the site and I'm inclined to believe it more likely than not that it would have been occupied and probably fortified too.

With one itch finally scratched, from here I head off to another one.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
15th February 2015ce

Ballybought (Bullaun Stone)

I finally made it to this stone, Ballybought (Baile Bocht) wart stone, after 5 aborted visits, livestock in the large field always putting me off. The stone is about 200 metres into the field from the little bridge that fords the north to south flowing stream, on the eastern side of the small valley.

The ovoid bullaun dominates the large, metre and a half long boulder, at least a foot wide on its longer axis. I didn't feel like testing its depth. There are very faint cupmarks on the boulder too. Lumps of quartzite speckle the granite. The stone seems to have been cut on its south-east edge, though many moons ago.

On leaving I realised there were livestock in the field still, hidden beyond the crest of the hill. Oh well.
ryaner Posted by ryaner
14th February 2015ce
Edited 15th February 2015ce

Glengoulandie (Cup Marked Stone)

Couple of brocken spectres from the area . tiompan Posted by tiompan
11th February 2015ce

Mallavoge (Stone Row / Alignment)

This stone row has very recently been added to the NMS (National Monument Service), but with no details.
We had seen these stones a few years back on a visit to Brow Head but had dismissed them as being modern. So today, we thought that we would take a closer look.
Three large boulders form a line roughly ENE-WSW. They are quite well spaced out. There are extensive views over Crookhaven to the NE and out to Sea to the South.
The ENE and WSW boulders look as though they just sit on the earth, whilst the middle one is earthfast.
There is another large stone slightly South of the row, which may or may not be connected to it.
In my mind, this row has a very modern feel and look to it, but as I mentioned at the begining, The NMS have scheduled it - CO152-010 so who knows
Meic Posted by Meic
10th February 2015ce

The Pipers (Standing Stones)

On 3rd of Feb this year after a look around The Merry Maidens and Tregiffian Burial Chamber, I finally found The Pipers. i think previous visits to the area had always been in the months where there is more growth in the hedgerows so never managed to peek them whilst driving on the road past.

I clambered over the gate next to the road to get a closer look and was thoroughly surprised just how massive they are up close, really impressive stones!
Posted by Beebon
7th February 2015ce

The Merry Maidens (Stone Circle)

Tuesday 3rd of February 2015, a day off work and it had been a few months since I last went out to visit any sites. Merry Maidens is easy to access and is a place with a lot of charm (providing there aren't millions of other people about at the same time).

It was one heck of a cold morning (for this part of the country anyway) and the ground was frozen with sleet/hailstones, which added a clean and crisp feeling to my visit. A walk a few times around the stones and I decided to head off to take a look at Tregiffian just down the road before a quick peep at The Pipers (which I finally found!)
Posted by Beebon
7th February 2015ce

Arbor Low (Stone Circle)

I have been to Arbor Low many times. Somethings I have noticed-
The mound on the SE side of the henge is directly in line with Gib Hill when the sun sets on the winter solstice. A journey clockwise around the outside henge (when following the setting sun on this day) leads you on to this mound as the bank of the hill slowly rises to it and the mound sticks out from the henge.

The central cove has a ring of energy that is different to the rest of the area. This ring is about 10ft diameter. The largest stone in the middle of the circle is the southern tip of this energy ring.

There is a large energy spike west and slightly north of this point about 1/3 towards the stones of the west side of the ring.

I have read reviews of what other people feel about this place. About how the energy in some spots is the same and others how it is constant. The two spots I mention above have not changed in the last few years.

Other things about this place-

Liberty Caps grow in the field around the site. Particularly on the north and north east sides of the outside of the henge. I think this is appropriate.

I have no problem with the people who own the farm :)

The weather here can be extreme. It is on an exposed site.

Gibb Hill hasn't ever done much for me. It has bricks buried in it!

This is my favourite megalithic site. I have meditated here many times with the gentle changes in the the temperature of my skin tickling me lightly as the wind (and rain) has blown over me.
Posted by flying teapot
6th February 2015ce

Long Nose (Promontory Fort)

Heading east from the Gardenstown crossroads on the B9031 take the first minor road south and then take the first farm track east which leads to the aptly named Highfield House. My plan was to get to Tore Lodge and climb up to the fort from the track.

This was going to prove impossible thanks to a sea of mud and a lot of water. There has been a lot of rain combined with melting snow causing these obstructions. The biggest problem is the lack of frost and low temperatures therefore the water just collects in hollows.

However a solution was at hand as the farmer kindly offered to drive me there in his land rover. This proved to an eventful journey thru deep water/mud/slush/ditches going north east until the ground firmed up almost due north of the fort. From here it was south into the forts interior.

On driving down to the fort there seems to be two un-natural mounds going across the full width of the fort. Looking at the aerial pictures it would seem that these are the remnants of ramparts. The ploughed section of the east side gives a give good indicator of were a wooden stockade once stood. Like nearby Strath Howe there are many small valleys so defences to the south, east and west came naturally enough. After a good look around the site, darkness aided by snow had started to fall. With that the atmosphere changed along with the colours of North East coast which indicated that it was time to go.

Yet another site on my doorstep. Yet another one I didn't know about until recently. Yet another site that needs another visit, preferably on a much warmer and drier day. Thanks to the people at Highfield House for their kindness. Much appreciated.

Visited 2/2/2015.
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
4th February 2015ce

Goval (Standing Stone / Menhir)

As part of the preparatory work for the much needed Aberdeen by pass over 600 trenches and excavations were carried out by a team led by my friend Ian Suddaby. One of the excavations was at Goval. This stone has intrigued me for years (as it has Mr Hamilton) but I've never stopped before. Quite literally I've passed this place thousands of times. However new info made sure I stopped this time.

The stone itself sits in field to the east of the A947 (Turriff road) north of Dyce. I pulled in just slightly to the north at a small layby. Take care on this road as it is very busy and one of the main commuter links to Aberdeen.

It stands at over 2 meters high having a nicely pointed top. Chokes have been found but full details of the excavation will appear here when I get them.

The one thing it does represent, to a lot of people who live north of Aberdeen, is the way home, fresh air and countryside.

Visited 29/1/2015.
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
2nd February 2015ce

Waen Gyrach (Cairn(s))

Quick, no ones looking, grab your boots, map and camera and go go go. I don't think any one saw me leave, just a few stones and then back home.
I parked at the end of the road as if going to Hafodty stone circle, it's the next road over from the old church. It's windy and the clouds obscure the mountain tops, there's a 17.8 % chance of rain. Probably.
From the car, go through the gate and pass by the large sheep pens and follow the path up hill west nor west. From here I was spiritually guided/guessed my way over to the stones, I saw some stones, decided that would be them and they were. Ideal.
The big cairn with opened interior was the first thing I saw, some larger standing stones forming part of an inner kerb or many stoned cist.
Maybe ten yards from that cairn is the kerb cairn. Some kerbing has gone or been buried by earth and gorse, but enough remain to describe the circularity of the monument. The large oval capstone still sits by the area it covered, the cist is full of earth and grass covered, clearly it was opened a long time ago.
The ring cairn is not immediately obvious, my memory of what Coflein says about its whereabouts is as ever, shady, to say the least.
So I go for a walkabout, or a blownabout, looking back, down at the two cairns from slightly above and I can see it. It was right there next to the first cairn, in fact that first cairn is built right into the western bank of the ring cairn. The ring cairn has a good eastern side with, Coflein says, 18 stones. From above fifty yards away I can really appreciate what it is we have here. It's a three in one. Why so close to each other, nay, on top of each other. Most curious.
Three sites in a row, and this is the first of the three, I'm off to find a cist now, then another ring cairn, what a fantastic place.
From Waen Gyrach I can see Red Farm stone circle, Maen Crwn standing stone and I can see where Circle 275 and the Druids circle are, Fabulous.
postman Posted by postman
1st February 2015ce

Tydden-Grasod (Cist)

This cist is easy to find, park at the end of the road where you would for the Hafodty standing stone and stone circle. Walk along the footpath like your going to the stone circle, when the standing stone appears in its field off to your right, turn left into a wide shallow gully, the cist is by the southern side of the gully right below the slope. A medieval settlement is at the far end of the gully if you find that you've gone too far, go back.

How many times have I passed by these places not knowing of their existence, and how many more are there?
There is no trace of any surrounding cairn, the stones of the cist are broken, leaning and fallen but enough remains to be sure of what your looking at, the capstone is gone.
Not much in the way of views either, due to it's position, so I sit in the cist and ponder it's positioning, of course, from the outside, I'm sitting on a rock and staring gormlessly about, no mate I'm pondering.
postman Posted by postman
1st February 2015ce

Llyn Y Wrach (Ring Cairn)

It is just a ten minute walk, if that, from the Hafodty stone circle. From the stone circle walk north east following the footpath, take the next left turn and follow that one to llyn Y Wrach, the Lake of the Witch. When the lake ends look up and right, in a hollow on the hillside is this easy to miss ring cairn. I say easy to miss, it's not, but Coflein do have the grid reference off a bit.

The last of this afternoons trio of unknown but surely should be known sites, the threatening clouds have long gone, the sun is going down behind Foel Lus or an immediate neighbour, I've only just found it in time before it goes dark. Cofleins error in pin pointing the site have cost me dearly, I failed completely to find it first time back in December, and now it seems I'm not going to find this time either, only a gorse covered bank with one stone is all I've found, I don't think that is it. I'm about to give up for a second time when I spot some stones on the hill side above the path that goes by the Llyn. I thought that was the house platform that the map says is up there somewhere. I decide that it's not far up to it so I scamper up the slope, for the view more than any expectancy that they are the ring cairn. But, I'm amazed to find that the few stones I could see from below turn out to be the ring cairn, and it's a good one. Gobsmacked, infuriated, giddy with the moment of discovery and utterly knackered I sit up hill of the ring and take in it's full form.

The ring cairn is best appreciated at its south west side where the stones stand proud of the ground and there is an obvious gap for an entrance. The stones on the east side have possibly been buried by the slow slide of soil from the hillside right next to the ring of stones. It is in a somewhat strange place, perched above the valley floor in a hollow but below a rocky outcrop and more hills, it sits in a small amphitheatre which in turn sits in a bigger one. It's all very curious.
More curious is the layout of the stones, the ring has a double skin of large stones laid on edge, with cairn material filling the void between inner and outer ring of stones, a bit like Carnedd Y season less than five miles south west. But much more like the Blaewearie ring cairn far away in Northumberland.
But I've spent too long looking in the wrong place and now the sun has definitely gone down and darkness encroaches, it is sadly time to run round like an idiot trying to get pictures in the half dark. On my way back I climb up the hill opposite the ring and looking down I wonder why I didn't cotton on to the sites true location earlier. I've stood here before and looked upon it, but without, "the knowledge" it's just another nice North Walean view.
By the time I reach the car it is pretty dark, but looking to the mountains their vale of low cloud has drifted away and revealed a smattering of snow on the higher peaks, the snow does not come below Drum.
Did you know....... That Snowdonia at night is completely free of cloud and it never rains, saving it for our daytime. Probably.
postman Posted by postman
1st February 2015ce

Deil's Stane (Natural Rock Feature)

I remember this stone when it sat all alone looking back at its 'once upon a time' home Bennachie. Now it sits in the middle of some fairly recently built houses. Approaching from the east on the B993, I turned left just after the Bennachie Lodge (this used to be a really good pub) up Bogbeth Road and parked at the sports ground. From here I walked further along until the 2nd road leading up into the houses. At the top of the hill the Deil's Stone should also be looking back down.

It truly is a massive triangular shaped stone reckoned to weigh 250 tonnes. Certainly the Devil must be strong and certainly a better aim than Jock O Bennachie. Good views to Bennachie and the Green/White Hills in an area full of prehistory. Also known as the Grey Stone.

Visited 29/1/2015.
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
29th January 2015ce

Maen Llia (Standing Stone / Menhir)

28/1/15 - I'm visiting this stone probably at least once a week this year as part of a long term photographic study of the location. See my latest images here: Posted by mattbotwood
28th January 2015ce

Dillyminnen (Promontory Fort)

Yet another site pretty close to Turriff I'd never heard about until recently. The re-emergence of drewbhoy has led to several people speaking about prehistoric sites close to where they live. Newells and Blockie come into that category as does Dillyminnen. Dillyminnen or Dillymoenan (as some local people still spell it) means pit dwelling, according to the people at Silverhillocks, Canmore agrees. So fresh with new found information it was time to go look.

I parked at Tarlair Swimming Pool, Macduff, which continues to fall into neglect :-( Still further east from Tarlair and up the hill is Cleaved Head, a beautiful little fort situated near the 13th hole on Tarlair Golf course. I've always liked this place and the vibe as usual is one of peace and calm. This feeling sadly ends until Dillyminnen is reached as it is the end of any decent path.

Head east from Cleaved Head until the golf course ends and move onto the coastal path. This path is nothing short of a death trap. It is pitted, full of ankle breakers, erosion, etc. Simply it should be closed before something serious happens. The path far below on the beach/shore is hardly much better and at some point re-joins the cliff top path. Both are to be avoided. This is a disgrace and I feel deeply ashamed that this has been allowed to happen.

Still the fort looks good and like Cleaved Head a special place. A natural harbour sits on the west side whilst on the east is a good place for smashing boats. There seems to be an argument about ditches, ramparts etc. That is easily settled, they are there but badly damaged. Farming has cleared the southern parts but near the fort and path the remnants of these structures can be clearly seen. The ditch that Canmore mentions is certainly there as the sides of it are eroded and the unwary walker might fall in. Fortunately the old sticks ensured that I did not.

With the winds getting stronger and inclement weather encroaching I avoided the so called path and jumped the fence and walked the 1 mile back (several fences and 2 burns/ditches to be jumped) to the golf course walking past Cleaved Head to Tarlair. An alternative would be to call in at Silverhillocks Farm and take the public footpath which almost leads straight to the fort. Far better than chancing the Moray Coastal Walk.

Visited 26/1/2015.
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
27th January 2015ce

Newells (Cairn(s))

Yet another cairn on my doorstep I didn't know about until recently. It has taken a fair battering especially on the west side as the farm road has removed a lot of the site. However it does have some remaining features. There is the remnants of something circular which I took to be a kerb (hut circle?) as a wee dunt with a boot found rock. The centre has been houked as usual and various cairn material is scattered. There are some big stones nearby including one that could have easily been used for a capstone and at least several that might look good standing up. Originally the site must have been close to 15 meters in width and nowadays is 0.5 meters at it's tallest. On the west side the farm track has taken care of the cairn in a bad way but at least it reveals how the cairn was constructed. Still on a day like today, with the snow, ice, sun and no wind it was quite easy to imagine how things might have been. This area is good for prehistory so another piece of the jigsaw fitted.

Just north of Oldmeldrum (heading to Turriff) on the A947 there is a crossroads. Take the Balgove road. The Newells farm is well signposted about 3/4's of a mile from the junction. At this point I parked my car as the farm track was sheet ice and walked thru the field to the tallest clump of trees underneath which is the cairn.

Visited 24/1/2015.
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
25th January 2015ce

Gaylet Pot (Natural Rock Feature)

Visited: March 16, 2014

Reading the recent post about the The Pot at Bullers of Buchan, I was reminded of a visit I made last year to a similar feature on the coast, mid-way between Auchmithie and Arbroath. Gaylet Pot, situated about 100 metres inland, just south of Lud Castle, is without doubt one of Nature's most amazing phenomena. Invisible from the nearby coastal path, it is a yawning hole in the middle of a cultivated field, measuring some 50 metres across and 40 metres in depth. You can see Gaylet Pot in the field at upper left of the aerial photograph below.

Gaylet Pot is the remnant of a former cavern, carved by the sea aeons ago. The sandstone coastal cliffs hereabouts are perforated by numerous caves, many of them penetrating deep inland. Gaylet Pot was originally a 100 metre long cave, within which the sea exploited faults to create a huge roofed cavern.

At some point, the roof collapsed, creating the huge open-air chamber that exists today. This cave, which is inaccessible except by boat, opens from the coastal cliffs as an archway over 20 metres high and 13 metres wide, tapering to just four metres high by three wide where it enters the Pot.

To view the Pot, head due west from Lud Castle for about 100 metres, and walk round to its inland side. The other three sides of the Pot are completely vertical, and deny good views. But from the west, grassy slopes allow you to look over the rim of the inner chamber, and see the shingle beach and entrance arch far below. At high tide, the sea can be seen washing up the beach.
LesHamilton Posted by LesHamilton
22nd January 2015ce

Blockie Head (Cliff Fort)

Blockie Head is a fantastic cliff fort situated amongst some beautiful scenery e.g. The Pot, the Bullers Of Buchan and some of the most stunning coast line in Scotland. Today was a beautiful day without a cloud in the sky except for the massive black cloud of smoke to the north. A huge factory fire had broken out in Peterhead and smoke could be seen for miles. It certainly added to the colour of the place as the sun was creating beautiful colours on the cliffs, sea and grass.

Why this fort isn't more famous baffles me as the ditches/trenches/ramparts, at least four, near the causeway are clearly visible. Signs of even small ramparts surround the main fort even if the cliffs provide an inaccessible protection. At 60 meters in length and at the most 13 meters wide (at the least 8 meters) this is almost the perfect cliff fort. A natural harbour to the north is also included, so a well chosen spot.

As Les pointed out for The Pot, birdlife is in abundance here and this must be an incredibly noisy place when the young birds are on the go.

I left the A90, Peterhead road, just south of Longhaven and took the A975 towards Cruden Bay. There is a car park at the Bullers O Buchan. No cars are allowed beyond this point as the Bullers O Buchan is actually a small village as well and only residents cars are allowed.

Follow the path and head north, past The Pot, past the first place which looks like a tiny fort (the path to this is not to be advised as it is gradually eroding away) until a better path, on the causeway, heading east into the fort can be seen. Take care at the fort's edge, the cliffs are straight.

To get to the natural harbour, advised, if only to see the changing colours on the rocks, keep heading north on the path. The path to the pebbly beach is the next track east. Sadly this seems to be a graveyard for plastic bottles but it doesn't detract from the stunning scenery and the atmosphere. With night coming down, the blackness of the fort against the remaining sun is a truly magical sight.

Visited 17/1/2015
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
21st January 2015ce

Clach Mhic Mhios, Glen Loth (Standing Stone / Menhir)

In my opinion this is really something special, a striking monolith up there with such notable beauties as Clach an Trushal, Punchestown... and even the wondrous Maen Llia. It's probably to my detriment that solitary standing stones don't generally 'do it for me', so to speak. It normally takes at least a pair of the things to overcome my usual inertia to pull on the boots to visit. Or, failing that, an overpoweringly massive presence, or superb positioning within the landscape.

At first sight Clach Mhic Mhios didn't appear - to me - to possess any of those criteria. However after viewing the landscape context from the col between Ben Uarie and Beinn Dhorain... and spending three nights wild camping within Glen Loth, during which sea mist came to greet the enigmatic monolith in such a memorable manner as to positively freak me out... I reasoned I might as well go and have a look. Hey, any standing stone than could entice water to come to it, rather than wandering down to the river at night - as they apparently are apt to do - must be pretty classy, right? Either that or incredibly lazy. Albeit in a metaphysical manner.

The distance from roadside to the great monolith is not excessive. However, as the previous gentlemen note, the ground is extremely boggy. Wellingtons would be a good idea, to be fair. Trainers? You're having a laugh! Anyway, as I draw nearer it soon becomes apparent that Clach Mhic Mhios, comprised of red sandstone, is much taller than it appears from the road, some 11ft according to the RCAHMS way back in 1911. No doubt a significant length is embedded within the ground, too, or else the monument would probably have long since toppled over within the soggy morass. The stone is 4ft 11'' across at its widest point and 1ft 3'' thick, facing ESW and WNW (again as noted by RCAHMS). Furthermore two smaller stones were apparently standing nearby just over a century ago. Unfortunately I could not see any trace today. More's the pity.

So, a handsome monument. But what, for me, really places Clach Mhic Mhios in the top rank of its type is its location. Beinn Dhorain, highest peak in the locality, towers to the immediate west while the elegant facade of Ben Uarie soars to the north-west. The view looking east, not to mention those up and down the glen, are also very fine. Indeed it is Ben Uarie, possessing the remains of a large, in my opinion possibly kerbed, summit cairn that might well be the focal point of Glen Loth. The mountain and the standing stone are inextricably linked within local folklore, this relating how the stone was thrown from the summit to its current position "by a giant youth when one month old". The mind boggles, so it does.

Now that's what I call throwing toys out of the pram! Proper Highland style.
20th January 2015ce

Carn Bran (Broch)

Although little more than a mile along the minor road traversing Glen Loth (if heading from the A9, that is) the shattered remains of this broch occupy a position in the landscape seemingly several light years away from the tourist trail when it comes to vibe. What an superb location! Although, to be fair, it's difficult to visualise a big, hairy Iron Age warrior chieftain standing here, spear, battleaxe - or whatever- in hand and exclaiming "Such is the exquisite beauty of this landscape, sweeping contours of sublime precision echoing the pulsating life-affirming natural forces inherent within the fast flowing water.... that I am compelled, by the mighty Odin (in an admittedly uncharacteristic moment of all consuming altruistic euphoria), to erect a great big bloody dry stone defensive tower here to consolidate my power and vanquish my enemies. At this very spot". Then again ....

For all the idyllic splendour there is, however, a catch which potential visitors should be aware of. Namely, as Nick points out, that the broch stands upon the opposite bank of the Loth Burn from the road. Ah... Luckily I was able to make my way across the lively water without having to remove the boots, thanks to several strategically placed rocks breaking the surface at opportune points. I can well imagine occasions when this will not be the case.

As mentioned at the start, Carn Bran is, on the surface, a tumbled mass of collapsed stonework far removed from the likes of the nearby Cinn Trolla. Nevertheless a few courses of walling can still be discerned within the chaos, together with the positions of a (couple?) of intra-mural chambers confirming that this is indeed a broch and not, as the name might imply, a cairn. I wouldn't have minded the latter at all, to be fair. But then again finding a broch located in such a classic position overlooking a far from placid burn is pretty special.

I sit drinking my coffee, gazing along the glen and wonder how much of the original structure still remains in situ, subsumed within the stone pile? Yeah, on balance, despite the captivating ethereal atmosphere here, I reckon it would be a very worthwhile exercise to excavate Carn Bran and perhaps reveal its former archaeological glory.
20th January 2015ce
Edited 21st January 2015ce

Drum Castle (Standing Stone / Menhir)

One of my pupils played a wee concert at the castle the previous week and said that they'd seen a standing stone just up from the wooden drum kit in the play area. Quite how I missed this stone I don't really know having played here a few times myself and enjoyed a wee stroll or two.

Drum Castle is well sign posted. Leave the A93 just before Drumoak following the minor road north. The next turning west leads straight to the castle car park.

From here keep heading west past the wooden drum kit and head to the top of the small hill. A small passing type of place for tractors etc will be seen to the south, the stone will be seen just to other side of the fence.

The stone is almost 1 meter tall and 1 meter broad/0.6 wide. Luckily the stone wasn't used for a plaque. Instead it was used to set the height of the Drum Castle tower and luckily it still stands near the top of Cowie Hill.

An easy short walk to the stone but take advantage of the place. Visit the castle then go for a hike around the many paths. So job done, the pupil was spot on, then somebody said that there is possibly a couple of standing stones close by. Next week then.......................

Visited 18/1/2015.
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
20th January 2015ce

Kintradwell (Broch)

Forming an excellent triumvirate of coastal brochs with the more obscure Ousdale Burn and the tourist-friendly Carn Liath this, the enigmatic Cinn Trolla Broch, prompted me to stay a good deal longer than I'd originally anticipated. A sure sign of a good vibe, despite being within sight of the busy A9 and right beside a railway line. Suffice to say the latter is not exactly Clapham Junction, however....

Having awoken from my wild camp to a cloudless dawn in the hills near Invergordon, my boundless enthusiasm for the day ahead - and all things Scottish - is subsequently curtailed in rather short order by the sight of sea mist more or less completely obscuring the coast in the vicinity of Brora. Particularly since I had my beady eye upon venturing upon the hills overlooking the head of Glen Loth. Nature, eh? Reappraisal undertaken, I decide to check out the Cinn Trolla before heading for the wondrous Strath of Kildonan. The broch lies a couple of miles north of Brora and is signposted from the A9... after passing a campsite on the right, followed by the access road to Kintradwell farm on the left. As it is I overshoot and end up parking, rather fortuitously, opposite Ballinreach. Hopping over the gate - or something like that - I make my way diagonally to the coast, so cunningly avoiding the traffic hurtling by a few feet from the verge. It seemed like a good idea. And for once, it was. The broch is difficult to miss...

Excavated by J M Joass around 1865 ('Two days' diggings in Sutherlandshire', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, vol.5 refers... class title, or what?), back in the day when learned gentlemen visited sites such as this - in lieu of middle class, scruffy pseudo-antiquarian amateurs such as myself - the interim has unfortunately (apparently) resulted in a marked deterioration of the fabric. Nevertheless the ancient fortress remains a substantial circular structure, full of archaeological interest and boasting excellent sea views. Hey, an estate agent might well mention the great transport links, too.

Yeah, sadly the guard cell opening from the right hand flank of the entrance passage, upon the western arc, has lost a former 'domed' roof... and debris now accumulate upon the floor of the interior of the broch obscuring a 'well', 7ft deep and featuring steep access steps, to the south-east. However a mural passage concealing a staircase remains in situ, together with another cell, so all the requisite archetypal broch attributes are present and correct. According to E W Mackie (2007) the outer wall face, formed of handsome blocks of sandstone, rises to approx 2m. Which seemed about right. Furthermore the broch is associated with additional external structures reminiscent - well to me anyway - of The Broch of Gurness, these of much cruder construction so, presumably, later?

I sit upon the rotund wall top and watch the thick sea mist sweeping in from the North Sea (obviously) billow up and swirl around the immovable presence of the green hills flanking the entrance to Glen Loth, one such, incidentally, bearing the fine Lothbeg Bridge chambered cairn. Ever so slowly, with an almost glacial imperceptibility, the grey vapour tendrils falter and lose their grip, the hitherto reticent sun seizing the opportunity to break through the mantle to vanquish the overcast morning once and for all.

The landscape duly transformed, I decide to postpone my visit to Strath of Kildonan and head for Glen Loth after all to see if the summit cairn of Ben Uarie has any secrets it may want to pass on?
19th January 2015ce
Edited 20th January 2015ce

The Pot (Natural Rock Feature)

The Pot can be found just to east of the path, straight after the wee village of the Buller's O Buchan, heading towards the cliff fort. This was once a massive cave until its roof fell in. Now there is a 'pot' like shape with a truly spectacular entrance. Today it was fairly calm but on a rough day it must be a quite a sight with spray and foam everywhere.

A pathway around the 'Pot' is not really to be advised as there are sheer drops both sides and bits of erosion. Add in a bit of snow and ice, the danger is obvious. Not a place for children.

Very spectacular tho and the view from the main path is excellent.

Visited 17/1/2015.
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
18th January 2015ce

Carn na Cuimhne (Cairn(s))

I must have driven past this place quite literally hundreds of times but never spotted it. Fortunately on this occasion the eagle eyed HG spotted it almost immediately on the banks of the River Dee. To many places on this river have police signs not allowing people to park, so I ignored their advice and parked just above the cairn to the west of Carnaquheen on the A93. The cairn is amongst the trees next to the beautiful River Dee, a short walk downhill of about 100 meters (over a gate and over a fence).

To be fair, they chose a good place to build their castle, the ancients thought of the idea first and I like their place better.

The cairn itself is 11 meters wide and almost 1.5 meters high. Cairn stones are clearly visible but slight erosion on the river side has happened. This place must have seen some amount of flooding. It has been recycled in more recent times and used as a place of memorial for those fighting in war. Also it was the rallying place for the Clan Faquharson (who have close links with the Shaws/Chattan) who fought against Westminster rule in 1715 (the Standard Of Rebellion was raised proudly in Braemar just along the road) and 1746 (more than 300 fought at Culloden), as mentioned on the memorial slab erected in 1972. The top of the cairn had, at one point, been re-arranged to hold a flag pole. However the flag and it's pole have long gone. So an important place in Scotland's history. But with the very old looking trees and magnificent surrounding mountains it feels ancient. Hopefully back in those ancient days it was maybe less violent.

With that it was back up the hill. The car was still there, and Braemar and the Linn Of Dee beckoned. No disturbence by the Royals so all was well :-)

Visited on 10/4/2013.
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
17th January 2015ce
Edited 20th January 2015ce
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