Impatience from the Rev. Edward Daniel Clarke, who probably believed all sorts of unlikely things himself.
The superstition of the inhabitants, not only of Mull, but of the neighbouring islands, is beyond belief. Stones of any singular form.. have each a peculiar characteristic virtue. They are handed with veneration from father to son, and esteemed as a remedy for every species of disease incident to the human or animal race. As there is not in the whole island of Mull a single surgeon or apothecary, it is well for the natives they can have recourse to a mode of relief so universal and so efficacious.
.. It was with much difficulty I could prevail upon these credulous quacks to part with any specimen of their potent charms. I succeeded, however, in purchasing two, during the time I remained in Mull. One of these, a hard and polished stone, evidently appears to have been once used as an axe, or hatchet, and bears a strong resemblance to the specimens of similar instruments brought by circumnavigators from the South Sea islands. The other is of the same nature with the first, with respect to the use for which it was originally fabricated, although it differs in its composition; it was probably once an instrument of war.
By holding the former over the head of any diseased cattle, and pouring water upon it, letting the water at the same time fall on the animal, the beast is said to recover without fail. The latter is a sovereign remedy against barrenness in cows, if it be used in the same way. If either of them be dipped in water, the water cures all pains of the head or teeth, it also removes the rheumatism or sprains in the joints, with a variety of other virtues, too numerous to mention.
Several others which I saw, possessed virtues as various as their forms. Some of these were fossil shells; others like the flint of a gun, called Fairy speds*; and again, others, mere oblong pebbles, which they distinguished by the appellation of 'Cockaroo-hoo-pan', a sovereign antidote for barrenness in the female sex.
* I guess these could have been flint arrowheads. 'Sped' means 'discharged or let go' which sounds like what a fairy might do to an arrow? Also, if anyone's got an axe I'd like to try it on my sciatica please.
From p229 of 'The Life and Remains of the Rev. Edward Daniel Clarke' (professor of mineralogy at Cambridge) by William Otter (1824) - viewable on Google Books.
Just south of the A849 / B8035 junction. On the left of heading south.
The Cairns are situated on a small rise visible from the road.
We were heading back to the B+B and despite it still being fairly early in the evening, due to the weather; the light was already starting to fail. We pulled over on the side of the by now deserted road and with some trepidation I got out of the car into the pouring rain.
The fence between the road and the ridge is the type which is head height and due to the weather I didn’t fancy trying to climb it. I could see no obvious gate giving access to the field.
The ridge upon which the Cairns reside is quite close to the road and there are several ‘lumps and bumps’ on the ridge which could have been any of the Cairns. Without getting closer it would be impossible to say what was natural and what was man or woman) made. In this weather I would imagine the field would be very bogy.
‘There are 3 cairns about 750m NE of Rossal, overlooking the tidal flats where the Coladoir River runs into the head of Loch Scridain.
Cairn A – the most northerly cairn of the three measures 4.6m in diameter by 0.3m high and stands on the summit of a rocky ridge. It has been severely robbed but a number of kerb stones are still in situ, the tallest 0.8m high being on the N side. Outside the kerb on the S side there is a single stone 0.7m high which may be one side of a ‘false portal’ setting.
Cairn B – 80m SSW of cairn ‘A’ on the W flank of the same ridge. It measures 5.3m by 4.6m and 0.5m high but only a few kerb stones are visible. At the centre are the remains of a cist measuring 1.2m by 0.9m. The stones protrude only 0.2m above the turf.
Cairn C – 17m SW of ‘B’ measuring about 8.2m in diameter and 1m in height.
No other cairns were noted in the vicinity.’
The rain continued to pour. This was easily the wettest day of our holiday. Still, you can’t let a bit of moisture stop you from visiting a site can you?
The wind was so strong it blew me back into the car as I got out – much to everyone’s amusment! The bank up from the road was very slippery and the wooden stile was on its last legs. In fact it gave way under me as I crossed over – again much amusement from the car!
The stone is a good one. It is about 2.5m tall and stood in what was now more of a swamp than a field. I didn’t stay long before hurrying back to the sanctuary of the car.
Well worth a look when you are on your way to Iona along the A849.
I thought this massive split boulder on the beach at Fionnphort much more striking than the standing stone down the road. It deserves a story and it looks like it's got a few. It's quite different stone from the famous pink granite of the area.
I asked a local fisherman about the split rock so obvious on the beach at Fionnphort, which is known to tourists as 'Fingal's Rock'. The locals call it rather more curiously 'The Swordstone', and it does appear cleaved clean in two by a sword - the story goes that around 1870, the quarry had a lifesaving contract cancelled on a dubious quality control claim. This led to protests, the novel result of which was packing a crack in the rock with gunpowder and splitting the block in two, a symbol of the historical division between local loyalties and higher, vested powers in Scotland.
That unlikely tale is from the Stone Country blog. Or there's the story that it's to do with giants throwing stones at each other, as you can read at the website of the nearby Seaview B+B. Fingal's Cave is only a reasonably-priced boat trip out to Staffa, you know, maybe that's the inspiration for the connection. Mmm Staffa.
There is a passing place you can pull into on the A849 which affords great views of the Crannog. The hills were shrouded in mist and the rain fell. Waterfalls cascaded in the distance, in a way they only see to do in Scotland.
Boat required for a better closer view of the Crannog!
Well worth a look if you ever find yourself travelling along the A849.
Near a minor road south of Dervaig – can’t miss it!
We parked on the minor road next to a field gate. The rest of the gang stayed in the car whilst I hopped over the gate and across the rough, bogy field of thistles towards the Hillfort. The surrounding landscape is fairly flat and the Hillfort occupies a prominent position.
The walk up to the site isn’t too far but it is steep. On the way up you pass several ruined stone building which are interesting – I can guess where they got the stone from to build them! Most of the buildings were overgrown by thistles, particularly the insides.
There isn’t a huge amount to see with the exception of a length of walling still standing to a height of about 1m which was a pleasant surprise. The views from the top are wonderful and makes the effort to climb worthwile in itself.
A site to recommend but only suitable for the fairly fit only. If you do visit take care when on top, the sides are very steep and it is a long way down!
‘This fort stands (at a height of 46m OD) on the summit of a steep-sided, isolated ridge 900m SE of Torr a' Chlachain farmhouse, close to the Salen - Dervaig road. It measures 70m by 32m within a single wall which has been so severely reduced by stone-robbing that virtually no traces now survive on the NE and SW sides. On the NW and SE, however, long stretches of the lowest course of the outer face remain in situ, consisting for the most part of massive boulders, the largest of them measuring 1.2m by 1m and 1.2m in height. the entrance faces NW and is 2.1m wide. Ploughing has encroached over almost the whole of the interior.’
From the Dervaig A stones follow the road west down the hill and keep an eye out for the ‘new’ cemetery on the left – not the ‘old’ cemetery a bit further down the road. Park in the car park and follow the path down towards the cemetery but then go to the left heading for the stone wall. Once you get to the wall you should be able to spot the standing stones without too much trouble.
This stone row comprises of 3 stones;
Stone 1 is about 0.5m high and is squarish / L shaped
Stone 2 is about 1m high
Stone 3 is about 2m high
All 3 stones are surrounded by ferns and are in close proximity to the wall.
There are no views from the stones themseves – I wonder why they errected here?
Near the stones is a small rocky knoll which does afford good views.
Just below the knoll is what looks like to be two Cairns but I don’t know if they are Cairns, field clearance or natural?
Dervaig B isn’t as good as Dervaig A to be honest but they make a good ‘joint visit’.