walkhighlands

Share your personal walking route experiences in Scotland, and comment on other peoples' reports.
Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.

In the footsteps of kings

In the footsteps of kings


Postby Ian Johnston » Mon May 21, 2012 9:11 pm

Route description: Kilmartin Glen

Date walked: 11/04/2012

Time taken: 3 hours

Distance: 10 km

Ascent: 100m

6 people think this report is great.
Register or Login
free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).

During a spell of fine April weather we were in Argyll and made a visit to the Kilmartin area. There are an astonishing 800 historic sites within a 10 kilometre radius of Kilmartin, the vast majority of them prehistoric. They include over 350 monuments, incised rocks, cairns and burial sites. The nearby Kilmartin House museum has an excellent collection of artefacts and interpretative material and is well worth a visit.

Five of the burial sites form a linear cemetery over 5 kilometres of land. Also formed in a linear pattern are the Nether Largie standing stones. The stones are in fields and are easy to reach.

Image

The stones are arranged in small groups interspersed with solitary stones and date from Neolithic times. Many theories have been put forward as to the function of the linear arrangements, but unlike the sone circles near my home in the north east of Scotland, there seems no obvious alignment with either the sun or moon.


Image

Perhaps it's fitting that there should be arrangements that the modern mind just can't fathom. It's certainly an atmospheric place.


Image

Just a few hundred yards away, two stone circles stand in the appropriately named Temple Wood. Both are surrounded by a kerb of stones. Here again, the alignment is not truly understood. The oldest stones were placed here 3000 BC and there is evidence that wooden posts were in place prior to that. The trees were planted in Victorian times to give the place more "atmosphere".


Image

The smaller circle has just a couple of standing stones remaining. There is the intruiging possibility that this circle was buried under a cairn (there are other large cairns close by). It's fascinating to speculate on the meaning of this - was it an act of decommisioning the circle? Was burying the stones intended to preserve their power and symbolism, or to smother it?

In Neolithic times Kilmartin must have been a place of immense significance. It is contained within a long open glen and must have been a visible statement of power and ceremony. Even in the bright sunlight of a spring morning there is something special here.

A few kilometres to the south (easy walking on quiet-ish roads) lies Dunadd. At just 55 metres, it's not going to get into many tick lists, but has significance out of all proportion to its height.

Today this small hill stands above marshy farmland and from a distance is unremarkable. Between AD500 and 900 however, this was the power base of the Scottish kingdom of Dalriada. The Scots were migrants from Ireland and settled here about AD500. They were in sporadic conflict with the Picts through much of the period that Dunadd was in use, eventually subduing their rivals and forming the early kingdom which became known as Scotland.

The short climb to the summit has a couple of very mild steps where hands need to come out of pockets, but is both easy and quick - less than 15 minutes from the car park.

Image

The prefix "Dun" indicates a hillfort and that's exactly what Dunadd was. Sitting above the River Add, the hill has a commanding view over the surrounding landscape and the sea approaches to what is now the Crinan canal and to the Firth of Lorn. There are clear remains of walls and buildings on two or three levels, a natural fissure was exploited to provide a defended entrance and half way up the hill is a well. The hillfort would have been an easily defended stronghold, but its significance is much greater than that of a "normal" hillfort. Dunadd seems to have been the coronation place and power base of kings.


Image

On the summit rocks, a slab has a footprint incised in it. Nearby, a bowl is incised into a smaller slab and a boar symbol and some Ogham text are inscribed on rocks close to the summit. It is thought that, following the Irish tradition, kings were crowned whilst placing their foot in this footprint.


Image

It's not too difficult to imagine the ceremony and significance of this act, and it is fascinating to speculate on the true meaning of it. Was it a symbolic joining of a king to the land, or was it an act to demonstrate mastery over it? The overwhelming feeling I got from Dunad was that as much as it was a place to defend and to see out from, it was also a place to be seen, an ostentatious mark of power.

Though many visitors place their own foot in this footprint, we didn't. The simplicity and symbolism invested here seems to echo down the centuries and it just wouldn't have felt right.

The early kings of Dalriada chose their site well, but they also chose a breezy spot! The north wind was chilly and after exploring the remains around the summit we came down, in the footsteps of kings.
Attachments

our_route.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Ian Johnston
 
Posts: 114
Munros:282   Corbetts:70
Grahams:20   Donalds:3
Sub 2000:27   Hewitts:128
Wainwrights:118   Islands:63
Joined: May 9, 2011
Location: Aberdeenshire

Re: In the footsteps of kings

Postby Caberfeidh » Tue May 22, 2012 8:32 am

Fascinating stuff - I love this ancient historical/mysticaL stuff, it adds a whole new (or ancient) aspect to wanders in the highlands, or even lowlands. Thanks for posting this, I am inspired to visit. :D
User avatar
Caberfeidh
Stravaiging
 
Posts: 7394
Joined: Feb 5, 2009

Re: In the footsteps of kings

Postby Steve B » Tue May 22, 2012 8:45 am

This is one of my favourite places in Scotland! They don't all have to be high honest!!
We have visited here half a dozen times and always find something else. It is hard to imagine the timescales you are walking across and the people that must have gone before.
There is a reasonable narrated guide that Neil Oliver et al put together that adds a bit also.
Steve B
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 286
Munros:254   Corbetts:13
Hewitts:53
Wainwrights:26   Islands:9
Joined: Oct 25, 2010
Location: Glasgow

Re: In the footsteps of kings

Postby Caberfeidh » Tue May 22, 2012 10:11 am

There was an interesting documentary on t.v. a few years back about stone circles, ancient burial mounds etc. which reckoned that sound was very important to the original builders, as many of these sites resonate and echo at particular wavelengths. Many standing stones are smoothed on the inner side to reflect sound better, but left rough on the outer side of the circle. This was investigated by a man called Aaron Watson, who has a particular interest in the recumbent stones of N.E. Scotland. Try these websites for more info - http://sites.google.com/site/rockartacoustics/
http://www.megalithic.co.uk/download.php?op=viewsdownload&sid=5
User avatar
Caberfeidh
Stravaiging
 
Posts: 7394
Joined: Feb 5, 2009

Re: In the footsteps of kings

Postby morag1 » Wed May 23, 2012 6:01 pm

Fascinating report, must try to visit :D
morag1
 

Re: In the footsteps of kings

Postby basscadet » Wed May 23, 2012 6:11 pm

Very interesting stuff.. I find all this neolithic stuff fascinating. Thanks for posting :thumbup:
User avatar
basscadet
Munro compleatist
 
Posts: 2779
Munros:84   Corbetts:52
Grahams:18   Donalds:8
Sub 2000:34   Hewitts:13
Wainwrights:17   Islands:21
Joined: Dec 1, 2011
Location: Edinburgh

Re: In the footsteps of kings

Postby Caberfeidh » Thu May 24, 2012 9:25 am

But of course, if you happen to notice an enormous wicker man on a hill, run away! :shock:
wicker man.jpg
User avatar
Caberfeidh
Stravaiging
 
Posts: 7394
Joined: Feb 5, 2009

Re: In the footsteps of kings

Postby Caberfeidh » Sun May 27, 2012 10:38 am

Another excellent atmospheric ancient site to visit : the Clava Cairns near Culloden, near Inverness.
http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/inverness/clavacairns/index.html
User avatar
Caberfeidh
Stravaiging
 
Posts: 7394
Joined: Feb 5, 2009

6 people think this report is great.
Register or Login
free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).




Walkhighlands community forum is advert free


Your generosity keeps this site running.
Can you help support Walkhighlands and the online community by donating by direct debit?



Return to Walk reports - Scotland

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 52 guests