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Boriswalking with Black Panther: Dun Mor

PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2020 3:57 pm
by BlackPanther
We first noticed Dun Mor (or Dun Mhor, both names are used) when we studied the local map, searching for interesting spots to visit in lockdown. In Canmore library it is described as "massively constructed dun " and "fort occupying the summit of an isolated crag" which for us sounds good enough to make Dun Mor worth a visit. In earlier days, we found three other Iron Age forts on the hills above Beauly, but this one looked much bigger and I couldn't wait to explore it. The problem was in location. Dun Mor is, quoting Canmore database again "situated on the lip of a crag that falls away precipitously on the N and NW to the Breakachy Burn, but it also stands within a larger walled enclosure backing onto the cliff-edge". The map shows no track/path nearby (unless there is access from Breakachy Farm, but we didn't want to walk through the farm for obvious reasons). The easiest way to get to Dun Mor was from the north, crossing the heathery uplands on the northern side of Breakachy Burn:

Track_DUN MHOR 21,5KM.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

On the way back, we found a track connecting to the local road in Farley. Weather was capricious that day and we encountered several showers, but the fort was fantastic and well worth hiking through scratchy heather!
The fist stage of this walk followed the usual scenario: Balblair-Rusaurie-Mushroom Path-Torr Breac track to the southern side of Loch nam Bonnach. We didn't intend to climb Cnoc an Teine today but Kevin couldn't resist posing with it :lol: :lol:
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Loch nam Bonnach: peace and tranquility today:
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We reached the gate by the small quarry but instead of aiming for the summit of Cnoc an Teine, we turned left (south-west) and traversed the lumpy ground below the ridge. The day was murky, with low cloud touching the top of Cnoc an Teine and mist laying low over the heathery slopes:
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Dun Gharblaich emerging from the mist:
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The moorland was full of ticks, of course, and after a few attempts to keep them away, we simply gave up and just walked on...
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Kevin had a rough idea how to reach Dun Mor and guided me over several overgrown bumps... before he himself lost the plot :lol: :lol: :lol:
Where the heck are we???
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Funny, not all bumps are correctly marked on 1-25k map, so navigation in this featureless terrain proved a challenge. We aimed for a small group of trees (not marked on our map, either)...
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...before ascending a larger undulation with slightly better views to the surrounding scenery. The mist began to lift, too:
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Deer on the rocky ridge of Cnoc an Tine:
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The long trudge across this boring, heathery terrain seemed to last forever...
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...but eventually, after some interesting encounters with wildlife in the shape of countless deer, sheep and ticks, we saw our target emerging from the mist:
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Soon we crossed a track which could be useful as return route - we made a mental note to remember it:
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At the moment, the track was of little help as it headed in the wrong direction :lol: . We hoped for some kind of path leading down to Breakachy Burn but no such thing. Instead, we met a wall of silence... ehmm... I mean: a deer fence, separating us from the river and the dun on the other side. The fort itself looked tempting:
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We followed the fence hoping for a gate, but no luck. Eventually, having found a stable fencepost, we climbed over (thankfully, it was not barb wired). Then with some effort, we crossed a wet meadow on the northern side of Breakachy Burn. We still had another fence to defeat to reach the river, but Kevin spotted a gate this time:
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Breakachy Burn is exactly how the name describes it: a burn. At least we had no problems crossing!
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On the other side, we had to fight through waist-deep heather to the summit of the nearest bump, to see that we were very close to our target, but still two more fences to tackle:
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Kevin was in luck today. He found a gap in the first fence, we could squeeze through. As for the second one, there is a gate and a stile in place on the SW side of the fort:
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We climbed to the top of the fort. It is obvious very few visitors have ever been to this ancient site, though it was surveyed in September 1943 as part of the RCAHMS Emergency Survey during World War 2. The survey was done simply to record ancient sites and protect them from accidental destruction if any military action was to take place in the area. The last official visit mentioned in Canmore database was in 1981 and it was probably never excavated. I'm not surprised Dun Mor is completely forgotten and overgrown - just look at the location. Not to mention that it was never widely advertised as an ancient monument. Even I wouldn't recommend it as a Sunday stroll. Maybe there is easier access from Breakachy Farm, but in current climate it is better to stay away from that approach.
Nevertheless, the site is fantastic. Located on a large rocky outcrop above the ravine of Breakachy Burn, it offers fine views (not so fine when clouds lay low):
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Kevin eager to explore the ancient fort:
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Again, Canmore description:
The dun itself measures about 24m from NNE to SSW by 16m transversely within a massive wall between 4.5m and 5.9m in thickness, in which both faces can be traced round the circuit, in places standing up to four courses high; its entrance is on the SE. The inner of the two outer walls follows an eccentric course around the southern and eastern flanks of the dun some 10m outside its wall to enclose an area measuring about 47m from NNE to SSW by 40m transversely (1.17ha); though reduced to its foundations, it measures about 3m in thickness and is also pierced by an entrance on the SE. The outer is even more heavily dilapidated, following the shoulder of the hillock.
The inner wall might be reduced to foundations, but it is still breathtaking. A massive ring of stones:
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The highest point of the fort is marked with a large cairn (a modern one, I bet):
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Looking due north into the Breakachy Burn ravine:
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Canmore's classification names Dun Mor as "Dun, period unassigned" but it simply has to be Iron Age :D
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Kevin in his element:
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After exploring the ancient site, we discussed the return route and decided to go back to the track on the other side of the burn. It required retracing steps through some deep heather, a boggy meadow and eventually over a deer fence, but once on the track, it was a nice walk through the forest:
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Before leaving the area, we took some more photos of Dun Mor from the north (the side over the ravine):
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A wider pano with Breakachy Hill behind:
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On the way back we encountered some heavy rain, but in between the showers, we admired the green fields and hillsides - spring has arrived in full bloom and now summer is approaching quickly. And with the lockdown being slowly lifted, hope is returning to the Highlands!
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Our next Boriswalking expedition, this time using bikes, will take us up Cul Mor & Beag, two more local TUMPs. TR in progress.

Re: Boriswalking with Black Panther: Dun Mor

PostPosted: Fri May 29, 2020 10:20 pm
by gld73
Your reports on lockdown walks from Beauly have been interesting - I never realised just what a good place it is to strike out to some hills from, even if they aren't the huge mountains we'd all like to have been doing recently!

Re: Boriswalking with Black Panther: Dun Mor

PostPosted: Sat May 30, 2020 11:55 am
by BlackPanther
gld73 wrote:Your reports on lockdown walks from Beauly have been interesting - I never realised just what a good place it is to strike out to some hills from, even if they aren't the huge mountains we'd all like to have been doing recently!

We never expected to have so many great places to explore within walking distance from home. It took a lockdown to explore the local tops and forests :D

Glad you enjoyed my stories. I was afraid people might say "oh, no, not another Beauly report from that crazy woman!" :lol: :lol: :lol: