Allt a’ Chaisteil, Bettyhill, Farr, Sutherland

 

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  58.487544, -4.188593 Allt a’ Chaisteil, Bettyhill

Stone Circle:  OS Grid Reference – NC 7251 5756  –  NEW FIND

Getting Here

Allt a' Chaisteil 4-poster, Bettyhill

Allt a’ Chaisteil 4-poster remains

From Bettyhill village, take the A836 road west, down the hill from the village. Just before crossing the metal bridge over the River Naver at the bottom, go down the tiny road on the left. A mile or so along, go past the small loch by the roadside for another few hundred yards until you reach a quarry on the right. From here, cross the road and walk along the track towards the impressive Allt a’ Chaisteal Broch up the gorge.  About 100 yards above this, on the south-side of the fence, keep your eyes peeled for two small standing stones. You’ll find ‘em!

Archaeology & History

There is no previous mention of this site in any of the archaeology records.  We were fortunate in venturing upon the place when Aisha, Lara and I were doing a typically circuitous meander to what I call the ‘Queen’s Cairn‘ of Strathnaver, above Skelpick Long.

Allt a' Chaisteil012

The southernmost stones

The site on its raised platform

The site on its raised platform

Approximately 10 yards in diameter, a raised platform 2-3 feet high consisting of thousands of small rocks in a roughly circular formation, is set on the edge of a slope above the Allt a’ Chaisteal Burn.  Two small upright standing stones are set near the southern edge of the platform, with a third on the northwestern bank of rubble, leaning or fallen into the stone mass.  A fourth stone to the northeastern edge is almost covered in rubble.

When we found the site, much of the heather had been burned away; if this had not been done, the site would not have been visible.  Even with this however, accurate visibility was troublesome as the heather had began to grow back and the infestation of bracken was raising its tick-infested fronds.

Close-up of the southern stones

Close-up of the southern stones

The site seems to be a good example of what Aubrey Burl (1988) calls a “four poster stone circle” – a number of which seem to be architectural ritual developments between cairns and stone circles.  It exists within the immense Strathnaver prehistoric complex – a literal ‘Valley of the Kings’ – where dozens of large cairns, and a number of immense megalithic tombs exist. It is very similar in size and lay-out to the recognized four-posters at Druid’s Altar in Yorkshire, the Glenshervie Burn in Glen Almond, etc.  It seems in relative isolation from other four-posters, the nearest known one being at Balnakeil (which Burl terms as being “uncertain”), more than 20 miles west of here; and the next being the Aberscross site some 35 miles away.   However, the remote landscape would explain its seeming isolation, as many more prehistoric sites remain unrecorded in the area.

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, Four Posters: Bronze Age Stone Circles of Western Europe, BAR 195: Oxford 1988.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks to the big heart of Aisha Domleo – and her sproglett Lara – for gerrin us up here, enabling its rediscovery.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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