Auchinellan, Ford, Kilmartin, Argyll

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NM 86681 03320

Also Known as:

  1. Achadh nan Carradh
  2. Achnacarra
  3. Canmore ID 22802

Getting Here

Two stones on 1875 map

Unless you’re venturing down the tiny Loch Awe roads, the easiest way here is to turn right off the A816 Lochgilphead-Oban road, 1½ miles north of Kilmartin.  Go along this winding minor road for literally 2½ miles where, after coming out the tree-lined road, just past the small Loch Ederline, the fields re-appear on both sides of the road.  Just here, where the trees end, just a few hundred yards before the hamlet of Ford, in one of the field on the left, you’ll see a tall upright stone.  That’s it!

Archaeology & History

I was very fortunate, many years ago, to live in the old farmhouse of Auchinellan in the trees by this ancient stone.  It became a companion many a time, as I sat with it in rain and mist and darkness sometimes, beneath the bright Moon.  It always had a good feeling about it.  And so when a small bunch of us visited here again recently, it was almost as if I’d never been away.  Tis a magickal part of our landscape.

The old stone looking N
The old stone looking NW

Standing ten-foot-tall on a grassy plain with craggy hills all round, this old fella once had another companion close by its side—this time, a stone one!  Accounts of it are curious to say the least, with one telling us it was only “a few inches high” – which is plain daft, to say the least.  The now-lost stone was in fact about six-feet tall; and the story of its disappearance was that it was moved into the grounds of Auchinellan House, somewhere in the garden.  Clive Ruggles (1984) told that it could be found at grid-reference NM 8653 0268, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find.

As far as I can tell, the first written testimony of this stone was by the Ordnance Survey lads after they’d visited here in 1871 and, several years later, highlighted it on their maps. (above)  On this is clearly shown, just yards apart, the two standing stones.  Much later, when the Royal Commission (1988) doods did their survey, they described the stone in their usual brief way:

“Situated on the top of a slight rise in a pasture field 270m SW of the Ford Hotel, there is a standing stone which measures 0.7m by 0.55m at the base and rises with straight sides to a flat top at a height of 3m…”

The site was included in Thom’s (1990) major survey on prehistoric stone rows where, again, only a brief description is given, saying:

“On a terrace near Loch Ederline is a standing stone which leans to the E.  It is 9ft 6 (2.9m) high.”

It’s a beautiful place in a beautiful setting and is one of countless prehistoric monuments in this part of Scotland.

Folklore

The Gaelic names for this site—Achnacarra and Achadh nan Carradh—means “the field of the burial stone”, which relates to the folklore of the stones reputedly marking the place of an ancient grave.

References:

  1. Campbell, Marion, Mid Argyll – An Archaeological Guide, Dolphin: Glenrothes 1984.
  2. Campbell, Marion & Sandeman, M., “Mid Argyll: An Archaeological Survey,” in Proceedings Society of Antiquaries Scotland, volume 95, 1964.
  3. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Argyll – Volume 6: Mid-Argyll and Cowal, HMSO: Edinburgh 1988.
  4. Ruggles, Clive L.N., Megalithic Astronomy, BAR: Oxford 1984.
  5. Thom, Alexander, Thom, A.S. & Burl, Aubrey, Stone Rows and Standing Stones – volume 1, BAR: Oxford 1990.

Acknowledgements:  Big thanks to Neens Harris, Paul Hornby & Frank Mercer.  And the stunning resource of Scotland’s 1st edition OS-maps is Reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland

Links:

  1. Auchinellan (Ford) Stone on The Megalithic Portal

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.174625, -5.438116 Auchinellan stone

Salachary Stones, Kilmartin, Argyll

Standing Stones:  OS Grid Reference – NM 8405 0403

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 22831

Getting Here

Two of the Salachary stones

Roughly halfway between the staggering standing stone at Kintraw and the farmhouse of Salachary a coupla miles east along the A816 road to Kilmartin, a small overgrown car park nearly hides on the south-side of the road, just below the forestry.  50 yards west of this, a small track winds uphill.  650 yards (0.6km) up here, once it levels out, a hairpin in the track veers NW; ignore it, instead walking into the marshy grass in front of you (south) for 50-60 yards up and round the small rocky crag.  Once you get round the edge of this, immediately east, you’ll see one of the tall monoliths 50 yards ahead of you.

Archaeology & History

Rediscovered in recent times by Marion Campbell (1962), this damaged row of three tall standing stones is cited in Swarbrick’s (2012) poorly-arranged survey as being “difficult to find in broken ground”; although patience brings the stones clearly into sight for any explorer.   They’re big too!  Sadly only one of them still remains fully upright—but that one’s nearly 9 feet tall!

In Miss Campbell’s initial description of the site, following their rediscovery, she told how,

“A chance sighting led to the discovery of a group of three monoliths, one erect, one sloping and one prostrate, on the West side of a wide glen leading S from the upper part of the Bealach Mor; the site commands a fine view into the northern hills. The spot is about 550ft above sea level and this is therefore the highest group of standing stones so far recorded in the area.

“The erect stone is 8ft 4in x 2ft x 1 ft, lozenge-shaped in section, with a pointed top. The leaning stone, also lozenge-shaped, is 10ft x 1ft 8in x 1ft, and pointed. The fallen stone is over 11ft x 2ft wide, too deeply buried in turf for the thickness to he measured. The stones appear to have stood in line, the nearest points of the first and third stones 9ft apart and the line joining them running north and south.  Along a ridge running S behind the stones are a number of small ruins, oval and rectangular, in old cultivations. No surviving placename has been recovered for the site so far.”

Section of the fallen stone
Looking west

Indeed, no subsequent investigation has led to either an early name nor any traditions about the site, and the stones cannot be found on any early maps of the area.  A pity, as they’re quite impressive stones and would have had some old stories known of them in ages gone by.

Twenty years after Miss Campbell’s discovery, in May 1982, the stones were visited and surveyed by the Royal Commission lads.  Their description very much tallied with Miss Campbell’s, but it’s worth citing anyway.  They told us that:

“On a terrace on the W side of an unnamed valley to the S of Bealach Mor and about 850m SW of Salachary, there is a setting of three large standing stones which is aligned from N to S.  Only the N stone is still upright; it measures 0.7m by 0.72m at the base and rises with straight sides to a pointed top at a height of 2.75m.  The central stone is of similar proportions, but it now leans to the NE at an angle of about 15° to the horizontal.  The S stone, which measures 3.4m by 0.65m has fallen with its top to the SE.”

Royal Commission plan
Alexander Thom’s plan

Around the same time, Clive Ruggles (1984) assessed the Salachary stones for any potential astronomical alignments and found—as Alexander Thom & Aubrey Burl did in their own survey (1990)—that as they pointed virtually north-south they stood beyond any solar or lunar functions.  Thom found the stones align almost perfectly north-south, with a notch in the southern horizon at 178°, and on the northern horizon the hilltop of Meall Reamhar at 2° west of north.  This northern line may relate to the airt of death, although no other immediate archaeological remains have been found to fortify this idea (however, other unrecorded standing stones are close by and their relationship with Salachary has yet to be adequately assessed).

Aubrey Burl’s first description of this stone row told us:

“There are three stones in a N-S row situated on a terrace on the W side of a glen.  The N stone, with a pointed top, stands 8ft 4 (2.5m) high.  The central stone leans dramatically at 20°.  It is 10ft (3m) in length.  The S stone is prostrate and half-buried.  It is 11ft (3.4m) long.  The row is about 13ft (4m) long.  From the site there is a fine view of the northern hills.”

Looking north

In truth, the main north-south axis relates to the more open geological avenue of the landscape.  Both the east and west are all but blocked by crags and hills, and the stones seem to have been positioned to echo the hollowed section of the landscape.  The land runs in curious geological folds and has a distinct genius loci which I enjoyed in differing (usually wet) conditions when I used to live nearby.  The site is well worth a walkabout if you’re in the area – and there are more unrecorded stones still hiding in Nature’s rocky folds nearby.

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, From Carnac to Callanish, Yale University Press 1993.
  2. Campbell, M. & Sandeman, M., “Mid Argyll: An Archaeological Survey,” in Proceedings Society Antiquaries Scotland, volume 95, 1964.
  3. Campbell, Marian, Salachary, Kintraw’, in Discovery & Excavation Scotland, 1962.
  4. Ferguson, Lesley, “A Catalogue of the Alexander Thom Archive Held in the National Monuments Record of Scotland,” in Records in Stone (ed. C. Ruggles), Cambridge University Press 1988.
  5. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Argyll – volume 6: Mid-Argyll and Cowal, HMSO: Edinburgh 1988.
  6. Ruggles, Clive L.N., Megalithic Astronomy, BAR: Oxford 1984.
  7. Ruggles, Clive L.N., “The Stone Alignments of Argyll,” in Records in Stone (ed. C. Ruggles), Cambridge University Press 1988.
  8. Swarbrick, Olaf, A Gazetteer of Prehistoric Standing Stones in Great Britain, BAR: Oxford 2012.
  9. Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, Aubrey, Stone Rows and Standing Stones – volume 1, BAR: Oxford 1990.
  10. Weston, Garth, Monuments and Mountains, Ashridge: Bakewell 2007.

Acknowledgements:  This site profile could not have been written without the help and of Nina Harris, Paul Hornby, Frank Mercer and Belinda Sales.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.179807, -5.480990 Salachary stone row

Dun Toiseach, Ford, Kilmartin, Argyll

Dun:  OS Grid Reference – NM 880 047

Getting Here

Dun Toiseach plan (after RCAHMS 1988)

You can see the rocky hillock ‘pon which this old dun sits from the roadside – and can approach it by either climbing up the slope, or go round t’ back and approach it from t’ track. Either way, it’s easy to get to.

Archaeology & History

The old dun was rather ramshackled when I used to sit here, sometimes on mi way home from working at the Inverliever Nursery, a bit further up the lochside — but it was a good spot to sit and daydream into Loch Awe and beyond…

Described as a vitrified fort, the structure is oval in shape.  Thought to have been constructed in the Iron Age, Dun Toiseach was originally about 50 feet across and its walls averaged 10 feet thick, with an entrance at its northeastern side.  The Royal Commission lads (1988) described it thus:

“Situated on a prominent rocky knoll overlooking the S end of Loch Awe 250m ESE of Torran farmsteading, there is a severely ruined dun measuring about 16m by 13m within a wall which has been some 4m thick. Two stretches of outer facing-stones are visible, as well as a few possible stones of the inner face, but, particularly on the NE, the wall has been severely robbed and the core material scattered. The entrance lies on the NE, the innermost portion of the SE passage-wall and what may be a door-jamb on the opposite side still being visible.  The knoll has acted as a focus for recent field-walls, but there is no indication that it was additionally defended by outworks. A small modern cairn…surmounts the dun wall on the SE.”

References:

  1. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Argyll – Volume 6: Mid-Argyll and Cowal, HMSO: Edinburgh 1988.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.188255, -5.416833 Dun Toiseach

Dun Dubh, Ford, Argyll

Dun:  OS Grid Reference – NM 8640 0479

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 22821

Getting Here

From Ford village, take the track that goes uphill (west) running near the edge of the forest-line. Keep going until you hit the top of the forest and the large rocky hill above you (on your right) is where you need to be heading.  The rise to your left is Dun Chonallaich.  Walk around the bottom of the hill until you get to the other side (you should be 100 yards or more above the tree-line) where you’ll notice a ‘pass’ running west, with a rocky knoll above you on your right.  That’s it!

Archaeology & History

Thought to date from the Iron Age, the remains here cover an area 15 yards by about 25 yards.  Remains of walling around the edge of the summit nearly a yard wide in places define quite clearly where the ‘fort’ was centred.  The entrance to the site was found on the northwestern side.  In more recent times however, animal pens have intruded on the remains here and the archaeological remnants are much denuded.

Folklore

Samhain fires were lit on the larger ridge above this ruined fort until recent years, as some old local folk will tell you. These Halloween fires (done to celebrate the old New Year) were stopped a short time after the new ‘owner’ of the Auchinellan Estate (on whose land Dun Dubh is found) took exception to them and, for all intent and purpose, deemed them a fire hazard! The lady in question who inherited the Estate was in fact a devout christian who took exception to the local “pagan” goings-on, contrary to the beliefs of the previous Estate owner, who not only allowed such old events, but played a part in them.  Local folk hereabouts, not surprisingly, aint too keen on their part-time dictatorial christian neighbour.

The fires up here were also related to the linear cemetery at Kilmartin. Here the giant tombs all line up & point to Dun Chonallaich, behind which hides the more flattened top of Dun Dubh. When the Halloween fires were lit on top of this, the glow from behind the great pyramid of Chonallaich all the way down to Valley of the Kings, was spectacular! One wonders just how long the local people had been doing this…

References:

  1. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Argyll – volume 6, HMSO: Edinburgh 1988.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.187804, -5.443792 Dun Dubh

Ford, Kilmartin, Argyll

Tumulus:  OS Grid Reference – NM 86899 03572

Getting Here

Ford Tumulus on 1875 map

Although I describe this site in association with the township of Kilmartin, it is in fact several miles north of there – but I reckoned that if I say it’s near Kilmartin, then those of you who don’t really know this region, will have some idea of its locale.  So – from Lochgilphead, go up north thru Kilmartin, another coupla miles on, till you reach the small road to your right (signposted ‘Ford’).  Just keep driving for a couple more miles until you hit the village.  If you park by the only shop, you’re just past the old tomb.  Diagonally across on the opposite side of the road from the Ford Hotel, right by the road-junction, just before the little shop, you’ll see a notable rounded mound overgrown in shrubs. Embedded in this are the remains of an old tomb.

Archaeology & History

Ford tumulus (photo, couresty J. Reid)

This typical-looking fairy-mound just by the road junction in the village is where me and my daughter used to scramble around, sometimes playing and sometimes seeing if we could find anything of note in this ancient hillock, but all trace of any prehistoric stonework seems to be well-buried.  When excavators explored the site in bygone times, a small stone cist was found, which aligned (yet again) north-south and measured internally, roughly, 3ft x 2ft.  Only small!

A food vessel in Edinburgh’s central museum, “found in a cist in the neighbourhood of the lower end of Loch Awe” is thought to have come from this tomb.

References:

  1. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Argyll – volume 6: Mid-Argyll and Cowal, HMSO 1988.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.176945, -5.434769 Ford tumulus

Dun Chonallaich, Ford, Argyll

Hillfort:  OS Grid Reference – NM 8544 0366

Getting Here

Dun Chonallaich on 1875 map
Dun Chonallaich on 1875 map

There’s two real ways to get up here: one from the Oban-Kilmartin roadside; the other from Ford village. I’d go for the latter as it avoids the traffic. Walk up the track to Salachary from the village centre, heading west. It’s a gradual uphill climb and after about half-a-mile (past six or seven cup-marked rocks) the great hill rises to your left.  Dun Dubh is to your right.  Climb over the fence and head for the hilltop.

Archaeology & History

It’s my opinion that this fort, above all others in the region apart from Dunadd, was of paramount importance to our prehistoric ancestors.  The reason being that it’s the great pyramidal hill to which the line of tombs in the Kilmartin Valley align, three miles to the south.  This prehistoric alignment was quite intentional (if you’ve got your doubts, gerrup there & have a look for y’self — you’ll soon change yer mind).

Curious carved stone found here
Curious carved stone found here

The main part of the structure is an irregularly-shaped construction with walling on all sides, measuring about 40 yards by 20 yards.  Much of it is pretty well defined – though has been vandalized by various doods in the past: one bunch being a film-crew who used the site in the early 1980s!  Inside the main walled fortress are several ruins.  The Royal Commission (1988) report told:

“Much of the interior is occupied by a rock spine which is surmounted by a modern cairn, but the NW half is relatively level and it contains, in addition to the modern round-house…and and an S-shaped structure associated with film-making, a number of ruined stone foundations.  On the north side there is a rectilinear building, and between the modern round-house and this rectilinear building, there is a further structure…an arc of walling, but its precise shape cannot now be determined without excavation.”

Dun Chonallaich means “the fort of King Connal’s people,” and although much denuded, is well worth the clamber for a short archaeological day out. A curious “gaming-board” was found here (see photo). A portable cup-marked stone in the fort’s southern wall is a modern artifact.

It’s a lovely view from up here too.  This is one of many places I’ve sat during a raging thunderstorm.  One helluva buzz, believe me!

References:

  1. Gillies, H. Cameron,The Place-Names of Argyll, David Nutt: London 1906.
  2. Royal Commission for Ancient & Historic Monuments, Scotland, Argyll – volume 6, HMSO 1988.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.177051, -5.458342 Dun Chonallaich

Creag a’ Chapuill, Ford, Kilmartin, Argyll

Hillfort:  OS grid reference – NM 8555 0244

Getting Here

Dead easy!  From Kilmartin go north towards Oban and turn right a mile onwards, to Ford and Loch Awe.  Keep on the tiny road for about 2 miles and if you hit the small Loch Ederline, you’ve gone too far.  To your left is a small hill-cum-small-mountain, scattered with trees and a great rocky face.   That’s it!  Whichever way you wanna approach its height is entirely up to you!

Archaeology & History

I clambered up and down this steep ‘crag of the horse’ many-a-times when I lived below here at the old farmhouse at Auchinellan.  Tis a grand old hill with good views all round.  The hillfort however has little left worth seeing, much of the stone being nicked by locals for drystone walls and barns. The best preserved section seems to be at the northeast side of the old hill. Archaeologists think that the mass of rubble nearby was also part of the fort walls in bygone days. Not being much of a hillfort fanatic, I can’t really comment!

On a decidedly mycological note, the magickal fungus of legendary repute, ergot (Claviceps purpurea), grows like the plague at the bottom of the hill (opposite the Creagantairbh standing stone). I wonder if our ancestors used it for owt in particular…?

References:

  1. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historic Monuments of Scotland, Argyll – volume 6, HMSO: Edinburgh 1988.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.166235, -5.455258 Creag a’ Chapuill hillfort