Tobar Mor, Tarbert, Gigha, Argyll

Sacred Well:  OS Grid Reference – NR 6564 5190

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 38609
  2. Great Well of the Winds
  3. St Beathag’s Well
  4. Tobar Bheathaig

Folklore

There are a number of sacred and healing wells on this small island, but this site in particular was deemed magickal by folk from far and wide.  Found on the northwest slopes of Cnoc Largie (around which are other heathen spots) this legendary site had an attendant keeper of the well:

“an aged female direach, or guardian, whose uncanny powers could be commanded by a small offering of silver.  Following this the cover of the sacred well would be removed in order that its waters might be ceremonially cleansed with a white clamshell prior to being stirred three times, sunwise, to the accompaniment of ritual incantations.  Then three shell-fulls of the sacred water would be hurled aloft in the direction of the desired wind which, before the day was out, invariably appeared.”

This simple ritual obviously tells that it was a heathen site, seemingly one for divination and magick.  Another piece of folklore (found at other wells) told that if the cover on the well were left unattended, its waters could overflow and flood the entire island.

References:

  1. Anonymous, Exploring Historic Kintyre and the Isle of Gigha, Harlequin Press: Oban n.d.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.703715, -5.731625 Tobar Mor

The Bodach and Cailleach, Gigha, Argyll

Sacred Stones:  OS Grid Reference – NR 6382 4730

Folklore

The Bodach and the Cailleach
The Bodach & the Cailleach

On this “Isle of the Gods” — as some historians proclaim Gigha to mean — the ancient rites and ceremonies of local folk continued until pretty recent times.  One writer narrated some intriguing pre-christian events connected to this curious and little-known place, speaking of indigenous heathen rites:

“These are in fact known to have persisted on the island until well into the early part of the (19th) century when Irish fishermen could still be seen climbing the little hill of Moinean Sitheil, in the sacred Moss of Peace below Ardminish, to pay homage to the “Old Ones” of Gigha: a pair of ancient legend-shrouded stones known as the Bodach and the Cailleach, that from time immemorial have stood upon a low green knoll below the farm of Achamore.

“Through the countless ages the strange jug-headed little Bodach and his smaller consort have kept steadfast vigil over Gigha: their mysterious aura said to guarantee its continuing fertility and prosperity as they link the thriving island of today with beliefs and traditions having roots in the earth-cults and sun-worship of primeval times.  In the past folk would have honoured them with offerings of meal or milk and even now they still command considerable local affectation and respect, albeit expressed in less overtly pagan ways.  And so they stand as ever upon their tiny hillock gazing out across tumbling terraces of old Cantereoch and beautiful Ardlamey Bay, inscrutable and silent, yet with a strangely ‘knowing’ air impossible to define.”

References:

  1. Anonymous, Exploring Historic Kintyre and the Isle of Gigha, Harlequin Press: Oban n.d.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.661677, -5.756533 Bodach and Cailleach

Ardminish, Gigha, Argyll

Cist:  OS Grid Reference – NR 6495 4890

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 38528

Archaeology & History

When the Scottish Royal Commission lads came here in 1963, they reported seeing

“the remains of a short cist…set into the west side of a small turf-covered knoll some 18 metres north of the schoolhouse at Ardminish.”

It was first found during quarrying operations here, and was thankfully kept pretty well preserved, apart from the western slab, which was dislodged and fell to the foot of the knoll. The cist aligns roughly north-south (the airt, or cardinal virtue of ‘death’ is north) and measured about 3 feet long by 2 feet wide.

References:

  1. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Argyll: volume 1 – Kintyre,  HMSO: Edinburgh 1971.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.676531, -5.739929 Ardminish

Druimyeonbeg, Isle of Gigha, Argyll

Cist (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NR 6463 4958

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 38525

Archaeology & History

An old stone-lined burial cist could once be seen in this locale: reported in 1953 to have been “discovered in the southwest corner of a field south of Druimyeonbeg farmhouse.”  When it was uncovered by the farmer, the covering capstone was missing.  Any relics that may have been there were destroyed and there’s now no trace of anything.

References:

  1. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Argyll – Volume 1: Kintyre, Glasgow 1971.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.682482, -5.745588 Druimyeonbeg

Cnoc na Croise, Ardminish, Gigha, Argyll

Cairns:  OS Grid Reference – NR 6439 4828

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 38549

Archaeology & History

In Thomas Pennant’s A Tour in Scotland and Journey to the Hebrides, 1772 (1790:226), he described there being three prehistoric cairns about four-hundred yards west of Ardminish, or a couple or hundred yards north of the Achamore Standing Stone, on Cnoc na Croise, but they seem to have been destroyed.  At least two of them were between 4 and 5 yards across and contained cists.  A search for the site by the Royal Commission lads in the 1960s found nothing—although they may have been looking in the wrong place (the grid reference given above is an approximation).  Does anyone know anything more about these seemingly lost sites?

References:

  1. Royal Commission for Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Argyll – volume 1: Kintyre, HMSO 1971.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.670675, -5.748276 Cnoc na Croise

Cnoc na Carraigh, Gigha, Argyll

Standing Stone (destroyed): OS grid reference – NR 6426 4817

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 38540

Archaeology & History

The Scottish Royal Commission (1971) reported a very large

“standing stone that stood 185m NNW of Achmore House (that) was removed at the beginning of the 19th century. It was reported that is measured 4.9m in height (16ft), 1.2m in breadth and 0.2m in thickness.”

A prehistoric cairn seemed to have accompanied this monolith—as reported by Thomas Pennant in 1772—but it too has been destroyed.  Pennant told us how the monolith was,

“a great rude column, sixteen feet high, four broad and eight inches thick.”

Not bad at all!  It was still extant, although leaning to the southwest in the year 1790 (OSA 1791-9); appearing to have been removed about 1800.  No trace of it remained when the Ordnance Survey lads looked here in 1869.

References:

  1. Royal Commission for Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Argyll – volume 1: Kintyre, HMSO 1971.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.668653, -5.751129 Cnoc na Carraigh

Ardlamey, Gigha, Argyll

Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – NR 63091 48258

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 38524

Archaeology & History

A decent-sized cairn, around 50 feet across (even though much of the stone has been nicked) and about 3 feet high, with a singular large cist near its centre. When the Scottish Royal Commission lads checked the place out in 1967, at least four of the kerb stones were still in situ (on its north, west and southwest sides) – the tallest being its northern stone, more than 6 feet high. The northern stone also had a peculiar deposit of white quartz and pebbles laid at the base, placed there quite deliberately – unlike the others which rested on a level of sand and gravel.

The Scottish Royal Commission (1971) also reported the former existence of two cists not far from here, “uncovered by the plough during the 19th century on the farm of Ardlamey”: one at NR 637 484, and the other at NR 635 484.

References:

  1. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Argyll – Volume 1: Kintyre, Glasgow 1971.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.669837, -5.768962 Ardlamey cairn