Glen Cochill Circle (01), Little Dunkeld, Perthshire

Hut Circle:  OS Grid Reference – NN 90324 41487

Getting Here

Glen Cochill Circle - No.1

Glen Cochill Circle – No.1

Take the same directions to reach the impressive Carn Ban prehistoric tomb.  From here, walk along the winding track past the giant cairn onto the moors for about 350 yards, until the track goes dead straight and heads NNW uphill.  Walk up here for another 350 yards keeping your eyes peeled on the rounded pyramidal hill with the large rock on top.  The circle is 20 yards off the track as you head up to the pyramidal hill stone.

Archaeology & History

Although this site is mentioned in notes by the Scottish Royal Commission and highlighted by Ordnance Survey, information thereafter is pretty scarce.  Which is surprising when you check this place out first-hand.  It’s bloody impressive!  David Cowley (1997) describes the area, but not in much detail.

Northern arc of walling

Northern arc of walling

Eastern arc of walling

Eastern arc of walling

The circle seems to have been rediscovered first of all by the dowser J. Scott Elliott (1964), who thought it was a cairn circle – which is understandable.  However, it has been classified by the Royal Commission lads as a “hut circle”, so we’ll stick with that for the time being.

An entrance to the circle doesn’t stand out.  There may be one on the southeastern side, but this isn’t clear; and what looked like a possible entrance on its northern edge was discounted, as a larger stone blocked this on the outside.  There was no immediate evidence of any internal structure, no hearth, no tomb – merely a small stone at its centre, deeply embedded in the peat.  This may, however, cover a central cist – which would make this a cairn circle and not a large hut circle.  But that’s guesswork on my behalf!

Arc of ring from east to south
WNW arc of walling

Never excavated, what we’ve got here is a very well-preserved, large ring of stones, more typical of Pennine and Derbyshire ring cairns than any standard hut circles.  But this is Scotland we’re talking about!  This impressive ring measures outer-edge to outer-edge 12 yards in diameter (north-south), by 11 yards (east-west), with the stone walling that defines the ring being between 3 and 4 feet across all round, and between 1-2 feet high.  And it’s in damn good nick!  More similar in structure to the likes of Roms Law, a number of notably large stones define the edges, but many hundreds of smaller packing stones build up the ring walls.  Of the larger rocks in the ring, the most notable one is a large white quartz crystal stone on its NNE side.

Quartz rock reflects the sun, looking W

Quartz rock reflects the sun, looking W

It’s an impressive site whatever it may be! – in very good condition for its age (Bronze Age by the look of it) and, whilst still visible above the heather, well worth checking out if you like your stone circles and prehistoric rings.  The small prehistoric graveyard 30-40 yards south and east, plus the extensive settlement systems all over these moors are all worth exploring if you visit this place.

References:

  1. Cowley, David C., “Archaeological Landscapes in Strathbraan,” in Tayside & Fife Archaeological Journal, volume 3, 1997.
  2. Scott-Elliot, J., “Kinloch House, Amulree,” in Discovery & Excavation in Scotland, 1964.
  3. Scott-Elliot, J., Dowsing – One Man’s Way, Neville Spearman: London 1977.

Links:

  1. Canmore notes on Glen Cochill

Acknowledgements:  Many thanks to Mr Paul Hornby for his help, as usual.  Cheers fella!

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Glen Cochill Circle (1)

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Glen Cochill Circle (1) 56.552500, -3.785721 Glen Cochill Circle (1)

Glen Cochill Cairnfield (01), Little Dunkeld, Perthshire

Cairns:  OS Grid Reference – NN 9035 4145

Getting Here

Two of at least five cairns hereby

Two of at least five cairns hereby

Take the A826 road south out of Aberfeldy, uphill, till you reach the White Cairn or Carn Ban, then follow the dirt-track for 700 yards onto the moors until you reach the Glen Cochill Circle 1.  From here, look at the large stone atop of the very notable rounded hillock barely 50 yards east (at NN 90367 41478) and meander on the slopes immediately below it on the south and west.  If the heather’s grown back, you don’t stand a chance!

Archaeology & History

As far as I’m aware, despite there being some brief notes of cairnfields in and around the rich prehistoric arena of Glen Cochill, I can find no data indicating that the five small single cairns a short distance south and southeast of the Glen Cochill Ring (01), have been described before.

Cairn 1 - looking north

Cairn 1 – looking north

Cairn 2 - looking north

Cairn 2 – looking north

Deeply embedded into the peat, they are only visible when the heather has been burnt away, as highlighted in the accompanying photos.  Each cairn is of roughly the same size and structure: 2-3 yards across and only a couple of feet above ground-level, consisting of the traditional small rounded stones, each probably constituting a single burial or cremation.

Cairn 4, below the hilltop rock

Cairn 4, below the hilltop rock

Of at least five cairns that we found here (there may be others beneath the covering heather), it was very notable that they’re on edges of a rounded pyramidal hillock, whose top is surmounted by a large pointed stone – probably a glacial erratic.  We looked at this rock in the hope of finding some cup-markings, but there were none.  However, it seemed as if the cairns and this crowning stone were related to each other, as if rites for the dead were proclaimed here for those in the tombs.  It may sound silly, but go there and take a look at it yourselves – before the heather grows back.  Just as a priests today, and shamans throughout history, have used an altar or plinth to make commemorations to the dead, so this crowning stone may equally have been used.  It makes sense.  And, as if to add validating ingredients: if we look east, past the crowning stone and across the River Cochill, we see the great rocks in the forest known as Creag a Bhaird, or the Crag of the Bard, from whence orations and tales were known to be told… But that’s another site with its very own story…

Acknowledgements:  Once again, thanks must be given to Mr Paul Hornby for his help in finding these sites.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Glen Cochill Cairnfield (1)

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Glen Cochill Cairnfield (1) 56.552287, -3.785213 Glen Cochill Cairnfield (1)

Glen Cochill 1, Little Dunkeld, Perthshire

Enclosure:  OS Grid Reference – NN 90732 41196

Aerial view shows outline of enclosure
Aerial view shows outline of enclosure

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 26252
  2. Southern Enclosure

Getting Here

Take the directions to find the Carn Ban giant cairn.  Once there, you’re in the middle of the enclosure—or near enough!

Archaeology & History

This is one of several very large extensive prehistoric enclosures that stretch across the undulating rocky plains of this wild moorland, high up below the mountain-tops south of Aberfeldy.   Although humans are scarce up here nowadays, in ancient times it was a very different ballgame.

Internal line of walling
Internal line of walling
Eastern edge walls
Eastern edge walls

Extensive and well constructed walling, measuring an average of 2-3 yards across and several feet high in places, encircles the giant White Cairn some distance away from it, running for a third-of-a-mile (0.5km) in a contorted oval shape.  The walling is pretty much continuous except for where the modern tracks have destroyed two sections of it (and other monuments within) and where entrances or ‘doors’ allowed access on the west, north and eastern sides.  The circuitous route of the walls  appears to start and end at a small unnamed stream at its southern end.

Outer northeastern walling
Outer northeastern walling

Inside the perimeter walls, there are scattered examples of simple hut circles and cairns—some singular, others for families, and others that may be clearance cairns. It’s difficult to say without excavations.  On the top northwestern side of the enclosure there is another, smaller enclosure attached to the main mass—seemingly earlier in construction than the giant creature its attached to—which overlooks the curious Shaman’s Lodge double hut-circle 75 yards to the west.  This and much of the internal area was, when we visited, covered in extensive and deep heather, so we couldn’t get a clear picture of the entire site.

We might never know exactly how many people used this site, but we can say with some certainty, due to the remains found inside and around the place, that it was used by lots of  people over many centuries, not just for what modern homo-profanus defines as ‘utilitarian’ purposes, but also important rituals were practised herein (though we are looking at an ahistorical period before the boundary of ‘sacred’ and ‘profane’ had been defined).

For antiquarians and explorers, this region is a must!  A weekend of sleeping rough up here might well be in order!

References:

  1.  Stewart, Margaret E.C., “Strath Tay in the Second Millenium BC – A Field Survey”, in Proceedings Society Antiquaries Scotland, volume 92, 1961

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks again to Paul Hornby for his assistance with site inspection, and additional use of his photos.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Glen Cochill Enclosure (1)

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Glen Cochill Enclosure (1) 56.549832, -3.779520 Glen Cochill Enclosure (1)

Shaman’s Lodge, Glen Cochill, Perthshire

Hut Circles:  OS Grid Reference – NN 90591 41247  —  NEW FIND

Getting Here

The large double hut circle, surrounded by tombs
The large double hut circle, surrounded by tombs

Take the same directions to reach the giant Carn Ban prehistoric tomb. Follow the track past the tomb further onto the moorland until you reach a small wooden bridge over the small burn.  From here, walk straight north off-path onto the moor for 100 yards and a small rise in the land, with several cairns just below it, is the site in question.

Archaeology & History

Hut circle are hut circles – right?  Well, usually that’s the case.  We find them attached to, or within, or outlying prehistoric enclosures and can date from anywhere between the neolithic and Iron Age periods.  With the site we’re looking at here, on the outer western side of Glen Cochill’s southernmost giant enclosure, there’s something amiss….or maybe that should be, “something rather peculiar.”

Mr Hornby, hut-side
Mr Hornby, hut-side
Shamans Lodge walling
Shamans Lodge walling

Paul Hornby found it a few weeks ago during an exploration of the region’s prehistory. We went in search of, and found, the giant Carn Ban close by, but noticed curious archaeological undulations ebbing in and out of the heathlands: cairns, walls, hut circles, settlements, more cairns—and then this!

Consisting of two slightly larger-than-average ovals of walled stone, probably Bronze Age in date, the first impression was of a remarkably well-preserved site (and that it is!), seemingly of an elongated stretch of walling, with a central wall that split it into two halves.  Each ‘hut circle’ was found to be between six and seven yards across, with the two conjoined architectural features giving an overall NW-SE length of 14 yards.  But the more we looked at this, the more obvious it became that this was originally one single hut circle—the lower southeastern one—with an additional one that was added and attached onto the northwestern side at a later date, probably several centuries later.

Lower earlier hut circle, with upper later hut circle attached
Lower earlier hut circle, with upper later hut circle attached

Walking around the structure we found that the very well-preserved walls—about 2 feet wide in places and rising a foot or so above the compacted peat—had been built onto a raised platform of earth.  This was no ordinary hut circle!  The ground beneath it seems to have been raised and supported and on the southern side in particular it is notable that other building stones are compacted into the peat.  There may even be the remains of a secondary outer wall on this southern edge, where it seems that the entrance was made.

Small group of cairns 15 yards away
Small group of cairns 15 yards away

Here’s the curious bit: immediately outside the northwestern and southern walls are small prehistoric tombs, or cairns.  Not just one or two, but more than a dozen of them, all constructed within 20 yards of this curiously raised double hut circle.  Literally, a small prehistoric house of some form was raised in the centre of a prehistoric graveyard—and it doesn’t end here.

Of at least three giant enclosures in this region, and what looks like a very well-preserved prehistoric tribal hall or meeting place, there are upwards of a hundred tombs scattered nearby.  Two cairn circles were also found about 100 yards to the north, one of which was damaged by a military road a few centuries ago.

Close-up of walling
Close-up of walling

I give this double-roomed abode the somewhat provocative title of the Shaman’s Lodge because of its setting: surrounded by tombs, the ‘house’ would seem to have been a deliberate setting erected in the Land of the Dead here.  I hope you can forgive my imaginative mind seeing this as a structure where, perhaps, a medicine woman would give rites to the dead, either for those being buried in the small graves, or rites relating to the giant White Cairn of the ancestors close by.  Shamans of one form or another occur in every culture on Earth and have been traced throughout all early cultures.  If no such individuals ever existed within the British Isles, someone needs to paint one helluva good reason as to why they believe such a thing….

When the heather grows back here, the site will disappear again beneath the vegetation.  It is unlikely to re-appear for quite sometime, so I recommend that anyone wanting to have a look at this does so pretty quick before our Earth covers it once again….

References:

  1.  Stewart, Margaret E.C., “Strath Tay in the Second Millenium BC – A Field Survey”, in Proceedings Society Antiquaries Scotland, volume 92, 1961

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks again to Paul Hornby for his assistance with site inspection, and additional use of his photos.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Shaman's Lodge

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Shaman\'s Lodge 56.550414, -3.781289 Shaman\'s Lodge

Carn Ban, Glen Cochill, Perthshire

Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – NN 90728 41161

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 26253
  2. White Cairn

Getting Here

White Cairn on the 1862 map
White Cairn on the 1862 map

Take the A826 road south out of Aberfeldy, uphill – and uphill.  Several miles up, past the roadside Loch na Craige, and past the solitary farmhouse of Scotston, you’re getting close.  A few hundred yards past here watch out for the small bridge over the small burn; and literally another half-mile past this, keep your eyes peeled for the small track on your right, onto the moors.  Walk 70 yards on the track and there, on your left, it rises from the heather!

Archaeology & History

Carn Ban, Glen Cochill (photo credit, Paul Hornby)
Carn Ban, Glen Cochill (photo credit, Paul Hornby)

This giant neolithic tomb in the middle of a beautiful nowhere is perhaps the tomb of an ancestral King or Queen, later idolised into creation myths by our heathen ancestors who, we know, lived across this huge moorland plain for countless centuries.  One account tells that “a circle of free-standing boulders set at irregular intervals” used to surround the cairn, but this seems to have gone.

Southeastern quadrant
Southeastern quadrant

Measuring 21 yards (19.2m) across east-west, and just over 21 yards (19.3m) north-south, this is quite a large construction made up of thousands of small stones in a near-perfect ring that measures 68 yards (62m) in circumference. The cairn seems to have been built in three layers, with its outer defining ring of medium-sized rocks, upon which a layer of typical cairn-spoil stones were laid.  A couple of yards within this, a second internal ring has been set consisting of much larger stones, more typical of those found in small stone circles or average ring-cairns.  Within this, the cairn seems to have been raised again and another large deposit of countless stones were scattered, with many pieces of white quartz (very common in this area) incorporated in the construction.

Capstone and outer ring
Capstone and outer ring
Section of internal ring
Section of internal ring

At the very centre of the cairn, at least one large central ‘tomb’ or cist is clearly evident.  Within this cist were found the severely damaged ruins of a small decorated beaker, in which, perhaps, the ashes of the dead might have once been found.  A very large and heavy capstone that covered the central tomb, has been rolled over and lays just off-centre.  No rock art seems visible on this capstone, but we were unable to check its underside.  When standing here at the middle of the tomb, you are four feet above the average ground-level of the surrounding moorland.

Section of cairn edge
Section of cairn edge
Imaginative reconstruction of beaker in central tomb
Imaginative reconstruction of beaker in central tomb

Curiously and erroneously reported by Margaret Stewart (1961) to have “been completely removed”, this large and very visible monument lives near the middle of a very large and extensive prehistoric enclosure, whose walled remains extend for some distance all round this section of the moors.  Within this arena we find large numbers of other architectural features, including many smaller cairns, some hut circles and additional lines of internal prehistoric walling.  Just a few yards south of the tomb itself, we can clearly see a length of walling running east-west and another seemingly reaching up to the White Cairn.  Whether these were built at the same time, or later, is difficult to say.

In the event that you visit this site, take your time!  All round here, mainly to the north and west, you will find masses of prehistoric remains, none of which has been adequately excavated.  A few hundred yards north is an extended necropolis that doesn’t appear to have been surveyed.

References:

  1.  Stewart, Margaret E.C., “Strath Tay in the Second Millenium BC – A Field Survey”, in Proceedings Society Antiquaries Scotland, volume 92, 1961

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks again to Paul Hornby for his assistance with site inspection, and additional use of his photos.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.549677, -3.779021 Carn Ban