Tuesday 5 March 2013

In search of ancient Islay

Three very amateur archaeologists set off in search of a variety of features shown on the Ordnance Survey map off the 'back road' to Gruinart. We were so amateur that we did not really know what the words in fancy writing indicated: - 'hut circles', 'burnt mounds' and 'tumuli' all had to be looked up and pages printed off from Scotland's Places website before we ventured forth into the unknown at Lagstoban. We paused to admire an old ruin west of Lagstoban 

and from there it wasn't far to the hut circle 
 which was really quite obvious when you knew what to look for 

Then it was on to the tumuli which I'm afraid turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. We saw several 'tumuli' possibilities before we saw the real ones - slightly elevated mounds in the grassland. 

After this tiny walk we strolled back to the car where we picked up our lunch things and set off up the Borichill track to examine the fort. This proved extremely interesting. The fort is situated on top of Borichill Mor. Scotland's Places records 'The dun on Borichill Mor is roughly circular, with a diameter of 100ft to 130ft. There is much exposed stone on the S and W side. A cairn occupies the summit. 

We found several interesting stones near the summit, possibly cup-marked stones 

Gazing  eastwards we saw the very prominent hut circles which we descended to examine at closer quarters and found a myriad tiny lichens adorning the banks of these erstwhile dwellings.
Lynda standing at the edge of one of the hut circles.

wonderful lichen

With one more destination I clutched my GPS and negotiated tussocks and burns until we arrived at my first ever (knowing) burnt mound (probably a cooking area - very likely with all these ancient dwelling places dotted round the vicinity).

Burnt mound

Scotland's Places records 'At NR 3164 6452, on the south bank of a stream, is a burnt mound. It is crescentic, the open end facing onto the stream, and measures some 9.0 by 11.0m across and 1.3m high. Probing of the heather overgrowth reveal an admixture of black earth and friable fragments of reddened stone. There are hut circles in the general neighbourhood. 

This would almost certainly have gone unnoticed by the previous Becky (oblivious to ancient history whilst totally immersed in natural history). I shall certainly have my eyes wider open for crescentic (and other) features whilst reading the terrain in future!
It proved a very interesting, if short, walk.


  1. I'm not sure either of the stones are cup-marked ones. The upper one looks like normal weathering to me. The lower one with the single large hole may have been adapted for some use but that's not a typical cup-mark. The RCAHMS Inventory doesn't describe any from this site.

    1. Mainly wishful thinking on our part, Malcolm...and probably due to my spending too many years living near Kilmartin!
      Still, a very enjoyable day for which I am grateful to Becky,triggered by a discussion on tumuli!

    2. Nothing wrong with wishful thinking, Jane, and nor with the cup-marked stones at Kilmartin! It's amazing what there is on that hill at Borichill Mor. One wonders why it has such a density of different remains.