A long weekend spent in Kilmartin Glen, wandering among stone mounds many thousands of years old. Hours spent staring at rock carvings of unknown meaning, if any at all. Time spent in a landscape once the centre of the old kingdom of Dalriada.
It is a magnificent place. There’s a well-publicised walk that’ll take you through the ‘linear cemetery’ of Kilmartin Glen in a few hours. It takes in sites spanning thousands of years of prehistory- burial tombs, standing stones, decorated stone. From one site you can see another, sheep and cattle grazing, and Kilmartin village at the head of the glen. Our Victorian predecessors planted trees around many of the sites, today leaving carpet of bluebells under the rustling leaves.
The landscape today is vastly different to how it would have looked to those planning, building and using these sites in the Neolithic and Bronze Age. It’s well managed today, with grazing and Forestry plantations dominant. What struck me visiting these places is that then, in prehistory, it was a landscape put to a particular, determined purpose, and the same is still true today. Whether farmers, the Forestry, or tourists like us, out walking taking in the sights. Particular, determined purposes.
Kilmartin Museum has produced an excellent guide to walks in the area, which includes a thorough run through of the walk mentioned above.
Dunadd or Dùn Ad, the fort of the river Add. Standing clear among the surrounding landscape, this little hill holds a place of great significance: it was the royal centre of the Scottish kingdom of Dalriada, way back when Scotland wasn’t even really Scotland at all. The fortified hilltop has a well (now dry), clear ramparts still visible, and right at the top a footprint said to have been used in the inaugration of kings. It’s easy to get carried away with the romance of the place – I absolutely did.
If the shoe fits… So mine did, and I proclaimed my place as Queen of Scotland as my first cuckoo of the year sang its merry heart out. But I’m a republican and there’s no place for a Queen of Scotland these days. So downwards we went, relishing the view over this remarkable landscape. What a perfect start to a wonderful weekend in Kilmartin Glen – more to follow.
Further reading on Dunadd, with actual facts and things: From Historic Scotland & The University of Glasgow.
The walk home from work is a dull one. For all the grandeur Edinburgh has in her city centre, there are as many outlying areas of anonymous suburbia. My walk passes through some of these areas, with little of interest save a small section of the Water of Leith. There on the banks, last week, I spotted a tall plant showing off its purple flowers. I didn’t recognise it and without having my plant book to hand, a quick text to my mum tells me it’s Honesty (thanks mum!).
Excuse the terrible quality of the photo; with thanks to Wikimedia for a better quality one…
Despite Honesty’s apparent ubiquity I don’t recall noticing it before. It’s the first flower I’ve seen in bloom this year, with only the earliest of blossoming trees being out so far. As I always do, I looked it up, intrigued by any other names it goes by. I found a solitary reference to it called gealach-lus in Gaelic, meaning ‘moon plant’. I can’t find any other reference to it by that name so I presume it’s simply to correspond with the latin name, Lunaria annua. Either way, I’m quite taken by it and am looking forward, as the seasons progress, to do as my mum says: collect the dried seedheads and decorate the house with those little moons.
As the pile of job applications keeps growing and as my annual Winter cold takes an ever stronger grip on my sinuses, I thought I’d take a minute or two to round up some things I’ve been enjoying recently. There surely is no soul on this earth who enjoys filling in job applications with or without a cold.
It’s just a few days ’til the launch of Celtic Connections in Glasgow. It’s always a feast of interesting, challenging and inspiring music and with some of the best horo-gheallaidh you could ask for in the Festival Club. I can’t wait!
I recently read The Silent Weaver by Roger Hutchinson and was reminded of the beautiful and enigmatic works of Angus MacPhee. Some of these are on display in Kildonan Museum in South Uist; I’ve spent a lot of time entirely transfixed by them. The Silent Weaver does justice to the man and his work as well as setting it within the wider context of mental health care in the 20th century.
A winter walk to see in the New Year. We took a trip north, enjoying the snow, trees and frosty landscapes of the uplands around Blair Atholl. I love Perthshire at this time of year. Photos in this post from that walk.
Yesterday heralded the old new year (interesting article by Angus Peter Campbell in the link) so with that I wish you all bliadhna mhath ùr.
One of the pleasures of being back in Edinburgh is the opportunity to be out and about with company. Much as I enjoyed time spent largely on my own in Uist, going for walks or hikes with company was a less common event than I might have liked. It is a joy, then, to be visiting places with my partner that we’ve been planning on visiting for some time. Most recently this was the East Neuk of Fife. Despite years of living just a stones throw away in Edinburgh, I hardly know Fife. The East Neuk was every bit as lovely as I’d hoped it would be. We visited quite a few villages and have amassed another list of places to return to and visit for longer. Anstruther for more fish & chips and to visit the Fisheries Museum. Pittenweem, to explore inside St Fillans Cave. To see Elie at high tide.
Best of all, for me, was the sight, sound and smell of the East Neuk so perfectly fitted what is evoked by so many of the Fence Collective musicians. I thought of this song by HMS Ginafore, covered by James Yorkston, as I wandered around Pittenweem.