Tuesday, 8 May 2012

The mysteries of Kilmartin Glen

A few kilometres from Dunadd is the remarkable Kilmartin Glen. There are an astonishing 800 historic sites within a 10 kilometre radius of Kilmartin, the vast majority of them prehistoric. They include over 350 monuments, incised rocks, cairns and burial sites.  The nearby Kilmartin House museum has an excellent collection of artefacts and interpretative material and is well worth a visit.

Five of the burial sites form a linear cemetery over 5 kilometres of land.  Also formed in a linear pattern are the Nether Largie standing stones.

The stones are arranged in small groups interspersed with solitary stones and date from Neolithic times.  Many theories have been put forward as to the function of the linear arrangements, but unlike the sone circles near my home in the north east of Scotland, there seems no obvious alignment with either the sun or moon.

Perhaps it's fitting that there should be arrangements that the modern mind just can't fathom.  It's certainly an atmospheric place.

Just a few hundred yards away, two stone circles stand in the appropriately named Temple Wood.  Both are surrounded by a kerb of stones.  Here again, the alignment is not truly understood.  The oldest stones were placed here 3000 BC and there is evidence that wooden posts were in place prior to that.  The trees were planted in Victorian times to give the place more "atmosphere".

The smaller circle has just a couple of standing stones remaining.  There is the intruiging possibility that this circle was buried under a cairn (there are other large cairns close by).  It's fascinating to speculate on the meaning of this - was it an act of decommisioning the circle?  Was burying the stones intended to preserve their power and symbolism, or to smother it?

In Neolithic times Kilmartin must have been a place of immense significance.  It is contained within a long open glen and must have been a visible statement of power and ceremony. Even in the bright sunlight of a spring morning there is something special here.


  1. Astonishing, indeed, to the modern mind...and deeply moving. Thank you, Ian. Duncan.

  2. Hi Duncan, Kilmartin Glen is truly one of those places in which a sense of immense age and significance can be felt. Thoroughly recommended for a visit next time you're over here!

    Kind Regards