Cairns, Rock Art and Standing Stones

We found this hidden gem of Scotland by looking for a place to visit on our way north in the site guide from Historic Scotland. There were so many sites in this one small area that we decided to make an archaeological detour. No one comes to this area without planning, there are direct routes to most places that don’t include Kilmartin. It was great, everyone there was interested in seeing the archaeological sites and rock art. We could chat with everyone about what to see and what we each had already seen.9.1.16 Kilmartin Glen-010smIn the area around Kilmartin are hundreds of stones marked by concentric circles, man-made indentations called cup marks, also circles, lines and dots. Kilmartin Glen has the densest concentration of ancient rock art and related archaeological sites in all of Scotland.

Clustered with and near the rock art are several groups of standing stones. 9.1.16 Kilmartin Glen-041sm

Some of these may have astronomical alignments, marking the winter or summer solstice.

9.1.16 Kilmartin Glen-029





This steer wants to be an archaeologist.





Cairn burials created by placing piles of rocks over small square burial cists are found in the valley bottom and associated with some of the standing stones. In one area there is a line of five huge cairn burials over about a mile. Each was about 9 ft high and 30-50 ft. long. Several were excavated in the 1930s, but the stone was then used in road work. What remains today is smaller, though still imposing.

We met a pair of women visiting from Spain, then took a photo for a young couple from England. We met people who were hiking the trails nearby, and people who were there to sit in places they perceived to hold ancient power. It rained off and on all day, which didn’t deter anyone. Even the woman carrying a baby had a raincoat that fit over her baby carrier.

We were undeterred.
We were undeterred.

Some of these sites go back to 3000 BC, but for those interested in more recent history, there are carved grave stones in the Kilmartin churchyard that date from about AD 900-1700. We stayed at the Old Manse B&B, run by Di and David. We were very comfortable and admired Dave’s woodwork. He makes everything from doorstops and drums to thin bowls made from tree boles.

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Published by winifredcreamer

I am a retired archaeologist and I like to travel, especially to places where you can walk along the shore or watch birds. My husband Jonathan and I travel for more than half the year every year, seeing all the places that we haven't gotten to yet.

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