The Stunning Standing Stones of Scotland

We are lucky enough to be situated just five minutes from the standing stones at Clava Cairns which are proving to be very popular with visitors. But why does Scotland have so many of these intriguing standing stones?

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Aerial View of Clava Cairns from Visit Scotland

 

The honest answer is no one really knows! Throughout Scotland there are stones arranged often in circular patterns that have no clear explanation as to where they came from or why they are placed in such ways. The stone circle at Callanish on the Isle of Lewis is thought to date from 5,000 years ago making it one of the oldest structures in the UK. How they were formed is also a mystery. Some of the stones in these formations can weigh up to 10 tonnes, so how were they transported and placed into position?

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Calanais Standing Stones

Many of the stones are believed to be part of ritualistic sites with many forming elaborate burial grounds used to commemorate the dead. At Clava Cairns there are three such burial chambers which are surrounded by standing stones. These can be clearly seen as the walls of the burial tombs are made from stones which are still standing. Over on Orkney there are the Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar which are believed to be all that remains of large ceremonial sites. It is believed the stones were once surrounded by a large ditch with a central meeting point.

 

One of the most interesting things that seems to connect most sites is the relationship they seem to share with astronomical events. Many of the sites, including Clava Cairns, are aligned to the movements of the sun and moon and in particular the event of the  solstices. At Clava one of the burial cairns is aligned so that the sunset perfectly aligns with the entrance to the cairn on the Winter solstice.

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Ring of Brodgar from Visit Orkney

 

Whatever the purpose of these Neolithic sites, whether they be ceremonial, religious or elaborate burial grounds, today they are sites of incredible beauty and fascinating engineering. The stones capture peoples imagination and their sites are typically in peaceful settings with beautiful scenery that allow visitors to escape the modern world for a while and soak in the atmosphere of these incredible places.

We hope you enjoyed this little foray into the standing stones of Scotland. As always please like, share, tweet, comment and find your own favourite set of stones, although with hundreds to choose from it may be tricky.

All the best, K & D

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The Might and Majesty of Glencoe

Glencoe is a beautiful part of Scotland that is rich, not just in landscape, but also history so today we thought we share a little bit about why we love the spot so much.

Firstly, the landscape. You cant help but love the drama and scale of Glencoe, even if you’ve lived in Scotland your whole life it is still a fantastic place to visit and drive through. A drive through the valley is always enjoyable not matter what the weather is. In the sunshine the hills look stunning and if you’re really lucky you can sometimes catch a glimpse of a golden eagle. Summer is also the perfect time to try some of its many walking routes as the site houses eight Munros. Don’t worry if it’s been raining though. When you get the clouds and the rain Glencoe transforms into an area of classic Scottish atmosphere and the waterfalls through the glens descend from the clouds in a fury.

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Glencoe on a beautiful day

 

The site is very popular with walkers as there are a number of routes and ascents to explore. One of the most popular routes is up the ridge of Aonach Eagach but it is not for the faint hearted. The route travels along a narrowing ridge so anyone with vertigo should certainly avoid it. You can also explore the peaks of the Three Sisters which encompasses the ridges of Beinn Fhada, Gearr Aonach and Aonach Dubh and makes a lovely day of hilltop walking.

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Glencoe looking very atmospheric

 

For anyone who knows their Jacobite history, as we are sure many of you do, Glencoe is also the site for the infamous Glencoe Massacre. It was here in 1692 that members of the MacDonald clan were killed by soldiers of the Campbell clan for not pledging allegiance to William III. The attack was launched at dawn and at least 37 men were murdered in their homes with as many as 40 women and children dying from exposure after they were forced out of their homes. No one was ever brought to trial for the massacre and the site is remembered to this day as a brutal part of Scottish history.

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Memorial for the Glencoe massacre

 

Associated with the massacre is the point of Signal Rock. This spot is, according to legend, said to be the point at which a fire was started to signal the start of the massacre in 1692, however there is no proof of this being the case. The site is also said to have been an emergency meeting point for the MacDonald clan where they would gather in times of danger. Whether either of these are true is unsure but the rock is a beautiful spot to walk out to and would have been a good beacon point for the glen due to its visibility.

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Signal Rock at Glencoe

 

We hope you get the chance to visit Glencoe, if you haven’t already. It is such an amazing place and pictures just do not do it justice. As always we hope you enjoyed reading our post and please like, tweet, share, comment and tell us your favourite parts of Glencoe.

All the best, K & D

80 Years of Care

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the National Trust for Scotland caring for and conserving Culloden Battlefield.

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Culloden Battlefield

 

In 1937 Alexander Munro of Leanach Farm presented the first two small pieces of the battlefield to the reasonably new charity, the National Trust for Scotland. This small start was soon expanded and over the years we have acquired more of this historic site and worked hard to preserve the land and share its story with millions of visitors.

We are incredibly proud to be the custodians to such an important site in Scottish and world history. Today 80 years own, we care for the memorial cairn and clan graves on the battlefield; as well as the Cumberland stone, the ‘Field of the English’ and Kings Stables Cottage. We help protect a large portion of the southern part of the battlefield that encompasses the main area of hand-to-hand fighting, as well as the mass graves of the men who fought and died here in 1746.

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Clan Grave at Culloden

 

The task of caring and preserving such a special site is not an easy one and new challenges are constantly presenting themselves but they are challenges that everyone is determined to meet. We have a dedicated facilities team on site who monitor the land and work to try and restore the landscape to how it would have appeared at the time of the battle.

On site we also have our learning team who produce top class school programmes to deliver to children throughout Scotland and indeed the rest of the world. They share the stories of the battle and the significance of the events that took place here in ways that captivate the younger audience and spark interest in new generations every year.

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Culloden Moor

 

As the last battle fought on British soil and the battle that effectively ended the Jacobite campaigns in Scotland, Culloden is a part of our history and our culture and we hope to be here in another 80 years still sharing the stories of Culloden with people from around the world and caring for this incredibly important site.

We hope you get the chance to visit Culloden if you haven’t already. As always please like, tweet, share, comment and if you would like to join us in helping conserve this special place head to https://www.nts.org.uk/Donate/ to donate.

All the best, K & D

Archaeology at Culloden

With 2017 being the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology we had to take a look into the archaeology here at Culloden. Something that many people may not know about Culloden is that it was one of the first battlefields in Scotland to be subject to archaeological investigation making it an intriguing subject.

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Culloden Battlefield

As part of the Culloden Battlefield Memorial Project, work first began at the site in 2000 and has included topographic, geophysical and metal detector surveys.

These surveys have allowed us to discover and learn more about the battle and what exactly happened on that fateful day in April 1746. The fact that objects and details discovered hundreds of year after an event can help inform our knowledge is a fantastic and intriguing subject.

Unsurprisingly, metal detector surveys managed to uncover a lot of items from the field including musket balls, mortar fragments, buckles and buttons many of which we have on display in our exhibition. The interesting aspect of these finds though was their location. When mapped all of these individual finds suggested the battle took place over a larger piece of land than originally anticipated.

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Mortar Fragments and Grape Shot

The intensity of finds also showed the majority of  hand-to-hand fighting took place further south than expected. The presence of broken musket pieces indicated the weapons were damaged by fire at close range or smashed off by a broadsword. The lost buttons and buckles most likely removed in struggles which offers an insight into the extreme battle conditions on the moor. These lost items open up a harrowing picture of Culloden and bring the battle into a harsh reality with objects you can truly connect with.

Close to the area of close quarter fighting were fragments of mortar bombs which would have been fired into the charging Jacobites to stop their dreaded attack. The power of these bombs could take out up to twenty men at a time, making it remarkable the Jacobites made it to the Government front line at all. The position of the mortar fragments, so close to the Government front line, also opens up the possibility that Government men could have been killed as the shells were rather unpredictable and broke apart as the powder inside ignited.

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Pewter Cross

As well as gathering information on the fighting and tactics of the armies surveys also helped uncover a couple of more personal items. A silver coin was found dating from 1752, after the battle. The coin is a silver thaler from the Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin which was one of the German Baltic states. The presence of the coin suggests the possibility that it was dropped by a soldier who had served time in the continent. They could even have been based at Fort George and travelled to the battlefield to visit the graves of some of their fallen comrades. Also found was a small pewter cross. This discovery near Leanach Cottage is a beautiful pendant and you cant help but wonder who it belonged to and the story behind it. Was it given to a soldier by a loved one? Was it kept close for luck? The stories that could lie behind the objects make them all the more special and important to preserve.

We are lucky to have found so many items that have opened up new theories of the battle of Culloden and raised new questions and thoughts about the men on the field. If you want to find out more be sure to come along to our exhibition to see the finds for yourself. As always we hope you enjoyed this brief insight into the archaeology of the site and please comment, like, share and tweet.

All the best, K & D

 

 

Something off the beaten track…

Most of the properties the National Trust for Scotland looks after are pretty well known and are easy to find on the map but there are a few that are tucked a little bit away from the main path. Today we choose a few of our favourite lesser known properties.

Firstly, the one nearest us, Boath Doocot.

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Boath Doocot

 

This is a small 17th century doocot (or dovecote if you prefer) which stands looking over the site of the Battle of Auldearn which took place in 1645. Just 20 minutes from Culloden it makes a nice stop between ourselves and Brodie Castle to pack a little bit more history into your trip. The doocot stands 7.5m high and houses 515 nesting boxes within its walls. It was donated to the NTS in 1947 by Brigadier J Muirhead of Boath.

Out west we have the ruins of Strome Castle.

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Strome castle ruins

 

One of the best things about this castle is its location as it sits on a little rocky outcrop at the end of Loch Carron offering gorgeous views out towards the Isle of Skye. If you catch it on a sunny day then it is a wonderful drive out along the west coast. The castle is believed to have been built in the 14th Century and changed hands many times over the centuries. Finally in the 1600’s it was besieged by Kenneth MacKenzie, Lord of Kintail and was eventually blown up.

To the east in Fife we have Balmerino Abbey.

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Balmerino Abbey ruins

Though now ruins the abbey was once an impressive Cistercian monastery from the 13th Century. Whilst it may not be as fancy as it once you can still see the beautiful stonework and the arches of the cloisters. Also in the grounds is a beautiful Spanish chestnut tree that is said to be amongst the oldest in Scotland. Tradition says it was planted in 1229 by Queen Ermengarde but more recent studies have shown it to be roughly 500 years old.

Finally why not head out to see Black Hill.

Black Hill

 

Found not far from Glasgow this hill makes a wonderful walk on a nice day. From the top are lovely views down the Clyde Valley and the hill also has a rich archaeological history. The site is home to a Bronze age burial cairn and was once an Iron Age fort. The area was donated to the National Trust for Scotland in 1936 and was designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument in 1969.

We hope you enjoyed reading about this different places. As always please tweet, comment, share and try to check out some of these places for yourself.

All the best, K & D

 

5 Great Summer Walks

With summer heading our way, and hopefully some wonderful weather to go with it, we’re taking a look at some of the best walks the NTS has to offer.

 

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Pathways of exotic plants at Inverewe Gardens

Firstly Inverewe Gardens. Perfect for a pleasant stroll through gorgeous grounds, Inverewe Garden is a special place on the North West coast of Scotland. Its unique ecosystem allows plants from all over to grow and its home to pine martens, squirrels, buzzards and if you’re lucky even an eagle. There is usually plenty of colour and enough variety to dazzle all the senses. Their Pinewood trail takes just 45 minutes and is perfect for families, plus you can stop off at the restaurant after for a quick pick me up.

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A view up to the castle of Culzean

Secondly, Culzean Castle and its lovely beach. A classic mixture of sand and rocks this beach lies below the stunning castle and offers a more secluded beach environment than usual. As you walk along you get great views out to sea and, to the south, the granite rock that is Ailsa Craig. You’ll also see caves dotted in the cliffs and, if you fancy, you can join a guided tour taking you into the cave chambers where you can discover tales of smugglers from years ago. http://www.nts.org.uk/Events/Culzean-Castle-and-Country-Park/Explore-Culzeans-Caves/

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The majestic Falls of Glomach

If you fancy something a bit more adventurous you can head to the Falls of Glomach. One of the highest waterfalls in Britain, with a drop of 113m (370ft), the Falls of Glomach are set in a steep narrow cleft in remote Highland country. The easiest walk is 2.5 miles uphill from the car park at Dorusduain but the rewarding views and atmospheric misty conditions definitely make it worth the effort. This is one of the few walks where rain is actually welcome as the runoff makes the falls even more spectacular.

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The beautiful coastline of Rockcliffe

Rockcliffe, on the other hand, can offer something for everyone. From mudflats to meadows, rocky shore to heather-topped granite outcrops, this area is home to a huge diversity of wildlife and a network of paths gives access to most of the area. One of the highlights is the Mote of Mark which dates back to the late 6th or 7th century AD. This defended settlement is thought to have been the citadel of one of the princes of the ancient kingdom of Rheged. Huge stone and timber ramparts surrounded a large timber hall and some smaller stables and workshops, where bronze jewellery was made. Today you can only see the remains of the ramparts but it is still an impressive site. You can also see Rough Island, a bird sanctuary, where oystercatchers like to nest and ringed plovers are also found. If you time it right you’ll also see the oystercatchers probing for cockles in the soft estuary mud when the tide is out. If that’s not enough though you may catch sight of porpoises in the water as the feed to close to shore or, if you are very lucky, even a peregrine falcon as it hunts on the mudflats and cliffs.

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Ossian’s Hall at the Hermitage

Finally, for more of a woodland walk, we turn to The Hermitage. Here you can follow in the footsteps of notable visitors of the past including Wordsworth, Queen Victoria, Mendelssohn and Turner. The area takes you through spectacular Douglas firs, including one of the tallest trees in the country, and then on to a lovely little folly called Ossian’s Hall which sits overlooking the Black Linn waterfall.  With summers long hours if you visit in the evening there is also a chance of seeing bats flying over the river or perching in the trees and you can often here the calls of a tawny owl of two.

Hopefully these walks have tempted you to head out on an adventure. As always please like, tweet, comment, share and keep your fingers crossed for some sunshine.

All the best, K & D

 

Intercepted Post – we need your help!

Culloden Battlefield is a special place to many people.

It has been an inspiration for writers of fact and fiction for 270 years.
Inspiration can come from the individual stories of people who fought at the Battle of Culloden; those who were affected by the Uprising and the aftermath; to the stories of the visitors who come to the moor...

 As part of an upcoming event “An Epic Tale: The facts and fiction of life during the Rising” we would like you to send why Culloden is special, inspirational or thought provoking place to you.

Whether you have visited or would like to visit we would like to hear your story of why Culloden and the stories of the ’45 Uprising are important to you.

To be part of this event please send your stories on the back of a postcard to:

Learning Team @ Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre
Culloden Moor
Inverness
Scotland, U.K
IV2 5EU

All the postcards sent in will be on display at the visitor centre from 1 July to the 31 July.

Thank you for your help and we look forward to reading your stories.