Monthly Archives: November 2014

Highland Henge Trail

by Roland Spencer-Jones (NOSAS)

Henges in Highland seem to be a bit different from other UK henges. Smaller, later, less flamboyant. More akin to the quiet steady Highland temperament, perhaps.

A henge is usually defined as a circular enclosure, surrounded by a ditch, surrounded by a bank, with one or two entrances. They can be, but don’t need to be, associated with internal burials, or standing stones, or posts. They are generally a varied lot. Although the earliest known UK henge is at Stenness in Orkney, approx 3100BC at the start of the later Neolithic, the biggest and most spectacular henges in the UK are dated to 4-500 years later, around the middle of the 3rd millennium BC. They are part of that fundamental change from square or rectangular monuments in the early Neolithic to a variety of round monuments in the later Neolithic.

The "reedy" Achility henge

The “reedy” Achility henge

What seems special about the Highland henges is that when they’ve been dated they turn out to be middle to late Bronze Age, ie 1500-1300BC. Radiocarbon dates have been obtained from excavated henges at Pullyhour, Portree and Lairg. The latter two sites are now built over. The latest known henge is the Hill of Tuach in Aberdeenshire, dated to approx 1000BC.

This blog is meant to enthuse you to take to the roads and do the Highland Henge Trail. It’ll take you round 10 of the best henges that Highland has to offer. The clickable numbers take you to the relevant entry in the Highland Council’s Historic Environment Record (HER). And please note that although there is a “Right to Roam”, you should still be respectful of the landowner’s rights and property as you access these sites. Close gates, etc and respect the shooting season.

Culbokie henge

Culbokie henge

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Glenarigolach Abandoned Township, Wester Ross

by Anne McInnes (NOSAS)

Glenarigolach meaning ‘ glen of the forked shieling ‘ is accessed by a stalkers path leading up the hill on the E side of the Gruinard river. The area is centred on NG 98237 89963 and lies at a height of 100m. The glen was once well populated and Glenarigolach lies between the smaller settlements of Ridorcha and Craigour (See HER Record).

looking down the glen

Looking down the glen at Glenarigolach

During the Highland Archaeology Festival 2014 NOSAS led a walk to the site on their second visit to the area. We were not quite so lucky with the weather as in April, but still enjoyed exploring the ruins and features, although some were submerged in bracken (see also our earlier post on the nearby settlement of Keppoch, which was recorded in April 2014).

There is little documented detailed history on the area, but Meryl Marshall (NOSAS) is on the case so all will eventually be revealed!  She has found that Glenarigolach is marked on the Pont 4 map 1583–96 as Ary Gaulach. We do know that the glen was cleared for a sheep run around 1840.

Jim Buchanan has mapped the visible walls in the area using aerial photographs, and a walkover survey with Anne and Terry Doe has so far listed 33 buildings and features. An extensive muir burn in 2013 has revealed more walls and field boundaries and a roundhouse, so further surveying will hopefully take place in early 2015 before everything is once again submerged in grass and bracken.

glenarigolach

Aerial View of Glenarigolach

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