Duirsainean Chambered Cairn, Isle of Lewis

 

The last post was about a picturesque cairn in a garden on the Isle of Harris. As a contrast, this is another Neolithic cairn in the Western Isles but in a much bleaker moorland setting, further north, on the Isle of Lewis.
The islands of Lewis and Harris are not separate islands but one large landmass, with the larger, northern part being the Isle of Lewis and the southern part being the the Isle of Harris.

Duirsainean Cairn sits up on the moors above the village of Garrabost and has panoramic views across Lewis as well as to the distant hills of the Scottish mainland.

Garrabost Chambered Cairn (1)On the day we visited it there had been heavy rain all day and I was resigned to getting wet and having very poor light for taking any photos. However, after a rather damp walk the rain eased off and shafts of sunlight shone through onto the landscape.Garrabost Chambered Cairn (1)The cairn has been heavily robbed for its stone but the remaining orthostats and kerbstones, coupled with its location, make it worth a visit. An unusual feature is that the position of the kerbstones would indicate that this cairn was square shaped rather than round.
A tall orthostat marks the entrance to the passage which is on the east side and there is evidence to suggest that there might have been a forecourt.

Garrabost Chambered Cairn (2)

Garrabost is a village on the Eye Peninsula, east of Stornoway (An Rudha on the map and known locally as Point) and the cairn is on a waymarked walk from the village.

 

 

 

 

Coire na Feinne Chambered Cairn, Isle of Harris

On a journey along the west coast of Harris recently, I couldn’t resist taking a few photos of the remains of this Neolithic cairn. It sits in a roadside garden and with the last of the summer flowers still in bloom around it,  it made an attractive, if rather unusual picture of a cairn.

The cairn has been affected by the road building and again by road widening over the years and some of the site has no doubt been lost. However, within the garden you can still see the layout of the chamber and the large capstone which is lying on the ground between the upright orthostats.

Coire na Feinne, Horgabost

The cairn is in the crofting township of Horgabost and its setting today makes it hard to visualise how it would have looked in the Neolithic landscape when it would have been in a much more prominent position above the coast.

There isn’t room to park at the roadside and the cairn is in a private garden but it is easy enough to park nearby and walk along the road to view it over the garden fence.

Coire na Feinne Cairn, Horgabost (1)

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The west coast of Harris, looking north towards Horgabost

Harris

Further down the coast at Borve can be found the remains of two more burial cairns and a standing stone known as MacLeod’s Stone

Cladh Mhic Leoid

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Two Midlothian Souterrains 2. Castlelaw Fort

 

This Iron Age fort is in an elevated postion on the slopes of the Pentland Hills and has spectacular views for miles around. It’s only 3 miles south of the Edinburgh bypass, on the A702 to Biggar, but as soon as we left the main road and drove the short distance up to where you park, we were immediately in some very attractive hill country. Enticing footpaths led upwards into the Pentlands.
The hillfort is within an MOD training area but the red flags weren’t flying that day, so the footpaths and the fort and souterrain were accessible. We arrived late in the afternoon, just as an orienteering event was finishing but more walkers were arriving and setting off up the hill – obviously a popular walking area.

Castlelaw Fort (13)
The souterrain lies underneath this mound, with it’s air vents and roof lights

The fort is only a short, but fairly steep walk uphill, on a good track and there was no problem at all finding this souterrain. It is built into one the ramparts of the fort and there’s a gate to it and a noticeboard right beside the track.
Castle law Fort - Souterrain entrance(9)

The souterrain was built into one of the ramparts during a fairly late stage of the fort’s occupation. The fort originally had a wooden pallisade, which was later replaced by a single rampart, then two more ramparts were added.
Castlelaw Fort

The strangest thing about this souterrain is the very odd mix of Iron Age and post war military architecture. It was excavated in the 1930’s and 40’s and the structure stabilised and made safe, probably around this time. Looking at the strange roof lights set into concrete and the air vents sticking out of the ground, it certainly looks as if there’s some kind of military bunker underneath.
Castlelaw Souterrain

Steps lead down into the souterrain.

Castlelaw Souterrain (1)

This part looks more mid twentieth century MOD than Iron Age!

Castlelaw Souterrain (8)

Entrance to the round side chamber

Castlelaw Souterrain (5)

The passage is about 20m long and this part is the original Iron Age structure.

Castlelaw Souterrain (6)

 

Castlelaw Fort was the second souterrain we visited that day, the first one being further east in the village of Crichton. See Two Midlothian Souterrains 1.Crichton. The drive across country from Crichton took us past the famous Rosslyn Chapel and this really was worth a visit, even if you’re not a Da Vinci Code fan.

Rosslyn Chapel (4)

Surely the most ornate and decorated chapel in Britain! Almost every inch of the interior has intricate stone carvings and you could spend ages looking at all the details and trying to take in all the symbolism. Photography isn’t allowed inside but maybe that’s just as well as it was better just to soak up the atmosphere and appreciate the architecture.

We met William the chapel cat, who was taking a nap on one of the pews and then we headed to the cafe for tea. The chapel and the village of Roslin sit high up above Roslin Glen, which we looked down to from the cafe terrace. Roslin Glen and Country Park is a steeply wooded gorge with a river running through it and has attractive footpaths and picnic places.