Not a walk in the Park!

Archaeology takes many forms- something I am becoming more aware of since joining NOSAS (North of Scotland Archaeology Society). Last weekend we ventured to the area around Helmsdale to investigate some archaeological sites. One of which was a hill fort on top of Ben Griam Beg. At less than 2000 feet a mere pimple on the Highland landscape.

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Yes that’s the wee pimple up behind the cottage. From where we left the cars to the top it was 6km ‘as the crow flies’, and there was definitely a few times I wished I could have sprouted wings!

The walk to the cottage was pretty easy going and covered about half the distance. It was a beautiful day and a perfect place to stop to refresh ourselves before the ‘push’ to the top.

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The cottage was uninhabited but is used by various people employed by the estate and also as a holiday cottage from time to time. Inside one of the outbuildings there was an interesting record of some of shepherds and workers who had been there.

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Refreshed with coffee and chocolate we started the second, more demanding stage. Before too long we had broken into 3 groups. The super-fit mountain goats, the fit folk and the ‘OMG what on earth gave me the idea to sign up for this’ group. I was in the last group and it was a definite wake up call to do something about my lack of fitness especially as most of the people in the other groups were older than me!

After a lot of huffing and puffing and catching our breath stops, we reached the top!

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and joined the others for lunch.

The purpose for the climb was to examine the wall structures. Although, Ben Griam Beg is listed as the highest hill-fort in Scotland there is some debate about whether it really is a hill-fort. We, especially the more knowledgeable archaeologists among us, were to look at the evidence and put forward our opinions on the matter.

There were definitely a lot of stone walls to consider

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and an interesting stone in one of the walls which definitely looked like it had been used to  grind meal (?) in.

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After a good look around and much discussion the ‘jury was still out’ on whether it had been a fort but most people doubted it. However, no-one could come up with a satisfactory explanation for all the wall structures. More information about the supposed hill-fort can be found at http://canmore.org.uk/event/651911

 

Although it had been a slog to get to the top it had been worth it. It is definitely an interesting site whatever it is.  I was also blessed with a close viewing of a female ptarmigan with 2 chicks and a hare- both now in their summer colours. Some lovely flowers were also starting to bloom in the rocky, heather landscape.

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Yes, it might not have been a ‘walk in the park’ to climb Ben Griam Beg but I’m so glad I didn’t give up and made it to the top. That evening I really felt I had earned my large portion of chips and battered stuffed jalapeño peppers at the well-known La Mirage restaurant in Helmsdale. Washed down with a glass of wine, of course!

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Interesting light in La Mirage restaurant.

 

 

 

 

 

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Beginning to appreciate the Picts.

I’ve always been interested in history – the older the better as far as I’m concerned but for some reason the Picts never really ‘grabbed’ my attention much. Possibly, because there’s not a lot known about them. But with the enthusiasm of Dr. Gordon Noble, and others on the case, a better understanding of these people will hopefully be developed.

Dr. Gordon Noble at the Rhynie Dig 2015. Evidence that this was once the site of a Pictish fort was found.

Dr. Gordon Noble at the Rhynie Dig 2015. Evidence that this was once the site of a Pictish fort was found.

One thing the Picts are known for are their marvellous symbol stones. The significance of these stones and their Pictish symbols are still not fully understood. Once the Picts became introduced to Christianity, this influence can be seen on stones.

The Nigg stone is carved with a cross on one side and Pictish artwork on the other

The Nigg stone is carved with a cross on one side and Pictish artwork on the other. The carving on the top triangle area is regarded as the earliest depiction of the Eucharist.

Having recently joined NOSAS (North of Scotland Archaeology Society) I was keen to extend my knowledge of these stones on a wee tour of 3 stones near Balintore.

Being on an organised tour has it's advantages - we had the key to get inside the protective glass box for a closer look.

Being on an organised tour has it’s advantages – we had the key to get inside the protective glass box for a closer look at the Shandwick stone.

Beautiful sculpted panel.

Beautiful sculpted panel on the Shandwick stone.

The Shandwick stone inside its glass box which was recycled from the Glasgow Garden Festival a few years ago.

The Shandwick stone inside its glass box which was recycled from the Glasgow Garden Festival a few years ago.

The original is in Edinburgh museum. This is a copy carved by a local sculptor.

The original Hilton of Cadboll stone in Edinburgh museum. This is a copy carved by a local sculptor.

I thoroughly enjoyed my excursion. I think I can say that my indifference towards the Picts has gone and I have started reading any theories and evidence I can find about them. Also, there are more stones closer to home which I will have to investigate.