…In which the author falls in love with standing stones all over again

Just back from a three-day trip to the archaeological wonderland that is Kilmartin, in Mid-Argyll, on Scotland’s west coast. Megalithic structures abound in the region, and we visited dozens of standing stones, burial cairns, cists and other ancient sites. Highlights inclu­ded Temple Wood stone circle and the Dunadd hillfort and royal complex, plus a lake crannog and a huge standing stone carved with a Christian cross. Plus I got to lie down in a subterranean prehistoric grave (and found it a tad cramped).


The area has also the best collection of cup-and-ring marks (prehistoric rock art) in the country, and although some of it takes something of an effort to get to – especially in the infamous Argyll rain – it was well worth it. Because prehistoric British rock art is non-representational and abstract, its meaning is lost to us, making it not just beautiful but enigmatic and mysterious. Some cup-and-ring sites are notoriously difficult to find, and many a time the rain-swept glens echoed with the distinctively plaintive cry of the rock art hunter: “It’s meant to be around here somewhere!”


The trip was arranged by the earth mysteries magazine Northern Earth, www.northernearth.co.uk, with organisation by the editor, John Billingsley, and field leadership by archaeologist and rock art expert Paul Bowers, both of whom did a bang-up job. More about the utterly fantastic Kilmartin area can be found on the website of the wonderful Kilmartin House Museum, www.kilmartin.org. The bookshop there has a superb collection of books on Scottish archaeology, history and folklore, and also happens to stock signed copies of “101 Things To Do With A Stone Circle”