Kilmartin Glen is considered to have one of the most important concentrations of Neolithic and Bronze Age remains in Scotland. That seemed reason enough to spend a few days there. Some of the ruins date back more than 5,000 years. These include a multitude of cairns, standing stones, carved rock, stone circles, forts, and castles.
There are a number of walks in the area leading to some of the features. So Saturday, September 10, we donned our hiking boots to go exploring. The most prominent features are a series of stone cairns which served as burial sites. These are oriented in a north-south line through the glen. We started with the Glebe Cairn and followed the trail to Nether Largie North Cairn, Nether Largie Mid Cairn, Nether Largie South Cairn, and Temple Wood.
The Nether Largie North Cairn has been excavated and you can climb down into the burial chamber through a sliding trap door. Once inside you can see the capstone with cup-shaped markings.
What is here today is not necessarily intact. Over the millennia, a number of the stones in the cairns have been taken away to be used as building material. The sites have been excavated for archaeological research and reconstructed to their present-day form. Even with all these disturbances it’s remarkable to visit these sites and imagine what life was like here 5,000 years ago, with a society that had people of prominence worthy of such elaborate burial. It may be the flow of metals being traded through the glen that gave rise to this society.
The Nether Largie South Cairn is perhaps one of the most interesting. Here you can climb down inside and imagine what sacred ceremonies may have happened here.
In addition to the Cairns, there are a number of standing stones throughout the glen and a circle of standing stones at Temple Grove. Following our exploration of the Neolithic sites, we made our way to the Kilmartin Church to explore some of the gravestones in the graveyard. The church was closed, but it was still quite interesting to see gravestones dating back hundreds of years. The Kilmartin museum was also closed for renovation, which was a bit of a disappointment. It would have been interesting to have additional information to help interpret the history of the glen.
Even though it was an easy walk through the glen, we managed to log six miles.