Cairn: OS Grid Reference – NN 143 477
As you enter the top eastern end of Glencoe, take the only tiny road to your left (south) into Glen Etive, past the great Buachaille Etive Mor (she kills four or five folk a year, so a local told me, as if to remind me who’s boss!), past Dalness for another couple of miles until you hit Invercarnan (watch you don’t miss it). Behind you are the great falls screaming down the mountain slopes on Buachaille’s south-side; but on the east-side of the road another 500 yards down (you’ll have to gerrout and walk down near the riverside – if you hit the tidgy bridge, you’ve missed it) on the far side of the trees behind the singular house, the little mound can be seen.
Archaeology & History
Down this awesome valley (perhaps mi favourite – it’s difficult to say) is very very little in terms of ancient remains – at least according to the record books. I find this hard to believe. Etive is scattered with various ancient legends of hero-figures and mythical creatures, and harbours geological features, falls and magic unlike anywhere else in these great mountains. The tomb here is only a small one, but it’s pretty well-preserved. It’s about 30 feet across and three or four feet high. Described by the Royal Commission lads, thus:
“One of the best-preserved cairns in Lorn is situated in pasture on the west bank of the River Etive, some 700m south of Invercharnan. Bowl-shaped in profile, it measures 8.25m in diameter by 1.6m in height, and has been constructed with a kerb of boulders on which a second retaining course of stones has been carefully set.”
…Tis an utterly gorgeous arena. The cairn is good – but it’s the land upon which it rests that truly holds you. I was just ambling here – and the rain didn’t stop for three solid days, but I could have stayed amidst its blessing for an eternity. On the walk back up to my tent, two mature stags came out from the trees and enacted a play-fight right in front of me, careless of me being there. It was utterly superb to watch! I was saturated, cold, hungry – but watching this stopped it all. I bimbled back to mi tent in that dreamy state beloved of such places when the elements are alive.
Anyway – back to normality! Just north of the old tomb – which I didn’t know at the time as I had no decent map – is found the ‘Crag of the Cailleach’ (a favourite creature of mine); and there are also a couple of old fairy place-names a few hundred yards south of here. There’s gotta be more stuff round here. Bimbling expeditions are a-calling…!
Barnett, T. Ratcliffe, The Land of Lorne and the Isles of Rest, W. & R. Chambers: Edinburgh 1933.
Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Argyll – volume 2: Lorn, HMSO: Edinburgh 1974.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian