A wide choice of topics covered from the dawn of history right up to present days . Many of these have a wider relevance than purely within the context of Strathearn . The author's viewpoint often is at variance with the accepted opinions espoused elsewhere eg The Jacobite Uprisings and The Reformation .
Monday, 29 April 2013
Crannogs – the amazing artificial islands that abound in Perthshire’s many Lochs
The Reconstructed Crannog On Loch Tay Near Kenmore
Over the last year in these “blogs “ we
havelooked at many of the older
historical aspects of Perthshire and indeed Strathearn in particular . The
Strathwas a haven for the wandering
tribes of the Neolithic period that were spreading out over WesternEurope . Spreading out and into a Scotland
that was not to emerge as a nation for nearly four and half thousand years .
standing stones that still stare down upon us from the farm fields all a round
are a remnant of the ancient past . Recent archaeological investigations have
thrownlight upon the hitherto unknown
Neolithic Cursus that bisects the ground that is the new Strathearn Campus .
Diggings at Forteviot , some ten mileseast of Crieff , haveturned up
numerous finds of this period .A Bronze age gravewas unearthedcomplete with a gold – banded dagger still wrappedin its
4 000 year
oldsheath . The significanceof this becamequite clear when the gravewas identified . It hadbeen sealedby an enormous4 ton cap stonewhich required a giant craneto lift clear . Thiswas the last resting placenot of a simple tribesmanbut in all probabilityof an important chief , prince or perhapseven a king . The digalso turned up something that surprised the
archaeologists . Organicmaterials
hadbeen preserved in the sealed grave .These
includeda wooden bowl , what appeared
to have been a leather bag and numerous plant fragments and some tree bark
.When one puts these finds into an historical time scale , it is even more
amazing . The gravedates back to a
periodwhen the Egyptian Pyramids werebeing constructed all of 5 000 years ago !
Strathearn have more than just a few ancient sites such as Forteviot and the
Cursus of Crieff . Our ancient fore bearers created numerous artificial islands
on the multitude of lochs that abound in these airts. These are called crannogs
and are artificial or natural modified islands constructedby the people as far back as the Early Iron
Age of 2500 BC . Strangely enough they are found scattered throughout
Scotlandand Irelandbut with only one example in Wales and none
in England . Crannogswere constructed
as defendedsettlements usually by peace
loving farmers who couldfeel safe on
their island homes surroundedbyfamily , neighbours and ofcourse their precious animals .
Crannogsalthough not entirely a Perthshire phenomenon
areverymuch part and parcel of our ancient heritage . Research is still
progressing mainly under the auspices of the Scottish Trust for Underwater
Archaeology based at the Crannog Centre on Loch Tay . The Centre is a
wonderfulday out for the family and is located
near Kenmore at the eastern end of the Loch not far from Kenmore . Full
detailscan be obtainedby logging into their web site www.crannog.co.uk . I quote from an excellent
brochure producedby the Perth and
Kinross Heritage Trust:
The results of underwater excavation at
Oakbank Crannog , namely the mass of detailed information about the structure
and the way of life of the inhabitants eventually led to the decision to reconstruct
a full sized crannog near Kenmore on Loch Tay as an archaeological experiment.
The crannog consists of a free standing timber platform supported by alder and
oak piles , joined to the shore by a 16 metre long timber walk way .On the
platform there is a round house with wattle walls and internal partitions surrounding
a central hearth .The floors are made from small alder trees laid parallel to
each other, like those discovered at Oakbank and they are covered with bracken from
the hillside nearby . In everyway great efforts have been made to create a site
as much as possible like an Iron Age crannog .The reconstructed crannogis the core of the Scottish Crannog Centre
comprising an exhibition centre to explain the work of the underwater
archaeologists in Loch Tay over the years ; the reconstruction itself to show
what a crannog would have been like ; and a demonstration area on shore where
different aspects of ancient technologies are demonstrated and where the public
can try their hand . In addition , regularspecial events provide visitors with opportunities to learn more about
Iron Age craft skills and to experiment with ancient methods of cooking , wood
working and working with fibres .
Loch Tay is indeedthe epicentre of the crannog discoverieswith over 18 revealed in a detailed survey of
the loch carried out in 1979 .Their preservation can be attributedto thenature of the cold peaty waters of
Loch Tay The underwater survey and excavation at Oakbank and the subsequent
reconstruction nearby has provided us with a unique example of living history .
It shouldbemade clear that this is not a new discovery –
the presence of crannogshasbeen known for over 300 years andthe history of the areafirst published in 1938byW
Gillies – “ In Famed Breadalbane “
mentioned and identified some 13 sites .
Moving southinto Strathearn we can locate several crannogssimilar to those found in Loch Tay . Loch
Earn at its St Fillan’s ( east ) end has one of the most notable and indeedhistorically renowned “ islands “ . Neish
Island iswell documented in local
history being the base of the Clan Neish completewith castle and small harbour . The
Neisheswere natural enemies of theadjoining Clan MacNab from over the hills in
Killin . The story goes that a party of Neishes waylaid a number of MacNabs returning with purchases
from the Crieff market . Revengewas swiftwhen the chief of the MacNabssent his oldest son “Smooth “ John MacNab and
a number of his brothersover the
hillsto Neish Island.They hadbrought with them alarge
boatwhich they used to row over to the
island and attacked the unfortunate inhabitants.It was a massacrewith the only survivorsbeing reputed to havebeen a young boy and his dog . The head of
the chiefof Clan Neishwas taken as a trophy and thrown by Smooth
Johnat the feet of his father on their
return to Killin !
Ifwe proceedeast wards from Loch Earn and Neish Islandtowards Crieff we comeacrossperhaps one of the most
fascinating ofPerthshire’s crannogs .
Loch Monzievaird ( pronounced mon –ee- vaird )nestles in a picturesque setting below the country mansion house of Ochtertyre
once home of the Murray family andnowownedby Sir Brian Souter of
Stagecoach bus fame . On the northern shore of the little loch lies a decaying pile
of rubble – still easily discernible as a castle but somewhat spoilt by a
multitude of warning signs and protective fencing advising of the dangers of
falling masonry . Castle Cluggie was once the stronghold of the Comyn family – the
Red Comyn in particular had a running feud with Robert King of Bruce and the
sovereign was certainly no stranger to this part of the Strath . The castle is
located on a piece oflandjutting into the loch andjust to the west of it lies a small crannog known
as Prison Island . The archaeology of this particular location hasbeen recorded in detail by the Perth&
Kinross Heritage Trust and reveals an interestingoccupational pattern of the small island . The
investigationcarried out by the
Scottish Trust for Underwater Archaeology revealed that an oak pileprojecting through the loch bed near the
surface was carbon dated assometime after 1660 .This contrasted dramatically
with a piece of softwood projecting from a deep vertical section and carbon
dated to a periodof between 800
and480 BC . Expert conclusions state that
this is clear evidence of a settlement
constructed in the Early Iron Age and reused very much later.
A lot offascinatinginformation concerning Perthshire’s crannogs has been published by the Perth
& Kinross Heritage Trust in association with The Scottish Crannog Centre. Further
details and purchase of booklets look up their web site http://www.pkht.org.uk/publications.php
Visitorsand locals alike can enjoy a great day out at
the Crannog Centre Check out their web site on http://www.crannog.co.uk/
Kenmore is on the Perthshire Tourist Trail and accessible
from all main centres .
Main Season: Open daily from 29th
March to 31st October.
Opening times: 29th March to 30 October from to ; 31st Oct . In all cases, last full tours are one hour
before closing. Other off-season group bookings welcome by appointment.
Standard admissions are
Seniors:£7.50; Children £6.00; Families from £21 (2+1). Event day admissions
are slightly higher.
All tickets are valid throughout the day of