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Scotland West Coast

Kilmartin Glen

This amazing area is home to hundreds of neolithic monuments, as well as a great range of natural habitats.

I don’t know that I can add much to what has already been written about this amazing area, home to hundreds of monuments: standing stones, chambered cairns, stone circles, rock art, as well as the historic fortress of Dunadd.

I’d recommend several days to explore the monuments and the rich environment properly. Although I’ve been to Kilmartin on many occasions I haven’t yet been there under good photographic conditions. Time for another expedition!

I love the whole area. It has the most ‘Irish’ feel of anywhere in Scotland, from the dripping mosses and gnarled oak trees of the (somewhat romantically named) Celtic rain-forest, the expanse of the Moine Mhór bog – another fascinating habitat, and a great place to explore and feel the element of ‘space’ – to the concentration of monuments and their otherworldly connections which can often be felt. I’ve experienced some strong energies here.

I’ll give a brief taster of some of the more easily accessible monuments below.

Rock Art

Kilmartin has some of the finest and most important prehistoric rock art in Europe. Achnabreck has a large group, and will take about an hour there and back from the car park. Further examples are found at Ormaig (one of the most imprressive sites, but a more strenuous 2.5 hour walk), Kilmichael, and several other locations nearby.

Kilmartin Prehistoric Trail

A 2-mile walk starting from Kilmartin Museum takes in a stone circle, several chambered cairns as well as standing stones and stone rows.

photo of cairn at temple wood, kilmartin
Temple Wood – on a terrible dreich day of rain and sleet in late December. Stones here have ring marks, and also spiral carvings like those in Ireland at Newgrange.
Nether Largie standing stones, also in pouring winter rain.

Kilmartin Church and Sculpture Slabs

Hawthorn blossom outside Kilmartin church, on a rainy May day.

Kilmartin church is right beside the museum, and houses the best collection of carved stone slabs in Scotland. Three are kept inside the church, these date from the 9th -10th centuries; while the churchyard and former mausoleum have a collection from medieval times.

Moine Mhór (the Great Moss)

The Moine Mhór is a diverse landscape of bog, pools and wooded hummocks, a haven for a great variety of wildlife. There are a couple of trails to explore its edges in safety. I enjoy the expanse of it, the sense of open space. The best overall viewpoint is from Dunadd.

Moine Mhór from Dunadd.

The Crinan Canal

A more recent feature of the Kilmartin area – the Crinan Canal opened in 1801, creating a 9-mile shortcut to the West coast avoiding the more hazardous sail around the waters of the Mull of Kintyre. Today its used primarily for leisure. Its an odd sight seeing a boat sailing through the trees… The towpath makes a lovely walk or cycle route.

Further links:
Kilmartin Museum
Moine Mhor Nature Reserve

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