Kilmartin Glen, Scotland
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Kilmartin Glen, Scotland

Kilmartin Glen sits in the heart of Mid Argyll, Scotland, and is one of the most historical and beautiful areas in the country. Formerly the places where the ancient kings and queens of Scotland were crowned, it is now an area of growing interest for tourists.

Kilmartin Glen is situated four miles north of Lochgilphead and twenty nine miles south of Oban. It streteches for approximately five miles, taking in the villages of Kilmichael and Slochavullin, as well as Kilmartin itself. The mystical River Add flows through this part of Argyll, a river so impressive to these ancient people that they named the local fort after it – Dunadd means Fortress of the Add.

This glen contains more ancient sites than any other in Scotland (and possibly the UK) and these include Cup and Ring marks, Burial Cairns, Chambered Cairns, Standing Stones and Forts. Indeed, Dunadd Fort is situated near the entrance of the glen, from the Lochgilphead end. This fort is where the ancient kings and queens of Scotland were crowned and on this fort there are also a Pictish Bull carved into the stone and the footprint of a Pictish king.

While the carvings are from a later period (namely the Pictish era – see my article on The Picts), the sites themselves are considerably older. Some locations (such as Temple Woods) are 3-5,000 years old. To put that in context, these sites are as old, or older, than many of the pyramids of Egypt.

The burial cairns were for exalted members of this ancient community, more than one of them producing stunning artefacts when excavated. One in particular, thought possibly to have been that of a priestess or equivalent, produced a beautiful, elaborate necklace made from the material jet. It was recently on show in museums in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

In the 1990s Kilmartin House was built, a museum, shop and cafe for visitors to the area. The museum shows the whole valley and marks the major sites for visitors, providing snippets of information on each site.

It also shows a history line of items in locations along the West Coast of Argyll, taking in the Oban area and finds that date back 8,000 years (such as arrow heads). It does not make suppositions as to who these people were (they predate the ‘Celts’ by several thousand years), simply allowing you to make your own conclusions.

While we know almost nothing about the people who built these sites, we do know that later cultures left their own marks on these sites, making us aware of how important the sites were to them as well as their ancestors.

In Kilmartin Church, there are sculpted stones dating back to medieval times, mixing Celtic art with images of knights.

Kilmartin Glen is an area of genuine beauty and of real historical importance. It is an area we are still learning much about, and may never reveal all its secrets.



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Comments (4)

excellent article.......thanks

Very informative Norma. I have visited this are a couple of times and it really is stunning. It's amazing to think that some of these places are older than the pyramids!

I nearly went for a short break to Oban last month but had to cancel at the last minute. I will definately try to visit Kilmartin when I am able to rearrange my trip, sounds amazing.

Ranked #3 in Scotland

Thanks Abdel-moniem El Shorbagy and Brian, and thanks Steve, I hope you do get to go, its an amazing place. If you do head that way, Tarbert Castle is approximately 24 miles from Kilmartin - South. not to be mistaken with Tarbet :D Have a great time :D