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Published: August 31st 2009
We set off north along the shores of Loch Lomond towards our next base at Inveraray - a whitewashed village in the shadows of Inverary Castle. We checked into the YHA, amongst the walking fraternity. As activity is somewhat weather dependent, we left some flexibility as to whether we headed straight to Oban through the Glens or went hunting stones near Kilmartin. We’d advise anybody to do their homework on the latter, as it is quite easy to drive straight past one of the most important sites in ancient Scotland. A rocky hill to the west of the main road was the centre of the ancient Kingdom of Dalriada between AD500 and 900 - a land that covered the majority of modern Argyll. The outcrop was Dunadd - capital of the nation - and the base for these original Scots to set about incorporating the Kingdom of the Picts. Dunadd fell into decline after the combined capital moved in circa 850 to Scone, nearer to Perth, to strengthen the kingdom against attacks from the Vikings.
A healthy imagination is required to be taken with you to Dunadd, in order to envisage the four lines of walls at different levels and
the mirror of a Norman style castle introduced again into Britain 500 years later. The summit, reached by a brisk walk from the car park at it’s base, holds commanding views over the Kilmartin area. At the summit, a foot is carved into the rock and rumour has it, the King of Dalriada was inaugurated by placing his foot into that rocky imprint.
The fort at Dunadd is at the centre of Kilmartin Glen, which is full of relics and standing stones erected by the early Scots. There are sites either side of the road between Dunadd and the Parish Church at Kilmartin, incuding stone circles and the standing stones at Nether Lang. The church itself is from a later age, but the building and it’s graveyard contains some of the oldest carved graveslabs in Scotland. Some can still be seen in the open. The gravestones feature carvings of soldiers and are allegedly dating from 1300.
Oban is 25 miles away to the north - a fishing port, which is the gateway to the some of the inner isles. The harbour has a steady stream of Calmac Ferries plying their trade. The town is dominated by a Victorian
folly, McCaigs Tower. It is reminiscient of a Roman Amphitheatre, situated high on the hill above the harbour. It was the brainchild of one John McCaig, a wealthy Oban banker, who staked the extravagant sum of £5,000 on his creation in 1897. It is now a landscaped area with a view out to Mull.
The cluds lifted and the sun shone to warrant a drive with the hordes across Glencoe. The final leg of short journey round Scotland was to cross eastwards towards Stirling. It belted down with rain for the best part of 48 hours, forcing indoor entertainment in the once fine drinking establishment of Tappit Hen in Dunblane (now apparently sadly no longer in independent hands). Stirling Castle was wet and Robert the Bruce surveyed the lonely Banockburn field throught the downpour.
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