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Gordon Wilson's Walk
Last tackled 21 October 2001 9.30am


The Unseen Sites Around Loch Watenan
Meet at Whaligoe Steps Car Park

This walk led by Gordon Wilson on 21 October 2001 shows the many interesting archaeological and historical features of this part of Caithness.  Unfortunately Gordon died in March 2002 but he left an indelible impression in the minds of those he took out on his walks for Caithness field club, Rangers and other organisations.  He delved into many books, collected and checked old maps and chased down facts and then tested his own theories on those out for the day with him.

Leave the car at the steps and cross over the A99.  You will need a map or the services of someone who knows the area. But many of the features are quite easy to find although Gordon's explanations will be sadly missed.

 This list shows some of the places that Gordon packed into the walk.  Take a packed lunch and wear good shoes or boots.  Warm clothes and waterproofs essential but you never know it might be a sunny day. This is a great chance to see a huge number of places in this area that is more and more being recognised as unique in the range and diversity historic and prehistoric sites.

Railway Remains
Dam and waterways to mill
Railway Houses
Water Culverts
Early Lime Kiln
Ruined cairn - burial?
Cairn of Get - horned?
Chambered cairn - unexcavated
Bronze Age cist
Garrywhin Fort - Cattle Stockade?
Hut Circles (Stone Age)
Cairn (Bronze Age)
Standing Stones - part of Stockade?
Cairn and stone rows - fan shaped
Two cists in cairn
Cairn and Stone Rows - also fan shaped
Hut Circles (Iron Age)
Dun (Bronze Age)
Lime kiln - recent
Pictish cist
Chambered Cairn - ruin
Hut Circle (Bronze Age)
Pre - clearance Settlement
Quarry with possible pier for loading rafts
Clearance Settlement

Archaeology Walk Questions and a few thoughts from Gordon Wilson

Melted water from the Ice Age appears to have played a role in fashioning the rugged ridge and valley landscape.

Loch Watenan lies in a rock basin whose size was probably increased by ice erosion.

These areas have clusters of Chambered Cairns, Stone Rows, Standing Stones and Burial Cists.

Most have been excavated by Rhind 1853 - Anderson 1865. No records  remain of their excavations.


Chambered Cairns

What purpose did they serve?
Why did some have horns added?
Were Long Cairns the result of Round Cairns being added to? - Many built on hillsides have the tail lying 10% off their true line.
Were they cleared out and refurbished over the years?
What was buried - all or parts - just bones?
For how long were they in use and how often were they cleared out?
When was it decided to end the use of burial chambers?
Why have many been found sealed but by no means full?
Why were some completed but not used?
Bronze Age Burial Cists were often placed in the length of the cairn.

Standing Stones (Neolithic)
What was their purpose?
Some appear higher above ground because of diggers looking for buried treasure beneath them.

Stone Rows (Neolithic)
Parallel rows and Fan Shaped rows
Many up to 60 metres long - some with tall stones -others with small stones - Were they of religious basis or some kind of calendar?

Chambered Cairns
Small round with no horns.
First recorded in 1851 by smart and was fairly well preserved.
although the roof had fallen in - it was in fact similar to the Cairn of Get
No records remain. There were later excavations by Rhind and Anderson in the 1880ís.
It had been roofed by large lintels - two inner compartments were discovered but were disturbed by debris from fallen roof.
Finds - Traces of two skeletons lying in dark soil. There were also appreciable remains of burnt bones, broken pottery and wood ash.
No records remain today.
The site was visited by Nicolson in the 1900ís. No records of new finds.

Bronze Age Hut Circles appear on the Hill Fort and at several other areas. Also more noticeable Iron Age Hut Circles with portal stones still standing.

Two Iron Age Brochs - both ruinous but with their shapes quite obvious.

A Pre-Clearance Settlement to the east of Loch Watenan lies in deep heather.

Clearance Settlements can be seen on the final walk back.