The Rowan tree grew precariously on the side on the old Dun, it’s roots stretching under the fallen stones had found a tenuous hold. It was late September and the bushy branches supported a few clusters of bright red berries. From where I stood on the highest point the sides of the Dun fell steeply down to the ancient valley, where, the river Add meandered its final course before emptying into Loch Crinan. The vale spread wide below and beyond the river’s reach it ran in a rich verdure towards the sea in one direction and the Moine Mhor Bog in another.
|View from the top of Dunadd September 2016|
Seaward the valley stretched evenly, beyond the small cup of blue that denoted the ocean the northern tip of Jura lay grey and low beneath the sky. Rising in a gentle rocky fold at the eastern edge of the valley the land began to climb, here pockets of trees grew on the hillside, on the following downward slope a band of green conifer tops spread wide until the land climbed once more. The distant rocky hilltops rose under the moving shadows of clouds in a random haze of green and brown.
|"The distant rocky hilltops rose under the moving shadows of clouds in a random haze of green and brown."|
A pleasant wind blew on the top of Dunadd, turning some of the Rowan leaves to expose their silvery backs and tugging through the grass. As I climbed I noticed a timeless element about the place that presented itself more strongly on the plateau. I sat on a large stone that looked like it could have been part of an ancient wall, and my gaze drifted over the landscape. A raven cried in the hollow of the wind, the sound cracked from the woodland below and carried down the valley. It has often been remarked that there is a particular atmosphere at the top of Dunadd. The volcanic plug on which it stood dates far into pre-history; perhaps there is an echo of the climatic rigours that wrought this landscape residing in the rock, shockwaves pulsing in diminishing radiance through the Earth’s mantle.
|Footprint Dunadd 2016|
On the elevation below lay the famous footprint carved into the rock, exposed to changing weather conditions and facing Northward. It is quite something to place one’s foot into the carving and imagine how it might have felt for a king to be inaugurated in such a place; with the stunning vista spinning out in all directions. When these ceremonies took place however the fort was not a ruin but a stronghold and almost certainly surrounded by thick high walls. The footprint seen here was placed over the original in 1978 ensuring the ancient carving below will survive during the years to come, whilst enhancing the experience of reaching back in time and touching history by being raw to the elements. The original carving which is buried beneath can be seen in the photograph in this link.
The ceremonial use of footprint carvings in rock is mentioned in late medieval writings from Scotland and Ireland and they are thought to have originated during the Iron Age.
“The 17th century Hebridean writer Martin Martin, for example, tells that the ceremony had been used for inaugurating the Lords of the Isles, as a symbol for the new Chief walking in the footsteps of his ancestors. Dunadd, then, was almost certainly the place of inauguration of the kings of Dál Riata.”
Despite the rich concentration of pre-historic monuments already discovered in this area, I couldn't help but acknowledge the sense that deep under the surrounding river and sea beds, marsh and Dun there are stories yet to reveal themselves concerning the history and climatic changes of this fascinating place...