Ancient monuments

Skye has more than its fair share of duns, brochs, souterrains, standing stones, burial cairns and the like. Here are a few of the more interesting ones I have visited.

Carn Liath at Kensaleyre

Carn Liath is a 4m tall neolithic chambered cairn near Kensaleyre, beside the River Haultin at the head of Loch Eyre.

It is the largest of a cluster of cairns here, and is easy to see from a distance, because the stones from which it is constructed are covered with such white lichen that they appear to have been painted.

Claigan Souterrain

If you take the road that goes north from Dunvegan, past the castle, and follow it to its end at Claigan, you'll find a small car park there. The souterrain is just a short walk from the car park, through a gate and up a cart track to NG238539. Just after the track bends hard right, it is about 20m off the track to the left. It is not too difficult to find, although you may need to scout around for a bit to see the entrance.

Dun Beag

Dun Beag

Dun Beag (the small fort) is the best known, the best preserved, and the most accessible of the 50 or so brochs on Skye. Access is from the main Dunvegan - Sligachan road at NG337385, where there is a small car park, a signpost and an information panel. From there a short and easy walk up a slope of sheep-cropped grass takes you to the remains of the broch itself. It has massive walls, still mostly intact to more than 2m high. In them you can find lots of detail, including a gallery, the entranceway, a stairway and a security cell.

Dun Grianan

The remains of Dun Grianan sit on the extremity of a low promontory in Loch Mealt, Trotternish, at NG505653, just opposite the Kilt Rock waterfall. Most of the building was removed a long time ago, with just a metre or so of height left on the north side and only the foundations still intact on the south.

Remains of Dun Skudiburgh
The ruins of the buildings on Dun Skudiburgh

Dun Skudiburgh (NG374647) is a stone age enclosure in a spectacular defensive position on the west coast of Trotternish. It sits on a precipitously steep-sided hill, some 60m above the shore of Loch Snizort. On a fair day, a walk to the dun is a straightforward and pleasant stroll of about 4k return. In a northwesterly wind with a bit of rain, its exposed position could make a visit quite hellish. Pick a good day.

In May 2000, after a period of heavy rain, a hole suddenly opened in a field at Kilvaxter, exposing stonework underneath. It was soon established that what lay below was a souterrain. It consists of a 20 metre long trench lined with drystone walling and capped with massive lintel slabs. There is a chamber off to the left just a short way in. The structure is entirely below ground except for its small entrance and a vent at the other end. It is covered with a foot or so of earth.

Inside Knock Ullinish Souterrain

There is an easily accessible example of a souterrain, or earth house, located at the foot of Knock Ullinish. It is a short walk from the minor road to Ullinish, close to Dun Beag at Struan. To reach it, leave the road via the gate at NG332382. The first few steps are boggy when wet, but you soon pick up a natural track that leads round towards the north of the small hill of Knock Ullinish. You will find the entrance to the souterrain at NG333384. It may not be immediately obvious, but the picture below should help you to identify it.

Sornaichean Coir' Fhinn
Sornaichean Coir' Fhinn

This pair of standing stones can be found near Kensaleyre, overlooking Loch Eyre at NG414525. It is said that they were erected here by Fingal and his fellow hunters to suspend a pot in which whole deer were cooked over a fire to make venison stew. Whatever their origins, they sit in a fine spot.

Access is fairly easy by a gate from the A87. If you arrive by car, parking close by is not easy to find. You'll need to walk a bit further.

Inside Tungadale Souterrain

The souterrain at Tungadale is one of the most interesting of the ancient sites on Skye. Getting to it involves a fairly long walk of around 16km for the return trip. Almost all of this is on a track that makes both the going and the navigation easy. The final short section is a little tricky though, and it is worth noting that the destination is a pretty remote spot.

Uamh an Ard Achadh

Uamh An Ard Achadh (High Pasture Cave) was discovered in 1972 by students from the University of London Speleological Society. It is located close to Torrin in a valley on the north side of Beinn an Dubhaich. This area has many caves formed by burns going underground into the Cambrian Durness Limestone. This particular cave has around 350m of accessible passages, making it one of the longest caves on Skye.

There are five more ancient sites included in the 'hiking' section of The Skye Guide. You can jump to them from here: