Shandwick cross-slab

Shandwick Pictish cross-slab

Shandwick cross-slab © David Gill

One of the dilemmas in heritage management is the display of historically important monuments in a hostile environment. Do you remove the sculpture to the safety of a museum? How do you protect it from the elements?

The Pictish cros-slab at Shandwick in Easter Ross is protected by a purpose-built ‘shelter’ that allows visitors to gain a sense of the original setting.

Historic Scotland sites: a personal top ten

Inchmahome Priory

Inchmahome Priory © David Gill

Earlier this summer we were at Crossraguel Abbey and I made the comment that the site would be in my top 10 Historic Scotland sites. I was then asked what would make it into my top 10.

I am mindful that there are some HS sites that I have not visited … but would get into a future top 10. I am thinking of Maeshowe, Jarlshof, and Calanais. I am also leaving out Edinburgh, Stirling and Urquhart Castles.

Anyway here is a very personal selection (and in no specific order, with some links to previous entries):

Kilmartin Glen. An extensive prehistoric landscape. [Kilmartin]

Antonine Wall: Rough Castle. An impressive section of this Roman frontier stretching from the Forth to the Clyde. [Rough Castle]

Crossraguel Abbey. Extensive remains with extensive views from the gatehouse. [Crossraguel Abbey]

Inchmahome Priory. Tranquil setting on the Lake of Menteith.

Iona Abbey. One of the liminal places.

Caerlaverock Castle. The triangular shape is so unusual.

Aberdour Castle and Gardens. Beautiful terracing enhance the setting. [Aberdour Castle]

Dirleton Castle and Gardens. The gardens enhance the castle.

Dumbarton Castle. A spectacular site overlooking the Clyde.

Tantallon Castle. Magnificent setting with great views of Bass Rock.

It would be interesting to know which other sites readers would include.

Ancient Monuments: Scotland



Regional guides of ancient monuments in the guardianship of the Ministry of Works started to appear in the 1930s (e.g. Wales). These in effect were a gazeteer providing visitors with information about the location and the admission arrangements. Volume VI covered Scotland (2nd ed. 1954; price 6 shillings) with introductory essays by V. Gordon Childe (The Physical Background; Prehistoric Periods; Dark Ages) and W. Douglas Simpson (The Roman Occupation; the Celtic Period; the Middle Ages). There are 24 black and white plates, and a map inserted inside the back cover.

At the back of the guide is a list of the 49 official guides for Scotland.

Walking around Kilmartin Glen


One of the most dramatic prehistoric landscapes in Britain lies in Kilmartin Glen. Sharon Webb’s In the Footsteps of Kings (Kilmartin Museum, red. ed. 2013) provides some 25 walks to explore the glen’s heritage. This includes the burial mounds, standing stones, rock art as well as Carnassarie Castle and the Crinan Canal. And those looking for beavers in nearby Knapdale also have a suggested route. This is a beautifully produced book with clear maps and colour photographs. It is an essential purchase for getting the most out of this part of Scotland.

For other prehistoric landscape walks in Britain see Stonehenge and Avebury.

Happy Birthday to West Stow!

Originally posted on The Heritage Journal:

As reported on several heritage and archaeology mailing lists recently, West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village (which we visited last year) is celebrating its 50th anniversary this coming weekend, on 25 and 26 July.

To mark the occasion, members of the public are invited to visit the site throughout the weekend free of charge – giving them the opportunity to re-engage with the unique site or to experience the site for the first time and visit the reconstructed buildings.

West Stow house 'The Workshop'

The West Stow Anglo-Saxon Trust would love to welcome anyone involved with the archaeological site during the past 50 years to join in the celebrations – original archaeological diggers, reconstructors and anyone else who helped bring the village to life. However, the Trust doesn’t have contact details for everyone involved, so please spread the word through your networks. The main event will be on Saturday 25 July, from 11am until 4pm. BBC Radio…

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Caution at Kilmartin

Kilmartin Glen, Scotland © David Gill

Kilmartin Glen, Scotland © David Gill

Kilmartin must be among the top prehistoric landscapes in Britain. Visitors are encouraged to walk between the monuments. This old ministry sign warns visitors when they are about to cross the main road from Oban to Lochgilphead.

Are there other examples of this type of Ministry sign?

Bonawe Historic Iron Furnace



The industrial complex at Bonawe on Loch Etive has a series of Ministry signs. However they incorporate the lettering from the original foundry. Are these some of the latest examples of Ministry signs? The site is now managed by Historic Scotland.