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Kilmartin Glen feature article

The Treasures Of Kilmartin Glen

Overflowing with prehistoric artifacts, the capital of ancient Scotland is a compelling mix
of rich history and stunning landscape.

BY JIM GILCHRIST

Walk through the narrow defile that was once the gateway to a royal stronghold and ascend the rocky knoll of Dunadd. On a flat and fissured rock you'll find a faint carving of a wild boar and, beside it, a hewn out footprint. Between around 600 and 900 A.D., those who ceremonially placed their foot in that print were inaugurated as kings of Dalriada, the ancient kingdom of the Scots which embraced Argyll and north Antrim in Ireland, before there was ever a nation known as Scotland.

Today, that king-making imprint has been overlaid with a protective coating, the real rock surface concealed beneath, but you're at liberty to place your own foot in that print and, should you feel so inclined, proclaim yourself lord of all you behold. And there is, indeed, much to behold from this hugely resonant hillock in mid-Argyll. To the south and west lies the Moine Mhor -- the Great Bog -- one of the last remaining raised peat bogs in Britain and now a nature reserve; beyond that, a low line of trees delineates the Crinan Canal, a marvel of early 19th-century engineering, while, further back, low hills rise into the lush Atlantic oakwoods of Knapdale. Turn to the north and you're looking up Kilmartin Glen, its concentration of ancient cairns, standing stones and other antiquities making it one of the most important prehistoric landscapes in Europe.

It is this often-breathtaking juxtaposition of outstanding natural beauty, ancient prehistory and 19th-century industrial heritage that makes this relatively small area of mid-Argyll so fascinating.

The full text of this article is available in the Autumn 2012 issue of Scottish Life.

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Photos: Temple Wood © Glyn Satterley / Scottish Viewpoint; grave slabs © Iain McLean / Scottish Viewpoint