Episode 6 - Kilmartin Museum

Listen to Episode 6.

Interviewer: Grant Stott (GS)

Interviewee: Alan steel (AS)
 
Hello and welcome back to Tour Guide Tales brought to you by VisitScotland. I'm Grant Stott, and each week I'm speaking to a different tour guide to hear the amazing rich history of Scotland through their knowledge, stories and experiences. Today, I'll be speaking to Alan Steele from Kilmartin Museum in the west of Scotland. With over 800 ancient points of interest within an area of just six miles, Kilmartin Glen is a site of great archaeological importance and gives us clues to the prehistoric civilizations that have lived there over the last 6,000 years. So, let's head back in time as we hear some incredible tour guide tales from Kilmartin Museum.
 
GS: Well, Alan, welcome to Tour Guide Tales. Thank you for spending a bit of time with us. Before we start, let's get a bit of background about you, Alan Steele, and how you came to be a tour guide for Kilmartin.
 
AS: Right, well, as you say, my name is Alan Steele. I live in the village of Kilmartin which is about eight miles out of Lochgilphead in mid Argyll. I retired from teaching three years ago, and when we moved to Kilmartin I was really interested by the history of the place and by the work of Kilmartin Museum, but it's only been since I retired that I've had the time to devote a wee bit of attention to that, and three years ago just after retiring I volunteered as a walking tour guide for the museum.
 
GS: So, tell us about the significance of Kilmartin for those who've perhaps never ventured as you have, what's the significance about Kilmartin Glen?
 
AS: There's a couple of things. It's an area of natural beauty but it's also hugely significant in terms of archaeological interest. It's an area that reflects thousands of years of history, and visitors are drawn to Kilmartin Glen from all over, both this country and beyond.
 
GS: So, when you say it goes back and there's a great deal of historical interest, what kind of timescale are you talking about?
 
AS: We're talking very much into prehistory. Kilmartin Museum covers about from nine thousands years ago up to very early history, and I work as a tour guide, and what particularly attracted me was two parts, two areas of history: one is the Neolithic stage about four thousand years BC through to Bronze Age around about two thousand years BC. So, we're talking about things that happened and monuments that exist from up to about 6 thousand years ago.
 
GS: And how long have we known about this area and its significance, when did the museum arrive, for example?
 
AS: The museum opened roughly about 20 years ago as a fairly small concern, so it's been developing over the last 20 years, and I would say particularly in recent years, last 10 years or so, things have really picked up. And it's an exciting time for the museum, it's in small premises but the museum is about to undergo a massive redevelopment project which is very close to starting. Part of the problem that the museum has is with limited space, there's so many artefacts that they can't display at the moment, and this new development will give them the space and the facilities to be able to develop it. The artefacts, I mean, although it's in Kilmartin the artefacts come from all corners of Argyll, and from most periods of prehistory and into early history, wide range of things, flint and other stone tools, bronze weapons, prehistoric pottery, pottery collection in the museum includes the three earliest beaker type pots found in Britain, so there's a huge amount of interest in these artefacts.
 
GS: So, why is this place so significant, why was it clearly so well populated at one time?
 
AS: It's fascinating because in 1980s it was recorded that there were over 350 prehistoric and historic monuments within a six-mile radius of Kilmartin village, that was back in the 80s. This number has now grown to 800 items, so there's a vast amount of prehistoric memorabilia for one of the best awards in this area. Now, when I say it's prehistoric sites they can range from cairns to standing stones to stone circles to rocks with rock art on them, so some of the sights are quite large and obvious, others are more or less hidden away but it certainly indicates that this part of Scotland was really a strong concentration of activity back in prehistoric times.
 
GS: So, just look at those numbers that you just quoted there, from 350 points of archaeological interest to 800 in, you know, not that long space of time, in the last 30 odd years, this is clearly a place that's continuing to evolve, you continue to make discoveries.
 
AS: Absolutely, yes, yes, I mean who knows what else is under the ground that hasn't been discovered yet but it's certainly evolving, but it certainly adds weight to the belief that Kilmartin Glen was, century, sorry, thousands of years ago a very important place and a very busy place.
 
GS: So, when you say it was important and it was busy, what role did it play in the community back then?
 
AS: There's, in Kilmartin Glen, in terms of what's been found, there's been little evidence in the glen itself with regard to any domestic use, it's the, indication is that Kilmartin Glen and what would take the tour guide the tour group on was largely potentially ceremonial, maybe a spiritual part too, but certainly a special place, possibly cast adrift from the domestic side, it could be that there are, there's evidence of domestic settlement under some of the ground that hasn't been excavated but there's no evidence of that yet certainly evidence beside Kilmartin Glnn of domestic music.
 
GS: So, give us an idea, Alan, when people come and you take them out on a walking tour, what do we see, try and describe the glen if you can.
 
AS: Yeah, it's a lovely glen, it was formed, basically the landscape was formed as a result of the last ice age in Scotland 10 or 12 thousand years ago. The movement of the ice has basically, with its melting, formed a large river, and we've got a very flat area along the glen with sand and gravel terraces on each side. It's a lovely spot, and unbiased of course, but it is a lovely spot just to walk along. But the main thing that we take the tours out to see are a collection of ancient monuments. We have what's called the linear cemetery, which is a line, more or less straight line, of five burial cairns which are quite significant and quite stunning. There's also one site with two stone circles and another site with a collection of significant standing stones. Now, the burial cairns that we take people to see, if we could give you a wee bit of an insight into the structures that we're talking about, the burial cairns that we're looking at are roughly about Bronze Age so about 4,000 years old. One definite fact which leads us to believe that they are individual burials, they're not mass graves. Individual burial cist or a chest, it's like a stone chest, four sides of stone, a single burial and a large flat stone, or a cap stone to seal the grave off. Now, in some of these burial cairns there's only a single burial and others there's maybe two, but the indication is that this must, these must have been the graves of someone important, someone who was held in special regard. As I say, there's no evidence of a communal burial there. Cap stone seals off the grave and then at the later date water-rolled stones were placed to make a burial mound. Now, with this been previously a flowing river, the water-rolled stones would have been locally available. And the mounds are really quite significant in terms of size, they've reduced over the years but it's believed, and there's evidence to indicate, that these mounds were roughly about up to about 30 meters wide and about four meters high, so they're fairly massive structures, you know, literally hundreds of stones and the rolled-stones may be measuring up to about a foot across so an awful lot of effort has given by ancient person to build these mounds, and there's five of them in this line, so if you come on one of our walking tours we'll take you along the linear cemetery, we'll stop at at least three of them to talk about the background to some of it, when they were excavated, give an insight into what was found within these graves.
 
GS: Because that's going to be my next question, I'm sure anyone listening to this is going to ask this, that clearly quite a lot of effort has been made to create these, as you say, to source the stones and build these huge cairns. Have we been inside, what is there, what evidence do we have of life beforehand?
 
AS: The first excavation, the first recorded excavation was in 1864 by Canon Greenwell who was a clergyman from Durham. Before that, I think, the indication is that people weren't too interested in them, that archaeology wasn't a great attraction and they obviously must have been seen, they couldn't have been hidden. But one thing which is evident is, that I mentioned, that they were 30 meters across and about 4 meters high, an awful lot of stone robbing had taken place before the excavations even started, and people were likely to have taken a lot of the stones for possibly a local road building, you know, without giving any consideration of, you know, the archaeological heritage there.
 
GS: Because I was going to say, Alan, because it strikes me that it's almost a miracle that they have survived as long as they have without anyone over the last hundreds of years not dismantling them, moving things around and destroying them.
 
AS: I would agree with you, it's quite remarkable because they have literally been there for thousands of years, and the only destruction to a certain extent has been pilfering of stones for roadbuilding in the 1800s. Yes, it's remarkable, and they still stand, there's evidence of how big they were but there are still significantly sized structures just now. But back to the excavation, when the excavations take place there were two cairns that Canon Greenwell's team excavated, and they found various things inside, there were some small standing stones you covered in one, but down to the cist - when they opened the cist in Glebe Cairn which is the first cairn in their walk, there were no human remains, you found. Now, these cists are laid into the soil and then closed off, and with the acidity of the soil over thousands of years the body has disappeared. There is a reference in Canon Greenwell's notes to finding a dark anxious matter at the bottom of the cist which we interpret as a sort of goo, which may be the only thing that's left of the soul who was placed there.
 
GS: A dark anxious matter?
AS: Dark anxious matter, yes, I've never heard that phrase until I've read it about Canon Greenwell, obviously a man with a good vocabulary.
 
GS: It strikes a picture that, it certainly does.
 
AS: It does actually, yeah, yeah, yeah. We tend to tell that the visitors, that goo would do as a sort of rough translation. But interestingly, very interestingly in that the Glebe Cairn, one find in particular which causes a lot of discussion was the remnants of a jet necklace. Now, in some of these cists there are grave goods that have been put in with the burial and others are empty, but in this one there was a remnant of a jet necklace. Now, that causes a lot of discussion because jet is not found locally in this part of the country. The nearest source for jet is Whitby in Yorkshire, which then brings me on to one of the fascinating parts, I find, about this area. Back in ancient times, back four thousand years ago people were traveling about. Jet found its way from Yorkshire to Argyll, someone must have brought it there, and as an area which causes me a great degree of fascination because people were moving about fairly wide, fairly large new distances. The jet necklace indicates that, it implies that it was a person of high standing that was potentially buried there, there were two cists there so there was a suggestion it could have been a couple, it could have been the couple who were the leader of the group, there are arguments about the hierarchical system in the ancient times but, I think, we're all convinced that in the museum and the guides, that there were obviously people who were looked on with high importance or respect or affection to warrant this special burial.
 
GS: There's also something called a crouched burial, tell us about that.
 
AS: Yes, crouched burial, the actual cist size, the size of the chest when you look at it now it isn't particularly long, so it's believed that people wouldn't have been buried in a prone position lying flat out, they would have been buried in a crouch position which means that the cist wouldn't have to have been so big. And the suggestion is that it may well have been the belief that we're crouched as we come into the world and we should be crouched as we leave this world.
 
GS: So, if we're out in the walking tour and we can see obviously, as you mentioned there, the cairn, the ones that are built with all the stones, but is there also a Clyde cairn that you can actually go in, is it, would it, would that be fair to say?
 
AS: There is, yes, it's an interesting one. It's another large south cairn, the original part of that cairn is significantly older than the other cairns in the linear cemetery. Four of the cairns in the linear cemetery are around four thousand years old, the cairn, the south cairn is actually about 1,600 years older, it goes back to Neolithic times and it's a different structure. You mentioned Clyde Cairn, basically the cist burials that are talked about, the body is sealed off, and then rolled stones put on top, and any worship or respect of the place would be outside, it would be external to this monument. The Clyde Cairn, and we've got one in Kilmartin Glen on the linear cemetery, as a cairn it was a different structure. It was built to allow the living to access the remains of the dead. There's a passage that you go into and there were four compartments in the cairn. And basically, the type of burial at that stage, and that's quite a bit, best part of two thousand years beforehand, the type of burial was someone would have passed away, the body likely to be excarnated and basically what I mean by that is the flesh and parts of the body are picked from the body, it could have been by birds if they left the body out, but once we're left with the skeleton then at least part of the skeleton, possibly skull and long bones, gathered and placed inside this tomb. And the suggestion is that at times that the people wanted to honour the particular dead person they would go into the tomb, take the bones out, and carry out whatever ceremony they wanted, and then replace the bones. Now, in tombs like that, and Clyde basically called a Clyde chambered cairn because there are other instances of them in the central west coast of Scotland, but they exist elsewhere they exist upon Orkney and Shetland as well. The main thing was that there would be more than one burial, there could be a number of sets of bones and also this idea about being able to go in and remove the bones and then replace the bones. Now, that changed and into the Bronze Age time where the cist burial and sealed burial became the norm, but what's very interesting is that this ancient tomb, the chambered cairn must have been held in high regard by the Bronze Age people because it was still in existence at the time that they built the linear cemetery, and not only that - they incorporated this older tomb into the linear cemetery by putting rolled stones on top of it to give from a distance the impression that it was the same structure, same type of structure as the later tombs, so that there's, it must have been a tomb that was held as special if they then incorporated it into their line of structured tombs.
 
GS: It's fascinating, you know, we think now as you know when someone comes to the end of their life, there's the funeral, there's the burials, there's cremation and then that's the end of it, but clearly in these times, you know, death was an ongoing thing and, you mentioned there, the bodies were left out, they were pecked by possibly birds, animals, stripped down to skeletons, and that so, I mean, this is like it's a continual care of the deceased, if you like.
 
AS: Yes, a continual care and the continual honouring of the deceased because these tombs were in existence for literally thousands of years, and the care and effort that went into constructing them is really quite significant. And one of the things that, one of the… a number of things that visitors, you know, say to us as we're walking around, they're amazed at the level of sophistication, particularly in the chambered tomb with the construction of it, that they hadn't really realized that thousands of years ago people were, you know, living with a level of sophistication and not simply primitive. But they obviously held these cairns and these tombs in high regard.
 
GS: Obviously this is the linear cemetery, as you mentioned, there's all these burial areas, the monuments as well, do you think there's a sort of spirituality attached to this area?
 
AS: Very much so. Lots of people say that to us as we take them around, I mean, it is a lovely area, it's a very calm area, it's a very peaceful walk and a peaceful setting, but an awful lot of people mention they get a spiritual feeling, they get a special feeling from being in the area. And, as well as the public walks that we do the museum also accepts private groups for their own walks, and we take some private groups along. And I've been out with a couple of private groups, you know, whose approach has been a very spiritual one, and they've taken a great degree of support from visiting the linear cemetery and the standing stones. So, yeah, it's very much spiritual as well, yeah.
 
GS: That's fascinating and, you know, and it's wonderful that you still get a sense of it, and so many people sort of mention that as they're going through the area.
 
AS: Yes, yeah, absolutely.
 
GS: Something else that's of great interest for many people is rock art, just give us an overview of what that is.
 
AS: As well as I've been a volunteer tour guide, I'm also a volunteer of a small group in Kilmartin Museum who are assisting in Scotland Rock Art project, which is carrying out surveys of known rock art throughout the country, and hopefully trying to identify other pieces of rock art. Now, rock art basically is rock carvings, an emblem, symbol or just random carving which has been etched out onto a rock by a harder rock. These can be fairly basic, most common ones are cup mark which is a smooth hollowed-out cup shape and a rock, they then get enhanced by what's known as a cup and ring mark which would be a cut mark with a ring scratched around it, but they can be very basic. Some rocks only have one or two or they can be really extensive panels which have taken some time to decorate, and we've got some excellent examples of that around the area just at the edge of Kilmartin Glen. Rock art, it's prolific around here, the reason for rock art, we don't know, there was a specialist who published a report some time ago saying 104 explanations for rock art, which I won't go through all 104 explanations…
 
GS: We might not have time in this broadcast.
 
AS: …some of the idea of, some of the plausible ideas in his mind was that they could include a map of the landscape, yeah, that'd be charted in rock, astronomical alignments or marking territory out, or marking ritual places, and you often find them, we find them at the edge of Kilmartin Glen, more prolifically so that may well be a case of this is a special place and we have decorated these stones. But no one has a definitive answer. One of the ones that's less plausible, which I quite like, is bored shepherd syndrome which, you imagine, this…
 
GS laughs.
 
AS: …this pure ancient guy out in the field watching his sheep and, you know, working away a piece of stone as he, as he said, but that's maybe frivolous.
 
GS: Thousands of years later people are scratching the head trying to figure out what they mean.
 
AS: Absolutely, yeah, maybe he was thinking about that while he was scratching it and thinking 'that will confuse the future'.
 
GS: Are some of these examples of rock art, Alan, exposed to the climate, they're still out there for everyone to see?
 
AS: Yes, absolutely, they're two excellent ones very close to his Achnabreck which was exposed as a result of a tree falling over, a large tree falling over and it exposed this huge expanse, it's an incredibly detailed large panel of rock, or Meg as well which is just about a mile or so away from Kilmartin, so there's some very elaborate ones as well as some of the ones that have been helping charts, have been less elaborate but nonetheless still important.
 
GS: Give us some explanation, if you can, about the stone circles and the standing stones which are a big part of Kilmartin Glen as well.
 
AS: The standing stones, it's Nether Largie Standing Stones, they're really quite intriguing. I mentioned I retired as a maths teacher and it's the measurements between them which intrigues me, they're in a special alignment, probably, well, not probably, it has been suggested by one or two visitors in groups that we've had that they're aligned, as I said, two sets of goalposts which, I think, is maybe a wee bit…
 
GS laughs:
 
GS: Very early, very early games of football were played at Kilmartin.
 
AS: …yes, yes, exactly, but there's this rather large standing stone right where the centre spot would be so, I suspect, it's not a goer. But there's two sets of parallel stones, being a maths teacher, the faces are parallel, that intrigues me, the fact that they are, there's also been outlier stones found which means that they've been set up in a special alignment, they haven't been placed randomly. If you draw a line, a criss-cross line from the left stone to the opposite right one and vice versa, the crossing point is where the large stone is in the middle, so it's been very carefully measured out and I don't believe it's coincidence, I don't think they've just decided 'we're going to put up these five stones and this will do', they measured them out for a particular reason. Now, there's a suggestion that it could be astronomically based, and there's a suggestion that it is potentially an ancient lunar observatory, with the belief the ancient man would have been interested in the movement, in the phases of the moon, so, again, this is a level of sophistication which comes into thinking, rather an ancient man just randomly doing things, there's thought behind their actions.
 
GS: That's absolutely fascinating, isn't it? You think, you know, hundreds thousands of years they are measuring with whatever measuring scale that they have at that point these significant stones and placing them in the exact spot, so give us an idea of the scale that we're talking about here, how big are these stones, what kind of area of ground do they cover?
 
AS: They cover about roughly about 80 to 100 yards between the two parallel sets, and the stones are at least two meters, in fact they're over two meters high, so there's significant stones. Also the stone in the centre has a number of cup marks so that's been decorated, there's also one or two cup marks and some of the, a couple of the other stones, so stone in the centre has been looked on as a special stone taking the central point, and the other four have been set up in parallel. So, it's fascinating, there's been an awful lot of time, thought and effort get into the things like that all those years ago.
 
GS: If you told me that it was about the measurements of a football pitch then I was really going to be very impressed…
 
Both laugh.
 
GS: …with that. It's clearly of interest not just for sightseers and for people who are interested in history but also for archaeologists as well, and is this part of what you do at the museum, do you continue to dig, do you continue to explore?
 
AS: Yes, I mean, certainly in the last years that's the reason that the number of items increased, the number of sites increased from 350 to 800. The museum's a working museum and it continues with excavations and surveys, your land surveys to see if they can identify other things, so it's very much a work in progress, it continues to, the museum continues to find new items.
 
GS: And how would you suggest somebody would get the absolute most out of a visit to Kilmartin Glen, obviously taking in the museum first, and then taking a walking tour or the other way around? How would you suggest someone goes about it?
 
AS: It can happen in both ways, now I've talked to visitors who have talked about the fact that they were really delighted they went to the museum first and then went on the tour ,and others who felt that they got the interest from the tour to then go in and investigate further in the museum. One of the big claims that the museum correctly has is that it's a museum where you, at one point, you can be standing looking at a beaker pot and a display and turn around and lookout the window and you can see the site where it was discovered, it's not that they've come from huge distances away, some of the artefacts that have been found in Kilmartin Glen remain in Kilmartin in foresight. I mean, my strong recommendation is naturally that if you're coming to the Glen the best way to find out about it is to go on a walking tour…
 
GS: Of course! With your good self on hand to fill in all the details.
 
Both laugh.
 
 GS: And Dunadd Hill is nearby, that's another place of significance.
 
AS: It is, indeed, yeah, absolutely, because one of the things that we do in the walking tour is as well as a good talk through all of the things that we can see in the linear cemetery and standing stones, we try to highlight some of the other areas, you know, like, as I mentioned, you know, rock art at Achnabreck and, or Meg and Dunadd Hill, Dunadd Hill is only a couple miles, a few miles away from, you know, Kilmartin, it's a hill fort dating back in the Iron Age roughly, and believed to be the capital of the Scottish Kingdom at Dalriada which was founded by people from Ireland around about 8500, and now it's believed that this would be the place where the new kings of Scotland were inaugurated, and an interesting way featured about it is there's a large rock at the top of Dunadd, and Dunadd isn't a high hill but it's nice walk up. There's a large rock with a carving of a footprint in the rock and it's believed that would be the place where the about to be inaugurated Scottish king would rest his royal foot as he was declared king
 
GS: I just hope it wasn't another bored shepherd…
 
Both laugh.
 
AS: On this occasion, I don't think so. It's a well-known, new place and it's an important place in more recent history around about the 1st century and, as I say, as a tour guide for the museum we do try to pick out other places or give other recommendations for people to go to.
 
GS: And given its location, do you think there's a connection with Ireland?
 
AS: Yes, definitely, absolutely, definitely, Dunadd, at that time, the water level would have been higher and the connection with Ireland would have been even stronger, it's not that far to Ireland from Argyll by water. It's a strong connection and the Dalriada Kingdom basically came from Ireland into Scotland. But interestingly there's also a strong argument that there was a strong connection between Kilmartin Glen in the ancient times and Ireland, I mentioned earlier about the jet necklace and people traveling from Whitby. Part of the rock art that we have is in the two stone circles that we have at Temple Wood which also forms part of our tour, and in one of the stones there's a spiral carving which is strongly linked to the same style which was found in Newgrange in Ireland, so the suggestion is that people were travelling possibly to and from, but coming from Ireland over to Scotland and that may be one of the reasons why Kilmartin Glen has so many sites and so many items of evidence of ancient civilization that it seemed to have been a very, potentially very busy place in ancient times.
 
GS: Well, clearly, it's a place that explores and tells the story of Scotland's history going back, as we've mentioned, thousands of years. I guess it's the kind of place you can come with no prior knowledge.
 
AS: Absolutely, yeah, definitely we get a whole mix of people coming that we speak to on walks, we get people who, I've had one or two archaeologists who have kept quiet about that until the end of the walk which…
 
GS laughs.
 
GS: Just to keep you on your toes!
 
AS laughs.
 
AS: I think, exactly, I thought, I thanked them for that. And we've had people who have been traveling around different parts of Britain and beyond about looking at sites like this, we've also had people who have had no experience whatsoever, they've stopped off in mid Argyll, they've found a museum and then thought it'd be interesting to go in the guided tour and they've been amazed that what they've seen, so, yeah, it attracts people from all backgrounds in terms of archaeology.
 
GS: Any interaction with a visitor that stands out?
 
AS: There's one from my early days, I think, it was one of the very early walks that I did, and it's back to the standing stones at Neither Largie, I was beginning to talk to the group who were there, and it was a group of Americans, and I was talking to them about the alignment of the standing stones, and I was just at the part I was talking to him about the rock art on the main standing stone, and I put my hand out and I touched the standing stone and this lady who was closest to me had a sharp intake of a breath and said 'be careful', and I didn't know what she meant so I asked her and said 'I'm not sure why be careful', 'oh', she says, 'you haven't seen Outlander'…
 
GS laughs.
 
AS: …and at that time, I have to admit, I hadn't seen Outlander, I didn't have a clue what she was talking about, and I said 'I don't, I still don't know what you mean', she said 'oh, it could be a time portal, you could be transported to another times'…
 
GS: If only… The Outlander, I would imagine the Outlander effect has hit Kilmartin Glen as well.
 
AS: Yes, it has, I mean, a lot of people mentioned that, I mean, since then I've had to partly embellished when I'm trying to, you know, put my hand out to touch the stone to see if there is an effect on anyody…
 
GS laughs.
 
GS: Quite right.
 
AS: But, yes, I mean, a number of people mention it, you know, it gives you the impression of Outlander but, as I say, I hadn't seen it at all at that time, I have seen several episodes since then so I've got a better understanding of how to react to that.
 
GS: Well, Alan, again, it's been another fascinating episode of Tour Guide Tales for me, your knowledge and your passion for this area, it's wonderful to hear because clearly you care and it's the reason you now live there.
 
AS: Absolutely, without doubt, I thoroughly enjoy living here, it's a beautiful part of the country, if you ever get the chance to visit, I would strongly recommend it. Could I leave you with a wee tale that we tell? We talk mainly about the ancient history or prehistory, but we also try to give people an idea about more recent history, and we talk about landowners and we talk about the clan system and, well, not all of it but some of us, share the tale about the piper of Duntrune. Now, Duntrune Castle lies in the shores of Loch Crinan, it was built around 1200 AS and it's the home of the clan chief which is now the Malcolm clan. In the 1600st there was ongoing feuds between the Campbells and the MacDonalds, which is more or less the same throughout Scotland, it seems to be a recurring tale. And in the mid-1600s the MacDonalds took the castle from the Campbells, and the MacDonald chief left a small number of men along with his papers to guard the castle because he wanted to sail off in the loch and continue with other assaults in the area. But, in his absence the Campbell clan realized the castle wasn't well fortified and they regained it, they killed every MacDonald in the castle but they spared the piper, they believed the piper was a privileged and protected individual, so he was spared but he was imprisoned. So, one day the piper was looking out over the loch and he saw his chief boat approaching, and he played a welcoming tune on his bagpipes but as the boat drew nearer to the castle, he changed the tune and he played the piper's warning. The MacDonald chief and the boat heard the warning and he turned his boat about, and he sailed the rest of the MacDonalds to safety. The Campbells realized what the piper had done and as a punishment they chopped his hands off and the poor guy bled out and died. Now, this story could be held to be a myth, however in the late 1800s the castle was being renovated and two workmen removed some flagstones in the courtyard and they found a shallow grave with a skeleton that had both hands cleanly chopped off at the wrists so maybe the story is in fact true.
 
GS: Alan, what a wonderful story to leave us with, that is fascinating, yeah, and another wonderful reason why we should come and take a visit to Kilmartin Glen sometime, I'll just make sure you're on duty. Alan, thanks very much for being our tour guide for this episode of Tour Guide Tales, absolutely fascinating stuff.
 
AS: Okay, well, thanks very much.
 
GS: Well, I hope that you'll agree that was absolutely fascinating. If you enjoyed this week's show and you haven't already, don't forget there are earlier episodes that are just as captivating, so make sure you give them a listen too. Until next week. I'm Grant Stott, and you've been listening to another Tour Guide Tales brought to you by VisitScotland.