It was a lovely afternoon for a walk, and nine of us set off in sunshine to the woods on Cnoc nan Each, the hill of the horses, in search of the signs of human habitation of this area. This was the first of our five heritage trails and the guides, Claire Belshaw and Sharon Bartram, did a great job of taking us back in time.
The signs of past occupation are many, once you start looking – from a dyke through the woods, to the abandoned shepherds house, to the village cleared to make way for sheep, right back to bronze age round houses overlooking an ancient water meadow. What appears at first glance like a wild and empty glen has clearly been home to people for thousands of years.
From the bronze age house we looked out over the spectacular landscape, bronzed with autumn. A rainbow rose nearby, curved over us and down again on the slope, suggesting that we were standing on buried treasure – who knows what archaeologists might find if they dug into the footings of the circular building?
Inevitably the walk raised more questions than it answered. We’ll never really know what life was like for the inhabitants of Cnoc nan Each back when the houses were lived in, or even what those houses would have really looked like. But it is fascinating to imagine a time, slightly warmer and dryer than now, the glen filled with the voices of perhaps 50 people, children, cattle, the scent of birchwood smoke, the crunch of a barley bannock ground on a stone quern, maybe a whistle or the beat of a drum.
On Saturday we’re going to be playing music from all the ages from the past, out at the Stronechrubie dig site, and experimenting with some food – more fuel for our historical imaginations. And tomorrow we’ll go to Kirkton, once again passing through the ruins of a village cleared for sheep, then into a valley of burnt mounds, another bronze age round house and a neolithic chambered cairn. Walking back in time…