Auchtercairn Hut Circle (2), Gairloch

Location Map (NG 80609 77081)

Oct 21 set up/ Oct 27 clear up
Oct 22-26 Dig
Oct 23rd Open day and Kinlochewe Primary school visit
Oct 24th Gairloch Primary and Sheildaig Primary school visits
Oct 24th Gairloch High School visit

See Finds and Results for initial results.


The results are back from the radiocarbon tests analysed by SUERC. Go to Radiocarbon Results page for more information.


This tumbled circle of stones, half heather-hidden,
is no accident but the ancient bones
of a home where flesh and blood lived and loved,
worked, raised children, endured and enjoyed.

Shuffle these stones, chest-high, arm-spread wide,
to shape the wall; look to the rising sun
for the entrance; echoing its warmth and light
set the smoky hearth at the heart of the house.

Find trees and then more trees to raise the roof:
fasten firm posts and rafters, ring-beams and purlins,
porch for protection; and finish with thatch thick-laid.
Stand back, admire: your roundhouse is rebuilt.

Or else try deconstruction — spade and trowel
exhuming the bones, trenching for tiny traces
of human activity: ancient tools, techniques,
the precious discards from their daily life.

Sample the soil, pick charcoal from the hearthfire;
seek occupation horizons, paving, post-holes;
measure and map each part in profile and plan.
Stand back, admire: your roundhouse is revealed.

Yet this rough ring of stones is but the bones
of a home, its flesh and blood long ago gone.
Build or dig, we can not find what's lost.
Of lives lived here three thousand years ago,
the empty shell is all that we can know.

Jeremy Fenton (Volunteer)

Sunday Oct 21st
Brilliant sunshine! Seven volunteers turned up and valiantly carted the mass of essential equipment to the site. Then the main trench was marked out and removal of peat and turf began. A late foray up the hill produced almost aerial photos of the site and a wonderful sunset vista over the sea.

Monday Oct 22nd
More brilliant sunshine—and more volunteers. Martin arrived and the trench deepened. A hearth was uncovered butting against the inner wall face—an odd place to have a fire! A trench was begun inside the nearby smaller circular structure, ready for the children to trowel. Cake arrived for teabreaks but morale was high anyway in the sunshine.

Tuesday Oct 23rd
Sunny again! Kinlochewe Primary School visited and were shown how to trowel and how to measure and draw the circular structure. The main trench continued to deepen with the efforts of numerous volunteers. Charcoal was found and cracked stone. Cake still popular.

Wed Oct 24th
Sunny but turning colder. A busy day; Sheildaig and Gairloch Primary Schools visited and enjoyed trowelling , drawing and working out what was happening in the landscape. The main trench was fully excavated revealing different stages of building and occupation, (see results report). Two post holes were identified, one with a smooth postpad stone at its base. The trench in the adjacent structure was extended by a dogleg section which included the central area. An area of small cobbles was uncovered.

Thurs Oct 25th
Bitterly cold—and just after 6 keen volunteers from Gairloch High School arrived a squall of icy rain blew in. All persevered bravely with tasks of trowelling, planetabling the smaller structure, and taking scaled photographs. They found quartz flakes and chunks as well as charcoal fragments and a concretion of iron. . There was great excitement when a tiny ‘worked’ white flake was identified amongst the quartz after sieving. On closer examination it was found to be a flake of eraser which had been cleaned by cutting with a penknife whilst the trench was being planned!
A windbreak was erected for the welcome teabreak, with cake of course. Meanwhile the main trench was planned and a section drawn which helped to elucidate the different stages of the building. Volunteers worked in the smaller structure and uncovered more quartz chunks and an area of charcoal rich soil. Then the main trench was backfilled and the equipment carted back to base by volunteers who were weary and cold, although the exertion warmed them up!

Friday Oct 26th
Bitterly cold but fine to begin with. Two volunteers continued in the smaller structure and investigated a possible hearth area. However a snowstorm cut the work short—fingers felt as though they had frostbite and cake was all gone. Work to be continued weather permitting.

Monday Oct 29th
Rain all weekend. The forecast was Monday was for sun and no rain. Rain came down by the bucketful. The flooded trench was bailed out continuously by one volunteer while two others drew a plan and tried to excavate further. Finally a section was drawn and the trench was abandoned. When the weather is better there will be another attempt to work here.