Glen Lonan: ‘The Road of the Kings’

Glen Lonan (1)If you’re travelling from the east of Scotland towards Oban, you’ll pass through the small village of Taynuilt before reaching Connel and then following the coastal road south.

But if you have time, it’s worth taking a detour down a quiet glen that will transport you back to the era of Scotland’s great kings.

Glen Lonan (3)Glen Lonan runs southwards from Taynuilt, winding its way between low rocky hills where stands of wind-sculpted birch give way to bracken and boggy grassland.  There are a few farms and cottages, but you’re more likely to get held up by a leisurely plodding Highland cow than by another car.  An OS map reveals that the landscape is littered with ancient sites:  duns, cairns, standing stones.

Glen Lonan (2)According to folklore, this is the ‘Road of the Kings’, part of the route taken by the funeral processions of Scotland’s monarchs on their last journey to the island of Iona.   From the ninth to the eleventh centuries it is said that all of Scotland’s kings were buried on St Columba’s sacred isle – Kenneth MacAlpin, Aed, Giric, Constantine I and their many successors.  You get a sense that the landscape remembers their passing as if it were yesterday.

Skirting Loch Nell, a small inland loch, the cortege would then have turned south, possibly passing an early church at Kilmore, and heading towards Loch Feochan, a sea loch which extends its long crooked finger into the Firth of Lorn.

On the shore of Loch Feochan is a rock known as Carraig nam Marbh, ‘the Rock of the Dead’.   From this natural jetty the body of the King was placed in a royal galley and taken across the Firth of Lorn, around the southern part of Mull and finally to Iona.

Loch FeochanLoch Feochan, roughly at the point of Carraig nam Marbh, looking across to Mull

 

Sources:

  • RCAHMS
  • British Monarchy
  • ‘A Passion for Scotland’ by David R Ross
  • ‘Journeying in MacDougall Country’ by Walter MacDougall

Photos copyright © Colin & Jo Woolf

Clach na CarraigClach na Carraig

In Glen Lonan stands the enigmatic standing stone of Clach na Carraig or Diarmid’s Pillar – you can read about it in this feature on The Hazel Tree.

Comments

  1. Oh to be in Scotland now that spring is here….:)

  2. I had never heard of Glen Lonan before reading this post. I wish that bit of the country were closer to where I am, you make me yearn to hot-foot it that way. I remember your post on the wee church at Kilmore, what a beautiful place.

    • I’d never heard of it until a few years ago, it’s one of those back roads that you see signposted but rarely get to explore. I was totally enchanted by this story!

  3. Seem to remember a large cafe at Taynuilt that was invariably closed when we drove past. I liked it when we got there though, it always seemed like the beginning of the Highlands and opening of the landscape.

    • I think I know where you mean, Anny – although it should be open now! The country around there is so ‘soft’, because of the climate and the geology – everything is covered with lichen and moss. I just love it.

  4. Fantastic, I love the history of Argyll. To think it was once the spiritual, political and military centre of Scotland. These days you are lucky to see another person if you are out walking in some of these areas. How times change.

    • Thank you! What you say is very true. There is so much history buried in Argyll, and you get a real sense of it sometimes just from walking in the hills or on a quiet beach. I guess that’s when the lack of people really works in your favour!

Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: