Travel tidbit: Kilmartin Glen

View from the top of Dunadd hillfort in Kilmartin Glen, Scotland.

Continuing with the Scottish theme, this time we’re traveling to Kilmartin Glen. Travel tidbits is a series that shares small experiences from a longer trip. By focusing on one or two “tidbits” at a time, I can highlight some less famous, but worthwhile, attractions we’ve come across while traveling. I also hope that breaking it down this way will prove useful for other travelers who don’t need a full itinerary, but are looking for things to see and do in a specific place.

Prehistoric monuments to see in Kilmartin Glen, Scotland

Kilmartin Glen is the area surrounding the tiny village of Kilmartin, in Argyll and Bute near the west coast of Scotland. The glen is considered one of the most significant Neolithic and Bronze age sites in Scotland; over 350 ancient monuments stand within 6 miles of the village. Despite its archaeological significance, you won’t find Kilmartin Glen swarming with tourists (at least if you visit in early spring, as we did). You also likely won’t find time to visit every monument, but there’s a walking trail through the glen that takes you by a few of the larger and/or more significant ones. That’s where we went, along with a couple other stops.

Our first stop was the Kilmartin church graveyard. As you can see, it’s not prehistoric, but religious activity at the site dates back to at least the 9th century. The most interesting feature is the Kilmartin Stones, a group of  of 79 medieval graveslabs dating from the 1300s to the early 1700s – a few of them are in the bottom picture above.

The church is within the village of Kilmartin, and from there you can either drive a few minutes to a small parking lot at the opposite end of the walking trail, or walk from town to the other points of interest. From the parking lot, you’ll walk a short distance through sheep pasture to the Nether Largie standing stones (also in the sheep pasture). This is a group of 5 large prehistoric stones decorated with carvings; their use and meaning is uncertain.

One of the Nether Largie standing stones in Kilmartin Glen, Scotland


From the standing stones the trail takes a short loop past the Temple Wood stone circles and the Nether Largie cairns. The Temple Wood circles date to 3000 BCE, and were used for both ceremonies and burials. The Nether Largie cairns are 3 large burial cairns, the oldest of which is about the age of the Temple Wood circles. They’re the middle three of a row of five cairns known as the linear cemetery. The cairns are interesting because you can look inside them; apparently it’s also possible to go inside the north cairn, but we didn’t try it.

Temple Wood stone circle in Kilmartin Glen, Scotland
Temple Wood
Nether Largie cairn in Kilmartin Glen, Scotland
Nether Largie cairn


Lastly, we went to Dunadd hill fort, a few miles from Kilmartin village. The ancient Gaelic kingdom of Dál Riata built one of their most important fortresses at this site. If you take the steep (but short) climb to the top of the hill, you can look out over most of the glen – that’s the view you see in the first picture of this post. You may also meet some black sheep on the climb up, as we did. At the top of the fort you can put your foot into the stone footprint that was likely used in Dál Riata kings’ ceremonies.

Footprint at the top of Dunadd fort in Kilmartin Glen, Scotland


So, are you ready to visit Kilmartin Glen and stand in the footprint of kings?

3 Comment

  1. Scotland is one of my favorite places in the world. It’s so serene and beautiful, and there is so much amazing history. I stayed in a tiny village called Glenluce (not sure if that’s close to Kilmartin), but I adored it!

    1. Hannah says:

      I agree, I loved Scotland! I don’t think we were near Glenluce, but I feel like I need to visit again at least three times (or one long time)…a trip further north, a trip further south, and a trip to the islands. 🙂

  2. […] easy to add a visit to Seil while you’re in the area. It’s about a 40 minute drive from Kilmartin to the island and about half that from the seaside town of Oban. Once on the island, one of the […]

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