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High Barnakill

Hut Circle (Prehistoric)

Site Name High Barnakill

Classification Hut Circle (Prehistoric)

Alternative Name(s) High Barnakill; Barrnakill

Canmore ID 39568

Site Number NR89SW 13

NGR NR 82481 91932

NGR Description Centre

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Kilmichael Glassary
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll

Archaeology Notes

NR89SW 13 8248 9192.

NR 825 920. "The Monk's or Friar's Graveyard", a circular enclosure 35' in diameter, within a low wall lies in marshy ground E of where the track leading N to High Barrnakill (NR 8265 9220) passes the foot of a rocky ridge.

A granite slab, 3'11" high, 16" broad, and 8 1/2" thick bearing a Greek cross, incised about 1/2" deep, with expanded terminals, and an illegible inscription in Hiberno-Saxon miniscules, formerly stood upright in the wall of the enclosure although Lacaille (1925), who saw it in situ, doubted that it was in its original position. It is known as "the Monk's or Friar's Cross", and is now at St Columba's Chapel, Poltalloch (NR 816 965).

(The name "Barrnakill" (NR 819 913) - Top of the Church - probably originally referring to the summit at NR 822 917, suggests the presence of a church in the area.)

A D Lacaille 1925; M Campbell and M Sandeman 1964; M Campbell 1963.

The cross dates from the 7th century.

A C Thomas 1971.


Field Visit (30 April 1973)

The much reduced remains of a circular enclosure situated on firm ground above a marshy area at NR 8249 9192. It measures 10.4m in diameter within a stone-faced wall averaging 1.4m wide with gravel infilling. The wall splays to 1.9m wide in the SW where there is a possible entrance and at no point does it stand more than 0.4m high. This structure partially overlies a similar, larger, enclosure with walls averaging 1.0m wide.

Although called the Monk's or Friar's graveyard, it is unlikely that it has any religious associations though its purpose is not clear.

The cross is still at St Columba's Chapel.

Surveyed at 1:10,000.

Visited by OS (DWR) 30 April 1973.

Field Visit (29 March 1977)

NR 8248 9193. The remains of a circular enclosure situated on peat in a low-lying and generally marshy area. Its size and insubstantial construction are not typical of the homesteads known locally, (see NR79SE 4, 5?) and its situation is not suited to a habitation site.

The fact that it is on the surface of considerable peat growth and that its predecessor is still partially extant suggest that this feature is not prehistoric. Its age and purpose, therefore, remain uncertain. The cross from this site is still at St Columba's Chapel (see NR89NW 55). Surveyed at 1/10,000.

Visited by OS (BS) 29 March 1977.

Field Visit (March 1986)

This slab is now fixed upright in a boulder base outside the N wall of St Columba's Episcopal chapel, PoltalIoch (No.95), to which it was brought in 1928. Some years earlier Lacaille described it as standing 'loosely between two boulders of a ruined drystone wall', and this appears to have been the wall of a probable hut-circle immediately E of the track to High Barnakill, about 800m NE of Barnakill farmhouse and 500m NE of the rock-cut cross No. 14 (en.1). In the late 19th century, however, it was described as 'lying in a field' in the same area (en.2), so its original context is uncertain.

The stone is a slightly tapered slab of local epidiorite, 1.31m in visible height by 0.41m and 0.22m thick, roughly dressed on the upper part of the carved face, which is much worn. Part of the left edge has been broken off and there is a long vertical crack at the centre of that face, and others to the left. At the top there is a deeply grooved cross, 0.34m high and about 0.29m in original width, with expanded terminals which in the top and right arms appear to be forked, whereas the bottom one is flat-ended . The left terminal is affected by the broken edge, as is the beginning of the half-uncial inscription incised horizontally immediately below the cross.

The final letters of the inscription, TON, are clearly legible, being well cut and up to 40mm high, but the earlier ones are uncertain, being affected both by damage at the left edge andby surface-cracks at the centre, where there is a much-rubbedarea one letter wide. Of the four or five letters to the left of the main vertical crack, only the second, an 'R' with a horizontal stroke at mid-height of the stem, is unambiguous. Professor K H Jackson, in an unpublished paper of 1982 (en.3), noted that there may originally have been another letter at the broken left edge. He read CRNA [ ] TON and suggested the reconstruction CR (VX) NA [I] TON ('the cross of Naiton'), an unusual formula which however, occurs at Maughold (Isle of Man) and at Inismurray (Co. Sligo). Subsequent examination suggests that the letter read as a 'flat-topped' A s the upper half of an 'E' intersected by an oblique crack, and it is followed by a short vertical stroke which may have been a superscript 'I', the area adjoining the major crack being left blank. This would give NEITON, a more common form of a name used among Britons, Picts and Scots. However, the supposed 'N' in third position appears to comprise two separate vertical strokes, the second with a short horizontal stroke to the right resembling the earlier 'R'. Morever the supposed 'C' is unusually angular, and it is interpreted, in a paper of 1985 by Dr E Okasha, as the right half of a damaged 'X' representing the Greek letter 'CH' in the name 'Christ'. Dr Okasha reads [X] RI [] ETON, a commemorative formula meaning '(?in the name) of Christ. Re [i] eton’. The letter-forms discussed above suggest the amended provisional reading:

[X] RI RE [?I] TON

‘(In the name) of Christ. Re [i] ton'.

The name is an obscure one, but the alternative CR (VX) IRE [?I] TON seems less probable. The only certain letters are too simple to be dated closely, and the cross suggests a probable 7th- to 9th-century date. (Undated sketch by Revd Dr Mathew in NMRS; PSAS, 59 (1924-5), 147-8, fig .3 onp.l48; Thomas, Early Christian Archaeology, 112, 114,fig.53; Jackson, K H, 'Interim report on the Poltalloch Inscription', in NMRS; Okasha, E, in Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies, 9 (1985), 63-4, pt.7; Kist, 29 (1985),28-9, fig.on cover).

RCAHMS 1992, visited September 1988

Field Visit (March 1986)

What are probably the remains of a hut-circle of several periods of construction are situated on low-lying, poorly drained rough pasture about 800m NE of Barnakill farmstead (Lacaille 1925; Campbell and Sandeman 1964). It measures 11m in diameter within a boulder-kerbed wall which stands to a maximum height of 0.3m. On the W the wall is up to 1.8m thick, but on the E a later outer arc of walling appears to have been added, which is separated from the inner wall by a gap of up to 0.7m, giving an overall wall thickness of 3.1m; it is reasonably certain, however, that this was not originally built as a cavity-walled house. The wall is interrupted by three breaks, through two of which a modern drain has been dug, but the position of the original entrance is not certain.

Visited March 1986.

RCAHMS 1988.

Reference (2001)

Slab brought to St Columba's Episcopal Church, Poltalloch, in 1928. It stood E of the track to High Barnakill, about 500m NE of the rock-cut cross No.14. It is 1.31m in visible height by 0.41m. At the top is a grooved cross, 0.34m by 0.29m, with expanded terminals which in the top and right arms appear to be forked, whereas the bottom one is flat-ended. An inscription below the cross ends in the letters TON, but the earlier ones are affected by damage at the left edge and vertical cracks at the centre.

K H Jackson read CRNA[ ]TON, for CR(VX) NA[I]TON ('the cross of Naiton'). However, the supposed 'C' is unusually angular, and is interpreted by Dr E Okasha as a damaged 'X' representing the Greek letter Chi (cf. Eigg, W25(6)). She reads [X]RI [ ]ETON, a commemorative formula meaning '(?in the name) of Christ. [ ]eton'. (Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies, 9 (1985), 63-5). Further examination suggests the reading: [X]RI RE[?I]TON ('(In the name) of Christ. Re[i]ton'). This may be a form of the early Irish name 'Rethe' or 'Rithe' (cf. O Riain, P (ed.), Corpus Genealogiarum Sanctorum Hiberniae (1985), nos.670.87 and 711.94).

I Fisher 2001.

Field Visit (27 February 2019)

The location, classification and period of this site have been reviewed.


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