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Walks & Wonders – Castle Country (Snippet – Sept / Oct 19)

By John R. Barrett

After a fortnight of being wet on the Tap only our lightweight boots and socks are dry enough to wear. So we chose a walk that is nearby and without watery challenges. Bridgend of Livet is close to home (for us).

There is a convenient parking place beside the little Glenlivet graveyard. A quiet place – one of several where MacDonald of Duart is said to have been buried after the battle of Glenlivet. We walk on the tarmac for a short half mile eastish. The swollen Livet foams under the remaining arches of the old bridge. (It is not a packhorse bridge – though doubtless packhorses used the crossing. Why are old bridges always ‘packhorse’ bridges?). Then on to the prettily beflowered Glenlivet hall where ‘Tea in the Park’ wafts cakey temptations to passers-by. My doctor should applaud my abstemious resistance as I resist.
A tarmac track (left past the hall beside the recycling bins) bends up hill. The masonry facade of a lime kiln looms at the roadside. At Deskie farm, a big prosperous place with a double-pile house surrounded by stately sycamore and conker trees, we turn left, through a gate to follow a track through the field. Sheep scatter ahead. At the end, beyond a gate and a fence, the land drops into a nettly and tuffocky strype. We slither down the bank and go ankle deep into the boggy bottom. Rising above is a grassy platform with the greened-over earthworks. Probably this is an early castle. But nothing is known. Even the castle might be doubted. Possibly, though, it is an Anglo-Norman stronghold: probably built in the twelfth century by one of the immigrant lords who received land confiscated from Gaelic supporters of the native line of Moray kings, descended from Macbeatha, Lulach, Máelsnechtai and Óengus.
We return to the Deskie Farm turn and take the Speyside Way path northwards uphill. This narrow and little used section of the Way is overgrown with tuffocky grass and tall nettles. But the uphill walk is worthwhile. Beyond a stone wall of head-dyke the unenclosed grassy muir is dotted with ‘hut circles’. These faintly visible circular stone founds are the remains of substantial Iron-Age roundhouses, extending ten metres or fifteen metres in diameter and rising as tall conical two storied dwellings for prosperous farming families…

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