Scoping the Coast with SCAPE: Part two
Now, my memory isn't what it used to be, but 2 weeks ago members of Scotland's Coastal Archaeology and the Problem of Erosion (SCAPE) visited Caithness to carry out their coastal archaeological survey in Caithness. That means this blog may be a little hazy in parts. My time-keeping is just as bad as my memory, unfortunately, so I was actually late for the second part of the coastal survey!
That particular day, SCAPE and the hardy volunteers tackled the northern stretch of the coast, an area spanning between two castles: Freswick Castle and the little-known (even by Caithnessians) Buchollie Castle.
The day started off (I assume) exploring the area around Freswick, which contained a number of interesting structures and ruins. From the very start the group were presented with historic structures - the tank traps - remember, we were looking at all types of historical and archaeological structures. Which begs the question, how old does something have to be before you would consider it worthy of recording?
Tank traps at the lovely Freswick Beach
The gang moved on, and investigated a 16th century Dovecote (also known as a doocot), tower-like structures used to house pigeons or doves. Inside these structures contain small 'boxes' which encourage the birds to nest within. The birds were kept for their eggs and meat, so provided a valuable food source. In Scotland, many of the doocots are a 'beehive' shape, circular structures which taper off towards the top - one can't help but wonder if the builders of doocots were partly inspired by broch structures! Sadly, Freswick doocot is rather dilapidated, but it remains an intriguing structure.
Doocot images courtesy of SCAPE
The group also examined 17th century mausoleum. The mausoleum, with its beautiful circular windows, appears on earlier maps (accessible from the National Library of Scotland's website) which state that the structure is built "on the site of St Maddan's Chapel", so a much-older settlement may exist beneath this building.
Mausoleum Images courtesy of SCAPE
Looking at the earlier maps, the mausoleum appears to have been roofed, too, as late as 1906. Of course by this point I was in a mausoleum of my own making, waking up like Noseferatu blinking into the sun.
Above: 1877 Map
Below: 1906 Map
Of course both of these buildings, as interesting as they are, were somewhat out of SCAPE's remit, being too far away from the coast, and under no immediate threat from erosion, so the group didn't dwell on them for too long.
Skirting round the impressive towerhouse of Freswick Castle, SCAPE were able to further investigate a few more interesting structures - including a previously unrecorded midden (basically a pile of rubbish), a beautiful mill structure adjoining the castle, and an unknown walled structure, which seemed to have been roofed at some time - all recorded by SCAPE and their volunteers.