History

Arran's history dates so far back that it becomes tangled up in the myths and legends of Scotland's past. We cannot relate the whole story here, but will pick out some aspects of Arran's history that have left their mark on the island.

The first people on Arran to leave visible signs of their life and times here were the Neolithic people, who lived on the island in the period between 4,500BC and 2,000BC. They were farmers, and traces of their field systems have been found on Arran. However, they have left their most distinct legacy on Arran in the form of stone circles, standing stones and cairns. We do not know what these monuments were used for, but it is safe to assume that they had some kind of ceremonial function. The first of these megalithic monuments was constructed towards the end of the Neolithic period, and more monuments were built over a long period of time - into the Bronze Age (approx. 2,000BC to 600BC).

Machrie Moor
This 4.2m high stone pillar of reddish sandstone is a remnant of Stone Circle No.3
This 4.2m high stone pillar of reddish sandstone is a remnant of Stone Circle No.3
The grandeur of some of these ancient ceremonial monuments on Arran can best be appreciated by a visit to Machrie moor.
Here, there are six stone circles all within a short distance of each other. They can be found near the end of a farm track that leads from the A 841 road. The site is sign-posted and a small car park is provided for visitors. It is easy to find but a walk of just over 1 mile is needed to reach the site. The track can be muddy and wet in places but it is fairly level and an easy walk. There is a stile about half way along this track next to the Moss Farm Road stone circle, do not confuse this circle with the main Machrie moor circles, these are all clustered together at the end of this same path.

Machrie moor was a big complex and the megaliths should not be seen as individual monuments, but as part of a larger sacred or ceremonial location.
First, during the Neolithic period, several timber circles were erected on the moor in the general area where some of the stone circles now lie. The main wooden circle consisted of about fifty tall posts with an inner ring of taller posts in a horseshoe formation. This wood circle was in use for many hundreds of years, during which time other timber circles were also created. No remains of these timber circles can be seen today. What can be seen are the stone monuments that were built to replace them.

Machrie Moor Circle 2
The stones of Circle 2 stand almost 5m high
The stones of Circle 2 stand almost 5m high
 
The stones of Machrie moor Circle 2 are the tallest standing stones on Arran. Only three stones remain in what was part of a Circle 13.7m in diameter. They stand out against the dramatic backdrop of the Arran mountains. Two smaller stone stumps are all that is left of the other stones of this Circle.

At the site are Historic Scotland information boards giving details of all the stone circles nearby. It is well worth taking the time to visit this unique complex of stone circles, all are within a short distance of each other and all but Machrie moor Circle 3 are impressive
 
Machrie Moor Circle 5
A concentric ring of stones with an inner ring made up of larger boulder stones
A concentric ring of stones with an inner ring made up of larger boulder stones.

Ancient monuments like those of Machrie moor can be found all around Arran. There are many Neolithic cairns, such those at Torlin and Clachaig, and also small stone circles, such as those at Lamlash and at Auchagallon.

Folklore
 
   It is quite common to find that ancient circles of stone have become associated with legendary figures and giants. These legendary figures were often used by later generations of people to explain the origin of the stones. At Machrie moor, the double circle - Suide Choir Fhionn or Fingal's Cauldron Seat - is named after the legendary warrior and giant Fionn MacCuill.

According to the tradition, Fionn used the stone with the hole in it in the outer circle to tether his dogs Bran and Scaolain, while he ate a meal within the inner ring. Fionn and his dogs are associated with a number of other Scottish sites. The double circle is the only that is associated with folklore, and some people have suggested that it served as the focus of the site.


This page is not yet complete - we will be putting more historical information about the Isle of Arran here in the near future.


 

The Sidhe (Faerie)

Triskell This story was given to us by a local storyteller, and recounts an incident that was meant to have taken place in Lochranza during the 50's

Once in Lochranza, a girl was trying to drove cattle to the holding pens. Try as she might the cattle strayed this way and that.
After an hour she gave up the attempt, and decided to go home.
As she was walking round the head of the Loch, she saw a man sitting on an old tumbledown piece of fence. A young man he was, and as she drew closer she could see his clothes looked a bit strange, almost from some other era.
The girl decided to avoid him, and started to give him a wide berth, it was just then, he shouted over to her, and there was something in his voice made her stop, something hypnotic, but lovely, like distant singing.
It seemed like less than a second had gone by she stood before him, still seated on the old fence,when this golden haired stranger quickly produced the most beautiful ornate comb she had ever seen, it winked and glinted in the morning sun.
He asked her "Have you lost a comb?" "Not me" she replied. Again he asked "Have you lost a comb……..?" "Not me", once more she replied.
A third time he spoke, this time with a wild, captivating, sleep making spell in his voice "HAVE YOU LOST A COMB?" "Not me" her shaking almost sobbing voice replied.
At that his face looked much softer, but still very intense, he then, in less than the blink of an eye, thrust the comb into her hand. "There," he said "Take it, keep it, it's yours now." The girl looked down at the comb. It felt as light as a feather, but strong and beautifully crafted. With the last part of her resolve, for make no mistake, this was a battle of wits, or spirit, or her very being, she refused and quickly handed it back.
At once she felt almost released from the intensity of the moment. The young man now looked quite sad. He said "Then will you do just one thing for me……comb my hair?"
The girl saw no harm in this request and took up the comb with an almost casual ease. The lovely comb glided through the strangers hair, and as she combed she noticed something strange. Sand and small seashells and starfish were falling from his hair onto the ground! Her breath froze within her, and she dropped the comb, for truly this was more than any mortal could withstand, for now all she felt was a cold fear of this man. For an instant she found she could not run, remaining rooted to the spot, but suddenly she exploded into flight, without turning to look back over her shoulder she fled for home. Bursting through the kitchen door of her parents cottage she blurted out the entire story to them. Outraged her mother and father went at once to challenge this trickster, but on their arrival back at the scene, not a sign of him was to be had, save for some old starfish, some shells and some very white sand forming a TRISKELL on the ground………
Now after a while and a bit, word got round to an old woman who also lived in Lochranza, and she went to see the girl and her parents at their cottage.
She explained that their daughter had had a very lucky escape, for the stranger was none other than The Sea God, Mannanan Mac Lir, whose realm encompasses the great sea fortresses of Emhain Abhlach (The Isle of Arran) and Inish Falga ( The Isle of Man), come to take away a mortal woman to his realm, another attempt had failed seven years previously……. and no doubt another would take place seven years hence……

 

Isle of Arran