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The Scottish Gael
Chapter VIII
Of the architecture of the Celts

IN the'af\ &f ca'strametation, it has been shown that the early s Celts
were by no means deficient. The state of society gave but little en-
couragement to the study of domestic architecture among these nations,
and the simplicity of their lives did not require the conveniences afford-
ed by this useful and ornamental science.

The little huts of the Gauls and the Britons were adapted to the wants
of the people, but they were of too slight a construction to leave any very
perceptible remains. The occupations of the pastoral life did not require,
the erection of permanent habitations: in perambulating a country, it is
useless to bestow much labor on a building that must be soon abandon-
ed. The freedom of a strolling life is congenial to untutored man. The
Fenns, Tacitus says, sheltered themselves with the branches of trees,
preferring this rude and cheerless state of existence to the painful occu-
oations of agriculture, of constructing houses, and the continual trouble
of defending their property.

Ccssar describes Britain as abounding in houses. Dio says the Cale-
donians lived in tents, meaning the simple booth of wattles, thatched
with rushes, of which Strabo gives a particular description. The houses
ol the Britons, says he, are of a round form, constructed of poles and
wattled work, with very high pointed roofs, the beams uniting at top.
Diodorus says, for the most part they were covered with reeds or straw,


materials of which the Carthaginians formed their tents.* We find that
the houses of the Gauls and Britons were composed of wood, and the
use of tiles and mortar being unknown, they were plastered with clay,
or a sort of red earth, which was latterly procured in England. Vitru-
vius says, that in Gaul, Spain, and Lusitania, the houses were made of
oak, shingles, and straw. f Certain reeds were used in Gaul as a cover-
ing for the houses; and, if well put on, Pliny says this sort of roof
would last for ages, and it had this valuable property besides, according
to Aristotle, that it was not easily consumed by fire. A sort of stone
was also applied to this purpose, and is at this day used under the name
of Knappstein, or pierre de liais, on the continent. It is of a white
color, and is cut as easily as timber; and being sometimes very gaudy,
the houses were called Pavonacea, from a supposed resemblance to pea-
cocks' feathers. J

Wood is a material so convenient for architectural purposes, that it
has been much employed even where necessity did not compel its adop-
tion. Throughout Britain and Ireland many considerable edifices have
been reared of timber in periods comparatively recent. In the ninth
century, the houses in the Highlands of Scotland were usually of wattle
work, and the residences of the chiefs were frequently built in the same
manner We find one Gillescop in 1228 burning many wooden castles
in Moray. Strong bulwarks were often constructed of apparently slight
materials. Gir. Cambrensis relates, that in the reign of Hen I., Ar-
nulph de Montgomery founded a castle at Pembroke, the rampart of
which was formed of osiers and turf. The chief residence of the kings
of Wales was called the White Palace, from its appearance, having
been built of wands with the bark peeled off*. A sort of wattle work, or
combination of twigs or prepared wood and earth or clay, was a common
mode of building among the Gael, both of Alhin and Erin, and was
known as " the Scotish fashion." Of this manner of building was that
church erected in 652 by Finan, Bishop of Lindisfarne, composed wholly
of sawn oak, covered with reeds.

The Scots were, indeed, the first native architects who invented the
method of squaring timber, and applying it to large and public edifices. ||
In this way the first church at lona was built, as well as numerous others,
descriptions of which dc. not exist. In 1 172, when St. Bernard describes
u stone church in Ireland as a novelty,, Henry II. was entertained at
Dublin in a long wattle house, built, we are told, after the fashion of the
country. William of Malmesbury speaks of a church in his time formed
of rods or wicker, and a MS. in the British Museum says that the reli-
gious edifices were all at first formed " ex virgatis torquatis."

Sir James Hall, in his learned and ingenious work on the origin of
gothic architecture, which he believes is derived from the osier edifices,
has shown the progress of this beautiful style, and collected many curi-

* Lib. xx. 3. t Lib. ii. 1. } Hist. Nat. Tome xii. p. 66, ^to. edit. 1782.

Bede, Eccles Hist. iii. c, 25. |j Pownall in Archseologia, ix. Hi.


ous facts, illustrative of the primitive manner of building, described by
Bede as "in more Scotorum," of which a curious specimen exists at this
day in the church of Grenestede, in the county of Essex. One thousand
oaks from the mountains formed the hall of Crothar, an Irish chief, but
none of the houses of Fingal were of wood, it is said, except Tifiormal,
the great hall, where the bards met annually to repeat their compositions.
By some accident it was burnt; and an ancient poet has left a curious
catalogue of its furniture.*

The Gael have not relinquished the ancient mode of constructing
houses. In many parts it is still common, but it is not so generally pre-
valent as formerly. Spelman, who lived in the middle of the sixteenth
century, says, wicker houses were the common habitations of the Irish.
The Rapparee, in the time of King William III., lived in a hut, formed
by means of a few branches of trees, one end being stuck in the ground,
and the other resting on a mud wall or bank. The common people had
also cabins, formed entirely of wattle work, with a coating of clay; arid
these rude hovels, which Sir W. Petty says could be built in three days,
were held of the superior from May to May. In Jurah and other islands
of the Hebudae, the cottages are still chiefly constructed of these fragile
materials, and in many parts of the main land of Scotland the same
manner is followed. It is found comfortable for dwelling houses, and is
extremely well adapted for barns, and other edifices attached to farms.

The humble dwelling of the ancient tribes was called in the British
tongue, bod, or bwth, which signifies a cottage or dwelling. In Gaelic,
bothan is a cottage, and is particularly applied to the slight buildings
raised for summer residence in the hills. These different Celtic words
show the origin of the English booth, and were applied to the simple
dwelling which also received the names of tent and hut. The transla-
tors of Ossian render this word by different terms: " The hunter shall
hear from his booth," " No hut receives me from the rain," &c.

If the residence of the Briton was on a plain, it was called Lann, from
Lagen or Logan, an inclosed plain or lying place. If on an eminence, it
was termed Dun, the origin of the Latin dunum, which terminates the
names of so many Celtic towns. Durum indicated the position to be on
the, banks of a stream. Magus is apparently from magh, a plain, and
Bona may be from boun, round.

Aiteach, a habitation, is derived from the Gaelic ait, a place, whence
the Greek t<5<, and the Latin aedes. Peillichd in Gaelic, and peillic
in Cornish, signify a hut made of earth and branches of trees. f This
term comes from feile or peile, a skin or covering, which is the origin of
the English fell, felt, and many others. The Latin domus seems derived
from domh, a dwelling.

It has been before observed that the roving life of the Celts did not
require the erection of permanent habitations. The hill forts were
known places of retreat in time of danger: on other occasions, the tribes
* Mac Pherson, note on Ossian. t Armstrong and Pryce.


formed their rude tents more for the purpose of temporary shelter than
as fixed places of residence.

This was indeed in the most early ages, but long after they began to
relish the sweets of a more civilized life, their dwellings remained rude
and unimposing. The residences of the aboriginal British chiefs are de-
scribed by Whitaker as formed of wood, the dwelling house and attend-
ant offices forming a quadrangular court; he, however, notices the ruins
of some stoae buildings discovered at Manchester and Aldborough, of a
square form, the walls being two yards broad and one deep, composed
of three layers of common paving stone, on which were laid a tier of
larger blocks, all cemented with clay.

The square form of these ruins certainly bears little indication of a
British origin. The Celts adhered to the circular plan, at least while
independent: on the subjugation of the Southern tribes they were induc-
ed to abandon their native manners, and imitate those of their conquer-
ors, and their houses, we know from Tacitus, were then built after the
models of the Romans.

Stone work is, however, no proof that ruins are not British. We are
informed by the Welsh antiquaries that Morddal Gwr Gweilgi, mason to
Ceraint ap Greidiawl, first taught the Britons to work in stone and mor-
tar;* but the chronicles of that nation stretch too far into the regions
of fable to receive unhesitating credence to all their relations. It would
appear from Henry of Huntingdon,! that stone buildings were not very
common in the Principality before the reign of Edward the First, but the
natives were certainly able to construct such edifices.

In all parts of the island where stone was abundant, it may be safely
presumed that the substructure of the primitive hut was composed of it
Small circular vestigia are to be seen on the muirs in most parts of Scot-
land that are certainly the remains of the Celtic booths. They are
sometimes in considerable numbers, and often appear within the area of
fortifications. A remarkable instance occurs in Cornwall, and is no-
ticed in the " Beauties" for that county. The diameter of the ancient
houses of the Caledonians is usually about nine yards, but some are con-
siderably larger, and the door was invariably made to face the rising sun.
In Glen Urquhart, near Lochness, these foundations are numerous, and
one is observable called the Castle, which is much larger than any of
the others. There is also one which has a double concentric wall, evi-
dently intended to form separate apartments. Many similar remains are
also to be seen in the neighborhood of Fort George, or Ardnasceur.

The current tradition is, that these are the remains of the houses of
the Picts. In Gat-lie, they are denominated Larach tai ^ Draonich, the
foundations of the houses of aDraoneach, which has led to the belief that
they were the dwellings of Druids. This arises from the similarity of the

* Roberts' Early Hist, of the Cumri. t Book iv. 126.

t These places were called Longphorts, or camps, by the Irish, from long, a field IP tit.
Or taod, i. e. tai / hod, rubbish ofa house.



term to that of Druinich, which signifies a Druid, but it is obvious that
that order was not so numerous as to require so many houses. Some
circular remains in the Isle of Sky and elsewhere, so small as only to be
sufficient for the residence of a single individual, may have indeed been
the houses of Druids,* and in Tai nan Druinish retain their pioper
name, but the true signification of Draoneach is a cultivator of the soil,
a term which the inhabitants of the Eastern parts of Scotland, where
agriculture was first practised, received from their neighbors tn the High-
lands, who continued a pastoral people.

Whether Draonaich be the origin of Cruithnaich, the name which the
Irish gave to the Picts, it is certain that the latter people were distin-
guished from their brethren of the hills whom they termed the Scuit or
Scaoit, from moving about with their flocks; and it is no less true that
cultivators of the soil are to this day called Draonaich by the Gael. It
is a proof that the inhabitants of these houses employed themselves in
cultivating the earth, and consequently erected edifices calculated for
some duration, that in scarcely any instance are they unaccompanied by
evident marks of surrounding cultivation.

Another curious group of these unobtrusive ruins is found in the pa-
rish of Dalmsek, Aberdeenshire, and points out, as there appears every
reason to believe, the site of Devana, the capital of the Taixali. A
notice of this remarkable place was communicated to the Society of
Scots Antiquaries, by the late Professor Stuart, of Marishall college,
who describes the remains as amounting to some hundred individual
circles, two or three feet high, and from twelve to twenty or thirty feet
in diameter, scattered over a space of more than a mile in extent. The
numbers of these observable in one place, evince that it must have been
a settlement or permanent residence. Some care, it may be observed,
is requisite to discritninate the site of a Celtic town, for many remains,
presenting a similar appearance, may be referred to military encamp-
ments of more recent times.

The arrangement of the huts was made apparently without much de-
sign. The Germans, according to Tacitus, placed their houses in oppo-
site rows, each having a certain clear space around it. In one of the
bardic poems we are informed that twelve were the houses in the camp
of Fingal, and twelve were the fires in each house. This seems to prove
that there was a settled order among the Gael. The disposition of the
booths or tents within the area of a fortification was probably left to a
certain individual who acted as quarter-master: such an officer in the
Highlands appears to have had a power of regulating the position of the
vassals' huts. This member of their establishment was retained by most
of the chiefs in the beginning of the last century, and he was entitled,
among other perquisites, to the hides of all animals that were killed.

The royal palace of Wales was surrounded by lesser edifices, consti-
tuting the kitchen, dormitory, chapel, granary, storehouse, bakehouse,

* Martin, p. 154.


stable, and dog house. Whoever burnt or otherwise destroyed the pal-
ace, was obliged to pay one pound and eighty pence; and the fine for
each of the other houses was a hundred and twenty pence, a total of 5:
6s: 8d. or about ,160 of our money.

In the infancy of society, natural caverns are used as hiding places
during war, and repositories for grain or other valuable articles. That
the I>ritons availed themselves of such places of retreat there can be no
reason to doubt, and that they improved the work of nature is evident
from many curious remains. Several caves in the Western Islands,
and throughout Britain, contain places for the purpose of cooking, seats
hewn in the natural rock, Sec.: and some are not only well lighted, but
are divided into various apartments.

Subterraneous abodes seem to have been invariably selected for secre-
tion by primitive nations. Josephus mentions them in Galilee, and during,
the Crusades the inhabitants retired to them for security. The Cimmerii
lived in caverns under ground, and the Germans, in winter, retreated to
caves covered with dung, where they also deposited their grain.* Even
in the time of Kirchurus, they occasionally lived in such places, and
there the gipsies of that country still pass their winters.

The singular caves at Hawthornden, near Edinburgh, have at differ-
ent periods afforded a safe and not uncomfortable retreat to the celebrat-
ed Alexander Ramsay, Dunbar, Haliburton, and others. A remarkable
cave was discovered at Auxerre in 1735; f and in Picardy, a vast exca-
vation in form of a St. Andrew's cross was laid open.J The subterra-
nean works and caverns of the Britons may be seen near Blackheath
and Crayford in Kent, at Royston, in Hertfordshire, in Essex, in Corn-
wall, near Guilford, at Nottingham, and in other parts. A curious place
of this sort was recently discovered near Grantham, hewn out of the
white stone rock, in the interior of which was found a hand mill, with
wheat and barley of a black color and apparently mixed with ashes
The great cavern in Badenoch, where nine of the principal men of the
Cumins were slain by Alexander Macpherson, commonly called the Re-
vengeful, is thirty feet square and ten high. Curious subterraneous
edifices are to be seen in many parts of Ireland, and generally within
the area of fortifications. The side walls are usually formed of large
stones pitched on end, the roof being covered with horizontal slabs. In
many cases the roof is formed by several stones, each overlapping the
other until a small space is left, which is covered by one of a larger size,
thus forming a rude sort of arch. Some of these curious structures are
of considerable dimensions, and are divided into different apartments or
cells. That some may have been places of sepulture is not improbable,
but their general use was for the deposition of the grain and other valq-

* Tacitus. Mela. t Le Beuf, Divers Ecrits, i. p. 290.

t Mem de 1'Acad. des Inscriptions, ap. Pinkerton.

A view and plan of a singular remain of this kind at Annaclough Mullach, Kils-
levy, Armagh, is given in Archceologia.


able effects of the natives, and the occasional secretion of themselves in
troublous times. It was a well known practice of the Celtic nations to
construct such places as granaries, and Varro describes them as often
very spacious and admirably adapted for the purpose.*

In the North of Scotland, numerous artificial caves are found, of a con-
struction resembling those in Ireland. They are called Eird-houses in
the Low Country, and are considered as the hiding places of the abo-
rigines. They are sometimes of considerable extent, being long and
narrow; but many, to render the size more commodious, have in subse-
quent periods been built up at the farther end. The sides are usually
built of small stones, without cement, and the roof is composed of large
thin stones resting on either side. The entrance to most of them ap-
pears now only a rude hole or opening, but some are more artificial.
Near Tongue, in Sutherland, are some where the passage is formed by
large stones inclined to and resting on each other.

The appearance of these Eird-houses on the exterior, when they are
at all discernible, is that of a slight, green eminence, and except one is
directed in his search, it would be difficult to discover them. In the
parishes of Achindoer and Kildrummy, in Aberdeenshire, they are nu-
merous. I have inspected several in these parts; but I confess I should
not have looked for so many as the late Professor Stuart says had been
discovered, not less than forty or fifty! He justly observes, that per-
haps so many in one place has never occurred. In all those which he
visited nothing was found but wood ashes and charcoal, which with an
aperture for the escape of smoke, may have been produced by recent

In the parish of Golspie, Sutherland, subterraneous buildings have
been discovered, having a small oblique entry from the surface of about
two and a half feet square, which after advancing three yards widens to
about three feet, and winds a few yards farther to an apartment of about
twelve feet square and nine high, covered above by large broad stones,
terminating in one, formed like a mill-stone, having a hole in the centre,
probably to emit smoke. From this cell a passage led to others, which
are now inacessible from the fall of the superincumbent earth.

Rude as the common habitations of the ancient tribes were, and un-
important as the science of domestic architecture was deemed, the dwell-
ings of the chief men were qf a superior construction. Adomnan men-
tions castles as the residence of the Pictish kings, arid many structured
are undoubtedly of their era. The existence of palaces of these mon-
archs at Abernethy, in Perthshire, has been noticed by Mr. Small in a
work devoted to an investigation of the subject.

The DUNS, properly so called, or those circular buildings in Scotland,
constructed without any cement, and usually exhibiting double walls, to
which this term is particularly appropriated, are objects of great antiqua-

* De Re Rust. 57.

DUNS. 261

nan interest, and admirable specimens of Celtic architecture These
edifices have been scattered over Scotland in considerable numbers, but
in most cases but very slight remains of their curious walls now exist.

It is asserted by the author of " Caledonia," that not one bears an ap-
pellation from the Pictish or British languages; * and that they are only
found in the parts where the Scandinavians settled. Buildings similar
in plan and internal arrangement, are indeed found in Orkney, Shetland,
and in parts of Scotland where these people did reside; but why may not
they have imitated the construction of the Celts? or taken possession of
buildings erected before their arrival? The learned Mr. Grant, of Cor-
imony, who devoted much attention to the examination of, these antique
structures, thus expresses himself concerning them: " That the Danes,
or Norwegians, and the Gael, were equally capable of building such ed-
ifices, there is no good reason to entertain any doubt; but that these
towers were built by the native Gael, and not by foreigners, appears to
be in no small degree probable. They are of an uncommon construction,
and different from any of those antique edifices to be seen in the islands
possessed by the Danes."

A writer who is not inclined to concede much to the Celts, and who
has certainly studied the national history with attention, however his
prejudices may have misled him, thus observes. " It has been on all oc-
casions found that there was a considerable resemblance in the manners,
usages, warlike weapons, and monumental practices of the original Brit-
ish or Celtic inhabitants, and those of their early invaders, and there
seems no ground for attempting a distinction in the structures which
they erected for the purposes of defence. "| Two quaeries may be
proposed: the Norwegians invaded and subdued other countries; do we
find them building any circular forts there? Are round towers found
any where in Europe except in the regions inhabited by Gael? If
some of the Duns bear names which appear to indicate Norwegian or
Danish founders, many others are distinguished by appellations decided-
ly Celtic. Those of Glenelg, without enumerating many others, have
the appropriate names of Caiman, Conal, Telve, and Troddan, that are
purely Gaelic, and were apparently imposed before the introduction of

This remarkable assemblage of buildings, one of which, Caistell Trod-
dan, being the most perfect, is represented in the preceding vignette, is,
or rather was, to be seen in Glenbeg, a small valley, which terminates
in Glenelg, in Inverness-shire. Within the extent of a mile, four of
these singular edifices were to be seen, displaying a mode of construc-
tion truly admirable.

The one alluded to is still upwards of thirty feet high, having, it is sup-
posed, been originally somewhat more than forty, J and has a clear area of

* Vol. i. p. 343. f Mac Culloch's Western Islands, i. 141.

t Dr. Mac Pherson found it thirty-four, arid Gordon, who visited it ahont fifty yeara
before, calls it thirty tnree fret.

262 DUNS.

thirty feet diameter.* Two walls, each four feet in thickness, are built
at four feet distance from each other. That in the interior is perpendic-
ular, the outer one being inclined so as to meet the other near the top of
the building. The interval between is divided by means of horizontal
flat stones, inserted in both walls, into galleries. It was the opinion, ac-
cording to the Rev. Donald Mac Leod, of some old men, that these pas-
sages had originally a spiral ascent, like some on the east coast, but they
seem rather to have formed distinct flats or stories, as shown in the sec-
tion (C.) At the junction of the walls, in the interior, is a row of large
flat projecting stones, and about eight feet below was another similar
range, destroyed by a military contractor.

There is no window or opening on the outside, except the door, which
communicates with a small circular stone fabric, similar to what has been
described. The windows, of which two are detached from the others,
commence about thirteen feet from the ground. Six rows of the first
are all one and a half feet wide; some are two and others three feet in

" The building of those edifices," says Mr. Grant, " must have been
attended with immense labor and difficulty. The stones with which
those structures are built, are many of them of great weight and size, and
must have been brought from parts of the country at a great distance from
the towers. No such stones are to be found in the whole extent of the
valley where the towers stand. Stones of similar size, shape, and di-
mensions, it is said, are to be found near the summits of some of the high
mountains which form one side of the valley. The great mountain of
Ben Nevis, near Fort William, is 1640 yards in height. This mountain
is not of a conical figure, terminating in a sharp point, like many others
of the highest mountains in Scotland; the summit is a plain, exhibiting
in abundance such stones as those with which the Glenelg towers are
built. All the stones are flat-sided parallelograms; their edges are right
lines, terminating in regular angles; they are capable of being closely
joined, and built in such manner as that the superincumbent stones
are made to cover both ends of the immediately subjacent stones all
round the building.

" Two of these towers still remain, though not whole or entire; the
other two have been destroyed by unhallowed hands, and taken away
to build the barracks of Bernera, standing at the bottom of the larger
valley of Glenelg. Those curious stones, laid with such admirable skill,
and collected with such wonderful industry by our remote ancestors, were
to be confounded with common stones of irregular figures, to be hidden
from the eye by cement and mortar, after the manner of more improved
ages in the arts of architecture. Thus those curious monuments of
antiquity were pulled asunder, and swept away, to gratify the mean
avarice of servants in the pay of government. Disgraceful barbarity!

* The diameter of these buildings varies from seventeen to fifteen feet.



It is to be hoped that the proprietor of those singular monuments of rude
architecture, will in future pay particular attention to the preservation of
their remains, which cannot but afford a delicious entertainment to the
eye of curiosity."

These sentiments of a zealous and learned antiquary, must be conge-
nial to every cultivated mind. It is unfortunately too often to be regretted
that the interesting remains of ancient art fall into the hands of those
who have no veneration for the works of antiquity, nor admiration of the
ingenuity of former ages. Arthur's oven, that unique and curious spe-
cimen of ancient architecture, standing near the river Carron, was rased
to the ground for the construction of a mill-pond! This venerable mon-
ument, of which Stukely and Gordon give engravings, was of a circular
form. The walls were bent over in the manner of a vault, without closing,
a considerable aperture being left in the centre, which with an arched door
and small window lighted the interior. It has been supposed a Roman
temple erected to Terminus. Horsley thinks it a sepulchre, and Pink-
erton believes it gave the hint for the erection of the Duns. It is cer-
tainly of the same character, and resembled some structures in Ireland
that will be briefly noticed.

The following sections of two of these buildings, dun Dornghil, in
Strathmore, parish of Durness, in Sutherland, (A,) and the burg of
Mousa, (B,) supposed of Norwegian construction, show no further
difference than a greater rudeness in the latter.

The stairs of these Duns were sometimes, as before observed, carried
up in a rude winding form, as in that at Mousa; but the general plan
appears to have been in the manner shown by this section.

Dun Dornghii, erroneously called Dornadilla, is represented at the

264 DUNS.

termination of this Chapter. It was, in the memory of man, about thirty
feet high, but is now much dilapidated. Not a stone of this fabric " is
moulded by a hammer, nor is there any fog or other material used to fill
up the interstices among the stones; yet the stones are most artfully laid
together, seem to exclude the air, and have been piled with great
mathematical exactness."

The following verse concerning it, is repeated by the inhabitants.

Dun Dornghil Mac Duiff

Or an taobh ri meira don strha

Sehcht mille o manir

Er an rod a racha na fir do Gholen.


The Dun of Dornghiall, son of Duff,

Built on the side of the strath next to Rea,

Seven miles from the ocean,

And in the way by which the warriors travel to Caithness.*

Castle Coul, situated upon a rock at the black water of Strathbeg,
parish of Clyne, in the same county, is another remarkable edifice of
similar construction. The walls are now only about eleven feet high;
they are thirteen and a half feet thick at the base, and leave an area of
twenty-seven feet clear. The stones are large and well joined, without
any cement, and the building inclines inwards nine inches in three feet.

In the middle of the wall, on each side of the entrance, which is three
and a half feet in .height by two and a half in width, is a small apartment,
about six feet square and five feet high, that seerns to have been intended
for a guard room. Six feet from the base of the wall are the remains of
another, which surrounded the dun. This appears to have been for the
purpose of forming, by means of large flag stones stretching to the castle
walls, an additional security from assault. In this place it is said the
cattle were kept during the night, and when the country was invaded. t
The water of the river was carried by a ditch round the castle.

In the parish of Dunse, county of Berwick, is a ruin called Edwin's
Hall, which is supposed to have been erected by the Picts, and will be
seen from the description^ to be of the same class as the Duns just
described, only exhibiting an arrangement of three walls, with a mode
of connecting the stones extremely ingenious and uncommon. Like all
similar structures, it is situated on an eminence. Cockburn Law, the
site of this fort, is 900 feet above the level of the sea. The circular
walls, seven feet in thickness, are concentric, and the clear interior area
is forty feet. The stones are chiefly a hard whinstone, and are fixed
without any cement, but are attached to each other by alternate grooves
and projections, or, in technical phrase, are dove-tailed.

In Ireland, from statements in a foregoing page, it might seem there
were anciently no buildings of stone. Such observations are to be taken

* Rev. A. Pope, in Archasologia, v.
t Henderson's View of the Agriculture of the County.
J Traveller's Guide through Scotland.


in a general sense, or with so much allowance, as will prevent the
appearance of contradiction. The subterraneous structures already
noticed were rude, but successful attempts in masonry: and although it is
believed by some of the antiquaries of that country, that the Domliag, or
stone house of St. Kianan, was the first of that kind, there is some reason
to entertain another opinion. Many curious buildings are scattered
throughout that interesting island, which, from their singularity of style,
and unknown appropriation, are in all probability of extreme antiquity.
On the Skelig isle, off the coast of Kerry, are the remains of several
cells, which are built of a circular form and arched over. No cement
whatever is used, but the stones are dove-tailed together in a very in-
genious manner. On the Island of Innis Mackellan, opposite Dunmore
Head, and at Gallerus, are similar cells; and at Fane, all in the same
county, are the ruins of another.* These buildings are perfectly imper-
vious to water, and, consequently, were well calculated to resist the
injuries of the weather for many ages.

The ROUND TOWERS, so numerous in Ireland, and which are spoken of
by Giraldus Cambrensis as of great antiquity, even when he wrote, have
attracted not merely the notice of the antiquary, but excited the admira-
tion and curiosity of all who view them. Their singularity, arid the
mystery which envelopes their origin and design, have drawn towards
them much attention, and elicited many curious speculations on their
apparent uses and probable era of construction.

It has been supposed that they served as edifices wherein to preserve
the sacred fire of the Druids. It has been also said that they were pla-
ces of residence and probation for devotees, who, by religious exercises
and privations, gradually ascended from story to story, as they mortified
the flesh and improved in holiness, secluding themselves from society,
and acquiring a high reputation for superior devotion, and perhaps su-
pernatural powers. This supposition, which may receive some counte-
nance from what Tacitus relates of the Prophetess Veleda, that she did
not permit herself to be seen, but lived in a high tower, having an attend-
ant to communicate between her and all applicants, "f and which does
not appear to have struck any inquirers, is yet entirely conjectural. The
preceding opinion is liable to the same objection, and is considered by
Mr. Higgins as completely overthrown by the fact of the crucifixion,
and other sculptures emblematical of Christianity, appearing on the
walls. This is not a just conclusion, except it is first satisfactorily as-
certained .whether these figures are part of the original work. It cer-
tainly appears a strong argument in favor of the connexion of the towers
with Christianity, that they are always in the vicinity of churches, and
that those churches are invariably without steeples. J It is to be borne

* Luckombe's Tour. At Ithaca, a building resembling these still exists, supporting
Grant's idea of the origin of the Gael. Poems and Translation's from tne Gaelic by
Mr. Donald Mac Pherson.

f Annals iv. + Archdall's Mon. Hist., 259, et seq., &c.



in mind, however, that Christian places of worship were founded on tnu
Bites of ancient temples;* and it is obvious that where one of those
lowers existed there was no necessity for building another steeple, its
chief use being to hold the bells. That the towers were appropriat-
ed for this purpose seems clear, from their name of Cloghad, or bell
tower. This appellation is decisive of their having been long so appro-
priated; but it has been asserted, without much reason, that their small
diameter rendered them unfit for belfries. The height of these tow-
ers varies from about 60 feet to 130. The walls are usually about 3
feet in thickness, and the clear diameter about 10 feetj They are
built of stones about a foot square, neatly joined with very little cement
The inside is sometimes remarkably smooth, and the masonry is so
good, that instances have occurred of their falling down and lying
entire on the ground, like a huge cannon. Those in best repair are
covered by a conical roof of stone, which has usually windows facing
the cardinal points, and the inside generally shows the corbel stones on
which the wooden floors of four to six different apartments rested. The
door is commonly a considerable distance from the ground, sometimes
15 feet or more, and this is reckoned one of their most unaccountable

Assuming that these towers were erected after the introduction of
Christianity, is it not probable that they were used as watch towers,
whence the approach of an enemy could be descried at a great distance,
and to which the ecclesiastics could speedily retreat with their relics and
other valuable articles? The elevated entrance demonstrates that it
was intended to be difficult of access, and is a well-known characteristic
of the fortifications of other nations. A subterraneous passage between
the cathedral of Cashel and its attendant tower corroborates the opinion
that it was a place of retreat. Consistent with this use would be the
position of an alarm bell, to ring on the advance of invading enemies, or
the ferocious nations who had not learned to respect the persons of the
clergy, or the rights of the church. In Scotland, and I believe also in
Wales, the steeples of old churches have crenellated battlements, and
other appearances of having been built with the prospect of having to
sustain assaults, and the pages of history inform us that the sacred edi-
fice did not always protect its inmates from the rage of a barbarous foe.
In Scotland there still exist two round towers, in every respect like those
in Ireland. They both stand in the territories of the ancient Picts; and
Abernethy, where one of them is seen, was once the capitaj of their
kingdom. The tower here is about seventy-four feet high, and has re-
cently got a covering of lead. The stones of which it is built have been
brought from the Lomond hills, five miles distant, and are carefully plac-
ed in regular courses, without much cement. The Rev. Andrew Small

* The tower at Cashel is believed to be the oldest building on the rock.

f At Kineigh, a ruined church near Inniskeen, is a tower hexagonal to a ctrtaip


notices the tradition, that the stones were handed from one person to
another, the edifice being finished in one day; to accomplish which, he
calculates that 5,500 men were sufficient. It is clear to him " as a sun-
beam," that this tower is the bury ing-place of the Pictish kings, and, on
digging, an urn, and eight or ten skulls, with other parts of the human
body, and some bones of dogs were discovered. The tower at Brechin
consists of sixty regular courses of hewn stone, of a fairer color than the
adjoining church. It is eighty-five feet high to the cornice, above which
is a low roof of stone with four windows. It communicates with the
ancient cathedral by a door, which, like that at Abernethy, is on the
north side, but this may not be original. Both are about forty-eight
feet in outward circumference, which is, with a few exceptions, larger
than those in Ireland.

The castles of Dunstaffnage, Inverlochy, and many others, are of un-
deniable antiquity. It is true that the remaining ruins do not display
very perceptibly the marks of primitive architecture. Buildings were
successively repaired and renewed, until all traces of the original work
were lost; but it would be quite unwarrantable to deny that the struct-
ures referred to in history, as standing on the sites of these buildings
never existed. Both Picts and Caledonians were able to raise fabrics
of sufficient grandeur and strength for the accommodation and security
of their princes.

The Gael do not adhere to the circular form in which their ancestors
built their houses, but construct them of an oblong that sometimes
stretches a considerable way. From the abundance of the material,
they are usually of stone, built with much nicety, and are finished with
or without the addition of mortar, according to circumstances. Turf
and stone, in alternate layers, are much used, the first being laid in
manner of herring-bone work. A sort of wall, formed of clay and straw,
mixed together, called Achenhalrig, is prevalent in Banff* and Moray-
shires. The interior arrangement is simple. Each end forms an apart-
ment, the centre being occupied by wooden fixed beds, ambries or cup-
boards, &c. These are termed in Scotish the but and ben ends, which
are the Saxon words " be out " and " be in," applied to the common and
better apartments.*

The cottages in Scotland are constructed without much trouble or
expense, and are generally the work of the owners. An old corporal in
Sutherland, who appears, from having seen a little of the world, to have
acquired a taste for something better than the common sort of houses,
being asked how he intended to build his dwelling, replied, that there
should be one good room in it, should it cost two pounds! Few houses,
except those of the chiefs and clergymen, had any upper floor, or any
ceiling. In many parts of the Highlands there is a difficulty of procur-
ing wood of sufficient length for couples or rafters. Cabers a*e rough

* The Dutch have also buten and benen.


boughs spread across the rafters; and for defence these were formerly
interwoven, and the whole roof strongly wattled.

A usual covering for the houses in Scotland is feil or divot, i. e. turf
cut tnmiy, and with much nicety, by a peculiar implement called a
flaughter spade. This, when used alone, is laid in manner of slating,
with the greatest care and the regularity of fishes' scales. The turf is
generally covered with heath, a material so cheap and lasting, that it is
surprising to find it not universally adopted. It can be used alone,
and with timber of a very ordinary description. It also takes very little
trouble to keep in repair; and, if the covering is well executed, it is
equal to slates, and will last 100 years, if the timber do not give way.
Many churches were formerly covered with heath, some within my own
memory, the services from lands being often a certain quantity of it for
this purpose. Its only disadvantage is being heavier than straw or rush-
es. Fern or rainneach is next to heath, but much inferior, and will not
last above twelve or fifteen years. In Argyle the houses appear to be
chiefly covered with it. A straw thatched roof is light, and has this ad-
vantage, that it is warmer in winter, and cooler in summer than the

The floors are commonly of clay or mortar, well hardened, but it is
often partially laid with stones. The ben end in the houses of the better
sort is sometimes floored with wood, and the ceiling is often of the same
material. The windows are small, and few in number, and glass is an
article with which they can easily dispense. The room is chiefly lighted
hy the chimney, and this, in the old-fashioned houses, where the fire
occupied the middle of the apartment, was in the roof above it. In
many Highland cottages it still retains this situation, a position which
allows the inmates to get around it, an accommodation so desirable, that
where the hearth is fixed, in accordance with the modern plan, at one
end, a sufficient space is often reserved for seats between the wall and
the fire. In the aboriginal huts the most convenient site for the fires
was the middle of the dwelling. The Welsh had not altered its place in
the time of Cambrensis, who informs us it occupied the centre of the
round hall, arid men, women, and children slept around it on rushes
spread on the floor. Chimneys were alike unknown to the ancient and
recent Gael. At the present day, they have in many cases adopted the
artificial funnel for carrying off the smoke; but a hole in the roof, above
which there is sometimes a low chimney of wood or wicker work, is
usually all that is thought necessary, and very inefficient it generally is.
It has been observed by a recent traveller in these parts, that chimneys
are a premature improvement, the cottages, while constructed on the
old plan, and the inhabitants remaining in the same state, being suffi
ciently comfortable.

The houses of the Gauls were coated inside with an earth or clay,
sometimes so varied, pure, and transparent, that it resembled painting.*

* Tacitus.



The Britons preferred plainness in the decoration of their dwellings,
white-washing the clay with chalk only.* The old Irish seem to have
ornamented their wooden buildings with rude paintings.

The furniture of the houses was more ample than might at first be
supposed. When we find the arts of carpentry, pottery, &.C., so well
understood in remote ages, it must be evident that the dwellings of the
Celts were not destitute of those articles which are subservient to do-
mestic comfort In this place, it will be sufficient to notice the general
appearance of their habitations, before proceeding to view, more partic-
ularly, their manner of living. As might be expected in those rude and
martial people, the Celts had some singular and barbarous modes of
ornamenting and furnishing their houses. They hung up the spoils of
their enemies, with the skins and other parts of animals which they had
killed, in the vestibules of their houses. The heads of the most noble
of their enemies who fell in battle were cut off, and after being embalm-
ed with oil of cedar, and other substances, they were carefully deposited
in chests, and exhibited to strangers with much ostentation. They
boasted with pride, that their fathers or themselves, although offered
much money, would not accept it, nay, refused to part with them even
for their weight in gold. The Caledonians were also accustomed to
decapitate their enemies; but whether they preserved them to ornament
their dwellings, we are not aware.

A poetical description is not indeed to be received as a faithful and
unexaggerated picture, but it may tend to prove the existence of the
arts of civilized life, among a people deemed by many little better than
savage. The chamber of Everallin, the spouse of Ossian, was " covered
with the down of birds, its doors were yellow with gold, and the side
posts were of polished bone." We have found corroborative testimony
that the ancient Gael were able to form more ingenious ornaments than
these, and an opportunity will shortly offer to investigate more particu-
larly their acquirements in various arts.

Strutt from the same.

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