Despite the awful weather forecast, we enjoyed a great day exploring hut circles to the west of Hill of Shebster, including a row of four potential hut circles that were identified in the LiDAR data. What we found was three fabulous hut circles, all totally unique, and one area that had previously housed a cattle feeder (sneakily masquerading as a putative hut circle)! We discounted the cattle feeder ring very quickly – there were in fact lots of them in that area – and focussed on the other sites.
These three hut circles were all distinct in character: one was rather ruinous but still clear on the ground, with a few stones sticking out of the banks; the second was entirely covered over by grass/turf, with absolutely no stone visible whatsoever (you had to keep your eyes peeled to spot it!); and the third was really very substantial, with numerous facing stones poking out of the banks. This was Muriel’s first day onsite with us, and these three sites demonstrated perfectly how three probably very similar structures can look very different on the ground! The hut circles were in a perfect line, 25m apart, with ephemeral traces of lynchets dividing the land between. We couldn’t help but wonder whether these three structures might have been occupied all at once by different family groups, if all three were contemporary but serving different functions (a house, an enclosure and a byre perhaps…?), or if the occupation of each of the sites might have been separated by centuries! There is no way of telling from survey, so our thoughts were no more than conjectural, but we enjoyed thinking about the hut circles’ inhabitants nonetheless.
We were very grateful to the farmer, Helen, who kindly came out and told us about a few other sites in the area. One of these was a very substantial hut circle or enclosure that had previously been recorded; Helen told us that as a child she had always referred to it as a ‘fairy ring’. The second site had discovered during ploughing a number of years ago. A series of large, displaced stone slabs were visible on the surface, and a few in situ stones as well. This was probably another hut circle, much denuded now, and not easily identifiable on the LiDAR data.
Chris has been bringing his drone out with him and taking aerial photographs of the sites we have been recording – thanks, Chris, for giving us a bird’s eye view!