Day 13

Wednesday 24th May - Purgavie Farm to Letham

Kirriemuir was pleasant, approached by a path through a nature reserve, although there was no sign of a ball being held any time soon, nor were young ladies fresh from Inverness in evidence. The girls in the café let me leave my bag there whilst I wandered around and took a picture or two (well, Peter Pan had to go in the album).

Farmland near Kirriemuir
Farmland near Kirriemuir                                                                             photo © Phil Lambert

Forfar was passed, the weather was passable, and then I reached Dunnichen where there is a cairn marking a nearby battle. This intrigued me. An obscure battle to commemorate I thought, I've never heard of it. Obviously it is considered quite important in these parts, as I was to learn.

Plaque on the Cairn
Picts or Scots - who won?         photo © Phil Lambert

Further on there is a really delightful footpath to Letham that skirts the purported battle site. Here there is more elaborate plaque, with a more elaborate inscription. Apparently, like most Scottish battles, it was "vital to Scotland's development as an independent nation". For a change, though, it didn't involve William Wallace, Robert the Bruce or the Young Pretender, but one King Brudei, a Pictish warrior who gave King Eggfrith's Northumbrians a pasting 1,326 years ago.

Call me a cynic if you like, but as far as I can recall from my schooldays neither England nor Scotland were even approaching nationhood at this time - that concept would have been quite alien to these people. The concepts of nationhood and freedom, as opposed to allegiance to chieftain or tribe, followed much later. So, the Battle of Nechtansmere is an interesting historic event, but hardly relevant to the modern concept of Scottish Independence.

As I looked at the battle site a local man came along walking his dogs. He spotted my pack and asked, "Are you doing the Ultimate Challenge?"

"Yes I am," I replied, "Although it's called the TGO Challenge these days."

"I've often seen you chaps coming through every year, and always wanted to have a chat - do you know Bill Robertson?"

"Not personally, but most of us have heard of him - he's on the walk this year. I think it's his 30th."

"NO! Surely not. He must be eighty by now!" (Bill is in fact 78). "He gave a talk about it a few years ago - fascinating."

So we passed a pleasant twenty minutes of chit chat, me about the Challenge, he about the local area. He told me that despite the certainty of the plaques and cairn, not every authority was convinced that this was the battle site, and put forward some technical and tactical reasons why it might well be a couple of miles away. Such learned opinions however had entirely failed to convince the local worthies, so cairn and plaque were erected anyway. And for all I know they are in the right place.

Battle site plaque
Elaborate plaque commemorating the battle                                                                    photo © Phil Lambert

Then my companion rounded up his impatient dogs and I set off to the Letham Hotel . I could tell I was getting near Arbroath now, as the hotel is run by Mr & Mrs Herring.

It rained all night. Sometimes hotels are great!

prev page    contents page    next page

Click here to return to TGO page