Tomorrow begins the seventh week in Scotland producing a piece of dry stone land art. While the work, itself, must be kept a mystery for a while longer, other aspects of the stay may be of interest.
Unlike the rugged upland landscape typically associated with the Highlands, the Tarbat is a low-lying peninsula of rolling ground that was, until recently by geologic time, a sandy sea bed. The rich dark soil supports extensive sheep pasturing, plus, oilseed rape, potato and barley production. Fields are outlined in dry stone walls (dry stane dykes) constructed from sandstone blocks lifted from the ancient bedrock found just under the soil in many parts of the Tarbat.
Despite its northerly position at 57° latitude (the night sky barely darkens during the month of June), the climate on the north east Scotland coast is moderate; attracting and cultivating thousands of years of human habitation. Evidence of past cultures is subtly visible in landforms and stone ruins that dot the windswept countryside. Archeological investigation into most sites reveal layers of built history.
Those that came to these rocky shores from what is now Ireland and the northern European continent made it their home and passed along the cultures that developed. The influences didn’t stop here, though. A Gaelic proverb recorded in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia proves the point – “‘S ann as a chéile a nì iad ba cartel.” (“Castles are made from scattered stones.”)