22 Edinburgh Road
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Stories of ghosts and witchcraft to chill the nerves and intrigue the imagination…
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NJ 110690 28 IV30 5UE
On minor road off B9089, 8 miles NW of Elgin, Moray
Burghead was an important iron-age seaport, and is the largest early historic fortress in Scotland. The massive ramparts and ditches which dominated the end of the promontory were clearly visible into the 19th century, but sadly most of them were destroyed during the remodelling of the town between 1805 and 1809. Radiocarbon dating suggests that the fort was built between the 4th and 6th centuries AD, and destroyed sometime in the 9th or 10th. Many fine Pictish carvings were found here, including several incised bulls, which can now be seen on display through a window in Burghead Headland Trust Museum, Elgin Museum, the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and the British Museum in London.
A fascinating underground well, dating from the Pictish period, still remains. Reached by a flight of worn steps, the well consists of a square rock-cut chamber containing a 1.3 metre deep tank surrounded by a platform, with a basin and pedestal in opposite corners. The well may have had a religious function, connected to an early Christian monastery nearby. It may also have had pagan associations: wells were often part of Celtic rituals, and perhaps involving sacrifice. There are even records of execution by drowning amongst the Picts. Remnants of ancient religious belief still survive; every January, the people of Burghead celebrate the burning of the Clavie – an echo of a pagan fire-festival – where a tar-filled barrel is set alight and carried around the village before being set up on the ramparts of the fort.
NOTE: Well: Key from visitor centre with displays on Burghead [Tel: 01343 835518] Open Apr-Sep, daily PM (www.burghead.com) or from Bothy Bistro [Tel: 01343 830006], Grant Street (9.00-16.30)
© Martin Coventry 2018