Landscape and Legend

Professor Elizabeth FitzPatrick & Dr Paul Naessens

Professor Elizabeth FitzPatrick holds a Royal Society of Edinburgh European Visiting Research Grant, funded by the Caledonian Research Foundation (2018-19), for her project on the Royal Forest of Arran: Landscape and Legend. The Isle of Arran project (with Dr Paul Naessens) is integral to her research for The Atlas of Finn mac Cumaill’s Places, which investigates the relationship between fíanaigecht and topographies and archaeologies of royal power on the boundaries of medieval Gaelic polities, in Ireland and parts of Scotland.

Arran Scotland Caves of Drumadoon

View looking south from the shore at Torr Righ Mòr to the dùn and standing stone on the 30m high columnar quartz-feldspar-porphyry cliff of Drumadoon (image: Liz FitzPatrick). 

Arran, in the Firth of Clyde, is an important study in addressing the hypothesis that places onto which Finn-related toponyms and tales of Finn were layered, may be indicators of pre-Norman ‘forests’ in Gaelic kingdoms, used for hunting, assembling, fighting and exploiting earth materials. Arran is first documented as a royal forest of the Stewart kings in the fifteenth century. However, allusions in thirteenth-century fíanaigecht to the natural landscape and abundant wildlife of Arran and to its role as a celebrated Lughnasa hunting ground of the warrior-hunter and border hero, Finn mac Cumaill, intimates that from an earlier period the island may have served some of the essential roles of a forestis.

Arran Scotland Aerial Photo of Fingal's Cave and Torr Righ Mor (Paul Naessens)

A section of the series of caves at the foot of Torr Righ Mòr, with the entrance to Fingal’s Cave at the centre (image: Paul Naessens).

Research visits to Arran, hosted by Archaeology at the University of Glasgow, involve investigating Finn- and hunting-related place-names, with a particular focus on the archaeology and landscape setting of Fingal’s Cave between Torr Righ Mòr and the hillfort of Drumadoon, immediately south of the Machrie Moor prehistoric complex, on the west side of the island. Fingal’s Cave, which is also known as the King’s Cave, is associated with Finn and with the Stewart king, Robert I, ‘the Bruce’. It is one of a series of caves at the base of Torr Righ Mòr. Fingal’s Cave is distinguished from the others by a series of carvings including ogham, interlace and animal motifs that are being modelled as part of the project.

Arran Scotland Inscribed Cross Photogrammetric model
Photogrammetric model (in progress)
of an inscribed cross
in the cave interior
(image: Paul Naessens).