The Isle of Arran: Clauchlands, Corriegills and the colours of the Neolithic

A fine walk on rough paths led me around Clauchland’s Point. Geologically, this landscape is well-known as the place where exposures of the finest pitchstone on Arran are found. Pitchstone takes a number of forms, with some being less suitable for knapping into stone tools. The pitchstone found here, on the east cost of Arran, is described as aphyric. They are of the highest quality, and the kind most widely used in the Neolithic.

Pitchstone which originated in the vicinity has been found at Neolithic sites across Scotland. Frustratingly, the precise locations of these quarries have yet to be determined, but I was very interested to see the kinds of places which would have been encountered by Neolithic people visiting this landscape.

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Above: Steep hillsides along the shoreline at Clauchlands have extensive exposures of aphyric pitchstone (Photo: Aaron Watson)

 

Walking along the shoreline, I was at first unsure of whether I was in the right location. I could see banded outcrops above, but these were on steep ground and difficult to reach. Then, my eyes were drawn to a remarkable slab of rock which had fallen from the cliffs. It had a mirror-like surface which was reflecting the sun.

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Above: Dazzling light reflecting from the smooth surface of a pitchstone rock fall (Photo: Aaron Watson)

 

I examined the slab, and found that its edges were naturally fracturing into a substance that looked like black glass.

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Above: The edges of the slabs had splintering into pitchstone fragments (Photo: Aaron Watson)

 

Above: Blocks of fallen rock, including pitchstone (Photo: Aaron Watson)

 

Further along the shoreline towards Corriegills, a distinctive volcanic dyke runs parallel to the shoreline for a considerable distance. The sides of this dyke are defined by steeply sloping slabs of sandstone, some of which have eroded into fantastic textures.

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Above: Look north along the dyke on the shoreline. This is a monumental in its own right, and like so many features which are associated with Neolithic sites, it has qualities of ruined architecture (Photo: Aaron Watson)

 

Above: Looking south along the dyke, with Clauchlands Point beyond (Photo: Aaron Watson)

 

Above: A 3D model of sandstone textures along the volcanic dyke near Corriegills. Please click on the button to interact (Photogrammetry: Aaron Watson)

 

Within the linear trough defined by the dyke were water-worn beach cobbles and boulders displaying the colours which I had seen so often on my journey, and in particular at the megalithic monuments: red sandstone and grey granite. Here, they were complemented by sparkling black pitchstone.

These were the colours of Neolithic Arran.

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Above: The colours of Neolithic Arran (Photos: Aaron Watson)