Aerial Photography and Visualisation for Built Heritage - PhD Portfolio by Kieran Baxter
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Monday, 12 March 2012

Kilmartin Glen Visit

I recently visited Kilmartin Glen in Argyll on the Scottish west coast to photograph the prehistoric monuments which line the valley for a commission for Historic Scotland. I was treated to an afternoon of good wind when I got material for most of the sites of interest - I won't post the best ones here yet as it is a commission and an ongoing project.

These standing stones at Ballymeanoch are associated with a small burial cairn visible to the right, and a circular henge which is out of frame here. Aerial photography aims to show the relationship between the monuments with the evening light bringing out the relief, necessary for the henge which is quite a subtle earth form.

Dunnadd is a defensive hill settlement which remains in ruins at the entrance to the glen. The carving of a footprint is famously considered to be the spot where ancient kings were inaugurated. The carving itself was covered by the replica seen today in 1978 in an effort to protect against erosion. It was lifted to check on the state of the original stone in 2009, as described in this article.

Kite photography here again aims tie the different components of the site together. In the frame below part of the citadel wall is visible on the summit on the left just above the inauguration stone replica. Further down the slope and out of frame are outer walls and entrance to the settlement as well as a small well. The vast flat land which leads to the sea, visible in the background, would have given the hill it's strategic advantage. Many of the surrounding hills also have forts built on them at it is thought that sightings could have been relayed between these outposts.

The advantage of settling on a site with an elevated viewpoint to get a better lay of the land seems not dissimilar to my own endeavors. The main issue I find photographing hill sites like this one is that they tend to flatten out when viewed from above, again raising the need for oblique evening or morning light. Unfortunately during the sunrise pictured above there was not a breath of wind!

This photograph of Nether Largie standing stones was taken during a full moon with a long exposure and a torch, shone in such a way to reveal the cup marks carved into the central stone. The density of ancient sites along the glen give it a surreal atmosphere. I look forward to returning to complete the project work.


  1. Great photos, indeed! The different angle shows how magnificent ancient people were. When I was in Kilmartin I was reborn.

  2. I was there in May 1986 when radioactive rain was falling. Great photo, have you returned?