The Souterraine

Map Ref: NO 2529 3738

From Coupar Angus, take the A923 road southeast for nearly 2½ miles where you reach the crossroads.  Keeping walking along the A923 for just over 300 yards, then where you come to the second field on your left, follow the line of fencing the slope until you reach an overgrown fenced section.  It’s in there!

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This is an absolutely gorgeous site, and one that I will remember exploring for a very long time. It is the ‘Pitcur Souterraine’, and it’s located in the Scottish highlands in a farmers field. If you enter ‘souterraine’ in Google, you will get results back for a French village, or a restaurant, or anything for that matter except an Iron Age underground structure.

This one is about 10 ft. below ground, and is a couple of hundred feet long. It is roofless, similar to a trench, and snakes along until it meets a ‘doorway’ at one end, then it enters an underground chamber maybe 15 yards long – but the end is terminated by a roof fall so it probably much longer.

No one really knows what they were used for, but a secure pen for cattle, and grain storage have been suggested. But personally I can’t see either of these being correct. Grain would probably get damp, and I doubt that cattle would fit along the trench-like sides and besides, probably easier to build a wall.

Paul and I arrived here on a beautiful autumn afternoon, and approached the souterraine rather gingerly. It is impossible to see it unless you are nearly on top of it. The sides are crumbly and steep, and the grass and bracken made it difficult to get down. But once we were in the trench, the cool air made exploring a joy. We scrambled along the trench floor, until we eventually came to the doorway.

Prehistoric carvings were placed in the wall next to the entrance, and we cautiously went into the darkness. It reminded me a bit of when I used to go caving, but this one was bone dry – and completely still. Scrambling to the end, we sat for awhile in silence, feeling the peace and wondering who built this, and why, so many thousands of years ago.

The site was discovered in 1878, when a plough hit a large stone and was removed to reveal an underground passage. A couple of excavations revealed several hundred finds – all sadly lost. These included a bronze pin and some beads, as well as a bowl and some Roman coins. The site was obviously completely buried, and had at least one entrance, probably filled in. There are a couple of large carvings surrounding the trench, but these may have been moved here during the excavation.

Folklore says that there was a community of ‘clever’ little people, ‘the merry elfins’, and that they lived at the site, but little else is known about the place.

Whatever the folklore and archaeology of the site, it is an amazing place to visit and well worth it if you are in the area. This is one of several souterraines in this part of Scotland, but is one of the best preserved.

Whilst we were visiting, we saw a farmer coming towards us. I was aware that we were on private land, and that we didn’t seek permission to be here. But this chap just gave us a friendly wave and carried on his way.

More information on this fascinating site can be found here.

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6 thoughts on “The Souterraine

    • Absolutely John. It was my first too, I don’t think there are any near where I live, but I may be wrong. There are a lot in Cornwall to the South, and dozens in Scotland. Just an amazing place to explore.

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