Earlier this year, my family made it back up to Scotland for a week’s holiday. It always does me good to be back. Something in the air recharges my soul. It’s not only the air, but sites like Ardestie Earth House, which I’ve written about previously, and Dunino Den reconnect me with the country and with thousands of years of history.
Dunino Den is just behind Dunino Parish Church in the East Neuk area of Scotland. My wife and I first discovered it while geocaching in the area. We try to visit it whenever we go to Anstruther for a visit to the Anstruther Fish Bar.
The site itself has been an area for worship for many years. In the churchyard stands a worn Pictish stone that dates from roughly 800 AD. These days people leave coins atop it. If it weren’t for that, it would be hard to distinguish it from the gravestones it sits among.
The church itself is a lovely wee country kirk. There’s something about it that feels so welcoming. It also has beautiful stained glass windows. On previous visits, the kirk was open for anyone to enter but on our last visit the doors were locked. I hope that was an unfortunate occurrence, but I fear it is a sign of our times.
Heading past the graveyard behind the church, you approach the Den. The first things you see are a pothole with a small footprint-shaped hollow near it. This seems to be a place where kings were anointed in the distant past, though I can find no official evidence of this. In fact, I can find no mention of any archaeological study of the area at all though, to be honest, I haven’t searched too long and hard.
Descending a stairway hewn into the rock, you enter the main area of the Den. It is here you will find many small offerings sitting on rocks and stumps or tied to the branches. Dunino Burn bubbles along beside you and if you’re anything like me, you find yourself filled with calm as you take in the environment.
You’ll notice some carvings in the stone wall of a Celtic cross and another Celtic-style pattern. There’s no official evidence that they are as old as they seem to imply, which seems a slight shame. It’s nice to feel the continuity of spirit in the area and those artefacts add to it. The Den feels neutral and welcoming of all outlooks. I’m not all that spiritual myself, but I can’t help but feel connected to the Den on some greater level when I’m there. I can’t recommend a visit enough!
If you’re into geocaching, you’ll be pleased to know there are a handful around the Den. For more information, see the cache pages for the following: