John Rae’s steps – almost!

20 September 2020


You know that Sigrid and I initially found a paved entrance to the northern side of The Hall of Clestrain. This is pictured here.

Beneath these neatly cut slabs, we were told by Ivan And Jean Craigie that a flight of steps led down to the actual ground floor level of The Hall of Clestrain. It was difficult to restrain ourselves from delving, but now we know so much more abut the earlier years of the Hall, with the discovery of the massive drain, we felt more comfortable to have a gleck, as is said in Orkney.

Here, David Reay and his youngsters Daisy and Mattie have looked below the left hand slab. A layer of dry mix sand and cement affixed this flag over the beach gravel below. It was a lovely time of expectancy for them, and The John Rae Society is grateful to them.

Here’s the sandy/gravel deposit below. Now you see it…

Now you don’t!

Below… Low and behold! Not quite John Rae’s threshold! On the right of the photo is a later threshold. The slab in front will have been placed after the 1850s perhaps when the amazing drains were installed in the ‘Moat’ I will explain this shortly. One just wonders what we will find when we excavate further.

This is a picture of the side of the ‘Moat’ which is around 16ft wide from the Hall. We do not know it’s depth yet. We believe this to be part of the first construction phase. A vast rectangular area of ground was almost certainly excavated into the natural glacial til. Accurate levels will have been made in this sunken space. The Hall will have been built within this expansive area. The banks will have made a haha effect and splendid architectural slabs with semicircular drain gullies carved within were laid around the Hall. These will have guided surface water from the Hall on the west side to drain downhill towards the sea. We have seen examples of them, but filling with watery silt before photography, we cannot show you them yet. Just believe in our eyes! This is the sheer suspense of The West Side Story…

Our excavations will have to cease at the end of September. But the tale does not end there. Site drawings and conservation will need to happen. We found carpenters’ wood remains and sawdust as fresh as it was sawn just above the primary silt in the ‘Moat’ We can probably deduce much from this. It is probably waste from a refurbishment within the Hall when the drain and other landscaping took place.

Keep a look out for further developments. It is getting V E R Y exciting!

I wish to thank our amazing team of volunteers for their stalwart work.


P.S. If you would like to sponsor my wild sea swim, where I do one stroke for every 3,647 miles that John Rae walked during his Arctic Expeditions, then do please go to our