A stone marking the site of the St. Tear’s Chapel near Ackergil Tower
One of the emotional moments of the this spring’s trip to Caithness was an expedition early in the morning of my last day in Caithness. I have read and written about the pivotal battle at the Chapel of St. Tears, where the Gunn clan was slain by an overwhelming force from Clan Keith.
The morning was bright and warm, especially for Caithness. The locals were very tolerant of a large American stumbling around their fields, and eventually they helped put me in the right area.
The site of the chapel is a few yards from the shore between Ackergil and Girnigoe? castles, and much to my surprise is marked by a small memorial stone, shown above.
On this site, I could not help but think what impact the Gunns would have had on Scottish history had the fight never happened. The Gunns resisted the feudalization of Scotland, and their elimination as a force in the north removed a counterweight to the Sinclairs, the Sutherlands and the Mackays. After St. Tears, the Gunns never again held their hereditary role of arbiters and enforcers in Caithness. One could imagine what Scotland might look like had the Kildonan, Langwell and Berriedale clearances had not paved the way for so many “improvers” to push the people from the land.