The mysteries of Tinker's Heart

For generations, it is where members of Scotland's travelling community gathered to get married, bless a baby or remember those who had died.
Tinker's Heart near Cairndow, Argyll. PIC's Heart near Cairndow, Argyll. PIC
Tinker's Heart near Cairndow, Argyll. PIC

Tinker’s Heart, a heart-shaped arrangement of 26 quartz stones, overlooks Loch Fyne and Dunderave Castle in Argyll.

It can be found in a pasture field close to the A815 junction at Cairndow, but its origins are not entirely known.

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One story suggests it was created by Traveller women to commemorate their men who had died during the 1745 Jacobite uprising.

With most of travelling culture historically shared in the oral tradition, written evidence to support this has been hard to find. But there is no reason to suggest such documents existed in the first place.

In 1928, newspaper Dunoon Observer and Argyllshire Advertiser reported Lady George Campbell describing Tinker’s Heart as a place of historical and sentimental interest.

From “time immemorial” it was where tinkers’ weddings were celebrated, she said.

Further records to support this have also been elusive to find but with traveller weddings not necessarily declared through the authorities, there is no reason why such documents would exist.

Research carried out by Historic Environment Scotland has found the site was also important to the local settled community.

It found that a christening had taken place at the site around 1850 when the minister from

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Lochgoilhead travelled to the site to carry out the service.

In 1872, John Luke and Isabella Brodie were married at Tinkers’ Heart, also by a minister from Lochgoilhead, according to the Here We Are Project, an Argyll-based community group.

In the Cairndow area of Argyll, travellers have long been regarded as an essential component of local farming community.

The monument was also used as a meeting point for the Travellers to hold meetings or strike bargains, according to research.

Ashes known to have been scattered there in recent times. While some travellers regard the site as a memorial others see it as a monument to the travelling way of life in Scotland.

It is believed the site was originally a heart-shaped piece of turf with the stones added much later.

Whoever created Tinker’s Heart remains and enigma - but its importance for the travelling community and the need to protect it was taken on board by the Scottish Government in 2015.

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Historic Scotland initially rejected monument status but reconsidered after campaigners were backed by MSPs on Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee.

Tinker’s Heart, which sits on private land, is now protected from development.

It’s mystery continues to puzzle - but its place in Scotland’s heritage has not been secured.