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The stones on Hill of Drimmie

The stones on Hill of Drimmie

I didn't get into the hills last weekend - a combination of bad weather and a busy week of work made it a struggle to summon up the energy - breaking a New Year's resolution, so this weekend I was determined to get out. Waking up this morning to the sound of rain splashing off the windowsill, I nevertheless got up, got ready, and left the flat heading north for Blairgowrie.

I parked in the water-logged car park of an old mill on the north edge of the town, put on my boots and started off up the Hill of Drimmie. I was just walking on the road, which was very quiet. The rain had stopped but it was still overcast and there was a nip in the air as I got higher up. I paused to take a photo of the view down to Blairgowrie.

I soon reached the Craighall standing stone and Craighall stone circle but decided to carry on up the hill to the Woodside stone circle since it would be a better place to stop for lunch. Woodside is a perfect description, since the circle is situated on the very edge of Drimmie Woods, bisected by a fence between a cattle field and the forest. The trees around one half of the circle have recently been cut down.

I had my lunch here sitting on a tree stump between the stones, being watched all the time by some inquisitive bullocks.

I then retraced my steps, through a cow field and back down onto the road. As I was walking down the road a car stopped beside me - a lost family looking for directions to a hotel. After about half an hour's walking I was back at the Craighall standing stone, and this time I went into the field for a closer look.

This massive stone stands some 2.5m tall, rising from a wide base to a point, with good views from its position on the edge of a valley to the lower ground below. At the base of the stone are four clear cupmarks.

Just a short distance further down the hill are the remains of the Craighall four-poster stone circle, the stones lying on a raised mound at the edge of the field.

As I set off down the final part of the hill light rain started to fall, and with perfect timing as I took my boots off and got into the car, the heavens opened.

The full version of this weblog can be found here

Hill of Drimmie Stone Circle — Images

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Glenballoch Standing Stone — Images

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Glenballoch Stone Circle — Images

<b>Glenballoch Stone Circle</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Glenballoch Stone Circle</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Glenballoch Stone Circle</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Glenballoch Stone Circle</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Glenballoch Stone Circle</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Glenballoch Stone Circle</b>Posted by BigSweetie
BigSweetie Posted by BigSweetie
20th February 2006ce

My Milton keynes adventure.

My Milton keynes adventure.

I live in Milton Keynes.
Ok, so most people would not choose to live here. I did'nt!. Anyway I am here now and it's not as bad as they say. Honest.
The land that MK was built on was covered by many villages and farms so MK council built a grid system of roads with some grid squares containing complete villages and some containing grotty council estates. There is alot of history here.
I am scouring MK for the ley lines that I feel. My conclusions so far are that there are many ley lines. The lines fall on graveyards and burial mounds. The old MK churches have lines going through their graveyards, not through the main buildings.
Anyway, today I went around Great Linford in North MK. Great place. St Andrews Church has a pair of lines leading south from the western end of the graveyard.
My apologies go to those who see some loon walking around and around their place, semi provoking a neighbourhood watch alert.
Matfink Posted by Matfink
20th February 2006ce

ancient sites in glorious sunshine

ancient sites in glorious sunshine

The sun was burning bright in a brilliant blue sky as a I left Dundee this morning, heading west towards Loch Earn. The further west I went, the more glorious the weather got, the sun picking out the individual hills on the horizon. I parked the car in a layby beside the loch, just beyond the village of St Fillans, and walked back through the village to the footbridge over the River Earn.

Over the footbridge I turned left and followed the path then the minor road along the edge of the river before turning onto the track that cuts across St Fillans golf course to Wester Dundurn. It was another Dundurn I was on my way to though, the fort on St Fillan's Hill, rising majestically above the golf course.

The fort is approached by way of a road to a sewage works, passing the ruins of St Fillan's Church. The road stops at the sewage works - thankfully there wasn't much of a smell - so then it was across a muddy field before fording a wide, shallow burn on the way to the base of the hill. A gate gives access through a fence around the hill, after which the climb starts. You can see why Dundurn was chosen as the site of a fort, as it rises steeply from the flat ground around it making it easy to defend. The slopes are littered with stones that are from the fort's walls, which have now tumbled from their original position on the flat summit.

After scrambling up between these stones and the volcanic rock that formed this naturally-defendable position I reached the wide flat summit, which struck me as being much larger than I imagined after viewing Dundurn from the road. The views from the top are absolutely breathtaking, and provide great views over three major mountain passes, showing how strategically-important the fort was.

I stopped up here for my lunch, sitting on the rocky outcrop at the west end, legs dangling, enjoying the view towards Loch Earn, the only noise being babbling of the River Earn far below. The only noise that is until some goats appeared on the lower terrace. After spending half an hour at the top of Dundurn I began the scramble back down the slopes, and retraced my steps back to the car.

I drove the short distance to Comrie and parked by the school, then walked round the corner to the United Free Church. Behind the church is a mound called Tom na Chessaig (the hill of Kessog) which is supposed to have been the site of a stone circle. It's not much to look at now, overgrown and hemmed in by the church and houses, but originally it would have been in a stunning location, close to the banks of the River Earn with views up and down Strathearn.

Then it was back to the car again, this time heading south over the River Earn and past the West Cowden Farm standing stone to the Auchingarrich Wildlife Centre. The rough track up was frozen and unforgiving, but it's well worth the effort, because at the top - as well as all kinds of animals - is the large Auchingarrich standing stone.

Back in the car I continued on the short distance to Craigneich Farm where there is a complex of fantastic ancient monuments. I parked carefully at the entrance to a field, making sure I didn't block it, but as it happened the farmer's wife came past on a quad bike driven by her grandson and said to park in the farm drive to be safe since they were about to take some hay bales in to the cows in that field. So I moved the car 100m and walked back to the first in this series of stones.

I set off up the track and through a large thicket of gorse, and emerged on the edge of a moor with a one standing stone visible in front of me, and another off to my left. I decided to keep heading up as I knew there were several others further on, and would come back to the outlier on the way back down. After a few hundred more metres traipsing through the heather, I came to another stone, Dunruchan C, a massive stone leaning at a sharp angle.

I could see the next stone, Dunruchan D, over the crest of another ridge. It turned out to be another large stone, again leaning at an angle. It's near neighbour, Dunruchan E, was smaller and more rounded. I made my way back down to Dunruchan C and cut across into the next field to go and see the outlier, Dunruchan A. It can be quite difficult to judge the height of stones from a distance with nothing much to compare them to, and this was proved to be spectacularly true the closer I got. This stone is absolutely huge, measuring 3.45m in height.

The views from up on the moor were fantastic, and as the sun started to go down behind the hills around Glen Artney it bathed the whole area in a soft light.

With the light fading, I made my way back down off the moor, past the cows that were busy eating, to the car, and drove home with a fiery sky in my mirrors.

Dundurn — Images

<b>Dundurn</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Dundurn</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Dundurn</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Dundurn</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Dundurn</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Dundurn</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Dundurn</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Dundurn</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Dundurn</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Dundurn</b>Posted by BigSweetie

Tom na Chessaig — Images

<b>Tom na Chessaig</b>Posted by BigSweetie

Dundurn — Images

<b>Dundurn</b>Posted by BigSweetie

Tom na Chessaig — Images

<b>Tom na Chessaig</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Tom na Chessaig</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Tom na Chessaig</b>Posted by BigSweetie

Auchingarrich Farm — Images

<b>Auchingarrich Farm</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Auchingarrich Farm</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Auchingarrich Farm</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Auchingarrich Farm</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Auchingarrich Farm</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Auchingarrich Farm</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Auchingarrich Farm</b>Posted by BigSweetie

Dunruchan — Images

<b>Dunruchan</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Dunruchan</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Dunruchan</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Dunruchan</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Dunruchan</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Dunruchan</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Dunruchan</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Dunruchan</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Dunruchan</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Dunruchan</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Dunruchan</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Dunruchan</b>Posted by BigSweetie<b>Dunruchan</b>Posted by BigSweetie

BigSweetie Posted by BigSweetie
6th February 2006ce

The Cosmic Egg and the Ziggurat -Scratching the Surface in Sardinia Pt3.

The Cosmic Egg and the Ziggurat -Scratching the Surface in Sardinia Pt3.

Originally posted 4th September 2005ce

I accidentally deleted this weblog and those lovely Eds managed to recover it for me. Reposted 2nd February 2006ce
Thanks Eds.

Monte Accoddi

This site was on the top of my list of Sardinian sites to visit. Who could resist a site that has been described as 'one of the most puzzling and interesting monuments in Sardinia', 'the only Ziggurat in the Mediterranean' and 'an important monument to megalithic architecture unique to the western world'? A Ziggurat is defined as a "temple tower, either stepped in tiers or spiral, symbolizing the mountain peak where the gods dwelt and where the skies met with the earth." Ziggurats are thought to represent a cosmic axis, a bridge between heaven and earth.

To reach the site I once again had to drive across the top of the island. I managed to get through Porto Torres without losing my wing mirrors or enraging the locals and found myself heading towards Sassari. You know how it is when you're driving along the road and all of a sudden you pass the place you need to be? Well this is what happened to me. The site entrance is situated on the busy 131 dual carriageway, I had managed to find the site but I then spent 20 frustrating minutes trying to back-track on myself. I don't know how many Sardinian traffic laws I broke but after a period of frenzied driving, which took me into the outskirts of Sassari, I managed to get to finally get to the site.
There is a car park and a site reception/ticket office. Once you've purchased your ticket you walk along a long path to the site. I had driven for two and a half hours to reach Monte Accoddi; my level of anticipation was so high that I almost ran down the path to the site, definitely a case of 'mad dogs and Englishmen'. After passing through a set of gates you enter the site from the south and walk along the eastern side of the monument.
The man in the ticket office told me to report to the guide, so I headed down to the portacabins at the bottom of the site. When I arrived at the cabins the guide was showing an Italian couple around a small exhibition so I waited patiently and used the time to look at the surrounding landscape to see if I could spot any distinctive landmarks. The day I visited was extremely hot and the heat haze had reduced visibility. All I can really say about the surrounding landscape is that the monument is situated on a flat fertile plain with mountains in the far distance.
The guide finished with her Italian couple so I asked her if I could look around the site. Her English was quite poor but 100% better than my Italian. She managed to explain to me that I was welcome to walk around the site as I pleased but I couldn't walk up to the platform of the monument as there was work taking place. Nay problems!
The monument itself is stunning, although the site itself could do with a good tidying-up. Basically you have a rectangular platform of 36x30m aligned north-south and faced with a dry stone wall construction using large, un-worked, limestone rocks, this is then surmounted by a smaller, three stepped, platform faced with smaller, more closely packed stones also in a dry stone construction. There is a 30m long, trapeze-shaped, ramp that leads from the south to the first stage and then a set of 14 steps leads you to the top platform. The top platform is 9-10m higher than the surrounding land. The site faces north and I am told that on a good day you can see the coast and the Golfo Dell Ainara from the top.

My first impression of the monument when looking up from the base of the ramp was "bloody 'ell, it looks like a ziggurat", not that I'd ever seen one in the flesh.
My second impression was of the asymmetry of the structure, with the ramp leading up the right hand side. On closer examination I realised that the right hand side of the top platform had been destroyed.

When I first saw a picture of Monte Accoddi, I was stunned by the sight of a large, cup marked boulder. Having stood at the foot of the monument and taken in it's size I made a beeline for the boulder.

There are two boulders, one large, one small and both cup marked. The larger boulder. is cracked, two ideas immediately came to mind, an omphalos and the cosmic egg. I sort of discarded the omphalos idea due to the stones position in relation to the monument and the fact that there were two stones, I guess you can't really have two omphalos (what's the pleural of omphalos?) in the same place. The egg idea lingered. There are a number of creation myths around the world that feature the cosmic egg, the seed from which the world was born. Another idea that came to mind was that there were two stones here, one substantially larger than the other. The larger stone is a reddish colour the smaller one whitish grey. Could they represent the sun and the moon? I love days like this.

I eventually managed to tear myself away from the boulders to have a mooch around the rest of the site. A little further along the eastern side of the monument is an amazing large flat stone known as the sacrificial table. The stone has a number of perforations around it's margins which could only have been man- made. It is these perforations that have led people to suppose that they were used to tether the living sacrifices to the stone. I don't know whether any evidence of sacrifice has been found but the stone could certainly accommodate a fairly hefty victim, man or beast.
From the stone I carried on around the margins of the monument where there is ample evidence of other buildings in the form of low walls.
The rear of the monument is a good place to have a look at how the monument was constructed with most of the stonework still intact, there is also a small ramp.

However this is also the area that lets the site down badly. It is being used as a dump for construction materials and debris. Whilst I was looking at the small exhibition in the site cabins I noticed a picture and illustration of a carved stone that had been interpreted to be a crude carving of a female figure, possibly a goddess.">

I had presumed that this stone had been carted off to Sassari Museum for safe keeping. I was deeply shocked and saddened to find this stone lurking amongst a pile of large drainage pipes and site rubbish. The stone was cracked and chipped in two places and the cracks looked recent. I later mentioned this to the site guide but she just shrugged.
The western side also has evidence of structures surrounding the main monument and to balance the sacrificial stone, on the eastern side of the ramp, is a large standing stone. Whilst looking at the stone I was struck by the strange asymmetry of the monument and wondered if the standing stone, sacrificial table and 'egg' had some form of alignment or were just placed there with little or no thought of their symmetrical relationship to the ramp and the main monument. Perhaps this trio of stones predated the monument. The standing stone itself is beautiful, it is made of limestone and has a number of large holes caused by weathering, these holes have been occupied by snails who have secreted a sort of natural concrete which partially fills many of the smaller holes.

I conclude my circumnavigation of the site back at the base of the ramp. Unfortunately I wasn't allowed to walk up the ramp to the platform but to be honest with you I didn't mind. I didn't need to climb to the top of the platform to understand that this site was extremely special and unique. There are elements of the site that suggest that the early Sardinians may have been influenced by the cultures of the near and Middle East. If you are lucky enough to visit Sardinia I would recommend that place this site on the top of your list.
The discovery sort of the broken carved stone put a bit of a damper on my visit to Monte Accoddi. Monte Accoddi is a world class archaeological site, and from what I saw, it deserves to be treated with a lot more respect that it is currently receiving. Happily this is not the case with the other Sardinian sites I had visited. They had all been well cared for and many were manned by enthusiastic and helpful guides.
fitzcoraldo Posted by fitzcoraldo
3rd February 2006ce

Sleepless in Sligo

Sleepless in Sligo

Note: This Weblog is long, and has quite a few photos, though by the time you've read the boring bits the photos are sure to appear!

(To view larger versions of the photos in this weblog, click here and use the 'Next' button to move forward)

January has been a month of stops and starts, a few megalithic visitations snatched during the odd break in bad weather. A clear schedule and weather reports for the last weekend of the month meant a day or two to make the most of. There are a quite a few concentrated areas of the country which make for great weekends, The Burren in Clare, the rings of Cork and Kerry, the assorted wonders of the Sperrins in Tyrone, the almost foreboding monuments in Donegal etc. etc. but Sligo is surely the equivalent of Disneyworld in megalithic Ireland.

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'Tomb' 9, more likely a true stone circle

Just to prove this is true, a new motorway has been built from Dublin to Mullingar, bridging almost half the journey to Carrowmore, price of admission is a €2.50 toll which I reconciled as being great value for entrance to Sligo megalitho-wonderland. Sadly, the people that build roads in Ireland are probably unaware that there are any ancient remains in Sligo, or indeed under the motorway they have just finished, but I put that to the back of my mind as I actually broke the 100km/h barrier for the first time on a trip past every backwater village from east to west Ireland.

Arriving in Carrowmore at 4pm left an hour of lovely warm sunlight to wander the motley crew of Carrowmores remains, locating the two rings Burl suggests are true free standing stone circles and spying a few more remains over the hedges. It was an un-hurried stroll, just enjoying the twilight and silent remains. A cloudless sky is unfortunate in its lack of photogenic potential so instead I fed clumps of grass to the horses in the neighboring field and waited for nightfall.

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I elected to stay in Strandhill, on the other side of Knocknarea

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and used the last of the light to find the middens (massive deposits of domestic waste and discarded shellfish shells from the Neolithic/Bronze/Iron ages, metres deep and long) but didn't find any I could be certain of. The inlet here is amazingly peaceful considering this is the Atlantic coast and as the sun set I took a few photos of the coast the Carrowmore builders depended on for their livelihoods.

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After settling in to the 'Beach house' B&B (after a bizarre episode at what turned out to be a hostel) which had a fine view of Knocknarea from the back windows of my room, I returned to Carrowmore to try some long exposure night shots of Tomb 5. Some places are pretty creepy at night but Carrowmore seems welcoming for some odd reason. I had been expecting a cool blue glowing landscape and sky with stars streaking by but soon realised the light pollution from Sligo town and nearby hamlets would result in violent red skies and photos that look like a poster for Mission to Mars. Making the best of it I used shorter exposures than anticipated and an extreme wide angle to prevent star trails as much as possible.

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Tomb 5

A quick pint of the black stuff later, I retired to bed early to make the most of the sunrise in the morning. Unfortunately I didn't notice one of the windows in the room was still open and woke at 3am with my hair almost frozen onto my head and a beach party (yes, at 3am in subzero temperatures on the west coast of Ireland. Strandhill is overrun with surfers at any time of year) in full swing. After eventually getting an hour or two sleep I got up bleary eyed at 7.20am and had a quick breakfast with the outline of Knocknarea lit by the pre-sunrise glow just a field or two away. Worth the stay over in itself.

A short drive along the silent coast brought me back to Carrowmore just as the sun was breaking the horizon over the mountains to the south east

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Tomb 5

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Tomb 4 (foreground) and 5 (mid-horizon)

After scouting the two 'Stone Circles' the evening before I knew they would be at their best in the morning and with the crunchy, frosty grass, golden sun and Knocknarea hazy but lit in the background it was enough to take my mind off the lack of sleep and the fact that my fingers were becoming useless in the biting cold.

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Site 11

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Site 9

A few clouds would have added enormously to the photos but at the time it felt perfect.
The two circles are quite large, site 11 is the largest 5 stone circle in Ireland! Although there were almost certainly more stones here it does contrast amazingly to the small 5 stoners in Cork/Kerry. Site 9 has a lovely 'fairy tree' growing in its perimeter and abundant tyre tracks all through the centre could be a hint as to why it is now made up of widely spaced but very large boulders. Some are standing upright.

After Carrowmore it was a toss-up between Magheraghanrush and Tawnatruffaun but I opted for the former as I had not been before and it looks amazing in the photos. Its not quite as straightforward as I had imagined, I thought there would be a gap in the wall that winds around the plantation but you have to clamber over the wall and locate the track that runs backwards from the direction you have come and swings into the trees. On the way I encountered a fox with a badly mangled leg dangling loose which didn't seem to hamper his mobility in any way, then a massive bird of prey with an almost pig-like grunt but by far the most exciting sight was the decayed looking court stones of this massive spectacle of a tomb appearing ahead. The notice board drawing shows how magnificent this tomb would originally have been. The stones look like crumbling biscuits, the frosty ground adding an ethereal and magical atmosphere in the shaded but generous clearing. I wandered around and took in every angle, it's a site that's very difficult to photograph so you will just have to go there yourself!

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After an hour or so hunger finally got the better of me so I made my way back to the car, very soon after tiredness started taking its toll and since the cloudless skies offered no more potential for better photographs at Tawnatruffaun or The Labby Rock, I decided to make my way home. Unable to resist the scenic drive around Lough Arrow and half decided on visiting the Labby Rock anyway, I leisurely drove down the winding roads taking in the spectacular landscape.

The usual way to visit the Labby Rock (Carrickglass) is though the Cromlech Lodge, however the gates here were locked at the road side entrance. This means you have to travel south a few hundred metres and take a left, at the brow of the hill up this lane there is a farmhouse track on the left through which you can access the dolmen by following the Sligo Historical Trail signs.

On the way home I was even more glad of the new motorway but still bore a grudge for the arrogance of the extortionate tolls and mindless planning of the powers that be….
CianMcLiam Posted by CianMcLiam
30th January 2006ce

Orkney sites in local newspapers up to 1895

Orkney sites in local newspapers up to 1895

nothing down for 1895 - I double checked

excavation ; description of ongoing excavation
excavated ; description of finished or 'undated' excavation
A mention means only the name has been mentioned, referenced means a comparison of site and/or a respective location

Balfour Castle
January 10th 1863 "The Orcadian" subterranean building to SW mentioned

May 21st 1881 "The Orcadian" cloth-wrapped skeleton found in the moss

Bookan Tomb HY21SE 10
July 16th 1861 "The Orkney Herald" excavated
May 13th 1891 "The Orkney Herald" mentioned

Broch of Borwick HY21NW 1
April 1st 1882 "The Orcadian" excavation

Broch of Breckness HY20NW 9
September 25th 1866 "The Orcadian" one-line description

Broch of Burgar, Evie HY32NE 27
January 10th 1863 "The Orcadian" silver & amber hoard

Broch of Lingro HY40NW 1
July 9th 1870 "The Orcadian" excavation
July 16th 1870 "The Orcadian" excavations continue
July 19th 1870 "The Orkney Herald" excavations continue
August 6th 1870 "The Orcadian" excavations continue
August 13th 1870 "The Orcadian" excavations continue
August 31st 1870 "The Orkney Herald" excavations continue
November 12th 1870 "The Orcadian" excavations continue
November 26th 1870 "The Orcadian" excavations continue
December 10th 1870 "The Orcadian" reindeer horn & more Roman coins found
February 15th 1871 "The Orcadian" last mention of excavations
Lingrow Chambered Tomb
July 9th 1870 "The Orcadian" to be excavated
July 16th 1870 "The Orcadian" excavation
July 19th 1870 "The Orkney Herald" excavation

Brough of Deerness HY50NE 14
April 23rd 1867 "The Orcadian" huts and vallum

Brough of Warbuster HY40NW 42
January 23rd 1878 "The Orkney Herald" excavated

Brough of Bigging Fort HY21NW 7
November 7th 1888 "The Orkney Herald" as "knowst" of Bigging referenced

Burray Chambered Tomb ND49NE 1
February 21st 1863 "The Orcadian" & February 24th 1863 "The Orkney Herald" excavation
July 20th 1889 "The Orcadian" two-line description, levelled previously

Burrian Broch (Russland) HY21NE 29
July 10th 1866 "The Orcadian" excavation

Burrian Castle, North Ronaldsay HY75SE 3
October 5th 1870 "The Orkney Herald" broch excavation

Burrian, Wasbister township, Sandwick

May 11th 1892 "The Orkney Herald" rings-inscribed stone found some time ago

?? Calf of Eday, South East Tomb HY53NE 3
December 8th 1855 "The Orcadian" wall-lined and flagstoned hole with 16/18" entrance found near edge of ancient quarry

Calf of Eday ?HY53NE 40/41
January 10th 1863 "The Orcadian" subterranean chamber mentioned

Castle, Kirkwall HY41SW 17
May 16th 1855 "The Orcadian" finds
June 27th 1855 "The Orcadian" more finds

Cavit, Wyre
April 10th 1886 "The Orcadian" cist found on farm of Cavit few yards from where another found 40~50 years previous

Coliness, Sanday HY64SE 21
January 10th 1863 "The Orcadian" gold ring from graves mentioned

Comet Stone HY21SE 13
May 11th 1892 "The Orkney Herald" Ulie Stane 'oil stone'

Curquoy Chambered Tomb, Westray HY44NW 17
March 1st 1860 "The Orcadian" excavated
January 10th 1863 "The Orcadian" quartzite ball mentioned

Cuween Hill HY31SE 1
June 20th 1888 "The Orkney Herald" Picts House & chambered tomb excavation
June 23rd 1888 "The Orcadian" Picts House & chambered tomb excavation

Deerness, Mainland HY50NE 10
June 11th 1861 "The Orkney Herald" barrow & barrow with 11 cremation cists excavated on hill

Dingieshowe HY50SW 7
August 11th 1860 "The Orcadian" excavated
January 10th 1863 "The Orcadian" mentioned

Ditch Park Moss HY40NE 18
June 30th 1886 "The Orkney Herald" bronze dagger ("sword") from Tankerness

Dounby HY22SE 12
November 4th 1891 "The Orkney Herald" in 1840 grave with gneiss mallet-head

Dyke o'Sean HY21SE 68
May 11th 1892 "The Orkney Herald" Seean [sic] former causeway

East Broch of Burray ND49NE 2
July 7th 1855 "The Orcadian" comb and cup found
August 4th 1855 "The Orcadian" excavation
November 30th 1861 "The Orcadian" compared to Burroughston
January 10th 1863 "The Orcadian" mentioned
February 21st 1863 "The Orcadian" referenced
November 3rd 1886 "The Orkney Herald" described
July 20th 1889 "The Orcadian" the Hillock described

Eday Manse Chambered Tomb HY53SE 7
April 20th 1861 "The Orcadian" carved stone donated to Scottish Antiquarian Museum
August 3rd 1869 "The Orkney Herald" mentioned

Established Church Manse, South Ronaldsay
August 21st 1866 "The Orcadian" skeleton found under mound when digging office houses foundations

Eves Howe Broch HY50NW 14
May 30th 1883 "The Orkney Herald" excavated

Flaws, Harray
November 11th 1891 "The Orkney Herald" double cist with urn on natural mound excavated July 1890

? Fresh Knowe HY21SE 12
May 11th 1892 "The Orkney Herald" Farrer's Knowe mentioned

Galt Ness, Shapinsay HY42SE 3
November 30th 1861 "The Orcadian" sub-peat dykes radiating from "Wart"

Garth, Harray ? near HY31NW 56
June 23rd 1894 "The Orcadian" urn & 2 ?cists W of Garth house

Garth, Nettleter, Harray
November 8th 1893 "The Orkney Herald" underground structure excavated
July 12th 1894 "The Orkney Herald" clay contents analysed

Gornside, Cross & Burness ?HY64SE 29
August 23rd 1858 "The Orcadian" 1/2 cinerary urns discovered several years previously

Grain earthhouse HY41SW 19
August 3rd 1857 "The Orcadian" excavation

Grind, Tankerness ?HY50NW 20(burnt mound)
February 15th 1882 "The Orkney Herald" cist found in mound 300yds due east

Gueth, Knarston, Harray
November 16th 1891 "The Orkney Herald" cist with bone found in levelling mound

Gyron Hill HY21NW 9 & 10
March 14th 1885 "The Orcadian" excavated

Hamarscoo HY30NE 16
March 26th 1887 "The Orcadian" 2 cists found on land of Hemiscue [sic] belonging to Oback a short time before [etymology crag/stones projecting from hill]

Handest, Harray
November 4th 1891 "The Orkney Herald" cinerary urn & cinerary cist found, both w/o covers, ~ 300yds SE of Dounby School {same school as now?]

Heathery Howes HY40NE 8
April 10th 1886 "The Orcadian" bronze dagger ("spear head") from Toab
June 15th 1887 "The Orkney Herald" "spearhead" from Gill of Garth mentioned

Highbreck, Orphir HY30NE 17
February 11th 1891 "The Orkney Herald" short cist with burnt bones found then urn 10 paces away, located ENE [sic] of Highbreck & NW of Smoogro ~120yds [sic] from road
Highbreck 'fort', Orphir
February 11th 1891 "The Orkney Herald" circular building between HY30NE 17 and main road, finds previous year

Hillhead, St.Ola HY40NW 12
April 15th 1882 "The Orcadian" stone ball described

? Hill of Cruaday HY22SW 6
May 11th 1892 "The Orkney Herald" gifts deposited at Moadie's/Moodie's Pillar

The Hillock, Firth HY31SE 4
July 14th 1883 "The Orcadian" location

Hillock of Burroughston HY52SW 4
August 3rd 1861 "The Orcadian" & November 30th 1861 "The Orcadian" excavated
January 10th 1863 "The Orcadian" mentioned

Holm of Papa Westray
May 13th 1891 "The Orkney Herald" large chambered tomb mentioned

Holy Kirk HY22SW 16
May 11th 1892 "The Orkney Herald" Holy Kirks [sic] described

The Howans HY21NE 44
November 7th 1888 "The Orkney Herald" Howand Brae mentioned as at same place as Hurkisgarth

Howe of Hoxa ND49SW 1
January 10th 1863 "The Orcadian" broch mentioned
June 26th 1871 "The Orcadian" no trace of passage to Little Howe
Little Howe of Hoxa ND49SW 2
June 26th 1871 "The Orcadian" excavation
June 28th 1871 "The Orkney Herald" excavation

Hoy Churchyard
April 12th 1884 "The Orcadian" Ogham inscription from summer confirmed
April 19th 1884 "The Orcadian" claimed by Hoy man as his sickle sharpenings

Hurkisgarth HY21NE 43
November 7th 1888 "The Orkney Herald" at same place as Howand Brae and near Hooikeld/Howikeld well

Hurtiso Hood HY50NW 21
May 23rd 1863 "The Orkney Herald" found
December 5th 1877 "The Orkney Herald" two line description

Ingsay, Birsay
May 26th 1894 "The Orcadian" cloth-wrapped flexed skeleton in ? short cist

Ingshowe Broch HY31SE 5
August 3rd 1857 "The Orcadian" being dug
January 18th 1858 "The Orcadian" excavation
January 10th 1863 "The Orcadian" mentioned
May 30th 1883 "The Orkney Herald" location

Innertown, Stromness HY20NW 3
April 25th 1877 "The Orkney Herald" cist with bones between Kinghouse & Wester Leafea

Isbister, Rendall HY31NE 14
March 1st 1860 "The Orcadian" several cists excavated last summer
April 17th 1866 "The Orkney Herald" barrow with 3 cists

Ivar's Knowe HY74SW 10
October 31st 1894 "The Orkney Herald" one-line description

Kirkiebrae, South Ronaldsay ND49SW 8
June 26th 1871 "The Orcadian" Swartequoy excavation begun
June 28th 1871 "The Orkney Herald" excavation

Knocker Hill, Westray HY44NW 17
March 1st 1860 "The Orcadian" excavation

Knowe of Bosquoy HY31NW 30
June 5th 1860 "The Orkney Herald" & June 9th 1860 "The Orcadian" excavated
June 19th 1860 "The Orkney Herald" likened to Oxtro Broch
September 25th 1866 "The Orcadian" "near Manse of Harray" likened to Keiss Broch

Knowes of Broidgar, Stenness - various Brodgar mounds
September 16th 1879 "The Orkney Herald" some described
July 14th 1883 "The Orcadian" finds from 2 of
October 16th 1888 "The Orcadian" small one with bones excavated for first time

Knowes of Trotty HY31NW 42
March 29th 1858 "The Orcadian" Huntiscarth gold leaf found

Lamaness, Sanday HY63NW ?18/19
February 6th 1878 "The Orkney Herald" skeleton with grave goods found in slight elevation

Linnahowe Mound HY22SW 17
November 7th 1888 "The Orkney Herald" very early Christian place of worship near Linahowe Farm

Loch of Bosquoy
September 29th 1863 "The Orcadian" grave with skeleton on bank

Lea Shun, Sanday HY62SE 19
April 16th 1887 "The Orcadian" boat embedded in sand in SE [sic] corner of Loch of Leashon

Loch of Stenness HY21SE 43
September 23rd 1879 "The Orkney Herald" 2 gold rings found
October 21st 1879 "The Orkney Herald" rings go to Scottish Antiquarian Museum

Lower Hobbister, Orphir HY31SW 42
June 26th 1871 "The Orcadian" cinerary urn found

Lyking, Sandwick

May 11th 1892 "The Orkney Herald" stones from dyke-end used in Ring of Brodgar, 70 years previous stones on pillars still present

Lyradale Hill
May 17th 1882 "The Orkney Herald" & May 20th 1882 "The Orcadian" 2 skeletons found in peat on hill of Lyradale

Maes Howe HY31SW 1
July 9th 1861 "The Orkney Herald" under excavation
July 16th 1861 "The Orkney Herald" excavation
July 23rd 1861 "The Orkney Herald" excavated
July 14th 1883 "The Orcadian" one-line description
May 13th 1891 "The Orkney Herald" described

? Market Green, Firth HY31SE 9
June 20th 1888 "The Orkney Herald" 2 urns found in mound ~50yds W of the Old Stromness road
June 23rd 1888 "The Orcadian" urn found

Marygarth Manse HY64SE 22
May 25th 1880 "The Orkney Herald" broch excavated

? Mill Loch, Eday HY53NE 28
December 8th 1855 "The Orcadian" barrow with cremation cist found near ancient building in vicinity of standing stone

? Hillock Road, Shapinsay HY52SW 3
March 21st 1885 "The Orcadian" cist with skeleton ~300yds from shore near Ness

Newbigging, St.Ola HY40NW 4
July 7th 1855 "The Orcadian" cists excavated from barrows
March 1st 1860 "The Orcadian" likened to Isbister
January 10th 1863 "The Orcadian" one-line description
April 17th 1866 "The Orkney Herald" described

Noltland Castle HY44NW 1
October 23rd 1873 "The Orkney Herald" Civil War & (? Lady Kirk of Noltland) earlier graveyard skeletons excavations
July 15th 1874 "The Orkney Herald" skeletons excavated

? North Hill, Shapinsay ?HY52SW 5
March 21st 1885 "The Orcadian" large complete cinerary urn found rock ridge near farm of Whitclet, broke up

North Links, Westray [?Papa Westray]
July 15th 1874 "The Orkney Herald" subterranean chamber excavation

North Ronaldsay
November 8th 1879 "The Orcadian" finds from ruined tower including bell

North Town Moss, Burray ND49NE 5
May 18th 1889 "The Orcadian" hoard of fragmentary armlets and Anglo-Saxon coins in wooden 'dish'
August 3rd 1889 "The Orcadian" Muckle Wart hoard mentioned

Old Town Hall & Prison, Kirkwall HY41SW 142
November 12th 1890 "The Orkney Herald" builders discover tombstone fragment
December 17th 1890 "The Orkney Herald" large sandstone balls found
June 17th 1891 "The Orkney Herald" skeleton found

Oxtro Broch HY22NE 4
June 5th 1860 "The Orkney Herald" likened to Knowe of Bosquoy
June 19th 1860 "The Orkney Herald" excavated
January 10th 1863 "The Orcadian" mentioned
June 19th 1866 "The Orcadian" cists discovered
September 25th 1866 "The Orcadian" cists and broch

Papdale Burn
September 11th 1869 "The Orcadian" 11th century coins

Peterkirk Mound,Sanday HY74SW 7/14
October 31st 1894 "The Orkney Herald" partially excavated

Pickaquoy HY41SW 13
January 10th 1863 "The Orcadian" barrow mentioned
May 3rd 1864 "The Orcadian" one of carved stones donated to Scottish Antiquarian Museum

Pierowall Links HY44NW 13
May 3rd 1864 "The Orcadian" sandhill finds donated to Scottish Antiquarian Museum

Quanterness HY41SW 4
November 27th 1860 "The Orkney Herald" described
July 14th 1883 "The Orcadian" mentioned
May 13th 1891 "The Orkney Herald" mentioned

Quoynamoan, Stenness (NOT Quinni Moan,Sandwick) HY22SE 30 & 31
January 12th 1869 "The Orcadian" 3 barrows with cists, 1 with stone cairn, excavated

Quoyness Chambered Tomb HY63NE 1
May 13th 1891 "The Orkney Herald" mentioned

Redland Broch, Firth HY31NE 12
July 22nd 1862 "The Orkney Herald" being excavated

Ring of Bookan HY21SE 7
July 14th 1883 "The Orcadian" described
May 11th 1892 "The Orkney Herald" Rim/Ring of Bookan referenced

Ring of Brodgar HY21SE 1
July 16th 1861 "The Orkney Herald" described
July 23rd 1861 "The Orkney Herald" entrance 'tumuli' excavated
September 16th 1879 "The Orkney Herald" described
July 14th 1883 "The Orcadian" described
October 16th 1888 "The Orcadian" described
November 7th 1888 "The Orkney Herald" Howerstadgarth/ Stan Stanes/ Old Charlies part of road traced & causeway mentioned
May 11th 1892 "The Orkney Herald" expanding on road remains running from ~ 6 chains SE of ring to S slope of Vestrafiold, large beach stones from other parishes found, Lyking a standing stone source
Round Church, Orphir HY30SW 2
July 10th 1860 "The Orkney Herald" submitted to S.A.S. finds from "Girth House" & subterranean chamber near this
April 23rd 1867 "The Orcadian" circular holed stone in Scottish Antiquarian museum

Round Howe HY50NW 8
July 22nd 1862 "The Orkney Herald" being excavated

Saevar Howe HY22NW 5
July 10th 1866 "The Orcadian" Knowe of Laverock [sic] being excavated
November 8th 1879 "The Orcadian" bell from cist described
November 15th 1893 "The Orkney Herald" bell from cist discovered 1863 described

St.Bride's Chapel HY21NW 6
November 7th 1888 "The Orkney Herald" Britikirk/Brideskirk one of first churches

St.Magnus Cathedral HY41SW 10
December 12th 1877 "The Orkney Herald" plated copper vessels found

St.Nicholas Chapel, Holm HY50SW 14
March 24th 1893 "The Orkney Herald" found cross to be mounted

Saverock Souterrain, St.Ola HY41SW 5
January 10th 1863 "The Orcadian" subterranean chamber mentioned
May 30th 1883 "The Orkney Herald" still there

Skaill, Deerness HY50NE19
July 7th 1864 "The Orcadian" settlement excavation during road-cutting
July 28th 1864 "The Orcadian" excavations continue

Skaill hoard HY31NW 14
March 29th 1858 "The Orcadian" discovery

Skara Brae HY21NW 12
May 29th 1866 "The Orcadian" donations to Scottish Antiquarian Museum from 1863
September 25th 1866 "The Orcadian" excavation/excavated
April 15th 1882 "The Orcadian" 2 stone balls described

South Seatter Mound HY21NW 2
November 7th 1888 "The Orkney Herald" Tirlhowe and surrounding archaeology

Standing Stones Hotel HY31SW 24
June 4th 1891 "The Orkney Herald" excavation of chamber, two lateral chambers also inferred
November 8th 1893 "The Orkney Herald" chamber with passage excavated

Stone of Odin HY31SW 40
July 14th 1883 "The Orcadian" location

Stones of Stenness HY31SW 2
September 16th 1879 "The Orkney Herald" described along with stone avenue
July 14th 1883 "The Orcadian" described
May 11th 1892 "The Orkney Herald" tradition of being floated on rafts

Stove, Sanday
August 23rd 1858 "The Orcadian" 2 graves excavated near Whippiland [?Whupland]

July 28th 1864 "The Orcadian" 3 cists with urns destroyed a few years previous, malachite fragment collected

Toab Inscribed Stone HY50NW 22
August 10th 1880 "The Orkney Herald" stone footprint from Mine Howe etc. vicinity

Tofts Ness HY74NE 5
October 31st 1894 "The Orkney Herald" Picts' Houses mentioned

Towerhill HY40NE 2
January 10th 1863 "The Orcadian" grave mentioned
April 16th 1892 "The Orcadian" cist with bones & stone hammer excavated

Trettigar/Trittigar, Harray
August 9th 1893 "The Orkney Herald" underground chamber excavated last February
November 8th 1893 "The Orkney Herald" compared to Garth (Nettleter) structure

Unstan Chambered Tomb HY21SE 5
September 10th 1884 "The Orkney Herald" excavated
September 13th 1884 "The Orcadian" excavated
May 13th 1891 "The Orkney Herald" one-line description

Vestrafiold Quarry, Sandwick HY22SW 7
May 11th 1892 "The Orkney Herald" road to Stenness circles, bones and ashes from vicinity

Vinquoy Hill, Eday HY53NE 9
July 20th 1857 "The Orcadian" excavation (not "The Orkney Herald")

Warebeth HY20NW 11
August 28th 1866 "The Orkney Herald" finds in region
November 13th then November 13th 1889 "The Orkney Herald" where stones disposed from trenching for graveyard

Warebeth Broch HY20NW 17
September 25th 1866 "The Orcadian" broch brief description
May 3rd 1879 "The Orkney Herald" excavations of underground passages from graveyard towards 'monastery'

The Wart, South Ronaldsay ND49SW 4
June 28th 1871 "The Orkney Herald" excavated autumn

Wasdale, Firth
November 6th duplicated 13th 1880 "The Orcadian" cist & square grave found

Watch Stone HY31SW 11
September 16th 1879 "The Orkney Herald" one-line description
July 14th 1883 "The Orcadian" mentioned

West Broch of Burray ND49NE 1
February 21st 1863 "The Orcadian" referenced
July 21st 1863 "The Orcadian" excavation
November 3rd 1886 "The Orkney Herald" referenced
July 20th 1889 "The Orcadian" the Castle described

West Quoy, Orphir
December 11th 1866 "The Orkney Herald" grave discovered near mill of Orphir

Westray HY44NW 3 or 6
February 13th 1886 "The Orcadian" glass vessel from Mirlie Hen likened to one found in Westray cist
wideford Posted by wideford
29th January 2006ce

Mantell Yr Wyddgrug

Mantell Yr Wyddgrug

Old Gold from Mold

Unknowingly, I have moved from one of the most ancient seats of learning in the world – Oxford – to one of the most important areas of the country for Bronze Age culture. Perhaps Wrexham isn't such a bad trade-off after all . . .

Some of Britain's most significant Bronze Age artefacts have been discovered within a 10 mile radius of where I now live. These include the Burton Hoard; the Caergwrle Bowl, and, probably, one of the most magnificent treasures this land has ever offered up – the Mold Cape. The Welsh name is 'Mantell Yr Wyddgrug'. Strangely, I feel better using what little Welsh I have when referring to these items, as the core of our modern Welsh language has its roots in the Iron Age, and quite possibly beyond. It is as near as we can come to the language of our ancient forefathers.

Ever since watching a BBC programme on the top ten treasures of the British Museum, I have wanted to see them all, especially Mantell Yr Wyddgrug. Imagine my delight on hearing it would be coming virtually back home for the first time in 172 years, as part of an exhibition to be held at Wrexham County Borough Museum! The arresting Kate and I put the exhibition dates in the diary, and both vowed to go and see it as soon as possible.

In the event, 'as soon as possible' became the penultimate weekend of the three month show, which I realise is dragging the heels for an avowed megalither. We entered the museum – which, ironically enough, was the old courthouse and police station; Kate enjoyed looking at the old 1950's photographs on display for various retired Inspectors she knows – and, relishing the splendour to come, we paced ourselves by entering the first part of the show, which was a few artefacts and a continual loop video presentation. First excitement belonged to Kate, as the centrepiece of the room was a reproduction of the Capel Garmon firedog, an Iron Age artefact, found near Carreg Goedog Farm, Capel Garmon, by a peat digger in 1852. Kate was particularly thrilled by this, as many years ago when she was heavily into Viking re-enactment, she owned a faithful copy of this awesome firedog as usable item. The light in her eyes when she saw it was nearly as bright as the time she first saw the Abingdon Sword in the Ashmolean Museum; she had fought with her very own replica of this rare sword, but had never seen the real thing. What a treat that particular afternoon was . . .

After watching clips of Julian Richard's 'Blood of the Vikings' in English and Cymraeg, we moved into the main room of the museum, where the centrepiece was a frighteningly life-like model of a Welsh archer from the battle of Agincourt. Even as we glanced at this, some invisible power caused us to look left, down the room.

Absolutely Fabulous

Glowing like a dawn sun, centrepiece of the exhibition, Mantell Yr Wyddgrug was framed by a doorway into a side room. Even from a distance, and in a glass case, it was possible to see what an awesome object it was – what must it have looked like when worn? The museum literature says it was the 'Mantle of a Woman of Distinction from the Early Bronze Age 1900-1600 BC'. I'm guessing she would have been extraordinarily distinguished.

The workmanship in this cape is stunning. I counted seven different types of punches used to create the flowing, graceful patterns, which were simple, yet beautifully ornate. From a distance, it is crafted to appear as if ropes of gold beads are lying on a gold cloth background; up close, the artistry is dazzling. Fine pin holes round the top and bottom edges of the cape suggest that it may have been stitched to some form of shift or dress to make it bearable for the wearer. The pamphlet accompanying the exhibition contains a picture of one very lucky woman modelling the cape in a controlled experiment to assess the fit.

It's an incredible garment, a unique artefact, and something which inspires reverence and respect on its own, let alone being worn by a venerated, respected and distinguished woman. What makes it all the more amazing is the amount of gold needed, when generally gold was retrieved by soaking fleeces in rivers to catch dust and nuggets swept out of rock face seams. I'm not aware of large Bronze Age gold mines in the UK, but please let me know if there were. Quite frankly, it is astonishing.

Discovered by a gang of labourers in October 1833, who were moving a mound of earth, the cape was lying in the ground encasing the remains of a human skeleton, along with a 'quantity' of amber beads, a strip of bronze and second gold object. Sketchy though these details are, we have the Rev Charles Butler Clough, Vicar of Mold to thank for them, as the land tenant and director of operations, a Mr Langford, was happy for the workman to sling the cape in the hedge, with instructions – 'to bring it with them when they returned for dinner'.

The cape had already been partially crushed in the ground, and the subsequent rough handling ensured more pieces of gold fragments were lost. The restoration work carried out by the British Museum is fantastic.

Of course, this postulates the question who would have worn it? The most current theory, after a breastplate, a peytrel for a horse, and a ?male chieftain's cape is that of a mantle for a woman. This is due partly to the first serious attempt in the 1960's at restoring the cape, and in 2002, a new restoration resulted in the artefact we now know (and love). Unfortunately, none of the human bones found in the destroyed barrow of Bryn-yr-Ellyllon remain, but the general opinion is that they were these of a woman, as additional grave goods included beads, pendants, and other ornaments associated with a woman's burial.

Whoever she was, I imagine she had been highly respected on a very wide scale. Considering Mantell Yr Wyddgrug is such a unique find, the huge amount of gold required for its creation, and that there are no other similar artefacts, could its wearer have been a phenomenally powerful and influential leader or priestess throughout British and possibly European Bronze Age society? As powerful say, as Queen Victoria? Would this explain why this area is known as a hot spot for Bronze Age Culture and artefacts? Could this area of Wales been something of a 'Constantinople' of the European Bronze Age – a confluence of peoples, cultures, trades and politics? Taken with the unique and probably Mediterranean-like Caergwrle Bowl, I believe it strongly suggests that the area surrounding what is now a regenerating ex-industrial town with a binge drinking problem was once the hub of Bronze Age Britain. That's exciting.
treaclechops Posted by treaclechops
10th January 2006ce

Ballynoe from the air

Ballynoe from the air

A friend of mine who lives in the North took these pictures of Ballynoe today.

What a strange site! The long barrow built AFTER the circle goes completely against my understanding of the usual pre-historical sequence for things megalithic. But then again my understanding of these things does tend to be quite southern England based.

I'm starting a forum thread on this, in case anyone can shed any light.

Ballynoe — Images

<b>Ballynoe</b>Posted by Cursuswalker<b>Ballynoe</b>Posted by Cursuswalker<b>Ballynoe</b>Posted by Cursuswalker<b>Ballynoe</b>Posted by Cursuswalker<b>Ballynoe</b>Posted by Cursuswalker
Cursuswalker Posted by Cursuswalker
9th January 2006ce

Mr & Mrs Goff's anniversary tour - day 2

Mr & Mrs Goff's anniversary tour - day 2

29th September 2005

As with yesterday I arrived at the Moulin Hotel at 10am to pick up Goff and Hazel, but today we had an altogether more physically-challenging itinerary! I'll talk about Schiehallion to anyone who'll listen, so Goff and Hazel had heard plenty about this magical mountain and decided they wanted to have a go at climbing it. But not before seeing a few ground-level sights first.

We drove down into Pitlochry then north on the route of General Wade's military road to Killiecrankie where there's a standing stone known as Claverhouse's Stone. This prehistoric stone is where Claverhouse is said to have died, having retired here shot from the nearby Battle of Killiecrankie.

Continuing on, we drove under the A9 and through the picturesque village of Blair Atholl, passing the magnificent Blair Castle on our way to House of Bruar. House of Bruar is a collection of upmarket shops sitting at the edge of a wood just off the A9, and while the clothes sold their might not be to everyone's taste, there's no denying that the food on offer is a fantastic advert for Scotland's produce. As if to emphasise the quality of the food, when Goff spotted a familiar face we realised it was Camilla Parker-Bowles, who we overhead saying she "must buy some sprats for her husband"!

Continuing on the theme from yesterday, Goff umm'd and ahh'd over what culinary delights to purchase. After the difficult decisions had been made, we bought some sandwiches and took all the shopping back to the car before heading up behind the House of Bruar on foot. The Falls of Bruar are a series of spectacular waterfalls, best seen after heavy rain. We were lucky with the weather today, it was nice and dry, but yesterday's rain only served to make the falls even more impressive than usual.

High up above the House of Bruar a bridge crosses the burn, where Goff obligingly posed for the camera.

The return path comes back down the other side of the burn, and looking back up the hill gives a great view of the bridge spanning the falls.

Further down is another smaller bridge.

The walk had served well as a warm-up for Schiehallion, so back at the car we set off in that direction, stopping off briefly just outside House of Bruar to see the big lump of rock that is Clach na h-Iobairt standing stone.

Then it was back under the A9, through Calvine and down Glen Errochty to Trinafour, turning south-east for the long, straight descent to Tummel Bridge (again on the route of General Wade's military road) to cross the River Tummel before climbing back up the other side of Strathtummel to the car park for Schiehallion at Braes of Foss.

On the approach path to Schiehallion is the Braes of Foss cup-marked boulder, which today had it's numerous cups picked out beautifully by the sun.

Soon after this rock the path starts to get steeper and the breathing starts to get heavier as you climb up the eastern slope of the mountain. The summit was disappearing and appearing as the clouds moved in the wind, so I wasn't sure whether or not we'd get a view from the top, but a view is only the cherry on the top of climbing a mountain anyway. After getting on for a couple of hours' walking and several stops to catch the breath and drink in the views across Perthshire, we reached the summit, enshrouded in cloud. As we looked for some comfy rocks to have our sandwiches on, the cloud lifted and revealed to us a magnificent view back towards Loch Tummel.

Taking advantage of the break in the clouds, Goff and Hazel posed for a photo.

It wasn't long before the cloud came in again, so we moved off the summit to a slightly more sheltered spot to have our sandwiches from House of Bruar before starting the long descent back to the car, which of course was much easier than the climb up the way. By the time we reached the car the sun had started to go down, so we made a mad dash along to Kinloch Rannoch in an attempt to get a photo of the sun setting over the loch, but the clouds were obscuring it so we drove around the loch to the Macdonald Loch Rannoch resort to take a photo of Schiehallion from looking towards its iconic western end.

It was getting late by now and I had to be up early-ish for a work trip to Norway tomorrow, so we headed along Strathtummel in the dark on our way back to the Moulin Hotel, where we said our goodbyes - same again next year Goff?
BigSweetie Posted by BigSweetie
8th January 2006ce

Mr & Mrs Goff's anniversary tour - day 1

Mr & Mrs Goff's anniversary tour - day 1

28th September 2005

Last year Goff and Hazel stopped in Perthshire on the way back from Orkney and I gave them a tour. I must have done something right, because this year they wanted a 2 day tour!

As with last year I met them at the Moulin Hotel where they were staying at 10am, but this year I was doing the driving so that Goff and Hazel could see as much as possible. Goff had said that Hazel was keen to go back to see the Fowlis Wester cross slab, since last year by the time we got to the church it was locked and we had to make do with the replica, so our journey began with us shooting down the A9.

To make this first leg a little more interesting, I turned off at the Ballinluig junction and headed out west to Aberfeldy then south through Glen Cochill and the Sma' Glen. They'd seen these incredibly picturesque glens last year but were happy to see them again. After climbing out of the Sma' Glen we dropped down onto the main Perth to Crieff road, and turned left then left again at the New Fowlis cairn. I pointed out the standing stone on it, but we didn't stop - we had bigger stones to see!

We drove past the replica cross and parked behind the church, then walked along the track towards Thorn farm, hopping over the fence into the last field before the farm. Above us, at the top of the hill, we could see the Crofthead Farm standing stones.

But before we got to them there was the small matter of the massive Thorn cup-marked boulder.

We spent a bit of time here finding the cup-marks, looking at the view across to the Ochils and generally marvelling at how enormous this stone must once have been, before a short walk up the hill to the Crofthead Farm stones.

Then it was back down to the village and into the church so that Hazel (and Goff) could see the original cross-slab.

There's also a second cross-slab in the church, which was found built into the wall when the church was being renovated.

Our next stop was less megalithic and more retail, although in a speciality kind of way. Back in the car we headed for Crieff. I knew Goff had a sweet tooth and liked his food, so I took them to J L Gill's traditional Scottish grocers where he spent a long time selecting lots and lots of ales, then umm'd and ahh'd on the wisdom of buying cheese with no fridge. Bags clinking, we moved along the High Street to Gordon & Durward's traditional Scottish sweet shop, where Goff was like, well, a kid in a sweet shop!

Just as we got back to the car it started to rain, and by the time we got to the Famous Grouse Experience it was tipping it down. I had planned on lunch here, but the rain had seemingly only increased the number of pensioners in the distillery's restaurant so we decided to press on for St Fillans.

On the way towards Comrie we passed the Lawers standing stone but the rain was so heavy by now that we didn't stop. When we got to Comrie the rain was easing off so we headed to the edge of the village to see Dalginross stone circle.

I had thought of taking Goff and Hazel to the Roman Stone and Auchingarrich standing stone but the rain had started falling heavily again, so instead we drove to the Roman Stone, turned around then continued on for St Fillans. We had one more stop to make on the way though, again more retail than megalithic so the rain wasn't an issue.

Dalchonzie fruit farm sells delicious fresh fruit in the summer, but beyond the end of the season we were here for what they make with that fruit. They stock an amazing range of jams, sauces and pickles, all made with fresh produce from the farm, and the aroma as you walk into the shop is fantastic, smells wafting through from the kitchen behind. Once again Goff's face lit up, and it was a real struggle for him not to buy one of everything in the shop.

Just before St Fillans is the ancient Pictish stronghold of Dundurn. Again my plan was scuppered by the rain. I'd planned on taking them on the short walk to the summit, but the rain was really lashing down now, so the consensus was to just go for lunch in St Fillans.

We stopped at the Drummond Hotel for toasted sandwiches and chips, and sat looking out towards Loch Earn as the rain came past horizontally. Eventually we mustered the energy to head back out into the wind and rain, and continued driving along the edge of the loch to Lochearnhead, turning north en route for Killin where the next thing on the list would only be enhanced by the rain.

The Falls of Dochart in summer is a very picturesque place, perfect for picnics on the rocks beside the river. But in autumn, winter and spring, particularly after rain or snow, the water rages down spectacularly over these rocks and under the narrow bridge.

After spending a bit of time marvelling at the power of the water and noise it was creating, we went back to the car and drove over the bridge and up to Loch Tay. Driving along the north shore, I slowed down so they could see Machuim stone circle, but once again the rain robbed us of any inclination to stop and get out of the car. We followed the loch as far as Fearnan where we turned north towards Fortingall, passing the Bridge of Lyon standing stones and >General's Grave - again, not stopping because of the rain. I was also conscious of the time and wanted them to see Glen Lyon in the best light possible.

A few miles into the glen I stopped the car and took them down to the river. For the second time today the rain had improved a view, this times towards the Roman Bridge (which isn't actually Roman at all).

We continued on along the glen, the rain coming and going. A few miles after Invervar we rounded a corner and saw St Adamnan's Cross, a standing stone that was carved with a Christian cross on either side, supposedly by Adamnan himself.

I had wondered about maybe stopping at Bridge of Balgie post office where you can have something to drink and a slice of cake sitting out looking over the River Lyon, but in today's weather I don't think it would have been a popular decision, so we carried on driving down the glen. Glen Lyon is the longest glen in Scotland, and is also one of the most spectacular. Because it's a dead end, not many tourists go all the way to the end, so even in summer it's quiet. The narrow road twists it's way through a steep-sided valley, the landscape changing every mile to make a visual treat.

Towards the end of the glen is the Stronuich Resevoir and Loch Lyon, their waters artificially high due to hydro-electric dams. There's a footbridge across the river at the Stronuich Resevoir, which is a great place to take a photo of the river winding it's way east.

The bridge is quite rickety, so we gave Hazel a fright by jumping up and down on it!

The road ends suddenly at Loch Lyon with no space for turning. The grass on either side of the road had been turned into a quagmire by the heavy rain so the chance of getting stuck looked quite high, until Hazel very sensibly suggested opening the gate and turning in the dam's car park!

Having escaped a muddy embarrassment, we started heading back along the glen, but this time stopped just before the farm of Cashlie. Cashlie has obviously been inhabited for thousands of years - as well as the present farm there is the Cona Bhacain standing stone and a homestead. The Cona Bhacain is a strange-shaped stone looking quite like a dog's head and neck sticking out of the ground.

There are two legends attached to this stone. One is that this was the stone used by Fingal to tether his hound Bran. There are several large homesteads or circular forts in Glen Lyon which have been attributed to (in legend) Fingalian warriors living in the glen. The other is that local girls used to crawl under the protruding part of the stone as a form of contraception.

After a short dry spell, the rain swept in again so we jumped in the car and continued back along the glen. We crossed the river at Bridge of Balgie and started to climb steeply, the Allt Bail a' Mhuillin churning it's way down beside the road. When we reached Lochan na Lairige (the loch of the pass) there was no view to be had due to the heavy rain, so we carried on as the road twisted its way down to the north shore of Loch Tay. This was the second time we'd been here today, but instead of turning off at Fearnan we followed the road all the way to Kenmore at the head of the loch, where we stopped to take a photo as the sun started to set.

Just outside Kenmore is Taymouth Castle, once the seat of the Campbells but now undergoing redevelopment as a hotel.

Beside the gatehouse of Taymouth Castle are the Newhall Bridge standing stones, but with the light fading fast we settled for a look with no photos. Then it was back in the car for the drive back through Aberfeldy to the A9 and up to the Moulin Hotel where I'd leave Goff and Hazel before returning tomorrow.
BigSweetie Posted by BigSweetie
8th January 2006ce




Alone in the stones,
What a place to
All surrounded by
Mystic energy.
Now the connection
Switches on.
Im buzzing, my minds
expanding, then
traveling down the
spiral through
annuls of time, to my
ancestor who stood, where
now I stand.
then my family
the tribe.
I'm reaching out for
Them, and they take
My hand.
This is the key, the
Ancient power is
Contained in two
In the oral tradition.
Voices speaking too
Me and you.
But now we ignore
What we don't
Memories stored,
All hidden in quartz
Glitter particles.
That glitter like stars.
This is a gift, of truth
And beauty , pure
Love for the earth
moon sun and stars.
So ill dance now
In moonlights silver
Glow, twisting through
The grey sparkling
Obelisks of the stones.
Then ill fall against the
cold hardness of rock,
naked free and utterly
just me.
In the stone circle I
Reconnected to the past.
And in connection I
Know im the future of
My ancient tribe,
A brave walking into
The sunrise given nothing
But love. nothing more
Than love
Just love
And in love ill fight
The battle of life, a
Warrior walking
through time.creating
something truly wonderful.
juswin Posted by juswin
8th January 2006ce

Yule Be Disappointed

Yule Be Disappointed

I find the festive period quite an emotional experience and i sometimes find it all a little overwhelming. So what better way to clear my head than go for some long walks and try and make some sense of sites that have puzzled me for some time. In particular 2 very large and 2 very lost stone circles.

Thirteen Stones Hill — Images

<b>Thirteen Stones Hill</b>Posted by treehugger-uk<b>Thirteen Stones Hill</b>Posted by treehugger-uk<b>Thirteen Stones Hill</b>Posted by treehugger-uk<b>Thirteen Stones Hill</b>Posted by treehugger-uk<b>Thirteen Stones Hill</b>Posted by treehugger-uk

Thirteen Stones Hill — Fieldnotes

Visited the remains of this circle over the festive period. unfortunately the farmers of Lancashire decided to clear this one to. A few stumps are now sadly all that remains, there is only one stone remaining in the circle standing upright.
This must have been an impressive circle

Cliviger Law — Images

<b>Cliviger Law</b>Posted by treehugger-uk<b>Cliviger Law</b>Posted by treehugger-uk<b>Cliviger Law</b>Posted by treehugger-uk

Cliviger Law — Fieldnotes

I cant quite figure this one out it seems to be more 'henglike' than a cairn. A curving mound intersected on both sides by a house and a road so its impossible to tell i guess.

Round Hill — Images

<b>Round Hill</b>Posted by treehugger-uk<b>Round Hill</b>Posted by treehugger-uk

Round Hill — Fieldnotes

This site is simply marked as an earthwork on Maps. On closer inspection it looks like a small hilltop settlement and there are a few of these around Lancs. that are quite similliar. Theres also rumoured to be a carved stone close by.

Stump Cross — Images

<b>Stump Cross</b>Posted by treehugger-uk<b>Stump Cross</b>Posted by treehugger-uk

Stump Cross — Fieldnotes

This stone seems far to close to Moseley Height i would think its an outlier to the great Circle that once stood in the field behind it.

Mosley Height — Images

<b>Mosley Height</b>Posted by treehugger-uk<b>Mosley Height</b>Posted by treehugger-uk<b>Mosley Height</b>Posted by treehugger-uk

Mosley Height — Fieldnotes

Its very easy to make out the location of where this circle once stood theres faint traces of circular embankments at the top of the small hill in the field behind Stump Cross .
If i were in any other county i'd find it hard to beleive that someone would have the mentality to do such a thing as clear this circle.
A complete tragedy as all that remain are a few stumps and a pile of boulders by the field wall some of the stones are huge this circle was rather large.
It was only excavated and complete in the 1950's but for some reason was never scheduled.
treehugger-uk Posted by treehugger-uk
4th January 2006ce

Xmas wanderings

Xmas wanderings

Another year, another few days with the family in Dorset. I've been somewhat neglectful of wandering of late, partly brainstate, partly beer, partly HA. In particular I seem to have abandoned new sites in favour of the path well trod, revisiting my faves again and again, partly because I love em and partly to make sure they get the tlc they deserve. However, I think I'm coming out the other side and decided to celebrate this (and a new OS map) by visiting 3 hill forts I'd not seen before.

Hod Hill — Fieldnotes

[visited 27/12/05] I've been pondering on visiting this place for years, finally getting off my arse to see this and hambledon in the same day. So, firstly, this place is huge. I'm not surprised the Romans went to the additional hassle of cornering off part of this massive fort for their pad, the iron age ramparts would have required many hundreds to defend properly. Walking the ramparts in December is a chilly affair but the views either side of Hambledon are awesome, looking out down the side of Cranbourne Chase and onto the vast plain in front of you.

Access is for the reasonably fit, the car park is at the bottom of the hill then its up a steep slope to the fort.

Hambledon — Fieldnotes

[visited 27/12/05] After 20 mins eating my lunch and warming up in the car after a visit to Hod Hill, I set off for Hambledon Hill. A neolithic enclosure, long barrow AND a hill fort? Its enough to make a megarak go weak at the knees. I parked at the carpark between hambledon and hod, which meant the view to the North was saved till last, delaying gratification is always for the best I find.

So I came to the long barrow marked on the OS map and the neolithic enclosure first, the barrow is denuded but still obvious to an observant seeker. As is the enclosure, split with a fence but still followable as a line of bumps in the grass. I'm surprised the enclosure isn't further forward tbh, there is a lot of hill to the North untouched. Eager for the view I hurried on, down and then back up to the fort entrance and onto a melange of weird banks. I think I picked out the fort from the medieval lynchets, but with a Maes Knollesque cross bank, I'm not convinced the fort itself went right to the end of the hill.

And what is with the large long barrow shaped top of the hill, just to the north of the cross bank? What possible defensive function did this fulfill? Is this related to the strip lynchets? Reading the notes here on TMA, this is actually a barrow? Did the farmers fill in the defenses at the North end of the hill?

Confusedly I struggled against the biting wind to the View. And what a View. I couldn't stand and stare for long as I wanted to leave the hill without losing bits of my face due to frostbite, but on a clear day you must be able to 20miles from up here. I'm coming back in the summer, because this is one of the best views for miles about and I love my Views.

Access is a mile or so from the carpark, up a fairly steep slope and through a few gates.

After those, I had a couple of visits to old faithfuls, Nine Stones and Rempstone. More pathetic chalk swastikas at Nine Stones dampened my mood, as did a No Entry sign newly errected at Rempstone, but I pushed through with the help of scrumpy and on my way back to Bath decided to pop in to the giant breast I keep driving past.

Cley Hill — Fieldnotes

[visited 28/12/05] I almost crashed first time I drove past this on the way to Dorset, not only are the ramparts immense but there was a gert huge nipple on top of a giant breast, just to the right of my vision. Cut to 1 1/2 years later, I finally had the Warminister map and went "Oh thats Cley Hill". This is a popular place and I was fortunate to get a parking space as I headed up here for sunset.

The defenses are steep, in fact the whole hill is steep, I imagine they had all sorts of fun trying to get the carts with provisions in up to the top here. Now perhaps my brain just sees breasts, but the barrow is large and very carefully placed... As a whole the hill is still in great condition and sees a lot of use, not surprising given how prominent it must be from Warminster.

Access is up a steep hill and through a gate from the car park.
juamei Posted by juamei
30th December 2005ce
Edited 19th January 2006ce

Gower power

Gower power

The Gower is a rather beautiful sandy, limestoney peninsula sticking out westwards from South Wales right on Swansea's doorstep.

We were very lucky with the weather. It was incredibly cold, but there was no breeze at all, the sky was cloudless and blue and the sun's weak rays poured out lemon light. There are some really rather lovely sites down here and lots of variety, too. We easily did this lot on a short winter's day!

Parc Le Breos — Fieldnotes

This is a well tended and large restored Severn-Cotswold type cairn. We got there early and the light was streaming through the frosty trees. The cairn has a central passage with two pairs of transepted chambers. The cairn is now roofless so the internal structures are all exposed. It was fabulous just lying there surrounded by woodland in a bright yellow crisp winter valley. We loved it.

You can park very close by and the approach to it is flat so it'd be great for those using wheelchairs or buggies to visit.

Parc Le Breos — Images

<b>Parc Le Breos</b>Posted by Jane<b>Parc Le Breos</b>Posted by Jane

Cat Hole Cave — Fieldnotes

Just 200ms away from Parc le Breos hidden in the wooded cliffs on the right as you approach is this lovely cave which is certainly worth a shufti. It has two entrances, one closed up with railings. The larger entrance, of a tall triangular shape, leads to a huge interior. It goes back a long way into the rock and has a number of chambers within it. I was thrilled and delighted at how cosy and warm it was at the back of the cave away from the frosty winter morning. When it was excavated in the 1960s very ancient human remains were found.

Cat Hole Cave — Images

<b>Cat Hole Cave</b>Posted by Jane<b>Cat Hole Cave</b>Posted by Jane<b>Cat Hole Cave</b>Posted by Jane

Penmaen — Fieldnotes

Lurking in the dunes on a promontory close to Penmaen village is a small burial chamber.

We parked at SS527885 by the bus stop and post box and walk down the path marked 'Tor Bay 0.8kms'.

Once on the promontory be prepared for a stomp about! We scoured the hillside on the left of the path where the dunes dip down sharply to the dramatic beach below. It wasn't there. We searched the tip of the promontory, but no cigar. Finally as we were about to give up, I spotted it 20 metres from the end of main path as it breaks up into many tracks through the dunes, on the right of the 'mainest' path.

It has a good sized solid capstone, now fallen on one side, and a few stones making up a short passageway. Surrounded by dead bracken, half buried in a dune, it's not a burial chamber to write home about, but I loved it anyway. The views down to Threecliff Bay are breathtaking!

Up here on top of the dunes reminded me of Porth Hellick Downs on Scilly's St Mary's.

Penmaen — Images

<b>Penmaen</b>Posted by Jane<b>Penmaen</b>Posted by Jane

Maen Ceti — Fieldnotes

The site is found up on high open moorland with amazing views back over to Llanelli to the north. The moor was crawling with shaggy frozen ponies. As you approach it you can see it's big but then - woooo!!! This is so much bigger and more impressive than I had ever imagined up close. The capstone is less of a cap and more of a mighty concrete helmet – perhaps weighing 40 or 50 tons (I kid you not!) - supported by really small uprights which look as if they have been driven into the earth under the vast weight of the elephantine lump above. The whole construction sits in a concave rubble cairn, so it's easy to imagine the original size of this place.

As we drove around, we kept getting sights of the monument perched up there on that chilly heath from miles away.

Maen Ceti — Images

<b>Maen Ceti</b>Posted by Jane

Cefn Bryn Great Cairn — Fieldnotes

Cefn Bryn Great Cairn is just 25ms away from Maen Cetty and is little more than a huge mound of large stones. But it all adds to the atmosphere up there on that amazing ridge of moorland with those staggering views.

Cefn Bryn Great Cairn — Images

<b>Cefn Bryn Great Cairn</b>Posted by Jane

Samson's Jack — Fieldnotes

Sampson's Jack is a pointy menhir of white stone which soars out of its hedgerow setting! It is the texture and colour of rice pudding. What a shame you can't see the whole stone – it must be 12 feet tall, but the bottom six feet are hidden in the hawthorn. Without modern buildings it is only maybe 300 metres away from the standing stone at Ty'r Coed farm and certainly on a sight line.

Note for pedants: On the map, the spelling of Sampson has a 'p' in it.

Samson's Jack — Images

<b>Samson's Jack</b>Posted by Jane

Ty'r-coed — Fieldnotes

Park at the top of the lane by the farm entrance and ask at the farm to see it, because this is on private land.

The farm building is only inches away from this menhir which is made of the same rice pudding stone of Sampson's Jack. Because it stands in a rise of land its size is deceptive. It must be at least seven feet tall. From here you get a very clear view of Maen Cetty on the ridge to the south about a mile and half away.

The stone is kept in a small enclosure with three dogs so mind where you tread - it's very shitty!

Ty'r-coed — Images

<b>Ty'r-coed</b>Posted by Jane

We drove along to Llanrhidian village where a number of standing stones were marked on the map. We had a look for the one at Oldwall at SS484919, but it wasn't there. Perhaps it has been removed?

We drove into the village of Llanrhidian.

Llanrhidian — Fieldnotes

Two menhirs stand guarding each side of the path up to the tiny old church.

The stones are curious. The 'lower' one is undoubtedly ancient. The size, weathering patterns and position all felt genuine. The 'upper' one was highly suspicious. It looked as if it were a more recent stone – which for sure had once been used as a gatepost – which had been plonked on top of a larger stone. The larger stone now lies down on the slope, but the size, type and weathering all matched the standing stone still up.

I wondered if they had once been part of an alignment as they followed the dip in the road which looked as if it had once been an old trackway down to the marsh just half a mile or so to the north

Llanrhidian — Images

<b>Llanrhidian</b>Posted by Jane
At the far western end of the Gower peninsula is the most lovely beach – four miles long backed by extensive hummocky dunes. Rising sharply to 185 feet above sea level immediately behind this is Rhossili Down, a great dramatic hill facing directly west. Right on the top of this are some cairns, burnt mounds and the Sweyne Howes chambered tombs.

I can't resist a chambered tomb, so I foolishly persuaded myself that shuffling up the near vertical (OK, I'm exaggerating, but it was really steep) hillside would be worth it. Grumbling with displeasure, I made it to the very top, but when I couldn't immediately see the tombs I turned back, knowing it would take me a long time and a great deal of pain in my knees to get off this particular Everest. The view from the top was lovely, but certainly not worth pain.

Rhossili Down — Images

<b>Rhossili Down</b>Posted by Jane
Moth made it up to the tombs and took lots of lovely photos for me to see later. I returned to the beach to sit in the dunes and watch the crazy surfers – one of who I observed scraping ice from his board before waxing it down. Nutter! I hope he had a thermal vest on underneath his drysuit!

The Gower really is very beautiful. For megalithomaniacs needing to take a holiday with their family, I can highly recommend it. Amazing beaches, lovely walks (I imagine, for those who like walking), delightful hostries, views, surfing, horseriding, pottering about and for the stone-huggers lots of different kinds of monument to seek out.
Jane Posted by Jane
30th December 2005ce

South Wales Getaway

South Wales Getaway

Perhaps if I was a drinker, a Christian, a capitalist or not a woman I might like Christmas. But I'm not, so I like to flee it if possible. This year Moth and I escaped immediately after the 'festivities' were over to visit friends in South Wales who also don't like Christmas. I wanted in particular to visit the Gower peninsula. But we thought we'd have a look at some stuff en route to the kingdom of Swansea.

Pont-y-Pridd Rocking Stone — Fieldnotes

What a strange place! In a wonderful position on common land near Pontypridd hospital are some natural rocky outcrops, one of which is known as the Pontypridd rocking stone. It is very large – about 5 and half feet tall and round, roughly in two pieces like a cottage loaf. I gave it a push. It doesn't rock. In recent times a very nice small stone circle has been built round it. The whole place seems rather peculiar though.

Pont-y-Pridd Rocking Stone — Images

<b>Pont-y-Pridd Rocking Stone</b>Posted by Jane
Around Crickhowell
From Pontypridd we drove up into the valleys, singing 'Bread of Heaven' as we went, towards Crickhowell. Around Crickhowell there are quite a number of sites worth seeing, though I would argue none of them are A-list Hollywood sites, (although Moth thinks the Fish stone is.)

The Growing Stone — Fieldnotes

The growing stone is a very tall, slender menhir, standing sentinel by the roadside about 12 feet high and provides a certain surprising quirkiness at the entrance of a military training establishment. It didn't need medals or stripes or pips to give it authority.

The Growing Stone — Images

<b>The Growing Stone</b>Posted by Jane

Llangenny — Fieldnotes

In the village of Llangenny, very close to Crickhowell two standing stones are marked on the map. One stands very small and looking rather forlorn and alone at the bottom of the valley. It's nice though, and I'd like it in my orchard!

Llangenny is a small picturesque village, tumbling down a steep hillside so we drove through in an attempt to find the second stone on the map at SO237188. In thick impenetrable woodland, overgrown with brambles and dry bracken we didn't stand a cat in hell's chance of finding it, so we moved on.

Garn Goch — Fieldnotes

Out on the other side of Crickhowell on the edge of a village recreation ground is Carn Coch burial chamber. There's not much left to see here, but I liked it. A grassy mound with a bit of rubble poking through here and there and a single flat capstone is all that remains. It's been disturbed a bit too, as its outline is not smooth or distinct.

It has as tremendous view of the very unusually shaped Sugar Loaf hill on the other side of the valley.

Garn Goch — Images

<b>Garn Goch</b>Posted by Jane<b>Garn Goch</b>Posted by Jane<b>Garn Goch</b>Posted by Jane
Half a mile out of Crickhowell right by the busy A40 is all that remains of Gwernvale burial chamber.

Gwernvale — Fieldnotes

It is scarily close to the road! It now signals the entrance to a posh hotel. The stones, all about 2 feet tall and 2 feet across, clearly mark out a main chamber and entrance passageway, but the rest of the tomb is long gone. No mound, no rubble, no nothing. The only thing to indicate the tomb's original size and scale is a number of marker stones. Once, it might have been as big and impressive as Belas Knap or Stoney Littleton. My guess is that much of the cairn material was used to build and repair the road.

Gwernvale — Images

<b>Gwernvale</b>Posted by Jane

The Fish Stone — Fieldnotes

A short walk through the woods following the line of the river Usk brings you to the Fish stone... in theory! Actually the path through woods is 30 feet up a steep slope and the stone stands in the grassy inaccessible valley below. Being a confident walker, Moth decided to head off down the slope and seek it out, trespassing merrily. I didn't! I could see the stone tantalisingly close below, but there was no way I was going to be able to reach it. It's crackingly tall – perhaps 18 feet or more and intriguingly fish shaped, with distinct fins projecting from its narrowest sides.
We continued on to Swansea where we met up with our Christmas-hating friends.
Jane Posted by Jane
30th December 2005ce

The Perfect Remedy From Xmas Shopping

The Perfect Remedy From Xmas Shopping

Having taken the day off work to ensure I don't lose my annual leave entitlement, I made the BIG msitake of doing some Xmas shoping. Having endured 2 hours of hell in a small Leicestershire market town (honestly, it's all I could take), I needed some mental refreshment and made my way to the somewhat limited stuff we have down these parts.

First stop was Peter's Pence Stone in Great Bowden. When I used to go to school round these parts I used to pass this place twice a day, but being a spotty and non-megalithic minded soul I wouldn't have seen the stone for the trees. Today's visit was not a "pleasant experience", as when I got there a huge truck was parked off the road next to it (so much for ambience). The Neanderthal driver (sorry to any Neanderthal's reading this) was using the stone as some sort of iron-horse mounting block! I asked him, ever so politely in my middle-english sort of way, not to stand on the stone, to which I received a double barrelled four letter deluge of megalithic proportions!!!

With my ears still ringing, I decided to head towards home and pass the two mysterious mounds that lie dormant in the rolling countryside.

Arriving at The Gumley Mound, I realised that I had been hasty and hadn't really thought out my visit properly. You'd think having been a Scout in the past that I would "Be Prepared", but hey, I had been Christmas shopping and had not thought that I would need to put my boots in the car!

The Mound itself lies off the main road on slight ridge as you head south from the village. There is a footpath to it, but it was too muddy for my "smart casual" attire. Content with a view from afar ruminated a while as to whether Offa, Arthur or persons unknown lie under the mound. A man came to my front door wome months ago selling his bbokelt about King Arthur being from round these parts - didn't quite buy it myself, but I know that Offa has been out this way.

Feeling a little more chilled, I headed south to The Munt in Kibworth. Leaning on the fence next to the mound, trying to drown out the traffic from the nearby A6, I could smell garlic from the Italian restaraunt opposite. I'm not sure that was here when the Jarrow Marchers camped here overnight on their way to London, but local tales tell that this was a Roman farmers grave (place in a much older barrow), so I gusess some things don't change that much! King Kibba (who?) is said to be buried here also (getting crowded in there), but like Gumley this was used by the Normans as a Motte castle in the 1200s.

So, that was my redemption today - just wish I lived near some proper stones!
Posted by fleckers
8th December 2005ce



Back up on the road as you leave Orphir village behind there is a house called Cairnton on the left that doesn't appear on the 1882 map, though as with other places that does not mean the placename itself did not exist then. Good construction, decent grounds, surrounded by several ages of wall. My interest is piqued by the high western wall, that facing Scorradale. There is a stone hut inside the grounds with its back wall there. Strange thing is that the wall surrounding the grounds incorporates this but the hut wall is its own thing and so must have come before. House>hut>wall or hut>house is the sticking point in my interpretation despite that all fits so neatly now. As I am typing this up I am of a sudden reminded of the hut in the Tankerness House Garden's wall in Tankerness Lane, lately demolished.

By the LH side of the Scorradale junction is the enclosed steep-ended gar that looks to have been the ornament of a big hoose before it became overgrown. Going up the hill at the lower side of the way in a short erect stone ends flush a remaining section of drystane wall. And at right-angles a matter of inches away is a less rounded stone of similar dimensions sitting solitary. Apparently.
At the top of the hill is a popular viewpoint, with rough paths meandering aimlessly nowadays either side of the roadway. Going over the brow my attention has often been taken by a mound with garden plants sitting off the road in a hollow, like the remains of a dwelling on its own tump. This time I climbed of the roadway, after some yards up over a definite bank carefully into the depression. Alas after crawling over the man-height mound there were still no distinguishing features, so this would appear to be connected with the 1:25,000's disused quarry hereabouts, presumably its dump.
Furtherdown the hillside is an earthwork (HY316056) between Crumbrecks and the Scorradale road that looks more promising. Big lowish mound not far from the road ,with banks surrounding a large rectangular-looking interior, several bumps and some stone exposed. Can't find an easy way in. Back home this appears to be of 'modern' origin, another quarry shown on the 1882 map. Sigh.

Next up is the electricity sub-station junction. Pausing to look at the bridge next to it on the downhill side at the streamside edge of the field (HY31540580) I saw one rainy day a very exposed 'straining stone', flat edge aligned with the bank and feet practically dabbling in the water. The area of the stone visible from the road is 1.6m by 0.35-0.4m, with half-a-metre of this being below field level. There is a piece of packing the full width of the field side of it. Taking into account the concrete and wire about it it is difficult to understand how the stone stays vertical rather than being dragged fieldward, unless there be much lower packing hidden on the ditch side, taking its height down to the ditch bottom to 1.95m. It doesn't form the end of a drystane wall even though there is perhaps one overgrown under the roadside field boundary. I can see no markings present.
I saw a fallen brown stone that could mean this is the remains of a 'standing stone fence'.
The other presently standing stone (HY31510589) is near to the Glenrae farmroad junction. It is smaller than the other at 0.9m x 0.3m but resembles it in the only apparent packing slab being on the fieldward side. It is a possible candidate for the Giant's Thumb despite being down in Scorra Dale rather than actually up on Gruf/Ruff Hill. On the downhill side there is a notable concavity along the edge, as well as a few lesser curves on the uphill side, the latter ?natural flaking. When I fell back the right distance and held up my hand so that my thumb was placed appropriately the palm base of my fingers fell naturally at the other edge.
On the 1:25,000 there are two hills above Glenrae, namely Croy Hill then Gruf Hill. It is Johnston's calling the latter Ruff Hill that gives me room to think the Giant's Thumb did not lay where his map shows it. From the Scorradale road I cannot tell which of these hills is on the horizon. This hillside is strewn with small boulders that probably relate scorra to scouring. On my last visit there were large white blotches visible way up near the ridge. My thoughts ran to giant sheep or an unusual breed of kie. Zooming in showd the to be instead much larger boulders sticking out the hillside. The map shows some kind of track going along the SE side of the hills, but it looks like a bit much of a yomp even so. If only I had a better fix on the giant's stone (a failed throw at Hoy from Rousay), presuming my identification only simulacrum, it would surely lie here as lure in lieu.

Coming back down into Orphir main there is a magnificent vista spread out before you, with Kongarsknowe highly visible. I could see that as I neared the junction the hills over the Flow would frame it - walking the road below the Hill of Midland the top of it is often on a level with the hilltops across the water. Strangely, soon after you leave the hill base the knowe disappears from view - you can't see the mound from anywhere near Orphir village, only from some some places well down the road to Gyre does the mound show itself again. Imagine my amazement on finding that from the Scorradale junction itself there is the effect of it being part of a meniscus, the illusion being that Kongarsknowe is in a declivity whilst the top of the mound is dead level with the top of the hills across the water. Like the depiction of the eye as an eyeball within a lens. I'm not sure if this is a deliberate placement and my one photo failed to do it justice as perceived.
wideford Posted by wideford
25th November 2005ce



Approaching Orphir village there is a fine old church on the left, with excellent seats and calm garden for the partaking of your piece (sarnies etc.) behind. This is the junction that leads to Gyre and the Viking Heritage Centre whotsit. Below the church building work has started, no' even foundations yet. They've dug big holes alongside the road for services. Here large flags have been exposed that I would love to be something but obviously is not (then, farmers now when they stick in grant-funded fences seem to knock pieces out of the old walls and occasionally even uproot them completely, and yet in Orkney we are lucky enough to have some drystane walls going back to the Neolithic - now we are losing all our history). Along the road I saw one of my favourite archaeologists and, I thought, a couple with an interest in the Vikings. Which seemed to confirm the game was afoot. Still time to see what so I left the Bu till later.
As you go down the old King's Highroad towards Gyre you can see Konger's Knowe on the left a couple of field's away from the road, so I decided to essay that first. Unfortunately the old field dyke boundary is a formidable obstacle still, broad and deep and mired in vegetation, so I had to content myself with standing on top of the almost buried wall this side of the dyke. On trying to find a way further down I thought I was in luck when I saw two tall stones across the dyke, but though I thought there were other materials there I could not see through the plants. Only after I came back did I realise that this was the old gate in the boundary referred to by Johnston (HY34440489). I had not expected an actual physical entity surviving to now. Think of a farm gate using middling standing stones for posts only with a width nearer to that of a domestic garden gate - the stones stand 1.1m spaced 1.3m apart, whilst in Orkney farmgateposts are either 2.4m or in the region of 3.6-4m. There's an outside chance that Johnston was wrong and grind could mean 'green field', however this would make for a massive coincidences. All the gaps in the old Evie hill-dyke were called slaps but that is way over in East Mainland and a matter of culture and/or a different kind of feature.

So I struck back across the line that connects to the bit of road that goes over Gyre. This line is an old track and submerged ?fieldwalls, perhaps a bank too.
Above the stackyard of Gyre is the findspot (HY340047) at "the crown of the breck" for what A.W. Johnston called 'chambered cinerary urns', a term which Anne Brundle of the Orkney Museum thinks was used at the time to describe cists with divisions. I expected nothing, the modern road cutting through the farmtracks that were. So I was surprised to find that this section, the piece of road between the stackyard and the drystane fieldwall, had not been taken for fields. Amazingly it is still unenclosed, occupying an area several metres in either direction that lies between the section of road above the stackyard and the field boundary walls. There are a few stones connected but these appear to be the top of a mostly buried wall. So at least for know the site is preserved for the future. There is what seems to be a spoil heap, stones buried in and on the earth. Strange the way the modern materials are by the roadside end as once you climb up on it older stuff becomes apparent. Doubtful this comes from the original excavations even so ?
It can be no coincidence that in 1972 a double cist HY30SW 12 was found by the stackyard the other side of the road (HY34090464). This held four skulls in the SE compartment and another in the NW ! Seeing the distance between here and the stackyard in person I see no reason why this could not be a small cemetery like Queenafiold. But presuming Anne's memory is certain why so many of this specific type ?? On my last visit I thought I finally had the cist's location pegged, the relevant side of said stackyard being the smaller side road that has cottages along it. I went up and down carefully, to no avail. Then I chanced to look under a small 'recent' concrete ?watertower in a tiny 'field' and saw some kind of hole. Here there are a few small modern blocks. Also several thin slabs lying about the shallow grassed up depression. Couldn't really make out anything clear, not even anything I could really photograph for reference. Looked possible surely. Unfortunately upon looking up the record card I saw the tractor driver had dug the find from a bank, no mention of tower construction. So I am still flapping. If it ain't this it could still be from one of the 'chambered cinerary urns' perhaps.

Now I chose a better route for my re-discovered tumulus: going back up the road I entered the quarry field (used for building the slab fences hereabouts in the early to mid-19th century) and went diagonally. At the opposite corner (whose 'Orkney gate' is thankfully down) there is an ornamental gatepost of impressive size that led once to a since-vanished dwelling (as did others of the type uphill from Gyre). I call it a phase 1 type, which is conical and of drystone construction. Phase 2 is constructed the same but cuboid. Phase 3 the construction changes to stone blocks. Then they become smaller or are made of modern materials, no thoughts on which concept comes first. Could be totally wrong of course !
From there I at last walked across into the Kongarsknowe field. There is a large circular pool of water by the lower half of the turf-covered mound, probably in a natural depression. What was most necessary was to find out the knowe's composition. Even from afar I had seen exposed bits. Looked like the usual earth with a few small stones. Only up real close did this reveal itself to be mostly ?decayed rock, probably sandstone. Though there appeared to be no signs of structure I cannot believe this to be a (wholly) natural mound. Unable to tell its shape and there was too much wind for the tape measure. It paced out to about 70m around the steeper, unploughed, main bit. From here the mound slopes more gradually until it peters out somewhat over 90m circumference. The central portion (? rocky core) is well over two meters high (possibly three) and the 'base' another metre below that. On my second visit I took measure of the site. It covers an area 35~37m in diameter but the 'core' is not circular, being 29m long and 17½m across the upper mound. The pond behind it is 35m maximum diameter, making the depression the same size as the knowe. Which is surely significant of something.
Johnston marks its first appearance on paper to 1797. Then likely about the time the slab fences were being built by Fortescue of Swanbister (as reported in "The Farmers Journal" of February 1877) according to "Old Lore Miscellany..." he wished to investigate the Fairy-brae of Congesquoy" but was warned by James Flett in Lerquoy not to dig this "old landmark". Marwick in his book on field-names says that the Congesquoy near the Bu of Cairston probably indicated a quoy acquired by an earl. Here the Upper and Lower Congesquoy appear late and IIRC are within the commonalty. However Johnston's 1820 map shows Congasquoy (sic) to the other side of the dividing line, and Kongar instead means ' king's farm ' (as in Consgar).

Going down the hill there is Gear Field to the left whose previously seperate roadside half was called at various times in the past Norquoy and Church Field. In the lower quadrant (HY338045) foundations, stone implements, bones & ashes have been found. Johnston's map has a Maseygate 'church road' from the Bu farm area ending at the lower wall where the Bu boundary is.
The Viking interpretation centre is open most of the time and comes in useful for ablutions and such, I know of nowhere else in Orphir for the distraught walker to gain relief. A good place to visit besides. No sign in the region of any vehicles or archaeological bodies when I went there. I took the Breck footpath from the Round Church and by the shore there was a rectangle impression in the pebble beach against the shore that was certainly the result of digging. But with no-one and nothing around I assume nothing remotely official - my big ears had led me astray.
Looking to west I could see across a gap in the low cliff a group of fair-sized erect stones. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I rushed right across the shallowest bit of the Bu burn in order to reach the site. The name that I have for this area is Harproo. This is a stream-name, and so it is no surprise that a shallow stream proceedsover the present farmtrack down to the beach from the Bu road (it is simpler to come down the farmtrack). This was an old hill dyke seemingly similar in dimensions to that close by Kongarsknowe, being just over a metre deep and approximately 6m across where it meets the shore. My impression is that the W margin of the track is more like the original ?prehistoric bank would have been, but I have not yet walked the track. On the cliff-top either side the drystane shore wall is terminated in lichen-covered stones on the order of a metre high. Fairly standard. But sitting on the base of the 'trench' is a stone of a very different character (HY33190413). It stands a head higher than any other stones in Orphir. It differs from the other stones in being completely devoid of lichen and having the colouration typical of stones that have been in the vicinity of a farmyard all the time. I am firmly of the opinion that this is HY30SW 11, the Bu of Orphir standing stone, transplanted. With the other stones it has several 'loose' modern gates roped across. This stone is 1.9m high and 0.2m thick, is 0.6m across the base (which appears to be stone-packed) tapering to 0.3m at the top. At the Bu road end of the track is a similar arrangement of two stones aligned plus a third slightly away. It is my guess that the farm stone could have been a replacement for one swept out to sea.
RCAHMS NMRS no. HY30SW 16 at HY332042 is by the same field border of the Bu boundary. In the 1980's N/S aligned rectangular foundations with cross-wall were found near the shoreline. An alternative name for the site is the Kirkyard, being traditionally a chapel and graveyard. The area is being eroded where it meets high tide and - though I was ignorant of it at the time my photos reveal in the cliff close to the E terminal stone several stones about half a metre below the cliff-top in an area about a metre across and ?under half deep. Johnston reports bones and large stones coming from here. Unless it be multi-period I am not entirely convinced of its attribution, Harproo means 'stream of the heap' and the suposed chapel site over near the Hillock of Breakna broch is the also ambiguously named Cairns of Piggar. On the other hand the foundations could always be unconnected with the other remains.
My ignorance of the tides stopped me going further around to the Head of Banks. Here Johnston shows Corn Goes (i.e. geo), the Courting Hole, and Black Goe. Near the first of these three he notes (HY332039) two small stones near the cliff edge as gravestones and the former presence of two more stones held to be for gallow sockets. It strikes me that one or both of these sites could (have) been the remains of a settlement similar to the Covenanters Graves in Tankerness. Further around the headland an earthwork appears on his map. This appears near the legend Tooacks of Oddi but doesn't definitely name it. Tuacks may be natural knolls on the side of hills or artificial mounds, sometimes called towers. All this headland for 2006 to investigate.
wideford Posted by wideford
25th November 2005ce



Researching in the Orkney Room I chanced to overhear staff taliking about something going on at the Earl's Bu in Orphir so had to go and see what. This turned into the first of 3 more trips to the parish. This blog is a product of all three arranged into geographical chunks

In James Omond once he has left the Mill of Kirbister he talks of the main Orphir road passing through a region of "fairies, ghosts, and goblins" called White Moss. Which makes me think of Markstone Moss elsewhere and wonder if the site of that name is misplaced rather than gone, people having a habit of confusing an area named with the usually far smaller area where the legend resides on the map (or alternately with tiny sites looking on the wrong end of the legend !). How wonderfully the walking mind wanders.
After you pass the Germiston road junction there is a permanent pool of water roadside occupying a rectangular hole. The 1882 map shows nothing there and you can see no rock to make it a quarry. Its presence unremarked annoys me - is it something missed off the earliest map or where a WW2.building had been ? The negative impression of some construction set deeply into the ground being wholly removed certainly. Just along from this I see for the first time the obscure evidence for a circular earthwork. On several previous visits I have looked for James Omond's "old circular building... almost level with the ground" where Johnston's map places it. Finally I realize that this is wrong, for it places both that and the Graystane between the main and mill roads whereas "The Book of Orphir" places them securely either side of the main road. And so this must surely be Cursiter's possible hillfort after all. From it came many curious stones, chief among which was the muller for a saddle quern [the moving top stone]. This had at its back several grooves to fit the fingers in and must have looked mighty fine.

Before reaching the Swanbister junction there is a gate allowing access to the Greystane field. It is slightly rusty and secured with a rope, so be extra careful climbing over. The stone is very carefully shaped. In fact someone has said this can't be a standing stone because it has straight lines and nice angles (recently a real archaeologist at a public event said you can tell proper standing stones because they are larger than 'straining posts'. Which would rule out a significant proportion of the officially recognised ones !). If this had been an erratic someone would have had to erect it, it didn't get this way by itself. The shoulder has obviously been created in fairly modern times, archaeologically speaking. Perhaps when the modern main road was created (the track of the mill road being the obvious original way) it was desired to split it up for carting away but proved too hard. Another possibility is that someone thought to create two slighter posts out of it for use elsewhere and was similarly balked. Certainly this would produce the fat square-section stone fenceposts seen elsewhere in Orkney - there seems to have been a fashion for them at one time, and I can see no antiquity in these.

Next I went back and passed the ruin of Sweanabow (not named for another Bu district as bow here is used for agricultural land held in common or possibly a cattle parc). As I made for the corner E corner of the field there was an area (east of the building and nearer the burn) of damp spongy ground that I take to be what is left of the well shown on the 1882 map at HY35810628 : the one on the modern map further up at HY35720636 does not appear on that - actually I must confess I initially identified a short rectangular cutout along the edge of the bank lower down as this well. Continuing I struck across to the burn that runs down from the road and followed up the west bank. By the corner is a triple watercourse junction and one tall stone in one of the fences there. Coming up I came firstly to a depression alongside the stream, roughly rectangular and seeming man-made, which I tentatively identified with a well as noted above. Next I came to where the larger of two broad flat bridges cross the channel. Leading up to it is what remains of a wallbank of fairly large stone blocks lining the east bank and a few stones my side. It stands two or so feet high and over the original a big slab of concrete has been placed to enable tractors to cross, but underneath the traffic has caused the blocks to start falling apart. After this comes the point at which the burn turns slightly and there are two fencepost-sized stones in a short angled stretch in the barbwire fence by the east bank. The northern one looks to stand alone but
that to the south has plenty of packing with a couple of feet of ? submerged fieldwall projecting downhill a little lower than that. Looking across at the two I saw two small horizontal rocks by a cut. My thought was that this was a feeder channel. Later when I went to the other side, however, I saw it to be a closed off depression a foot or more deep with at least two slabs inside, a thin one presently upright. I think this narrow almost slot has to be what is down as a well on the modern O.S. Nearer the road is the second bridge, simply one large thin stone slab fairly low over the water. Above this are two modern erect stones on either side of the burn, which continues under the road through an unremarkable 'modern' channel.
Then I walked along the uphill boundary and across the shallow hump that is the glacial till opposite Highbreck. Facing Highbreck the steatite cremation urn came from the continuation of this that the house sits on, from somewhere on the left. Next feature along is another channel under the road, with an erect stone on its left. It is multi-period. There is the original drystane tunnel with a couple of erect slabs in front like the low 'passage' before the Hillhead of Scapa well (only without the back wall of course). Then
coming from the two slabs are concrete sides and end over which a big rusty iron pipe runs. There is another such pipe in front of the channel entrance which ends clean cut a few inches from the erect stone. Now I headed to the muddy way through to the next field, gated by two erect stones in slightly different alignments. The southern one is at a major field junction and perhaps these downhill areas are of a field system before what are called the 'improvements' of the latter half of the second millenium. Lastly I went across to the Smoogro road junction. Here there are three erect stones on the west side. The main road and side road ones are rounded and have lichen like the rest in these fields. The middle one is obviously a (comparatively) recent addition; slightly darker, all straight edges (tho' still tapering), and devoid of a certain naturalness.
Could go no further, so retraced my steps. At the Swanbister junction there are the dwellings of Nearhouse, apparently absent (there are a few dots in the track complex) in their entirety from the 1882 map like Highbreck. An uncultivated triangle of land roadside here once turned up a cist. There now is a small jumble of ?stone/slabs that could be taken for this but surely would have been noted if 'twere and so must be a mere simulacra. I'd love to enter this peedie patch of land for a closer look simply on the off chance, but it gives off unmade garden vibes vis-à-vis the cottage close by.
wideford Posted by wideford
25th November 2005ce

The Hanging Stone, near Neyland, Pembrokeshire

The Hanging Stone, near Neyland, Pembrokeshire

My first weblog after discovering this marvellous site. I was interested to read the comments about the great new house built next to the cromlech, altering its energetic field. Someone has o removed the sign at the end of the lane advertising the cromlech's location.

Anyway this is truly a magical site. There are more stones to the east, carelessly thrown into an hedge, probably formerly part of a double dolmen. That this was an important place and was still alive from Neolithic times to at least the Celtic era is recognised by local place names. For example, the cromlech is sited near the meeting point of two lanes - named Thurston and Oxland (the Celts brought the oxen to Britain and it was a sign of wealth and power). It is also situated in the hamlet of Hill Mountain, a curious name. Until one realises the cromlech is just east of a part hidden natural mound (from which its stones might have come) that when ascended affords uninterrupted panoramic views (as estate agents would have it) of the whole of Pembrokeshire. Not only south towards St Daniels, Lundy Island and St Govans etc but also now to the north and the great mysterious diaspora of the Preseli Hills. Truly an impressive location. Great swathes of peaceful energy radiate.

Looking south towards the Castlemartin ridge the only landmark to be seen is the spire of St Daniels church - a pre-Christian site with a circular churchyard and an holy well, reputed to be the early hermitage of the renowned Welsh saint, Daniel. Excited I drove around to St Daniels, and standing on the wall that encircles the churchyard I eagerly searched back with binoculars for the Hanging Stone. There it was - glinting silver in the sunlight, and alongside it the mound that made a hill into a mountain was so obviously present.
Posted by korgilud
24th October 2005ce

Prehistory, Pals, Pints and a Pasty – a perfect day.

Prehistory, Pals, Pints and a Pasty – a perfect day.

Sunday 25th September 2005.

Dartmoor bathed in autumnal sunshine, ripe for a stretching yomp with my finest friends, taking in the Bronze Age compound of Grimspound, and the small kist-centred stone ring of Soussons Common Cairn Circle, ending with the cool darkness of the Warren House Inn.

The day was bright and blustery with intermittent slight clouds to bathe us as we gloried in this fine slice of countryside; the last purple blush of the heather was invisible until almost underfoot, and the quick leap to flight of skylarks and other small birds served to bring our heads quickly to the bright blue of the sky above.

The route from the Warren House Inn to Grimspound – a distance of around 1.5 miles - traverses the many deep gouges and scars of the Birch Tor and Vitifer tin mines, that finally ceased production in 1939. Bar the deep open gullies, little remains - only a few granite plinths remain of the outbuildings, with some ominous looking bracken-edged craters that might once have been shafts. Before reaching Headland Warren Farm, and Grimspound beyond, a stone row can be seen on the ridgeback of the rounded Hill – unnamed on OS maps – south of the path through the disused workings.

Grimspound has been well documented elsewhere, but to evoke what passed before me, I quote at length from John Lloyd Warden Page's "An Exploration of Dartmoor and its Antiquities with some account of its Borders" published in 1889:

"But from the crest of Hookner Tor* we shall look down upon an enclosure lying on the slope of Hameldown opposite, to which other circles are but pigmies. Even at this distance we may discern a number of rings of stone within its walls, marking the abode of wild shepherd, wilder hunter, or of warriors long since passed away – mighty Grimspound.
The scene is impressive, and we stand for some moment surveying the remains of these ancient dwellings, encircled by their ruined walls, which at one moment stand forth clear and defined in the warm sunlight, and the next wax indistinct as a cloud drifts over the face of the sun, plunging hill and valley into shadow. A great sweep of wild moor rolls away into the western distance, weird, mysterious, solitary. Unbidden rise the words of one who knew and loved the great upland many years ago:

"If you want sternness and loneliness, pass into Dartmoor. There are wastes and wilds, crags of granite, views into far-off districts, and the sound of waters hurrying away over their rocky beds, enough to satisfy the largest hungering and thirsting after poetical delight."

*Hookner Tor is now shown on OS maps as Hookney Tor.

We saw all of this, exploring the inorganic remnants of the small round huts, some with curved entrance passages to protect those inside from the worst of the weather, and the impressive entrance high on the southern side of the ring. An enforced diet of Ray Mears and "Time Team" means that the minds eye immediately puts flesh on these remnants, constructing high-pitched roofs, curling wood smoke etc…. As we were leaving, a kestrel slid westward across the sky, scouring the ground for signs of life.

A short walk along the minor road that runs southward towards Ashburton along the eastward valley slope, and we crossed the road to rejoin the bridlepath, crossing the slight stream at the bottom of the valley. Half a mile southwards, in fields of closely-cropped grass, we passed the ruins of the medieval village of Challacombe, thick stone walls now surrounded by strong upright trees. The bridlepath continues through the farm, the gate deep in the shade of the trees. Beyond the farm, at the bridlepath fork, we took the lower path on to Soussons Farm, skirting the edge of the conifer plantation – one of the last planted on Dartmoor in the late 1940's - to come upon Soussons Common Cairn Circle, set back from the road, hard against the plantation's southern edge.

Soussons Common Cairn Circle — Fieldnotes

The Circle is a sweet spot – falsely so, sadly, due to the shelter and screening effect of the 60-year old plantation – but has fine views to the south and southwest. Jeremy Butler in Volume 5 of the Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities highlights that there was a triple stone row associated with the circle, but alas it has now gone – "site only: vicinity overplanted" - vanished beneath the serried ranks of pine. The grid reference of the row is listed as SX676799; well inside the plantation proper, half a mile or so northwards up the slope of Soussons Common: we looked, but in vain. Surrounded by conifers on three sides, it's difficult to see how the Circle may have looked in a cleaner landscape, but the row would most likely have been visible further up the hill.

The circle is described as a cairn circle; a delineating ring of closely-spaced (but not touching) small stones that enclosed a cairn-covered kist. However, to me it looks more like a kerb circle; a kist burial once covered by a more shallow stone covering (see Note below). I acknowledge that this difference may be nit-picking…...

The stretch north cut straight through the plantation – a mite boggy underfoot, despite the pleasant weather, and a considerable drain on the limbs: if the pub wasn't at the end of it, I might never have made it back! The whole trip took about three hours, covered a bit less than six miles, but will linger long in my memory…….

Note: The different types of burial monuments found on Dartmoor are explained here:

and here is a good background to the span of prehistoric archaeology on Dartmoor:

Soussons Common Cairn Circle — Images

<b>Soussons Common Cairn Circle</b>Posted by Pilgrim
Pilgrim Posted by Pilgrim
30th September 2005ce
Edited 26th November 2005ce

'Seek and ye shall find' Jordan Valley dolmens

'Seek and ye shall find' Jordan Valley dolmens

Warning: This is quite a long weblog. However it is lavishly illustrated (a bit further down) for your viewing pleasure. All photos by Moth Clark.The River Jordan flows south out of Lake Tiberias 320kms to the Dead Sea, the lowest place on the surface of the earth. The river follows the line of the Great Rift Valley, a meeting of two massive geological tectonic plates which runs north to south for more than 5,000kms from Syria to Mozambique.

The River Jordan now forms the frontier between Israel and the Kingdom of Jordan. At some point along the banks of the River Jordan 2,000 years ago, a Jewish social reformer underwent a watery ritual with his cousin called John in a cleansing ceremony known as 'baptism'.

Piero della Francesca's 'Baptism of Christ'

But human activity in the Jordan valley goes back far, far further than this. With rich alluvial soils, a regular water supply and a good climate it was an obvious choice for humankind to settle and begin farming. And so it came to pass.

Both Israel and Jordan claim to have found the exact place where the baptism occurred. Tourists in any doubt can visit both. We visited neither. We did find something very interesting indeed though. Not far from the more likely baptism site near Bethany-Beyond-The-Jordan on the Jordanian side of the frontier - fields of dolmens.

'Seek and ye shall find' (Matthew 7:7)
You won't find them in any guide books. I only found out about them while flicking through the worthy but spectacularly dull 'Dolmens for the Dead' by Roger Joussaume in which the writer virtually overlooks them. A bit of desk research lead me to a small amount of information on the megalithic portal ( which in turn directed me to HG Scheltema, a kind Dutchman, who sent me a little more information.

We were on an organised tour of Jordan which allowed no free time. Happily, a cock up by Bastard Airways had resulted in a spare day at the end of the trip. Our tour leader, Carole, an old friend of mine, knew how keen Moth and I were to see some/any Jordanian dolmens, so she phoned Ismael, her local agent in Amman, who she remembered had done an archaeology degree. Ismael didn't really know where they were exactly but felt pretty sure that armed with our sketchy notes and a bit of luck asking around locally we might find some. He arranged a car for us and an English speaking driver. It was pretty expensive but we'd come all this way. We had to take the chance and cough up the dinars.

Next morning, our driver arrived on time. But it appeared as if he could hardly speak any English and we weren't confident he knew what we were actually looking for! Dolmens. Yes. He kept saying 'donads' (rhyming with 'gonads') as if it were the only English word he knew. Or it might've been 'donuts'. Mmmm. We drove off.

Luckily my rough knowledge of Jordanian geography combined with my woefully inadequate notes (one side of A4) indicated that at least we were going in the right direction. We cleared the suburbs of Amman, and passed once again, the Holy Land Shopping Mall (a more loathsome collection of biblical tat you could not wish to find - 'best buys' included a model of the Dome of the Rock in mother-of-pearl and a nativity scene made of fimo with a lovingly crafted figure of a man slaughtering a lamb included) and south west onto the Dead Sea Highway.

Stopped at a random roadside checkpoint, we smiled benignly at the man in khaki with a big gun and bushy moustache. The driver showed him my woefully inadequate notes on which was a small picture of some dolmens. 'OK!' he smiled and waved us through. A sign at the side of the road showed sea level. The road descended steadily.

I turned my megalithing antenna into 'maximum search' mode and scanned the landscape. I knew there were dolmens fields somewhere round here but the likelihood of seeing them from the road was slim. But just a kilometre down the highway from the sea level sign, I spotted something on the barren rocky hillside. Dolmens!!! The more I looked, the more I could see! The driver obviously had no idea they were there. 'Stop the car!' we yelled.

We scrambled excitedly up the hot, dusty hillside, crunching limestone rubble underfoot to reach the dolmens.

Just in this tiny area of hillside I counted three still with capstones on and at least six more wrecked ones and traces of several more. It also seemed obvious that a nearby quarry (limestone is second favourite building material only to concrete 'round here) may have destroyed numerous others.

Made of now badly weathered limestone slabs they were mostly the same size - about 1.3ms tall and 2-3metres wide and deep. This was to be the pattern for practically all the dolmens we would see.

I wasn't exactly sure where we were; the Moab mountains, I thought. 'Kafrein' said the driver. I was none the wiser. The Lonely Planet guide maps were too general for our needs. This may have been the Rawdah site according to my notes, but I'm not really sure. The roadsigns showed we were 12kms from the Dead Sea and 6kms from the baptism site. Does anyone know for sure what they are called? The photo above shows their position close the the main road, with the large newly built blue golden-domed mosque on the slopes opposite. Whatever they are called, we were very, very excited about them.

Baptism of fire
'More donads!?' said the driver enthusiastically. We managed to work out that he had instructions to take us to see the Damiyah field of dolmens, which according to my note are the biggest and best known. He'd obviously never seen a dolmen before and our passion for them seemed to have rubbed off on him a bit.

Very soon, as the road dropped deeper below sea level, the Dead Sea and the lush flat green plain of the Jordan Valley came into view. And suddenly, right by the roadside - more dolmens! We stopped the car to take a look.

Perhaps six or seven here were clearly visible. There seemed as if there may be more further up the hillside, but it was 10.30 and already screamingly hot with no shade around at all, so we saved our energy for the big prize.

Back into the mercifully air-conditioned car we continued towards our Holy Grail - the Damiyah field. As we approached the area the driver stopped and asked various local people who seemed not to know anything.

We tried a smaller road to the west - but were not confident and were stopped by a checkpoint anyway - we were getting too close to the Israeli border. Back onto the main(ish) road, I spied a ridge on our right and my megalith antenna registered 'getting warmer'. We drove up a farm track to the right (east). My antenna went into 'hot' mode. Suddenly we spotted them! LOADS of them! As we got closer, distinctive shapes broke the skyline! WOW! How the hell we were going to get up that steep ridge I had no idea, but get up there we would.

Armed with sunhats, water bottles and determination we got up the first ridge OK, beyond which was a fast flowing canal. On the other side, the land rose steeply and our dolmens stood near the top.

Scrambling up the red hot ridge we were soon passing dolmen after dolmen not knowing where to start looking; there were just TOO MANY dolmens to investigate!!!

I was aware that the searing heat and the total lack of shade would limit the time we could spend up here and sadly realised that painting would be out of the question.

I reckon there are still maybe 50 or even 60 clearly visible up here stretching along the ridge, dotted around randomly, with some only a few metres from each other.

All wonderful, all unique, and an absolute head-f*ck! Within one square kilometre up here, there may even be more dolmens than exist in the whole of the England, Wales and Scotland! I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong. Please do!

The dolmens themselves follow a pretty regular buiding style and are similar sizes. I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

Many have a square cut entrance hole in the 'front' (facing roughly north) giving them a unique character.

They are in various states of disrepair.

This one (below) still had cairn material littered about it:

We scampered about the hillside: happy, dusty and with the sweat rolling off. I stood on the capstone of the highest one I could find and surveyed the the Holy Land below:
-Over there is the baptism site.
-Over there is Jericho.
-Over there Mount Nebo, from where Moses saw the Promised Land and subsequently died.
-And right here I was standing in the midst of a necropolis built by civilised, farming people who lived probably 4,000 years before Jesus. Their beautiful tombs are ignored by coach parties of tourists, their magnificent pioneering achievements almost forgotten, overshadowed by the life of a rebellious son of carpenter. They even seem virtually unknown in Jordan itself, and this seems to be the case for dolmens in the other countries that the Jordan Valley runs through.

Disasterously for Damiyah, a quarry just to the north is eating up the slopes of the valley. Many may have already been lost. What chance those that remain have seems uncertain.

Thanks to my gorgeous friend Carole, Ismael in Amman, HG Scheltema and our driver for helping us make this day happen.
Jane Posted by Jane
23rd September 2005ce
Edited 24th November 2005ce

A Rough Tor of Bodmin

A Rough Tor of Bodmin

It's difficult to believe while standing on the edge of the moors that the land stretching far out across the horizon was once inhabited by ancient man. Rocks scattered into a jumbled mess covering the gorse grass that twists feverously in the wind. With dark clouds looming across the Tor I set off towards the round huts, that I'm sure once stood proud against the magnificent prehistoric backdrop of Rough Tor. With in the confines of the first hut it is easy to marvel at the size of the construction. And I had no difficulty imagining the high pointed roofs stained black from soot rising off the central cooking fires. In the main cluster I counted ten huts in a semi circle. The moor around seemed scattered with small stone walls, their lay out more obvious from the Tor's summit. They formed what looked like plots of land, in my mind fields. There was one defined wall which cut deep between a group of huts, beyond which was a smaller cluster. I left the ancient village my destination the Tor's summit.

The wind battered rocks sculpted over centuries, balance on top of each other. Through the cracks and crevices the wind whistled adding an eerie atmosphere to the already magnetic feeling I felt as I observed the panoramic view across Bodmin. Below to the South of Rough Tor lies the Fernacre Stones. This is a very large circle, which keeps within the tradition of others in the area. As I walked around the stones I counted over 70 stones, 40 of which have stayed standing over the centuries. It's not impressive in height as some of the megaliths barely peep above ground level. But it is obvious that in the soft peat they have become deeply embedded and over the years have sunk below the height they were originally erected at.

I travelled west from the Fernacre stones towards Louden Hill. I was on rout to find the Louden Minhers, two parts of a collapse platform cairn. One stone stood tall against the darkening overcast sky, cutting a fine silhouette. The other stone had unfortunately fallen at some point over the years, it now rest majestically nestled amongst the grasses. Nearby to these two megaliths lies the remains of another ruinous village lost to time and the evolution of man.

Continuing west I aimed for the Stannon Stones, on my approach I came across a cairn circle jutting from the ground. Four stones stood proud in a semi circle whil a circle of fallen stones surrounded them and finishing the semi circle lay the remaining stones. The cairn came as a surprise to me; I wasn't looking for it and new nothing of its existence so it came as a complete surprise to me. I welcomed the moment to gaze upon them. Only a few meters in diameter it is a delight to see. As the light looked as if it were fading I needed to press on to my destination of the Stannon Stones.

I finally they came into view of them, a circle with huge dimensions, its size not dissimilar to Fernacre. Again like the previous circle the stones a low to the ground, but I couldn't help in wondering if they hadn't been a lot taller at one point. Again the enemy of time, allowing them to sink into the soft peat. The power of such at site keeps the air magnetic. Stannon Stone circle brought the end of my hike on Bodmin. I left the car park close to Rough Tor farm and made my way past ancient settlement and monuments. I came to the realisation that there is so much to see on these more that one visit would know where be enough. But for me this time round I had run out of time to ponder on this place. The light was waning and dark clouds gathered over head. I had no wish to be stranded here as the rain came lashing down, so I headed back to my car and then onto a hot bath at my hotel. Its well worth the time to wander these moor's there is so much of what once was and is now lost to us. In time I shall go back and make my way to King Arthur's Hall and explore that side of the moors. The power that runs through the surrounding country side leaves you with no doubt why our ancestors built here. The scenery is breath taking and every thing about it brings back my dreams of an ancient time.
shadowmonkey Posted by shadowmonkey
22nd September 2005ce

Pink and practically perfect Petra

Pink and practically perfect Petra

Seeing is believing. The Rose Red City. The highlight of Jordan. Probably the highlight of the Middle East. Possibly the most fantastic place made by human beings in the world. I kid you not. It has all the features that make the jaw drop: vast scale, grandeur, beauty, surprise, location, supreme human effort, natural wonder, history, romance, magic.

I had seen photos of Petra in books from my childhood. A pink city in a desert carved out of rock during the two centuries BC. Just think about that for moment! Then imagine that such a place could be 'lost' for almost two millennia. I felt sure that one day I would see it for myself. The day was 6 September 2005. I had always imagined myself riding to it. So I did!

Riding past rock cut chambers and djinn towers towards the Siq

I dismounted and left the horse at the top of As-Siq, a long, extraordinary gorge down which you walk to reach the city. 1.2km long, at times only two metres wide, the sheer sandstone walls rise all around you, creating fantastic plastic shapes where the stone has been weathered by water, time and sand.

And the rock is multi-coloured! Pink, orange, sulphur yellow, manganese blue, white, red, maroon, crimson... changing all the time as the light and shadow plays on it.

I had read the guidebooks, heard people tell me how unreal the gorge is but nothing prepares you for the sheer fantastical madness of this crazy canyon. All the way along the bottom you follow a deep channel carved into the rock, down which ran the water to supply the city.

The first view
Just before we reached the end of the Siq the guide stopped us to 'warn' us that around the next corner we would see our first glimpse of Petra's best known view. I was already blown away, so the warning seemed all rather melodramatic. However... we rounded the corner and moving into view I finally saw it.

It was as if a bolt of pure, beautiful electricity had exploded in my chest. I wept like a child. And I wasn't the only one in our group blubbing. I stood for sometime unable to look again as if this wonderful apparation was just some fabulous trick in my mind and if I peeped it would be gone. But no, it was real!

Pink perfection
The perfect facade of the Treasury, as it is called, is 43ms high and cut out of the rock face and glowed pink and orange and is only one of EIGHT HUNDRED rock cut temples, tombs, houses, market places, amphitheatres, public and private dwellings that make up the city.

Many are badly eroded, being carved of sandstone, but the Treasury's position has protected it well.

Many facades are crumbling and worn by water and weather and appear to be, in some wacky Dali-esque way, melting away in front of your eyes. And everywhere as the grain of the rock is exposed, the stone appears to be marbled in gorgeous colours.

We shuffled slowly down the main 'street' (actually a sandstone gorge) marvelling at the edifices which leave you lost in wonder.

The Monastery
After lunch in an air-conditioned restaurant, a number of us decided to go up The Monstery, a temple carved around 300BC high up away from the main drag, about an hour's walk uphill in 40 degrees of heat. Sod that. I'd probably trip and fall down some steep gorge to certain and bloody death. Much safer to hire a nice comfortable sure-footed donkey. This would allow me time to paint at the top, too.

Me and my white ass clatter down rock cut steps
My big strong white ass knew the way and tore off ahead of the walkers. On the way up, away from the main city complex, you get a really strong sense of how vast this ancient city was. The little gorge leading to the Monastery was pock marked with carved caves and tombs, houses and niches, steps and irrigation channels.

Finally reaching the Monastery is quite a shock. Having left behind the main area, that something so large and utterly beautiful could apparently be so easily carved out of a fucking mountainside right up here is truly staggering. I tried to imagine to planning process.:"Hey, Ibrahim! How about you and yer mates carve a 45 metre grand facade out of the mountain up there?" Perhaps not. The facade is bigger than the Treasury and appears to be carved out of melt-resistant butter. I moored the donkey and sat in the shade strategically positioned drinks stall and got out my sketchbook.

Next day Moth and Carole planned to hike up to the High Place of Sacrifice. I could've taken another donkey and gone with them but I wanted to sit and paint.

I had my sights set on the facade of the Treasury in the early morning light as is glowed.

I'd love to spend a month in Petra painting! As it was, I only had the morning. I did this in 50 minutes:

Little Petra (Siq Barid)
Little Petra is the sort of place that if it weren't overshadowed by its famous neighbour would have visitors flocking in thousands. It's not as extensive as the main site or even as dramatic, but it is enchanting and somehow more approachable than Petra. It consists of one main gorge which opens out and in the rock on each side tombs, rooms and facades have been carved. Water channels and collection tanks are clearly visible and inside the chambers are carved platforms for sitting, dining and living. It reminded me very strongly of Cala Morrell in Menorca, only more ornate and twice as hot.

Al-Beidha neolithic village
Just around the hillside (a merciful ten minute walk) from Little Petra is Al-Beidha neolithic village, dated at 9,000 years old. "Skara Brae" we cried!

Thick walls of stone rubble have been excavated of a settlement of a small early farming community. A couple of neolithic houses have been mocked up to show the trickle of visitors what it would have once been like.

The bedouin children from the nearby tents danced around us and demonstrated how to use the various genuine 9,000 year old quern stones littering the place. Just 50ms away are some standing stones, but because we didn't read the sign we missed them. Grrr!

Petra by night
Petra by night is an event is billed in the tourist blurb as: 'an unforgettable experience evoking a unique atmosphere of Petra by candlelight... a magical way to see the old city'. It seemed unmissable! We booked. But when you go to Petra, don't be tempted to do it...

We walked the 1.5km toward the entrance to the Siq from our hotel and then walked the 1.2kms down the Siq - all lit up by candles flickering in paper bags. It was very pretty - looking up you could see the impossibly starry sky above the top of the gorge. The long walk led you to believe there might be some spectacle at the end. But what a disappointment! The space in front of the Treasury was lit with hundreds more candles in paper bags among which a bedouin man sat singing and playing a stringed
instrument. It sounded awful. Later, another man played the pipes. That was a bit nicer. A man got a torch and shone the weak beam round the Treasury's massive facade. It was pathetic. Soon after, a lengthy introduction was made in Spanish. The same speech was made in English. As the speaker began limbering up in German, Moth and I could take no more. We left feeling badly let down by the Petra authorities.

Is it safe to go?
The Iraqi invasion has hit the Jordanian tourist industry hard. People believe - quite wrongly - that Jordan is somehow 'dangerous' being a neighbour of Iraq. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is politically stable, at peace with Israel, has a thriving economy, industrious and kind people and its biggest attraction, Petra, is Jordan's main source of tourist income. There were many fewer tourists than usual. Good for us perhaps, but the local bedouin (who actually lived among these ancient rocks until 1995 until the government rehoused them nearby away from the site) rely on tourists' dinars to make a living.

- N O T E S -
Access for the disabled and less confident walkers
Petra is quite accessible for disabled people and less confidentwalkers. You can ride a horse to the Siq (as I did) or hire a calesh (a two-person horse-drawn carriage) which will take you both down the entrance road AND the Siq. Caleshs can also be used around the main street. The Siq is paved and smooth most of the way so suitable for wheelchairs. Donkeys and mules can be hired for moving around the main site and getting up the high paths to the mountain tops and remote sites. Camels are also available but these are only really for decorative purposes and getting up and down the main drag. Wheelchairs would find it difficult to get over the dusty flat paths of the main drag, but certainly not impossible.

Animal welfare: though worked hard, all the animals at Petra I saw looked to be in good health and well-fed. All the horses were adequately shod.

There are toilets built into a rock cut chamber which are spectacularly clean and flush, too! And restaurants and stalls (selling gorgeous locally crafted jewellery) can be found intermittantly throughout the site. Two restaurants at the western end of the Colonnaded street are wonderful. The desserts at The Basin restaurant would please the fussiest of Scottish megaraks.
Jane Posted by Jane
19th September 2005ce
Edited 24th November 2005ce

Syria: stuffed with stones

Syria: stuffed with stones

Leaving aside Syria's dodgy politics, the country ought to be famous for many things: the friendliest of people, fertile soils, vibrant and welcoming cities and fascinating archaeological sites. If it's crumbly stuff you love, then Syria's your kind of place. From the finest crusader castles in the world, early examples of the spread of Christianity from the Byzantine period and before, Ottoman palaces, ancient caravanserais to R*man cities that will leave you weeping in astonishment, Syria is indeed blessed.

And you don't have to scratch the surface very hard to see that many of these places were built on earlier settlements - this region is, after all, the cradle of human civilisation. Both Aleppo and Damascus claim to be the oldest cities in the world in continuous habitation. I don't doubt it. Syria's strategic position on trade routes between East and West has given it a unique position in the history of human development.

Ugarit - write it down
Near the Mediterranean port of Latakia lies the ancient, now abandoned city of Ugarit (Ras Shamra) inhabited for 7,000 years; from the seventh millennium BC to the R*mans. It is here amongst crumbling walls of an extensive city from the 18th century BCE that the earliest example of alphabetic writing was unearthed on terracotta tablets. For one who loves words, language and writing so much, a visit to Ugarit was essential.

The Ugarit site was discovered in 1928 by a farmer ploughing his fields. Soon after the French began excavations revealing layers of settlements. During the Neolithic 9,000 years ago there was a small fortified town. In the early Copper Age, painted pottery appears with geometric designs and both flint and metal tools. The Middle Bronze Age layer shows great expertise in bronze working and it is from this time that the ruins we saw are from.

Discounting cave paintings, the earliest evidence of writing dates back to 3500 BCE in Uruk, in southern Iraq. As humankind developed the need to record more complex notions arose. All early writing systems (like Egyptian hieroglyphics and Chinese pictographs) use a complete symbol for an entire word or syllable. They could then be combined to express complex thoughts.

The inhabitants of Ugarit went one step further and recognised that speech consists of a finite number of sounds each of which could be represented with a symbol which could then be put together to make words. The alphabet of all phonetic languages today are based on the 30 symbols created by the people of Ugarit: Arabic, Aramaic, Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Sanskrit and so on.

A lot is known about Bronze Age Ugarit because they could record their activity. They built palaces, temples, shrines and libraries. They constructed cedar ships and became a great naval power refining many principles of navigation. They traded textiles, ivory, weapons and silver with the cities of the Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, Aegean Sea, Egypt and Asia Minor. The reason for the city's abandonment is unknown; possibly invasion or natural disaster.

It was screamingly hot as we entered the site climbing the small hill on which the site stands. As we stood at the top surveying the complex it became immediately apparent that the level of human and social development was no different from today. OK, they didn't have electricity, or the internal combustion engine or the microchip, but they did have complicated buildings and streets, running water, palaces, civic systems and a level of social organisation that allowed them the time to think creatively about abstract concepts, rather than just survive.

On one clay tablet found, written 3,400 years ago reveals that concerns among the people then is no different to now. It says: "Do not tell your wife where you hide your money." It should, of course, have said: "Let your wife look after your money and you will never be poor."

We shuffled through the beautiful ruins under the searing sun admiring the stone masonry, the layouts of the houses and palaces, the streets and palaces, I found it easy to imagine that 3,000 miles away on the fringes of Western Europe, civilisation would be flowering in similar ways. It's only that here, in the thick of trade routes in the busy pre R*man world, cities were built of materials that do not rot down.

As we drove inland towards Aleppo (which by the way, is where hamsters originate from) the temperature started to rise. We also noticed that in some of the villages 'beehive' houses were still being constructed and used. We stopped at one village to take a closer look and were immediately mobbed by small, friendly children.

The beehive houses still used today are of the same diameter and construction of others found across the Levant that date from the Neolithic. Made of salmon pink mud and straw they are about five metres in diametre and have a conical form with a round flat top and only have one room.

The walls are very thick and each house only has one entrance, keeping them warm in winter and cool in summer.

Mari melts away
Just ten kilometres from the Iraqi border, baking in the relentless sun, lies Mari, a Mesopotamian city first settled 2900BC.

Only revealed from layers of protective sand in the early 20th century the ancient mud brick walls (some five metres thick!) of a huge city lie crumbling away. Now exposed, winter rains and sandstorms hit the site hard and the city appears to be melting back into the dust. But there are still things to wonder at!

Waterproofed with tar, the vast, deep cisterns and water channels are still visible, palaces with niches for statuary in the walls, staircases, bits of Mesopotamian pottery poke up through the sand and to my delight, my very first ziggurat, from where I could see the mountains of Iraq.

Clay tablets found here reveal rich and close trading links between Ugarit on the coast and Palmyra.

Queen Zenobia's Palmyra
Though not within the remit of this website, I must also draw readers' attention to the R*man city of Palmyra.

Not because it is one of the most magical, vast, pant-wettingly beautiful, finely-preserved, fascinating, romantic and exotic of places. And not because in the flat, featureless vastness of the Syrian desert, a single spring welling up through the rock allowed this to become one of the richest cities in the ancient world. And not because of the evidence that Neolithic people settled and farmed here. And not because from 2,000 BCto 106AD it was a minor desert fort used by caravans and bedouin before Trajan got in there to big it up. No, though all of this is true. For the purposes of this website I must tell you about the tombs. Because I just love a funky tomb!
Tower power!
Built and used by Palmyra's residents from 333BC to as late as 128AD the tower tombs are a surprising feature of the landscape just to the west of the main city.

Here, in the Valley of the Tombs they build hypogea, too, cut into the rock, stacking the bodies in the same way as in the towers. Within the sturdy towers - like oversized fire hose drying towers - they placed corpses in neat rows, one on top of the other on stone plinths, just like in a modern day morgue.

In the partially rebuilt tower we entered it was cool and lofty, with marvellous frescoes and statues depicting the dead. It once held 300 bodies. There are loads of these towers, too, in various states of disrepair. The really crumbly ones reminded us of the building style of the 'navetas' we saw earlier this year in Menorca.

Where to go next?

Via Damascus, we travelled south to the magical kingdom of Jordan...
Jane Posted by Jane
18th September 2005ce
Edited 24th November 2005ce
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