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Walking with Owls in the rain at Drannandow

About three miles north west of Newton Stewart is the tiny village of Penninghame easily reached by following the A714, but the megalithic complex of Drannandow is across the River Cree and there is no bridge here. Either keep going to Clachaneasy and use the bridge there or start from leaving Newton Stewart by going to Minnigaff. Look for an eastern turning to the less than a mile away Drannandow Farm. We parked just the other side of the farm.

It was still persisting down so Eric decided to let me have a wander round the wilderness on my own, suited and booted in waterproofs from heaven I set off up the track at my briskest pace.
Several gates need to be opened and closed and after less than a mile turn right onto another track. On the highest ground immediately right of the farm track is the stone circle and cairn of Drumfern.
I was looking for the cairn first as it would be I hope, the easiest to spot. It was, the rain and poor visibility didn't add much to the atmosphere, the atmosphere could best be described as drizzly. About one meter high and occupying a good lookout position the cairns extremities have grassed over leaving the cairns high parts open to the air. My dad once said "seen one stone circle seen them all" I disagree strongly but with cairns he might have got away with it.

Drumfern — Images

<b>Drumfern</b>Posted by postman

About fifty yards away going back to the track I eventually found the remnants of Drumfern stone circle. There are many stray small boulders that may or may not have once been part of the circle, this makes pinpointing the ring a touch less than easy. But it is there, Only three or four stones are still up standing, hiding amid the long reedy grassy bunches that like to hide circle stones. One rough stone is almost a meter high the other two or three are smaller smoother boulder like stones.
I quite liked it despite it's near destruction, finding the stones that describe the circle is a bit like putting an easy jigsaw together, or doing a child's crossword, maybe.

Drumfern — Images

<b>Drumfern</b>Posted by postman<b>Drumfern</b>Posted by postman

Seeing as I found the circle quick and easy enough I decided to try and see all that was here in this little complex. Heading further east along the farm track I enter the forestry part of the walk. Creepy places at the best of times, strange sounds followed me round, one time I thought I heard a car behind me but there was nothing there, creepy, at least the trees shaded me from the incessant rain. Coming out of the other side of the forestry block keeping to the track for another four hundred yards I came to Drannandow chambered cairn right next to a ruined cottage apparently called Nappers cottage.
This was the scene of my all time bestest nature moment, as I approached the cairn and the cottage a big white bird launched off the ruin and flew away, at first I thought it was a seagull, but then another one flew off, this time closer, I could clearly see that it was a Barn Owl, 45 years and ive only seen Barn Owls twice, now ive doubled my tally in a day. The spirit of Nutkins came over me and I walked over to the ruined cottage in a trance, looking through a window I decided it was too perilous to go in it so I walked round and looked through another window and there on a roof beam was another Barn Owl not ten feet away from me, it screeched at me as it flew away looking me in the eye as it went past, I have not been that close to a raptor outside of a falconry display. I reckoned it would not matter what stones I saw that day, that Owling moment would be the highlight. (Barn Owls are the quietest fliers, even their feathers have feathers).
One of the Owls perched on a nearby gatepost and watched me looking over the chambered cairn, oh yeah right, focus, stones.

Drannandow — Images

<b>Drannandow</b>Posted by postman<b>Drannandow</b>Posted by postman

Five, yes five chambers there are in this cairn, the eastern chamber is the biggest, but it looks like it's been tacked onto the side of a roundish cairn and made it into a longish cairn. The north west chamber is pretty good too, but the other three are full of rubble and covered in ferns, making them hard to distinguish. The whole thing is on the large side and really quite impressive, long views south across the moor.

From here there are two other cairns on a south south west alignment, the furthest can just be seen on the tree line of the forestry block I just walked through, and the other is nearer to the cottage, but because of the crappy weather and time constraints I decided to let them go, which was a stupid shame because the middle cairn has a cist, still with it's capstone in place, I now wish I'd gone over for a nosy.

But at least there's still a couple of large standing stones to be seen, I'd glimpsed them as I came out of the trees, so I knew where to head for. But it didn't make getting there any easier, bogs, streams and springs all wanted to soak me or even break a leg.
On approach to the stones they looked very dark, black almost against the moors light brown colour. Standing next to them they are both taller than me, 6ft 8' and 7ft 4', and covered in mosses and lichens. Big brown cattle eyed me suspiciously as I stumbled this way and that, I put on my best Scottish accent and told them not to worry I'm a Postman.
The Thieves they are called, it says so on the map very clearly, traditionally they're said to take their name from the fact that several free-booters were executed at them in the 14th century. Kill them all I say (what is free booting?)
Whilst I was there I could see a very clear rubble bank, like what you get on embanked stone circles, the two tall stones stand on this bank 14 feet apart, research later explained the bank away as modern, but, well, what could it be for? mysterious.

Blair Hill — Images

<b>Blair Hill</b>Posted by postman<b>Blair Hill</b>Posted by postman

The two stones are very good menhirs, one of them is a very unlikely shape, I like unlikely shaped standing stones, they are so......unlikely.

But that is all the time I can spend at Drannandow, Eric, food, and Glenquicken await.

Owls are brilliant, but seeing them is better.
postman Posted by postman
11th November 2014ce
Edited 11th November 2014ce

Comments (6)

Enjoyed that :)

Happy birthday for tomorrow!
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
11th November 2014ce
Thanks very much, you've a very good memory, mine restricts your birthday to "very recently", so, belated wishes your way too. postman Posted by postman
11th November 2014ce
"The spirit of Nutkins" - that made me laugh :) Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
12th November 2014ce
The owls must have been wondrous, fancy seeing three! They are extraordinary barn owls, one followed the car one night just outside Avebury it flew alongside - magical moment. Happy birthday and may your future be filled with more treks over the length and breadth of this country of ours ;) moss Posted by moss
12th November 2014ce
Cheers! Twas indeed recent (and quite wet) thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
12th November 2014ce
Thanks Moss, more treks everywhere is just what I'm after.
Terry Nutkins, Johnny Morris, Sir David Attenborough and more all helped warp my mind into the keen mushy mess it is today.
postman Posted by postman
12th November 2014ce
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