|Phase 2 of VVXX is a bit of a cheat. The REAL phase 2 was supposed to be our trip to Meath in August but we decided that we really should meet up to plan the Irish oddessey, so I hot-footed it up to Glasgow to spend the weekend with Vicky and we squeezed a whole day's stone-hunting in.
We set off from Glasgow and headed out towards Bathgate and Cairnpapple. Every site on today's itinerary was to be a new one for me so I was giddy with anticipation. As we started climbing up the hill towards Cairnpapple, and turned off the main road, we saw a lovely big stone, on our left. This was the remaining standing stone of Galabraes and what a beauty she is.
We parked just on the opposite side of the road, a few hundred metres further on and found a gap in the fence which gave easy access to the field. The field has been ploughed and is a bit rough underfoot but the dry weather made it quite easy. Better a little bumpy than a lot boggy, say I! Whilst we were at the stone, a buzzard continually spiralled above us, making that weird haunting cry only a buzzard can - pefect. We wondered whether this stone had any association with the Cairnpapple site; you can see the hill from here although you wouldn't know there was a huge great henge and cairn up there from this vantage point.
The road from here to Cairnpapple takes you past a farm which has the most amazing stone circle on it. This is thanks to the farmer's son, who built it fairly recently and I have to say, he has made a really good job of it! You can see it from Cairnpapple and I like the fact he is obviously enthusiastic enough to have put the time and energy into creating it. It even has an outlier which is incredibly convincing!
Onto Cairnpapple itself. Parking is easy, room for a few cars and when we arrived there were about 10 cyclists all parked up too. Access is up a set of stone steps and then a walk up to the site so could be difficult for some. We headed straight for the Nissan hut, wanting to ask the guide whether Galabraes was linked to the site but she didn't know. However, she was incredibly friendly and more than happy to talk us through the site itself.
Being girls who need their sustinence, we decided to build on the anticipation of actually entering the cairn and instead, walked around the site, taking in the magnificent views and then hunkered down for our picnic! I read the handy guidebook I'd bought at the shop and once sated, we then climbed down into the cairn. The first thing I noticed was the smell; it was boiling hot outside but as I started climbing down, the smell of damp, dank earth hit me and the coolness of the enclosed chamber was startling. The damp air obviously had it's effect on the stones, which were bright green in places; so green in fact, that I initially thought it had been painted on for effect!
It is hard to explain just how wonderful it is to see the stones in this way. Although you are surrounded by a fairly modern building, you can forget about that as you see the stones in the half-light and with the smell of the damp earth around you. Most burial chambers are now exposed (certainly the ones I've visited) and this just felt more real, somehow. Although the site was fairly busy, we were alone down there for a good 15 minutes. When we came back out, the heat and light was a bit of a shock. I took a 360 degree video from the top of the cairn, taking in the amazing landscape; as Vicky said, it felt like we in the middle of a bowl of hills, and the volcanic ridges to the east looked incredible. It's not hard to see why Cairnpapple was built in such a place.
The post holes which are exposed on the east side of the site are huge. You have to wonder at the size of the trees which once filled them and the energy it would have taken to get them there.
Our next stop was to be Hully Hill. We weren't sure whether to bother, having read some pretty awful reports of the site but, as it was in the right direction for us, we decided to give it a go anyway. However, the directions in both TMA and on this site seem to be somewhat misleading and I can only assume that the industrial estate has continued to grow over the last couple of years and has made those directions impossible to follow. So, if you plan on visiting this odd site, I would advise that you turn left off the roundabout by the garage and left into the industrial estate and just park up wherever you can. Ignore the "take the local back road behind the garage" instructions because you will just get lost! As you drive past the garage, look to your right and you can see the smallest of the stones through the hedges.
We approached this site through the trees which softened the blow somewhat! I am really glad I came here but I cannot for the life of me understand what has befallen this place. It was actually quite well maintained, the grass had been cut and, broken glass aside, there was little litter around. However, the sight of the first stone, covered in graffitti was pretty awful and made me feel really sad.
One thing which did make me smile was the fact that one of the stones looked like Frankenstein's monster!
Viewed from another angle though and it looks like one of the saddest things Ive ever seen - McHully stone.
You have to contend with the fact that the road is a few feet away, with lots of traffic and that there is a petrol station and McDonald's in the background. Not only that but this is on the flight-path to Edinburgh airport. We sat on the cairn and the planes few right over our heads, landing gear out and ready to hit the runway.
From the outright weirdness of Hully Hill, we set off for Glenhead Stone Row and Standing Stone. We decided to go over the Forth, just for the fun of it and head back over towards Stirling.
We passed by here on our way from Hully Hill to Glenhead Stone Row (we took the scenic route!) and so onto Glenhead Stone Row
We parked in the handy lay-by but couldn't find a way into the field. The double row barbed wire fence was more than off-putting and there was no gateway evident, so we had to make do with gazing upon it from the roadside (not ideal)
The large stone looked magnificent and reminded us of some of the Machrie stones, weathered and lined with age......and I do like a stone with a hole in it!
Tried to get some pix but nothing worth posting here came out. It would seem sensible to have a stile to allow people into the field. I guess some farmers just aren't as open to having folks traipsing around their land as others. Shame.
When we arrived it was late afternoon and the sun was still shining and the sky was still a dazzling blue. Excellent photo weather!
However, the field was in full crop and there was no way of getting to the stones. We could just about see the tips of the larger two sticking out over the top of the crop! Vicky had visited about 3 weeks earlier and had presumed the rape seed would've been harvested by now but sadly, it hadn't been. Ah well!
There were quite a few people at the SAS monument but no-one even seemed aware of the fact that there was an even more beautiful and historic monument just a few hundred yards behind them!
I would advise that you visit in early srping or late autumn to avoid disappointment.
After the disappointment of not being able to get close the to stone row, due to HUGE crops in the field, this beauty more than made up for it!
We followed the path down towards the farm, taking the right turn up a scrubby, nettle-filled pathway. Negotiating our way past copious nettle plants and bitey insects wasn't fun (it was boiling hot and we weren't exactly dressed for the jungle!) but when Vicky pointed out the stone through the trees on the left, I got that familiar tingle and felt more than pleased that we had come here.
We turned left at the end of the short path and walked a few yards along the edge of the field - the stone was almost hidden amongst the wild plants and flowers and glowed a wonderful white in the evening sun. In fact, it looked so white that I wondered for a moment whether it was actually real! It looked like it was made out of chalk or plaster.
It is a shame that the metal post is so visible but this stone is really rather beautiful and suits being set amongst the cool, green foliage. A cracker!
By now, it wa getting late on in the day and had been a good 6 hours since our mega-picnic at Cairnpapple. It was time to call it a day, head back into Glasgow and indulge in a curry and 4 episodes of West Wing!!
On Sunday, we rose early(ish) and headed out to Victoria Park to see the Fossil Grove. The remains of the trees are thought to be 330 million years old; the same age as the volcanic ridges which Cairnpapple overlooks. They are also about the same size as the post holes at Cairnpapple, which led to even more musing......From here, we headed to the newly re-opened Kelvingrove Museum and spent some time at the Scotland's First People exhibit. It's not hge but has a lovely cup and ring marked stone (which frustratingly isn't identified so no idea where it was from), an iron age boat and crannog ladder and lots of artefacts from around Kilmartin.
Not a bad way to end a very short trip up North.
Posted by Vicster
16th July 2006ce
Edited 20th July 2006ce