On the walk across from the road to the habitation site and cairn cluster, we took the more modern, sandy track which at first goes east-west, then veers north-south to the top of the hill. This track is littered with quartz stones of varying sizes. As the track changes direction, it becomes necessary to leave it behind and head across the moor, most of which is littered with various scatterings of stone, natural and man-made.
At the most easily identifiable hut-site in Piperstown, the door is in the southern wall (just slightly east of south). From front to back it's 7 metres or so and six from side to side, not square but almost. In the 5 times I've visited Piperstown previously I missed this every time, even though it is plainly obvious – I guess you have to know where to look, though we just happened on this today (16/6/14). There are other hut-sites scattered on the hillside but none of the same quality, as far as I could see.
We moved on to the cairn cluster. These are still very visible. They are all in an area of about 120 mettes by 15 metres. The fire burnt away the vegetation and the summer last year was so hot and dry that it turned much of the peat to dust. There is the line of 4 cairns that are more or less aligned north-south. The bottom, most southerly is showing much of its mass, about 6 metres in diameter, but low and with no kerbstones visible.
Midway between this first and the second to the north is a large lump of earthfast stone. The second cairn itself has a most definite kerb, best preserved from the south-east to the west and this is the largest of all the cairns at Piperstown, maybe 8 metres in diameter. Just slightly south-west of this cairn, and out of the main line of four, is another very small, low cairn, and beyond that, directly west is yet another.
Further up to the north is a very denuded and low cairn, and then beyond that, the last of the line and the most 'famous' one, mentioned in Burl's gazetteer as having a circle of stones, an interpretation arrived at after the cairn was excavated and found to have a number of small standing stones surrounding it. These stones are still visible, and unlike the 'body of the cairn which consists of granite boulders, are of a greywacke type of stone. The cairn is tiny, maybe a little over 2 metres in diameter, but is the most cairn-like of all the sites on Piperstown.
It's quite striking how suitable that Piperstown is for habitation, a low, flattish hill, but still prominent enough to dominate its immediate surroundings. West of here is the passage grave cemetery of Seahan/Seefingan/Seefin and this massif, like at other habitation sites in the area, seems to watch over the place, the ancestors guarding the inhabitants.
Piperstown is a place slow to give up its secrets. I pass it by every once in a while and wonder. Burl mentions it in his Guide to the Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany in connection with site K, where a circle of 5 or 6 standing stones were revealed upon excavation.
Altogether there are said to be 8 cairns and 7 structures/hut sites on the hill. There's also a pre-bog wall on top of the hill with 3 more cairns associated with it. Piperstown Hill is like a central locus in the area, with views all around. There is much more going on here than is immediately apparent, but I've just now discovered a map/plan of the site and intend to return soon before the heather and gorse really take hold.
During the spell of dry weather earlier in the year a massive fire consumed a lot of the vegetation on the southern slopes of Piperstown Hill. I'd passed by a couple of times and wondered if the fire had burnt back any of the gorse and heather at the cairns. I got my answer today. Yes… and it also exposed what I believe to be 2 more, unmarked burial mounds/cairns! That makes 5 in this small area, 4 in the north-south alignment and a small one to the west of the largest, what I once thought of as the middle cairn.
The 2 'new' ones are barely visible, both about half a metre proud of the surrounding terrain, but I suspect there is much more under the peat.
The bottom cairn of the 4 aligned cairns finishes just above a natural platform. From here, the views west across the Glenasmole valley and up to Ballymorefin, Seahan and Corrig are splendid. South there are two very deep cuts in the horizon, one where the Dodder falls towards Glenasmole, the other called Cot Brook, a stream that meets the Dodder at Cunard.