On high, wet moorland, the Druidale cairns form part of an area rich in ancient remains. Several hut circles are nearby and medieval shieling sites are also evident. The area on which the cairns stand is known in Manx as ‘The Rheast’, which means ‘waste or moorland’.
Two cairns are evident here, comprised of large white quartz stones, they stood out like beacons overlooking the road as we drove down the C37 through Ballugh glen.
Pulling in at the car park at Montpellier Wood we set off walking up the footpath leading up the hill in front of us. The walk up is nice and wild, almost like walking up a stream due to the water draining off the moorland down the path, the decision to wear wellingtons proving to be a wise one.
Up here on the blowy, waterlogged moors of Druidale it feels like the Scottish highlands. The sun is out after last nights rain, and even the wind isn’t as bitter as yesterday. I’m perched on the quartz blocks of the cairn, which stand out brightly against the dull colours of the moor.
The southerly cairn is the largest, although much of the cairn material is buried, the circumference of the cairn is still visible and from where I’m sitting the outline of the cairn stretches around me, further quartz blocks hidden under the grass. Apparantly this cairn was excavated in the 19th century by a Canon Quine, who employed labourers to dig into it. A burial urn was discovered, which unfortunately was dropped by one of the labourers and broken, and no traces of this artefact now survive.
Around 20’ to the west of the southern cairn lies a fallen standing stone, now partially sunken into the marshy ground. A couple of feet of the stone are visible, but it is difficult to tell how high the stone would have stood when erect.
The northern cairn is more robbed and interfered with, the remaining stones being particularly piled up, probably by walkers, and now it merely looks as if a group of boulders that has been piled up from the main cairn
The wind continues its steady gusts but it's been a fine walk to the cairns, and I’m glad we took the opportunity to see these lovely quartz cairns.
In folklore the area on which the cairns sit was haunted by a huge old boar known as the Purr Mooar, which was slain by a local legendary figure known as Jack the Giant Killer, who was himself somewhat feared by the locals. The story is related in a book of Manx folktales;
‘Now there was an old boar called the Purr Mooar, that had long been a terror to the district, so much so that it was not considered safe for any one to go alone over the Rheast and through Druidale. Even the shepherds with their dogs were unwilling to face him. This purr Jack determined to kill, so he armed himself with his thickest stick and set out in search of him. After travelling a considerable distance, he made his way down to a deep glen where he discovered the boar, it being a sultry day, luxuriating in the water. No sooner id he see Jack than he raised himself up, and, with a terrible roar, rushed out upon him. Jack, nothing daunted, received him with a severe blow upon the fore legs, which caused him to roll over. Getting up again he rushed once more at Jack, who belaboured him with many a heavy blow, but unfortunately the boar managed to inflict a deep wound in Jack’s thigh, which laid it open to the bone. Still the conflict went on till both were well-nigh exhausted and faint from los of blood, till at last Jack with one terrible blow shattered the boar’s head, and laid him dead at his feet. It was with great difficulty that he managed to crawl home, and it was long before his wounds, which were said to be of a poisonous nature, healed, and even then he was obliged to go about with a crutch for the rest of his life. Thus was the neighbourhood rid of two troubles – Jack and the Purr Mooar – for the one was now harmless and the other dead.’
From ‘Folklore of the Isle of Man’, by A.W.Moore, 1891