Am I really the first TMAer to visit this wonderful site for 10 years? Hardly seems possible?
Although Historic Scotland recommend parking on the A75 and walking up to the site (long walk) you can drive all the way up and park in the small car park. The road is in good order except for the last few metres before you reach the parking area - bit rough.
To put it (not very) quaintly - these are the 'dogs'!
What a fantastic place to visit. The two chambered cairns are superb. One has an impressive facade of tall standing stones, the other a large capstone still pretty much in situ. Both cairns offer excellent coastal views with mountains in the background. Keep an eye out for the large prostrate stone near the wooden fate to Cairnholy 2. Surely once part of the chambered cairn?
The sun was shining (something we had seen all too little of on this year's holiday) but the wind was cold. Dafydd was attempting to make a spear from a stick and sharp stone he had found whilst Sophie decided it was too cold and went back to the car. Although the site must have made some impression on her as later that afternoon on the beach she made a burial chamber instead of a sand castle - that's my girl!
This really is an excellent place to visit, one of the best I have been to. Second only to Machrie Moor on Arran this holiday - and that;s no disgrace. I have really enjoyed my holiday in this south west corner of Scotland. It is easy to overlook this area whilst heading direct for the delights of the highlands. The countryside is pleasant more than spectacular although it does have some good coastal views. What is does offer (in spades) is a fine selection of both historic and prehistoric sites to visit. Some superb - such as this one. The next time you plan a trip to Scotland try to factor in some time here. You won't fail to be impressed.
Both are in a great place to be noticed by anyone coming inland. Anyone doing so may have easily noticed the cairns silhouetted against the sky, perhaps they would then continue up into the rock art strewn landscape to the north, maybe even eventually arriving at Glenquickan. It would be great to have the time to walk such a route, but it would probably be a bit bleak and boggy these days.
Overall, I think it's nice as it is now, that toothy jaggedyness isn't quite as oppressive as I'd thought it would be from looking at photos. And there's even rock art. Hoorah!
I was also chuffed that the chamber in Cairnholy2 is big enough to be able to stick your head in and look through to the sea. I dunno why, but I still am.
This is about as perfect as it gets. Spent Saturday (30/10) afternoon and evening playing around the sites; watched the sun set over Wigtown Bay from Cairnholy 1 and Saturday night sat on the capstone of Cairnholy 2, bathed in moonlight, watching the most amazing nightsky. We were blessed with the warmest October day and the clearest nightsky I've seen for a longtime.
For those who like their comforts close to hand, Cairnholy Farmhouse offer B&B and I would thoroughly recommend it. Yes, the farm buildings intrude upon the 2nd cairn, but the couple who run the B&B are friendly and enthusiastic (as it Harry, the boxer dog!) and cook a mean evening meal, if you don't want to stray too far from the stones.....www.cairnholy.co.uk for details.
In one of the adjoining fields, the local farmer had cobbled together a number of small "sheep cairns" - the remains of dead sheep, covered over with stones. On one of the smaller ones, a large stone with cup and rings marks is just visible.
This was one of several visits to this wonderful, evocative and photogenic pair of Clyde cairns. Today's visit was enhanced by being the only visitors for nearly one hour and some of the bluest skies I have seen for a long time.
In addition to the usual pleasures, this trip had a specific purpose: to examine the theory of Clyde cairn evolution and the role of the protomegalith.
This theory suggests that some cairns did not develop beyond the early stages while others were built as fully-developed versions.
At Cairnholy, it is possible to see all the evolutionary stages. See one of the picture captions for more details.
These two sites are intervisable with each other. I'm not sure as to the chronology of the tombs but I would guess that the uphill tomb was the first as it commands a better view.
If you try really hard and the light is on your side, you can just make out the large cup and ring carving on the capstone of No.1
Long and spooky drive up to the site through woods. Guess that's what happens if you go at dusk, but the moonlight made it all look very atmospheric. The shape reminded me a little of Wayland's Smithy with pointier uprights. A place to go and think.
we took smoke grenades to cairnholy 1, late one night in may 2000, for the opening scene of a shoestring film about the return of elvis from some other dimension.
as we came up the road through the forest, the vibe in the car suddenly changed, it all seemed a bit Blair Witch Project...when we cleared the forest, there was another car there.
it turned out not to be bloodthirsty masonic beer monsters, no, it was a bunch of hippies fae dundee, ken, makin' a film...
we made ours...
An alternative theory has the English bishop Thomas losing a battle here:
The Bishop was interred near where he fell, on the top of a small knoll in front of the farm house; the grave is hewn out of the solid rock to a considerable depth, and its aperture is covered with a flat stone of more than two tons weight, and has given name to the farm on which it stands, (Cairn-holy); and another farm about a mile farther up the glen, still bears the name of "Claughred," (Cleugh-raid,) it being in the line of the contending armies.
One edition of the legend calls him Prior instead of Bishop; but as Whithorn was a Bishoprick, and the seat of the Bishops of Galloway, we have given the latter the preference[..]
[..]It has been asserted by many, and among these some whose antiquarian researches entitle them to respect, that this was the burial place of "King Galdus," or "Aldus MacGaldus," a sovereign who made some noise in the fabulous era of our history, and who, it is alleged, fell in a bloody battle fought against the Picts. But against this we would object the posthumous ubiquity of "King Galdus," whose place of sepulture has been.. the Standing Stones of Torhouse, in the parish of Wigtown.. [and] a cairn on the farm of Glenquicken in the parish of Kirkmabreck.
Legends of Galloway by James Denniston (1825), cp294.
Online at Google Books (though a few critical pages are missing. Like the one that introduces who Thomas the Bishop is).
An entry from Ancient Stones, an online database that covers most of the standing stones, stone circles and other stones found in South East Scotland. Each entry includes details, directions, photograph, folklore, parking and field notes on each location.
Visible from Cairnholy 2 - across the field to the north east. Large(ish) grass covered mound.
The cairn sands on a terrace above the west bank of the Kirkdale burn, 140m ENE of Cairnholy Farm. It measures 145m in diameter and 1.7m in height. The centre has been dug into and its sides clipped by ploughing. 1994