I’d been itching to get back here all week, seeing as it was just a five minute walk away from where we were staying, however every morning I got up to be greeted by either grey rain swept skies, or cold dank sea mists. Today however I was woken by bright sunshine peeking its way through the curtains. So enticed by the thought of a barrow before breakfast, I was up and out by 8am.
Just a short walk along the top of the headland above Priest’s Cove and I arrived at Carn Gluze, and now knowing why the sea mist had vanished, blown away by a bitter wind of such incessant force it made me homesick for Orkney!
The barrow itself is big. Standing in the shadow of an old mine chimney which looms nearby, it could at first glance be mistaken for the remains of one of the old industrial buildings, or the remains of a spoil heap, which is not helped by the 19th century ‘reconstructions’ of William Borlase, which only seek to confuse the layout of the site. Climbing onto the outer stone ‘collar’, I’m almost blown off by the wind, but clambering down into the space between the dry stone walls allows me surcease from the icy gusts, and the ability to inspect the cists a bit better and write my fieldnotes.
It’s certainly an impressive place, and amazing views are to be had out to sea, looking down to the Land’s End peninsular, but I find it difficult to get a handle on this place. It is very different in layout to most barrows and chambered tombs, and the radical alterations undertaken by Borlase in 1878 obfuscate the original layout to such an extent the monument as a whole loses something for me. I’d love to see a more sympathetic modern archaeological restoration undertaken to more properly bring out the wonder of this place.
My hands are freezing by now, even in the shelter of the barrow, and I’m too cold to stay much longer, so clambering out I bid the place farewell. I’m sure I’ll be back, I’ll need at least few more visits to try and work out this place!
Surrounded by spoil heaps and yet another chimney, the setting is still stunning. The hills of Bartinne and Chapel Carn Brea are the dominant features inland, while Land's End and the Longships beyond form the seaward backdrop. It's almost exactly ten years since my first visit here and I had forgotten what a brilliant monument this is. It's been heavily messed about with, exposing central spaces that were not originally there (the space between the collar and central mound). But it remains magnificent, huge and beautifully sited.
The entrance grave, set into the southern wall of the outer collar, is partially hidden by summer vegetation giving it a cool, leafy feel. It would be impressive in its own right, but here it simply serves to enhance the much larger mound above. Climbing over the outer collar, the well-preserved southern cist is set into the inside of the wall at almost the same position as the entrance grave is in the outside (see plan from info board). It is the only one of several original cists that retains its capstone, as the others went "missing" after Copeland Borlase excavated and exposed the inner workings of the mound. The circular space between the outer collar and the inner mound is not an original feature, having been inserted by Copeland Borlase to allow visitors to see the interior more easily. Walking around this narrow passage gives a great sense of the scale of construction, as the drystone walls are at head height on either side. Foxgloves grow in the light soil. At the northeastern part of this passage, a second cist can be seen, sadly now lacking its capstone. There is also an unexplained "pit" set into the outer collar on the east side. A climb over the wall of the inner mound gives access to the central chamber, with a deeper pit – a grave? – at its northern end. There were further cists here, but they have also gone now. Even without a roof, it's an intimate, enclosed feeling place, hidden away from view from outside.
We sit and enjoy the quiet for a while, as clouds form overhead. Eventually, we leave, heading back to nearby St Just along Carn Gloose Road. First fix of the holiday greatly enjoyed!
From St Just follow the sign posts for Cape Cornwall and then Carn Gloose. Carn Gluze is right next to the road and parking is easy. This site is certainly 'odd' and I didn't expect to have to climb over the stone outer collar to get inside! It is certainly a unique experience walking around between the outer wall and the inner central dome - one I would certainly recommend. There is an E.H. information board next to the site. The views alone make this a 'must see' site.
There is a (half size?) replica of Men-An-Tol outside the Tourist Information Centre in St Just.
Can there be a more striking example of how society can completely balls up its heritage than the comparison between this wonderful structure and Land's End - complete with ghastly 'theme park' - across the water?
Land's End should be a wild, inspiring place chock-a-block with myths and folk tales. It is not.
Carn Gluze, surrounded by the smoke stacks and debris of past industry and just outside a town should - by all rights - be a 'quick look around' jobbie.
From the west side of St.Just follow the 'Cape Cornwall' road past 'Cape Cornwall School'. 300 metres on, as the houses finish on the left hand side of the road, take an immediate left. This is NOT signposted (and bloody should be for a site if this importance). Follow this road into the National Trust land and you can hardly fail to spot this sublime 'barrow' on the left hand side of the road, just after an old mine chimney.
Parking is available a short distance past the barrow.
I put inverted commas on 'barrow' because this thing is so amazing that I feel there has to be a separate word for it! I have seen quite few different types of barrows and burial places in my time and this blows them all out of the water, being a mix of different sites and styles. The central dome is assumed to have been significantly bigger before, and with its strange thick collar all around it surely would have been a magnificent sight all those years ago, whatever it actually looked like at the time.
The entrance grave on the outside is clearly visible, as is a cist directly on the other side of the 'outer collar', and another cist at the other side of the central dome. There is also a strange alcove and pit on the east side. This was built by Borlase as a viewing pit; a sort of 'show pit'. Read the English Heritage listing for the barrow via the internet link below to try to fathom out all of this (I could just follow it, but a diagram would have been useful).
Walking between the outer collar and central dome is a fantastic experience as your senses are surrounded by the ancient equivalent of the art of dry stone walling (although some of it is Borlase's work).
On our way back from staying in Mousehole, we decided to make one last trip round the coastal road and stop off at Cape Cornwall to see this monument and the cliffs, before heading to Chûn Quoit, and then back up to Bristol.
The size of this place is impressive, and the view even more so - taking in Land's End at a distance where the horrible theme park is almost invisible. The waves below these here cliffs are quite something, and must have had quite an impact on the minds of the ancients.
I know this site as Ballowal Barrow, but whats in a name? This has got to be one of the most perfect spots in the British Isles. What a place to be laid to rest.
This is the Lands End...not that commercialised ediface to the south. On a clear day like what we had last Sunday (9.2.03) when you can look out and see the Scilly Isles....the sea below you white with spray....the sky blue as it can be, you forget all the troubles in the world.
I noticed that the information board has disapeared from the side of the road, shame because it was very informative. I hope it will be replaced soon otherwise the site can look just like a pile of mine waste which it was I believe before it was uncovered.
If you find yourselves in West Penwith and have done all th circles and standing stones...make your way out to Carn Gluze as the sun is setting over the sea.........you wont regret it.