Observations after a long overdue revisit in August 2008:-
After recently managing to see a sunset and a sunrise here, I found enough time to linger for long enough for some good pondering about this lovely lump of prehistoric stuff. It struck me that whilst the main panel has no views of the Cheviots (which it would have if the carvings had been on the outcrop on top of the hill), it's actually one of the subset of Northumbrian prehistoric sites that may have been placed with some reference to the hill of Simonside. You can't see Simonside when you're standing at ground level, but if you step up to the natural shelf on the south east side (which you can do without compromising the carvings, as the shelf has turf), you can see the distinctive profile of Simonside quite clearly.
Now this could be overactive associative neuronal stuff in my head, but even if that is the case, I'll claim that if you visit here, you can picture this stone as a nice spot for a bit of 'ritual activity' by some prehistoric spirit botherer, using the water from the natural basin for libatory purposes over the ancestral carvings, making invocations to some sky thingy or other as it descended to the sacred hill on the horizon. All the while casting a good dramatic silhouette to the audience on the pallisade of the strange double hillfort a few yards away.
Despite some effort, I can't manage to suss out any connection with the mysterious Cateran Hole on nearby Cateran Hill. Not even a very tenuous one. Obviously some more exploration of the bleaker bits of Bewick Moor are called for in order to evoke some imagination stimluation.
This big old carved slab of a stone has a special place in the annals of rock art as it was one of the first (if not the first) to be recognised a prehistoric relic, back at the start of the 19thC.
There are a good few bits of lesser RA dotted about in the field with the main slab and it's smaller sibling, many of which quite clearly show the signs of quarrying. The quarry marks on the big slab indicate that it may have had a narrow escape. Perhaps it was recognised as something worth keeping just in time.
I'd advise taking the route up behind the trees, rather than straight up the quickest route, save that for the way back down. The former is a much gentler slope, and as the ground is a bit on the sludgey side when wet, it's probably easier and safer to go the slightly longer route.
I wish I'd known this when I once lugged a bloody great old style video camera up there. Nearly as much as I wish the tape hadn't been recorded over. So it goes.
Once you get to the area marked on the map, you can't miss the slab, stands out like a sore thumb with the smashig expanse of the moor stretching out behind it. The temptation to go yomping off over the moor is almost irresistable. There are cairns, cists, a hillfort, a ruined farmhouse, waterfalls, crags and allsorts of moor-type stuff.
I have to agree with others about the astonishing atmosphere here - it is probably the most breathtaking site of its kind I have ever visited (in 2002, in my case), too.
Some practical notes: the main marks are to be found on the north side of the top of the hill: there's a gate which a farmer has sagely put into the fence that divides his land from the actual Old Bewick Hillfort. The OS Explorer map is a bit misleading with its 'Cup & ring' label.
My great Aunt and Uncle used to live at Old Bewick, so I used to walk the hill and moor endlessly as a kid, when the ring cairn was just a bunch of cists in the heather - a stone age cemetry, my Dad used to say. Scared the shit out of me! Bla Wearie is the proper name for this place, the area by the old shepherds house and crag. It is probably the most evocative place I've been to, and now with the reinstated presence of the ring cairn! My Dad carved his name in the rock when he was a kid, but I've never found it.
To be honest, no matter how hard I looked when I was a kid, I could never find the rock carvings on Bewick Hill. From the other posts they sound amazing, maybe it's about time for a return visit!
this is my most favorite place in britain, fantastic veiws and awe inspiring.I stumbled across this site asetaining who owns old bewick. me and my girlfreind visited roughting linn which was wierd a big ole rock in the undergrowth with loads of carvings ace! mother earths got a good prescence.
Incredibly bleak (and wet!) when I visited last month. You can't miss the big old mother hill looming above you though, it draws you in like a magnet. A pair of wellies is essential at this time of year as we waded through muddy farmtracks knee-deep in cow-cacca and barely avoided falling into a few bog holes.
An eerie place once you get up to the top plateau, massive iron age ramparts and rather bizarely, two WW11 style pill boxes (were the Nazis planning to invade Northumberland?). We got a good view of the (slightly worn) carvings lit up by mellow winter sunset over the Cheviots.
Got to be one of the most evocative and beautiful areas of the world.
travel south down the devils causeway passing many sites within a small area and arrive at old bewick. Bewick means bee farm
and last time I was there i saw a wild bees nest just sitting on a tree,
touching the past or what ?
Climb the hill and step into prehistory.
The landscape is rich in the prehistoric landmarks, but Old Bewick is more than that, you can see the hands of the ancients in the living rocks.
Whats there ? A reinstated Bronze age burial, a ritual complex / hillfort
The mindblower though is the most beautiful set of carvings you could ever want to see, concentric circles cups, channels, the full bifta.
All set in the mostest abience, you'll not want to leave.
Old Bewick, it's a gasser.
Quite in the early part of the present century, a Mr. J. C. Langlands noticed some curious figures, very much worn and defaced, upon a sandstone block near the great camp on Old Bewick Hill, in the county of Northumberland. Mr. Tate, Secretary of the Anthropological Society, etc., who has rendered excellent service in describing the sculptured rocks of the north of England, says that though strange and old world looking, these figures then presented an isolated fact, and he (Mr. Langlands) hesitated to connect them with by-past ages; for they might have been the work of an ingenious shepherd, while resting on the hill; but on finding some years afterwards, another incised stone of a similar character, on the same hill, he then formed the opinion that these sculptures were very ancient, and probably the work of the same people who erected the strong and complicated fort cresting the hill. To him belongs the honour of the first discovery of these archaic sculptures.
from the (rather unusual) Reverend Hargrave Jennings's 'Archaic Rock Inscriptions' of 1890. So, Old Bewick - spiritual home of the rock art spotter?
It's a really odd shape for a hillfort. Like one standard hillfort that's ben cracked in half, then each half set against the edge of the scarp, one next to the other. Or perhaps one hillfort with a hinge, which has been swung open, to make two hemispherical forts. It's been described as being like a pair of half-moon spectacles when viewed from above.
It's got fair sized banks and ditches, but it's most salient feature is the great big rock cut basin just on the edge of the scarp, see Pebble's photo. Given the nearby astounding rock art, you can't help but wonder if there's a connection between this thing and the cupmarks which litter the area.