This is one of those places that is, at one of, the ends of the world, ancient man had a thing for at the ends of the world, The Isle of Lewis and Orkney are two other good ones. Like them it takes a lot to get here, firstly is the big drive down, it's a big drive from everywhere outside of Cornwall, then there's the two and a half hour puke fest on board HMS Nausea. Next you have to decide what to see, with little more than four hours to spend here the choice is a difficult one.
We rented a trio of bikes to get around on, with two much messy abouty kids with me, speed was going to be key today. The plan, such as it was, was to get to all three of the sites in the TMA big orange book, first on the list, because it's closer is the Great tomb on Porth Hellick down.
Scilly isn't just extremely out of the way, it is extreme in many ways, there are up to seven other chambered cairn in the near vicinity, none have been restored like the Great tomb. The next hill over also has a tonne of tombs too, Do you like oddly shaped weathered big stones, they've got loads all over the place. Loads of exotic plants and extremely none English weather, hardly any cars ( except that one) and they're not, and this should be strongly emphasised speaking French.
Extremely good !
Scillonian tombs aren't great big massive affairs, like in Brittany, these tombs are low, get on your knees, melting into nature tombs. So with goosebumps and
a flutter in my chest I get on my knees and sidle past the blocking stone at the entrance and enter the crypt.
Chamber, but crypt went in better, there's possibly too much cement visible inside, reminding you too much that this is a restoration job, never a bad thing is restoration, but some go better than others, at least there's no modern bricks showing.
The unroofed passage was my favorite part, the old bright stones bursting with little flowering plants, even if some of it was gorse, my new worst enemy.
Walking round the tomb the kerbing stands pround of all flowers and grass, the tomb has a deflated look to it, like a cushion used by Brian Blessed for a while.
Monkey boy suggests a photo from the tree house in that tree over there would look quite good, I couldn't help but agree so we climbed up for a look about, and concluded that this was an extremely good place to be, not up the tree, I hate heights, but the down, put us on a marvelous up.
Cutting inland after leaving Innisidgen, we went south to Maypole, then took the path through Holy Vale, which leads through a lovely little nature trail, between trees and over brooks. As we were getting pressed for time, this route was direct, but was well worth taking anyway, just for the pleasure of the tropical flowers and the lush vegetation that St Mary's supports.
We came out on Higher Moors, where a duckboarded path skirts a lake that is obviously a haven for birdwatchers, with hides all around. Out into Porth Hellick, passing a curious quartz standing stone monument erected to the memory of Admiral Sir Cloudseley Shovell (I kid you not) whose ship was wrecked nearby in 1707.
We cut straight up the hill to the north east, sadly missing the majority of the tombs here (we'll be back), but passing Ocifant's IKEA rock.
Out onto the top, and there, surrounded by bracken, is the most fantastic tomb of the lot! What an amazing thing! Its restoration is less faithful than it might be, but this is an awesome site. To make the visit perfect, the whole of the top of the tomb was carpeted with blue and yellow wild flowers and the sun was out in force. We had the inevitable scramble inside, finished the last of our food and headed back down the hill.
This massive, carefully restored cairn was given its name after excavation and renovation in 1899. It's a real platform, rising maybe a metre of an half from the level ground and is edged by kerbstones all the way round and has a diameter of around 6 or 7 metres. It has a long low chamber topped by big capstones with a tight squeeze of an entrance partly blocked by a deliberately placed slab.
I was desperate to paint its soft, cushiony shape and hang out here a bit! But as it was, the wind up here was howling so I was only able to do a notated sketch whilst we munched our picnic. I was happy to get in the long chamber, not least to get out of the wind which felt colder as the sun disappeared behind the thickening clouds.
Although this is probably the Scillies' main 'hollywood' site, I didn't like it here as much as the Innisidgens.
There are apparently 8 tombs in total here. The main one is well signposted, and has been restored by EH. I managed to find two of the others in the thick heather, as well as a strangely sculpted rock that looked like two IKEA armchairs, before the rain finally started. The landscape is difficult to make out, the various lumps and bumps looking like a lunar landscape hidden in the plush heather.
This is the largest and best preserved of a group of eight on Porth Hellick Downs. It is 40ft in diameter with a 12ft passage of leading to a chamber covered with four capstones. Entrance is aligned to the Long Rock Menhir.