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Barely more than a week after my first failure here, I'm back for another go at this elusive cairn and cist. Once more I drive up through the forest on a very rough track, hairpin right turn, then a long looping left bend, the map shows a footpath running through here, couldn't see it last time and I couldn't find it this time, it has, most regrettably, gone.
So I end up having to park in the same place as I did last time, but I now know where the stream is, and to turn left there. The cairn is, map says, in between the stream and the footpath, I've already verified that the footpath has now gone, so I follow the mountain biking path to said stream , turn left and make my appearance on the large clearing seen on maps and google earth.
What an unpleasant place this is, absolutely dreadful, just awful, let me explain. It's not Wales' fault, that's to be sure, they put up a forest here, and then reaped it completely, I've seen what the earth looks like after they've taken all the trees, like a hundred bombs went off, like the Somme without the bodies, sorry, but it's just that bad, with tall grass all over it, at times chest height, holes that are leg deep, streams pass by heard but unseen, it is very slow going, nay it is a dangerous place to walk/wade.
Needless to say, that after two hours of solid swearing at the ground I failed to find it again, it's not big to start with, only ten feet wide and zero feet high, but the cist in the middle should be visible, V.P.Williams or maybe F.Foster from Coflein was there in March 2006, so I'm a bit stumped. I found a couple of likely looking maybe cairns, but both were too high and no cist. I looked under trees, I looked at all the grassy bits, all the stones, anything that peaked my curiosity got a good staring at, but, in the end I had to admit defeat. So I slumped onto the ground on what wasn't a cairn, and stared intently at the Snowdonian view north and west, it is a very good vantage point to see all the big mountains, on that ground alone I am still convinced there is a cairn with a cist up here somewhere. But in the back of my mind I remember that were all human and prone to making mistakes now and then.
Back down by the stream I start looking in a place I know the cairn not to be, but the hillock had short grass and some stones were visible, so I had a look, and found a low wall, with a horseshoe shaped open enclosure built into the lower end, I dont know what it is , but it's not a cairn with a cist in it, I decide to ask coflein when I get home, perhaps I can pin down the cairn if I know exactly where this "thing" is. I did, it's not on there.
If someone else finds this cairn before me I'll drop me pants on Burton's corner on Saturday afternoon.
No field notes for eleven years, that's not right.
When approaching by car head for the dead end lane that takes you to Meddiant and Bryn-popty, round about here you'll come across a field gate on the right side of the lane with a footpath, leaving annoying children in the car by the gate, strike off into the field beyond. Follow the car tracks through the field into the field further up the hill, left and across the next field through the gate in the hedge, and the burial chamber is across this field in the trees.
Easy, even with cows, which kept a respectful distance of about two feet.
This is a very good place, even without the ancient site this would be a good place to sit and watch the world unfold, as I approached the stones I interrupted a pair of Buzzards, which called loudly as they flew off. My only little niggles are the state of preservation of the chamber and the trees that cover the view of the mountains. The trees I can forgive, but I would really rather the chamber stood up a bit more, its quite difficult working out which way is the front and back. But these are very minor niggles, easily overlooked when compared to the fact that you can still get into the chamber, under the capstone you can see the size of the supporting stones, and whats more no red paint.
The two tall pillars that look like they are behind the monument but aren't are good, if a little choked by barbed wire, and the capstone is a big one, very impressive big, a big stone with two smaller ones, humph, i'm reminded of the two obnoxious kids in the car and remember they couldn't be trusted with an angels innocence and start the short but cow barred walk back, the cows were good, perhaps they recognised another put upon soul and commiserated with me, and I them.
The 1:25000 map confidently states there is a cairn circle here, Coflein says there was once a cairn here but is now mostly destroyed, precisely they say.....A vague, turf-covered rise, c.12m in diameter & 0.2m high, showing a few scattered stones, remains of a mound levelled in 1951.
I couldn't even see that, there's nowt left of it at all, please don't turn up expecting to see something cool, it has gone, I've been so you don't have to.
When I first started looking at Snowdonia with an eye for ancient things, naturally my eyes turned to the areas around Betws Y Coed and the Fairy Glen my favourite places from childhood holidays, with the right map you'll notice a pair of cairn circles not far from Rhydlydan, just south of the A5.
So it was quite a while since I last came here, quite a while since I last failed to find it, so after an aborted attempt to find Iwerddon cist I thought I'd give this place another go, a well overdue another attempt.
I probably parked in the same place, by some large black bin bag barrels, I probably jumped the fence in the same place too, but unlike last time I came alone, leaving negative nay sayers in the car.
Two, small, barely wet streams need to be crossed, the cairn circle is right next to the stream furthest from the road, ive been doing this for a number of years now and was quite confident of finding it this time round, but, I just couldn't see it. It was difficult to discern stream from ditch or dyke or what ever, I could feel the site slipping away from me again, so I note that on the map the stream the Cairn circle is next to runs down across the hill side from the very corner of the field, so I go up to the corner grab the stream by the tail and doggedly follow it down the hill.
A supremely fantastic idea which paid off handsomely, on the way down the stream I noted a few groups of stones which I though might be it, then I saw it standing there brazenly winking at me, it was right there all the time, I must have walked within feet of it several times.
No wonder I couldn't find, what I usually do is go to high ground and look round from there, but from this angle it just melts away into the hillside, it's even more invisible from below it, only stood right next to it can it be seen.
A low doughnut half buried in the grass with a few stones passing them selves off as kerb stones.
This site wont get your groin fizzing, but is maybe worth a look if your going along the A5 before you get to Snowdonia proper.
After my earlier failure it was good to find something so elusive, thumbs up? nay, a fist in the air.
Three or four miles south of Betws Y Coed is the small but nice village of Penmachno, and about a mile east of Penmachno amid a profusion of footpaths and low walls is a duo, or trio of cairns, one with a cist.
I parked on the road south of the cairns and followed the path through the back yard of Foel house, where a nice old man pointed out the way the path went, but beyond that he couldn't help, we went off the way he'd pointed.
The 1:25000 map says there are three cairns, but one is represented on the map only as a dot, it's not mentioned on Coflein, and we couldn't find it, so either it's not ancient, or it's not there.
So ignoring the dot cairn we rove and roam in what I hope is the direction of the other two, but I'm struggling to orient myself in this maze of paths, farm tracks and low hill tops.
It doesn't help that I did not re look over Coflein to make sure I know what i'm looking for, I just know there is a cist here somewhere.
Whilst i'm looking over towards Snowdonia and pointing out Moel Siabod to anyone who'll listen, ie: talking to myself again, I turn around and there, plain as day is a good large cist, I giggled slightly but no one noticed, a cist with a view of a well known becairned mountain, I'd hoped Id be able to see it but you never know till you get there. There are more cists in cairns much closer to Moel Siabod, I wondered if there was a link, further than the rocky mount.
The good large cist has all four sides, but one end has fallen outwards a bit, and all contained in what we must presume to be cairn, there are no stones, no cairn material showing, just a few lumps and bumps that are scarcely any higher than the cist.
Looking for the other cairn was a futile and fruitless concern, how far from the other cairn is it? don't know, in what direction precisely? don't know, What does it look like? don't know.
There are several low knoll's between the cist and a farm track, one of them must be it, but then, who's interested in maybe cairns, cairns are definitely one thing where size matters.
The entrance to this cave is getting a bit overgrown, there's lots of dead wood and a fire pit mar the extreme beauty within, so after a bit of a tidy up I take to photographing this apparently small cave.
The cave has a smaller cave at the back, but it is a short dead end. Another smaller grotto goes into the right wall, but it is an even shorter dead end. The left wall of the main chamber kind of resembles elephant teeth, between one of the teeth is a small passage, crouching low I waddle inwards, as the passage turns right it goes over a step and I'm able to stand up. The walls have red stuff running down them, the bleeding heart of Elderbush cave it's like i'm in a living beast. Then the battery went in my camera and I'm entombed in darkness, after a short but intense freak out I put my clothes back on and wriggle free of the small tight space, blinking in the bright light in the main chamber, I try to coax my camera into a few more pictures but it's well and truly dead, not pining for the Fjords, just dead.
I'd need about a dozen pictures to convey the wonderful loveliness in this cave, it is everything Tolkien would have liked, as well as the elves themselves, I can imagine sitting in this cave, fully clothed, just as the sinking sun poured it's magical embrace all over us, I'd really like that I think.
Ps, I never take my clothes off at ancient places, I've thought about it, but never have, don't be scared.
From the entrance of Thors cave follow the path up round the back and up to the top of the Tor, so the cave is directly below you, after admiring the view up and down the wooded Manifold valley, go left, right on the edge of the cliff is this fast getting overgrown cave.
A rather odd name, don't you think? seven ways what, into the cave or steaming fish?
The entrance to the cave today is through the large collapsed wide open area, once your in there, theres three arches through which to observe the sun not doing anything in particular. 180 degrees from the three arches the cave continues to go back for a while, it's not a big one, compared to Thor's cave it is but a slight depression.
Dont stay too long or you might not have enough time to explore Elderbush cave, one of the best places in all of England.
It wasn't easy getting to the car park South of the caves, a diversion took me round Alstonefield, I got all turned round and my mind seemed to melt, getting there was a fairly hit and miss episode, but get there I did, eventually.
I followed the river Manifold for about a mile during one of it's disappearing underground tricks, there's one quite cool thing to see already, then the huge rocky tor comes into view and ones gaze is thrust upwards, it's a long way up.
Crossing a now rather defunct bridge the path goes upwards through the woods, taking a right hand turn I am only guessing which way to go, it's been at least decade since I was last here. Suddenly I realise I'm getting very close, and then I'm there, thankfully I was the only one present.
I carefully scramble up the entrance to the cave and learn early on how slippy it is in there, imagine a cartoon character suddenly finding themselves on ice, how I remained vertical I'll never know, perhaps it's 'cause I'm a big fan of everything Asgardian.
First I go over to the big crack in the right hand wall, it is apparently a serviceable entrance/exit to the cave but you need to have the skills of a snow leopard mountain goat, my skills barely approach those of a long legged bird, or something else totally without balance. I call this crack the suicide exit. Turning 180 degrees the cave splits in two, Thors nostrils Stubob called them, I see no reason not carry on this simile. So I slip and skip off up the left nostril, the simile carries on once inside, the floor is covered in a lubricious muddy clay.
There are gaps in the cave wall where you can see into the other nostril, the feeling is one of being in a cathedral, so I did what I always do in a cathedral, I took all my clothes off and writhed around on the floor speaking in tongues.
No, of course not.
The right nostril was just as slick, but it goes further back and it's got puddles, I really must invest in a big torch, it was most unseemly getting about in the dark using only the flash on my camera.
I find a dry spot on what would be Thor's philtrum and sit round for a while, marveling at all the colours in the cave, reds, greens, browns and all in between, the trees out side the entrance going up the Manifold valley are perfection.
I'm snapped back into reality by voices, I build up the fire rouse my family grab the spears and run off into action, yelling like madmen.
Could have happened, once.
The last time I came here I spent too much time climbing around on the rocks and in the cave to go up to the top by the trig point, consequently I missed out on the the best view, the natural but funky menhirs, the rock chair and the now all but gone neolithic chambered cairn.
There's no end of places to go in this part of the Peak district, but I thought I'd come back here and finish off my look around the rocks, nine years later.
I trail after a couple of climbers hauling big bundles of ropes up the hill, they soon go one way so I go the other and make my way straight up to the top, to find the rock chair. Up on the top is an out of place chap in a suit and tie walking his dog, we nod as our paths cross, finding the chair isn't as simple as I thought it would be, naturally it is the same colour as all the other rocks. But a few minutes later and I'm sat between it's welcoming arms, the same year that I last came, six months later and someone has tried there best to destroy it, in Stu's pic of the chair the breaks are bright and tear wrenching, but now it's all the same colour and I had to remind myself that not long ago it looked even better. But one thing that hasn't changed in the last ten years is the big factory thing at the foot of the hill, its really quite an eye sore. But the rest of the views are excellent, Carsington water, Minninglow and Aleck low, a fleet of wind turbines and all the gnarled rock beneath my feet, all good stuff. After lounging round in the chair I go up to the trig point, passing the presumed whereabouts of a Neolithic chambered cairn, now all gone. Amid the rocks on the hill top are a couple of natural menhirs, one points towards Minning Low, kinda, the other has a basin in it's top, with a plug hole, cool.
Going back down the rocks to a lower terrace we come to the cave, a large squarish cave made of the edges of massive blocks of stones, it has a chimney, which you could fall through from above if your not careful. In the lowest corner the cave dips under a large boulder and goes off into a cramped dark who knows where, I got as far as I could without getting filthy before I turned back. I love caves, kind of scary, secluded, atmospheric places, I decide to go to Thors cave there and then. So off back to the car after another long look at some of the rock formations, and what looks like a short souterrain, is it a spring well, a drain of some kind or what, I dunno, it's weird.
Minning low looks pretty good on the horizon, but it was a bit too misty to get a good photo.
I parked to the west of the barrow on the side of the road next to an old quarry, a bit further down the road a footpath heads east along a farm type track. After the footpath turns right keep going along the track until it peters out in an undergrowth choked kind of way. Then head up hill and there's your barrow, no shouting, no chill busting farmers, just a quiet peaceful place with a great big barrow.
I'm fairly appalled at Stubobs visit when he came across four dead cows in the barrows scooped out interior, no such disgrace here today though, so I perch my butt on the craters rim, and rain down negative vibes upon the farm yonder, hopefully they'll go bust one day soon, them and many more. Is it too negative to be disgruntled at not being allowed to go somewhere?
The first time I tried to get up to this cairn I ridiculously tried to get there with two dogs and Eric, who to his credit had a very gung ho attitude, but even though three fences barred our way it was the cows that sent us packing and hoping for better results next time.
After staring at Lean low for quite a while from Arbor Low, I reckoned my chances of getting up there were pretty good, early in the morning on my own, what could go wrong.
Parked my car across the road from the footpath stile, not a problem, walked through the stile and into the field, now, the footpath goes off in totally the wrong direction, there is no footpath that helpfully drops one of at the cairn, so I deviate from the path and head for the corner of the field. Stepping over the electric fence, I'm reminded of why electric fences aren't funny, but there's something else round here that's not funny, it proceeded now to shout at me, I couldn't tell what it said nor could I see it, but I know what angry farmer sounds like so I step back over the fence and walk the fifty yards over to the footpath and follow it, willfully walking away from where I'm trying to get to. There's nothing for it but to ask the farmer for permission to access the ancient monument ironically placed in his custody, but thankfully not the shouty one.
I approached the quad bike riding farm guy, with my "I want to talk to you" face fully on, he didn't come over until it was obvious the weird bloke from far away was going to stare at him until he came over, so he did.
I asked as politely as my mother would have liked if it would be OK to have a look at the cairn on top of the hill, but it went the kind of way I rather expected it would, he said no, he did not say yes, he definitely didn't say sure mate I'll give you a lift up there right now, no, he said, I've got bulls up there, I resisted glancing at his crotch, thanked him kindly, turned and walked away, back to the car.
As I was walking along the big A515, a large black 4x4 drove slowly by, I readied myself for diving into the verge, but no gun appeared so I kept going.
Fifty yards away from my car the big back monster truck pulled up right next to mine, here we go I thought, English farmers are the worst of all, I clenched my fists and several sphincters, and walked over to meet the driver, He said "what are you doing?"
"Your Mother" then I punched him in the face, or I might have said I'm trying to get upto that cairn, one of those things anyway.
"What? he said,
I rolled my eyes, and took a deep breath.
I pointed up at the cairn, "you know what a cairn is?", I motioned a hand in a cairn shape, "an ancient burial mound made of stones, that cairn there" he then proceeded to take my photo, that's a cheap trick, hang on mines in me pocket, he also said some other things but I couldn't understand his inane waffle, his thick accent, probably a scouser. I tried to exude an air of utter bemusement. Then he was gone, like a thief in the night, or a pig in shit, or a dick in a big car. I unclenched everything and sat in my car for a minute until I'd stopped shaking, then I thought, hopefully later today he'll look at the picture he took of me and he'll recognise a look on my face that he probably hasn't seen for a while, a look that says he thinks I'm a dick.
21st September 2016
It's been six years since I was last here, flipping blimey, really? it was an equinox then too, but spring not Autumn as it is now, well actually the equinox is tomorrow, in the afternoon some time, that would kind of ruin your chances of a good sun rise I'd have thought. My day of is the 21st though so that's why i'm a day early, I'm not happy about it though, I try to get out on these days above all others, it just has to be done, almost as if the fate of the world rested in my being at some stones for the sunrise. I've lied to work in the middle of Christmas working, I've gone out a couple of days after having complicated surgery, I've gone to the lake district, forgotten my daughter and gone back and then on to the Peak district, it's important to me, saving the world, and everyone else, probably.
With Arbor low being so close to me I was well in time for the sunrise, but unfortunately the sky didn't look like it wanted to cooperate, it was a fairly grey day, I sighed inwardly, then realised I was alone and sighed out loud. But then a miracle happened over to the east there was a small thin sliver of actual sky, close to the horizon, could I dare to hope that the sun would pass up through this tiniest of gaps. I unpacked my sitting mat and sat upon it, they're very handy things, sitting mats, if you find one on a mountain top I strongly recommend you pick it up and nick it, then I waited for the great luminary to make an entrance, however brief it may be, if at all.
Whilst I waited from my vantage point on the west bank I could see that were it to rise where I predicted it would be just to the left of the big barrow in the henge, right where a gap in the henge is, was the gap made by the building of the barrow, or is it especially for folk like me to spy on the secret paths of the sun. I also wondered where the ancient people would have stood and watched what ever was going on here on days like these, were they outside the henge? upon the henge? in the ditch? in the circle? did they even stand at all, it might have been a dancing kind of experience, I don't do dancing, not sober anyway, so I continue to sit, and wait.
Until the waiting was over, the sun was coming, and I could see it through my crack in the cloud, I don't think I've ever said that before, but there it was, a golden sliver of beautiful light, I photographed it, but my skills are seriously lacking in low light, but you give it a go don't you? without resourcing to multiple cameras and much trickery, or perhaps not.
It only took five minutes and its completely passed through my crack, I saw it all, just not all at the same time, then it was gone, swallowed by the grey.
World saving duties over I set about the stones, inspecting each one individually, on one of the stones on the west side I think I spotted a couple of very worthy cup marks, I'm not sure I've seen them before, nor heard of them, so It's always worth the time to inspect each stone singly.
Most of these stones could be re-erected, much to the benefit of the site, Burl called Arbor low "the Stonehenge of the north", but that doesn't seem to bring the crowds, imagine if the stones were a standing. Some couldn't be stood back up though as they've shattered into up to a half a dozen pieces, but it's OK to have a few lying down, isn't it.
From the henge bank Gib hill is looming large at the back of the next field, I always go over before I head off to pastures new, not sure why, I don't think it matters. The information board tells me that Gib hill is two cairns, a long one with a round one on top, I don't think I knew that before either. Another cairn can be seen from here, across the big road the A515, Lean low it's called, i'm off there now. Tatty bye.
It's been a decade since my first and only time here, and only the fact that the Swaynes howe chambers on Rossilli down were lost in drizzle and low cloud brings me back now. But that's not to say that the place isn't worthy of a second visit, it very much is, just that I was on the Gower trying to get to places I'd neglected on my other trip here.
So with a spare half hour the road sign of Park Le Breos couldn't be ignored.
It was a beautiful day yesterday but today it just rained all the time, which is weird because that was the weather I got ten years ago too, some things never change. The chambered cairn hasn't changed either, it's still crumpled at one corner, still full of water and still it's all to myself. I wondered whether my waiting daughter would mind if I went off looking for the cave, I decided she would mind so I made do with a short walk round it in the woods, peeking through the trees making my own silly Silbury game, coooeee.
The day had started off grey and full of drizzle, the drive down here had been one of concerned skyward glances, but there was no need, this isn't the north where it's purportedly "grim", this is the south, the deep south, almost as far south as you can go without going to England, and you don't want that.
The sun had shone all day long, which had gone a long way to salve my failed attempt at Paviland cave, but it had done nothing to boost my spirits after the abominable hedges of Samson's Jack, I decided that sunset at a burial chamber was what the day needed to finish it off.
Maen Ceti won out over the Swaynes Howe chambers, it's much less of a walk and with a teenager in tow who's moods swing further apart than heaven and hell, it was an easy decision, there's always tomorrow, after a zoo and the cave part two maybe.
I parked in the moonscape car park south of the big stone, some people were in front of us so we gave them a few minutes head start before starting our preamble across the moor, as per the new stone visiting rule book.
Standing beside the Maen Ceti is a belittling experience, it's like, really big, big enough to be mentioned in the same breath as Silbury and Stonehenge, but it was once bigger, in many pictures you can see the two large pieces that came off one side, when they broke off the whole rock lost its equilibrium and shifted slightly on it's orthostats. The orthostats number is nine and they section off the under side of the stone into two chambers, which is now partly exposed due to the broken capstone. Causes of the broken stone range from ice acting in a crack, lightning and struck by a saint with a sword, or all three.
Standing on top you can see the Great cairn.
The underside of the Arthur's stone usually has a puddle underneath it, it's usual enough for some to have called it a spring, doubtful as its all dry right now, so I squat like a frog and waddle round under it reveling in it's dryness.
The site was just as I remembered it, no smaller no bigger, it's the right colour and the right distance from the road, but what I couldn't appreciate from my other time here was the view to the sea west and north, it was all hidden by a thin mist, but its lovely and clear right now, which is nice, I wonder if it'll last til tomorrow.
Everyone who's been here and left notes have mentioned that it's not entirely visible, but why didn't it piss them off, there's not even a hint of annoyance with the farmers of localness.
I parked as humbly as possible by the farm/footpath entrance, left daughter in the car and walked away. Ive seen the photos from the wrong side of the hedge, Ive also seen Bladups pictures from the right side of the hedge on the Portal. I was adamant that I too would be on the right side of the hedge so I tried to go left of the fence, only to pass a burly farm hand who obligingly put me on the right path, what a bastard.
Anyway there'll be another place to get over i'm sure, you cant keep a good man down, or on the wrong side of the fence. Two fields later and i'm stood next to the stone, and totally non plussed as to why a footpath would run right past a big famous standing stone and then have no provision for viewing the stone. It made me dead angry.
I walked past the stone north-ish towards the house to see if I could get into the next field, no go that way, the only way to get on the other side is back at the beginning. But even if you could get the west side of the hedge you'd be so far away from the stone that another hedge would be in the way. Looking at thesweetcheats pictures the hedge was considerably lower then, I might have been more able to get across, by standing on the gate and jumping for it, but not now with the high summer growth. The farmers have done this to us on purpose i'm positive, all it would take is a bit of shearing and a couple of planks to get over the double fence filled with an intense hedge. It's what I would do. But who am I? no one, that's who.
After seeing this place on TV a few years ago I checked to see if anyone had been there from on this website, they hadn't, there was only Kammers implement pictures, so I thought Id quite like to be the first to post some on site pictures. Gladmans first visit failed to get there, and I was just about to start seriously thinking about getting to this hard to get to cave when thesweetcheat got there first. Winning the cave race. Blown it, taking to long to get somewhere other than North Wales, then Gladman won his round two, but only just and then Carl went and said his piece. So, far from being the first to get somewhere awesome to share with folk, which I like, i'm fourth, it'll do.
I thought I'd be a clever boy and check out the tide timetable, low tide 3pm, cool.
As I've said elsewhere I've managed to pry my daughter loose from her bedroom and WiFi, she followed me now along the footpath, it was luckily quite warm and sunny, which is not how the day started. After crossing five fields we get to the coastal path, I note above and to the right of us is a cliff top promontory fort, ignored, we carry on following the wall down towards the sea, footing gets more uncertain under scree and wet grass, especially for those among us that think going to the corner shop is a noteworthy expedition.
I can hear the sea now and tensions are rising, but something is wrong with the sea, besides being cold and wet, it's not out. I tell Phil to sit here in the sun and wait for me while I go down to the shore and see what I can see. The rocks going down to the sea are a major hazard, sharp, hard and twisted full of holes, if you slip and crack your head here you may never get back up again. The sea has definitely cut me off from the prize, I get as close to a photo of it as possible, admit defeat for now, collect my progeny and whisk her away up to the second prize fort.
Later that day I ask at the campsite for tide times tomorrow, the young fellow me lad, gave me the time of 2pm. I now rewrite tomorrows plans around being back on that beach for 2pm.
In the morning we went to a very wet little zoo near Tenby, not only was Jason Bourne and Scarlett Johansson not there, but the animals seemed to have gone on holiday too.
We raced back to Gower, at 2.10pm I was on my way back across the five fields, sans daughter, it was raining and shes already walked ten times further than her monthly allowance. On my own I was much quicker, I had my fingers crossed for most of the walk. Back on the beach I can see sand, you need to see sand, no sand = no cave.
I daintily and carefully slip and slide down onto the beach, I cant mention "the beach" without thinking about war films.
Sand underfoot I turn to the sea and give it the V's with both hands, you wont see that on Saving private Brian, whilst hoping in turn that it wont jinx me into staying too long and having to embarrassingly wade back.
Onward and upwards, another short scramble up improbable rocks and i'm standing on the threshold of the most famous cave in Britain. I enter the cave shaking after all the climbing, sweating profusely, it's warm out but raining and i'm all proofed up. It's impossible to photograph the cave in this condition so I sit and have a smoke for five minutes. In the back of my mind is the retreating tide, it's been coming in all the time I've been here so I must be vigilant. At the forefront of my mind is the incredible span of time since the interment to now, all the changes to the landscape and to the mind of man, it's just staggering.
I don't even think about climbing up to the smaller cave/chimney, its wet and slippery and my big walking boots aren't made for rock climbing, and i'm on my own with no cell reception.
One odd thing, at the entrance to the cave is a quartz seam running down one wall across the floor and up the other side. I wondered how long people had a special attachment to quartz, what if it goes back this far in time, what if they chose this cave because of it, did it keep away bad spirits, did it ensure the dead a safe passage to where ever, did it purify those entering the cave , who knows, anyway, I thought it odd.
But it's time to go, probably, I stand once more on the beach, turning to the sea I appreciate and acknowledge a worthy opponent, by sticking out my tongue and blowing hard, with that I humbly accept fourth place and quit the beach.
I've never been here before, I've only been to the Gower peninsula for a couple of hours stone spotting and that was ten years ago, the return was long overdue. So we are here for one more camp of the summer, with my 17 yr old daughter, who is far more comfortable at home with wi-fi than tramping round endless fields with her graying father. Nevertheless I have pried her out of the house which is nearly as good as seeing stones itself.
I parked in the only carpark on the main road through Penmaen, passed through the gate, walked down a concreted path, through another gate, ignore first right turn, that will take you to the beach. Then when the concrete runs out look for a very ruined chapel on the left with a right hand turn opposite it. Go down right hand turn and the burial chamber is twenty yards hence.
Quite easy to find if you ignore the first right turn.
This site has been in my sights for ten years, and it's good to finally scratch that itch, but I didn't feel much for the site, no magical vibes, no deep insights, just another minor league ruined burial chamber, unless they clear the sand and brush to reveal more I can think of no reason ever to come back. Sorry, but my mind is on some other site, not the camp site were off to next to pitch our tent, but a rather special little place close to the sea, very close indeed.
What a great sounding name, I get a bit Corrimony myself sometimes, it's just the worst TV show ever, excepting E stenders of course.
It's been so long since my first time here that it was in my pre-digital days, well over ten years then, time to get reacquainted. After so many delights in the Outer Hebrides I was unwilling to let go of the week and go home. So before the long trip home I decided to start the trip by going in the opposite direction by fifty miles, you get to drive along the world famous Loch Ness where you always have the chance of bumping into a giant dimension hopping slug. Also you can laugh and point at the money throwing tourists at Urquhart castle, anyone worth his or her salt knows you sneak in after it's shut.
It was a sunny mid morning on Saturday in July, there was lots of people in Drumnadrochit, but happily there was no one at the Clava cairn, when we got there.
I grabbed the camera, the lad and the dogs, in that order and strolled over like there was no worries in the world. Until another car pulled up, instead of sitting in their car for a bit or going elsewhere they just got out and followed us to the cairn. Bloody cheek. We had the stones to ourselves for less than two minutes.
If it was me, I would have given them the stones for ten minutes before making my presence felt, did they? no! they just wandered about willy nilly bombing all my photos. People come up to the highlands because it's pretty, little realising that there's actually bugger all to do really, so they just bum around looking briefly, glancing really, at every and all historic, or naturally pretty place. Surely after twenty years of stone watching I should be able to cope with it (pun intended), but no, I rail against any and all ignorant behavior. I was well disappointed, such a brilliant site in wondrous surroundings, then to cap it all several other younger people turned up in a trendy hatchback, they hadn't a clue about stoning etiquette either, we quit the site and left in a huff.
I'm not suggesting we all form an orderly queue, or that people who don't really care about the ancient past, shouldn't come, just that if the Postman is there, sod off , buy some postcards, misaddress them to someone who doesn't care where you are and don't come back.
Too much? but by gum I was narked.
Well, this is a thoroughly argumentative place isn't it.
Follow the road to Bernera, easy enough, when you get to the bridge you should be able to see the stones above and left, park in the ample car park and go up, dead easy.
What isn't dead easy is understanding what on earth is going on.
The big stone you come to first has been set back up in a fairly inappropriate way, the packing stones are free of the ground , cemented together and stained a weird kind of red. But it is the best looking of the three big stones, shiny, swirling, quartzy and pretty. The other two stones aren't quite as pretty but no less impressive in size.
I first walk all around them looking from here and there, near and far, the one conclusion I come up with was I wish I had more time with clearer skies. This is a strange place.
It isn't a stone circle, or even a semi circle.
The other half of the circle cant have fallen into the sea as the outcrop on the other side of the fence is worn smooth over many more thousands of years than the stones have stood here. It can't have gone down there. I think it's three standing stones, which seem to be looking over the edge, to what was ever down there, perhaps a whirlpool, perhaps an ancient bridge, now underwater, perhaps there was nothing of note down there at all and the stones are astronomical in nature, they do describe a crescent, moonish by shape.
Who knows, no one it seems.
And dont get me started with the birthing chair, imagine your a woman and it's time to bring new and precious life into the world, would you sit on a rock above a cliff, outdoors. I know I wouldnt want that, it's just as likely to be a shitting chair, Lewisian gneiss is well known for curing constipation, or perhaps the king of lewis had his scat collcted as it erupted and then sold across the north of Britain as souvinirs.
But what a fantastic place. No where would a time machine come in more handy.
It's half eleven in the morning and we've got about four hours before we must catch another ferry, so there's time for a couple of essential sites I never got round to on my first time on this island.
First is this one Ceann Hulavig, Moth didn't think of a more pronounceable name, which is good because I could be at the Lavi right now.
Eric and the dogs stayed in the car and I went up the misty sodden hill on my own, which was nice. On the way up, looking behind me to the south east I can see the hill on which there is a cairn and the map optimistically announces the presence of another stone circle, but I've done my homework a bit and know it's not worth blowing off Bernera bridge and a last fondle of Callanish for. I carry on up the hill into another world.
As I approach the stones of lavi the mist obligingly disperses, which was a bit weird, I had thought to be alone with only the stones for company but as the air cleared of moisture I could see where the other main stone collections are, and my place in the world became a touch clearer.
Only five stones remain of a probable thirteen, each stone about eight to nine feet tall, much like Gary by the water to the north north west, there is also the very scant remains of a little cairn within the circle, very much like Gary by the water. What a strange place this part of Lewis is.
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After visiting over a thousand ancient places and driving between fifteen to twenty thousand miles every year I can only conclude that I'm obsessed with these places, and finding this website ten years ago only compounded that obsession, at least I'm not alone anymore.
My favourite places are:
Ring of Brodgar
Balnauran of Clava
Nine stones close
Bryn Celli Ddu
The Druids circle (penmaenmawr)
Gwal y Filiast
La Roche au Fees
Talati De Dalt
and these are only the ones that immediatly spring to mind, so many stones and not enough lifetimes.