The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

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Clach an Righ (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

Following a day spent wandering the (arguably) somewhat bleak, intimidatory (at least under massive leaden skies), indubitably wet landscape of Badanloch, an evening sojourn within Clach an Righ's forestry clearing appeared to offer an appropriate, conciliatory contrast before settling down for the night... or at least what passes for 'night' in these far northern outlands in late May. Now although I'm aware that "To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect"... or at least according to the splendidly caustic brain of Mr Wilde... I'd contest a somewhat pragmatic disposition based upon practical experience - I'd hesitate to call it cynicism - is probably nearer the mark in my case.

Whatever the source of this personal stoicism - damn it to blazes when all I want is an easy life - it is once again soon put to practical use. Yeah, upon arriving at the expected footbridge shown crossing the River Naver (immediately opposite the stone circle) on the current 1:25K map... said bridge is nowhere to be seen. No sign of debris, nothing. Troll hunters please take note. Nothing to see here.... move along please. Which is what stone circle seekers must also do, heading north on the B873 to Ceann-na-coille where successive wooden suspension bridges - for, please note, 'the exclusive use of local fishermen' - afford access to the far bank of the river, via an islet. Making the - perhaps unfounded - assumption that said 'sportsmen' would not begrudge my passage, my relief at remaining dry-shod is immediately tempered by the realisation that an unclimbable deer fence comprehensively bars access to the forestry track beyond. So, no early evening stroll, then, but a rough, soggy trek along the river bank in the face of a sustained cacophony from the bloody dog across the water. After almost a mile (I think, maybe less) a stile is finally forthcoming, and, eventually, the forestry clearing bearing stone circle. Not before time, too.

Despite just the two stones remaining upright, Clach an Righ proves well worth the effort. For me this is, in no small way, due to the manner in which the now fallen stones preserve the integrity of the ring, maintaining its circumference, its inherent symmetry. Furthermore they - erect and prostrate monoliths alike - are beautiful specimens, still surrounding a low, grassy cairn of some former VIP; presumably not 'our Harald', as old man Steptoe might have said, but someone laid to rest (in whatever form) at a much earlier date. In fact the impression I have is that Clach an Righ more resembles an Irish site than Scottish... something akin to Ardgroom, perhaps?.. which is certainly a favourable comparison, indeed.

An information board provides visitors - should any happen to pass this way following the removal, by natural causes or otherwise, of the former bridge - with a precis of the events responsible for generating such stirring local legend... the towering treeline, shifting audibly in the breeze, somehow synonymous with the last resting place of great warriors of yore; if not stricken, dying men crying out for their mothers with last gasps of humanity. Whether those apparently nearby 'clearance cairns' did, in fact, once protect such battlefield casualties from the opportunistic attentions of wild animals is perhaps a moot point. For the shattered, yet still haunting monument of Clach na Righ continues to mark the passing of one enigmatic local millennia ago.

Conditions upon the ground may not be at all favourable nowadays and, owing to the unforeseen trek, I reach the car exhausted, nearing dusk, thus necessitating a wild camp overlooking Loch Naver. However there was something about Clagh an Righ I really liked. Couldn't quite define what it was, to be honest. Which is no doubt part of the appeal.

Cnoc Molach, Badanloch Forest (Stone Row / Alignment) — Fieldnotes

As with the excellent kerbed cairn of Carn Glas standing, unseen upon its hillside, a half mile or so to the south-east, the motorist traversing the B871 would be unlikely, in the extreme - even if he/she also happened to have assumed membership of that rather idiosyncratic club of Modern Antiquarians - to halt and explore the low ridge of Cnoc Molach... if it wasn't for the extraordinary actions of those, past and present, responsible for annotating our maps with references to 'burnt mounds', 'hut circles', 'field systems' 'cairns' and, perhaps most intriguing of all, 'stone rows'. So thank you Ordnance Survey for helping me to assuage, temporarily at least, this almost amaranthine state of curiosity I appear to possess.

I pull off the road a little north of the Badanloch Burn and, overcoming a momentary hesitation - courtesy of my spiritual guardian John le Mesurier's customary 'Do you think this is wise' admonition (much better than an angel, I find) - I advance westward across the very wet, rough moorland to the low summit of Cnoc Molach, the ubiquitous, tussocky grass here giving way to outcropping rock. The outlook is expansive, the watery aspect maintained, albeit in a much purer, infinitely more attractive form than the soggy, eastern flanks, the extensive contents of Loch Badanloch leading the eye toward a horizon diffused by distant hill tops.. not to mention the occasional mountain summit, too. However stone rows are very much conspicuous by their absence.

Descending to the south-west(ish) I'm still none the wiser until, suddenly, protruding through the peaty surface like (thankfully) misfiring versions of Cadmus's dragon's teeth, there they are. A couple of reasonably sized stones notwithstanding, these monuments - or is it a single monument? - are distinctly underwhelming in physical stature, the layout not at all clear... four, maybe five rows?; indeed one wonders how many more diminutive orthostats still stand subsumed within the moor. If buried stuff can be said to 'stand', that is? I'm left with the impression that this was very much a 'no frills' working landscape, tailored to the specific ritualistic needs of the community which called Cnoc Molach home back in the day. The people who, I assume, lived within the hut circles which still stand overlooking the loch... and tended the surviving field system, buried their VIP(s) within the nearby cairn? Anyhow, according to those wondrous OS people:

[Upon the] "SW-facing moorland slopes of Cnoc Molach within an area of hut circles and field system is a group of at least five incomplete stone rows. They are aligned from NNE to SSW, converging slightly towards the uphill NNE side. A total of twenty eight stones can be identified Visited by OS (N K B) 26 April 1977"

I go walkabout upon Cnoc Molach, noting numerous examples of the aforementioned hut circles and cairns, clearance or otherwise. As I do so, pausing at one particularly large hut circle to reflect - a hall circle, perhaps? - I become acutely aware of the all pervading, almost eerie silence, an overwhelming sense, perhaps, of 'what went before' irresistibly seeping into the present? Hey, maybe this isn't as daft as it sounds... is it possible that placing yourself in such positions may retrieve or trigger memes (for want of a better word) buried deep within the shared human consciousness? Guess Richard Dawkins might have a view on that.

The former community of Cnoc Molach, therefore, is not somewhere to come to be blown away by awesome feats of human constructive endurance, to see exquisitely shaped monoliths defining a pioneering culture. In my opinion it transcends all that, great as all that may be, instead perhaps offering an opportunity to be a little more self-indulgent. A suitable environment, the 'space' to ponder who we are vis-à-vis who we used to be?

Maes y Gaer (Hillfort) — Images (click to view fullsize)

<b>Maes y Gaer</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Bwlch Cowlyd (Cairn(s)) — Images

<b>Bwlch Cowlyd</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Drosgl Cairns (Cairn(s)) — Images

<b>Drosgl Cairns</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Coed Aber round house (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork) — Images

<b>Coed Aber round house</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Y Foel Cairns (Cairn(s)) — Images

<b>Y Foel Cairns</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Y Foel Cairns</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Y Foel Cairns</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Y Foel Cairns</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Y Foel Cairns</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Y Foel Cairns</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Y Foel Cairns</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Y Foel Cairns</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Y Foel Cairns</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Y Foel Cairns</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Y Foel Cairns</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Y Foel Cairns</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Y Foel Cairns</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Moel y Gaer (Hillfort) — Images

<b>Moel y Gaer</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Moel y Gaer</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Moel y Gaer</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Moel y Gaer</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Moel y Gaer</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Moel y Gaer</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Moel y Gaer</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Moel y Gaer</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Moel y Gaer</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Moel y Gaer</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Cras (Cairn(s)) — Images

<b>Cras</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Craig Rhiwarth Cairn II (Cairn(s)) — Images

<b>Craig Rhiwarth Cairn II</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Craig Rhiwarth Cairn II</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Craig Rhiwarth Cairn II</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Craig Rhiwarth Cairn II</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Craig Rhiwarth (Hillfort) — Images

<b>Craig Rhiwarth</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Craig Rhiwarth</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Craig Rhiwarth</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Craig Rhiwarth</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Craig Rhiwarth</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Craig Rhiwarth</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Craig Rhiwarth</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Craig Rhiwarth</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Craig Rhiwarth</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Craig Rhiwarth</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Craig Rhiwarth</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Craig Rhiwarth</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Craig Rhiwarth</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Moel Wnion (Cairn(s)) — Images

<b>Moel Wnion</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Moel Wnion</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Moel Wnion</b>Posted by GLADMAN
Showing 1-50 of 10,127 posts. Most recent first | Next 50
Hi, I'm GLADMAN... aka Citizen Cairn'd. Or if you prefer, Robert. Now aside from (apparently) having an illustrious historical forebear in W E Gladstone, I've a passion for attempting to understand the more prosaic lives of the prehistoric inhabitants of these British Isles, seeking out the tangible remains they left behind in order to ask the questions... 'why here?... and why such commitment? I've a particular liking for those upland piles of stone with the appropriately monumental views. Visiting them, I think, helps engender a certain 'connection' - however nebulous - with this land of ours, a reference point for those of us struggling to make sense of this so called 'computer world' Kraftwerk warned us was a'coming in 1981.... danke, mein herren.

Suffice to say, then, that mine is not an exercise in dryly cataloguing sites for the benefit of future generations - as much as I might try (honest) I haven't yet been able to embrace altruism to that extent - but rather an attempt to try and reconcile why I am so incredibly moved by these constructions of stone and/or earth representing a time when everything was, by all accounts, literally a matter of life and death. Yeah, just as an empty house appears to retain echoes of past humanity... an illusion, perhaps, but symptomatic of the consciousness that apparently sets us apart as a species... so does the stone circle, the chambered cairn, the long barrow and the mountain top funerary cairn. We may only be able to hypothesise as to the nature of human interaction undertaken. But clearly it mattered. A lot.

I make no claims for my contributions except to state that I've done my best to relate what I've seen. Yeah, enjoying the moment always takes precedent. After all, life is not a rehearsal, a spectator sport. The majority of my earlier images are (variable quality) scans of archive prints taken back in the days when photography was, well, 'photography', the others idiosyncratic digital attempts to capture the impossible.... 'mood', a sense of vibe ... with minimal refuge sought in that false post production manipulation that has, in my opinion, so blighted the medium. I'd like to think some of them convey something of what I've felt. Likewise my opinions are those of an enthusiastic 'self taught' amateur. Hence if you like what you see, why thank you! But you owe it to yourself - and your children (if so blessed - or not, as the case may be!) - to go see for yourself, make up your own mind, relate what you think, share what you experienced... yeah, do your own thing, so helping to keep the facists, communists, authoritarians, misogynists and the dark shadow of organised religion from the door. As the great, flawed Ian Dury once said, 'Be inspired, be inspiring, be magnificent!' ... and thus the circle turns in on itself to go round again, as upon the great kerb stones at Bru na Boinne....

However... let's not get carried away. Steady now. In a society where computer generated fantasy is all too prevalent, where many people seem - to me - unable to even venture outside without plugging into the 'matrix' machine, please be aware that reaching some of the more remote upland sites in the British Isles can be potentially dangerous - even life threatening - for the unprepared... or arrogant. Treat the landscape and weather with the respect they deserve; take map, compass, waterproofs (etc) and hopefully you won't go too far wrong. Help turn that limited wannabe squaddie route marching mentality on its head by taking as long as you can, let being part of this planet soak in. Hey, if it all seems a bit daunting at first why not pop a question in the Forum? That's why Mr Cope puts up the readies to run TMA.... Thank you Julian.

So cheers... to Mr Cope for being his inspirational, confrontational (who said that?) self, showing that field archaeology can be FUN! - hey, who'd have thought it? ...to my sister (the wondrous Mam Cymru) for using her female 'micro' vision to help me see the detail throughout an ongoing re-exploration of the South Walian uplands, albeit upon dodgy ankles, knees etc... to my own mam for insisting 'young men should have adventures' (that was a while back, now!).... and my Dad for unwittingly inspiring a profound love of high places. Oh, and to Aubrey Burl for those pioneering guides BC.... 'Before Cope'.

For what it's worth some of my other inspirational people are:

Charles Darwin (for his humanity... amongst, er, 'other things'... although let's not forget Wallace for forcing the great man's hand);

And then, in no particular order:

George Orwell (peerless essayist with the ability to change his mind); Michael Collins (things are not often black and white...); Winston Churchill (for all his faults); Martin L. Gore (favourite songwriter... from just up the road!); Big Steve Chamberlain (sorely missed); Mr Beethoven; Giorgio Moroder & his analogue sequencers; Richard Dawkins (much maligned - and asks for it - yet helping to carry the torch of reason during an age of devolutionary religious resurgence); The Pogues (for my North Walian soundtrack); Sophie Scholl (words fail me); W A Mozart (ditto); Manic Street Preachers (the true spirit of South Wales, not the bleedin' misogamist male voice choirs); Alan Pearlman.. for the sublime ARP Odyssey; Nigel Kennedy; Pat Jennings; Will Shakespeare; Kraftwerk; Harry Hill (there's only one way to find out!); Claudia Brucken (proving Germans DO have passion); the (Allied) generation of WW2 for making this possible; Marc Almond; Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy; John Foxx; Christopher Hitchens; Mulder and Scully; John Le Mesurier ('do you think that's wise, sir?'... the coolest man) .... and anyone who has ever asked 'Why?' - the true legacy of punk. Thank you Mr Lydon.

Oh, last but not least, Gaelic beauty Karen Matheson... the Scottish trips wouldn't have been the same without that voice. 'The call is unspoken, never unheard'.

George Orwell - '...during times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act'....

Truman Capote - 'Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavour'.

W E Gladstone - 'Men are apt to mistake the strength of their feeling for the strength of their argument. The heated mind resents the chill touch and relentless scrutiny of logic'.

William Blake - 'A truth that's told with bad intent; Beats all the lies you can invent'

John Lydon - 'It is a reward to be chastised by the ignorant'.

Christopher Hitchens - 'Take the risk of thinking for yourself, much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way.'

Sarah Cracknell - 'I walk the side streets home; even when I'm on my own...'

Winston Churchill - 'KBO'.

And finally, in light of several instances of personal animosity over the years: Martin L. Gore -

'Now I'm not looking for absolution
Forgiveness for the things I do
But before you come to any conclusions
Try walking in my shoes' - or rather, boots.

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