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Ben Uarie (Cairn(s))

Standing sentinel over Glen Loth, where the road begins its descent to the megalithic cornucopia of the Strath of Kildonan, Ben Uarie, at 2,044ft (623m) is way, way down the list of Scotland's highest peaks. In fact it's not even the tallest in the area, that accolade bestowed upon neighbouring Beinn Dhorain. It is, however, a striking mountain, dominating the upper reaches of the glen by sheer force of profile.

Although not currently featuring upon Canmore's database, Ben Uarie is crowned by the remains of a significant cairn, significant in terms of size of embedded footprint - if not height - and featuring an OS triangulation pillar within a modern, circular shelter. In addition there are - to my mind - clear remnants of a former kerb still in situ strongly suggesting an ancient origin. It would appear the aforementioned Ordnance Survey people agree, the cairn featured in antiquarian typeface upon the latest 1:25k map (but not the 1:50k).

It would also seem that Ben Uarie is woven into the tapestry of local folklore, Sinclair (Stat, Acct of Scotland, XV. 191) relating how the imposingly statuesque Clach Mhic Mhios - otherwise known as Clach Macmeas - 'was hurled to the bottom of the glen from the top of Ben Uarie by a giant youth when one month old'. The fact that the nearer - and, as mentioned, higher Beinn Dhorain was not name-checked as source of the monolith is surely significant, reflecting an association with the mountain stretching way back into the mists of time.

Langstone Moor (Cairn(s))

The denuded remains of several cairns can still be visited some 300-odd yards to the approx south-east of the Langstone Moor stone circle, standing above the River Walkham.

With Great Mis Tor dominating the southern aspect the location is pretty special, even if the archaeology won't compete with the nearby great ring. Perhaps it was not always thus, however, a 'stone circle or kerb' being cited - presumably at SX 55757812 - in 1898 [T Devon Ass 30 1898 112].

Note that the map also depicts settlements to the east and below to the approx south-west.

Corndon Tor (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

Prospective visitors with a passion for ancient domestic dwellings should note that - as far as I'm aware - there are two prehistoric settlements in the immediate vicinity of Corndon Tor, with associated reaves/field systems. Hey, perhaps there are more?

1) A settlement at SX68217466 near Sherwell
2) A grouping of hut circles centred at SX68857525 to the NE

There is also a possible prehistoric enclosure/pound at SX69077479. Oh and a number of sites clustered around nearby Yar Tor, too.

The twin summits of Corndon Tor itself are instead (very) notable for possessing massive Bronze Age cairns.... two to the north and one to the south. There is also an enigmatic 'tor cairn' near the latter. Please refer to corndon tor...

Longstone Hill (Cairn(s))

Located below and (roughly) to the north-west of Yes Tor, Longstone Hill possesses a couple of Bronze Age cairns of its own....

Now I believe I visited the monument at SX56909053, cited by Pastscape thus:

"A very disturbed cairn 630m SSE of the flagpole on Longstone Hill. The mound measures 8.7m N to S by 8.3m and stands a maximum of 1.0m high on its W side. The W half of the interior is occupied by two amorphous hollows, which appear to be unrecorded antiquarian excavations. Spoil from these features has been deposited on the S flank of the cairn. There is no evidence to suggest the presence of a kerb or cist. Scheduled"

More or less dead on my feet by this point I consequently bypassed what appeared to be other examples, including one such at cSX567911. The location boasts excellent views, in my opinion well worth an extended visit if the high plateau of Yes Tor/High Willhays does not appeal. Particularly so if your sojourn includes a wander around the stark rock formations of Black Tor....

High Willhays (Cairn(s))

It would appear there was a lot more going on upon the summit plateau of High Willhays during prehistoric times than is readily apparent to today's casual visitor.... assuming any visit to south-western England's highest point can be termed 'casual', that is.

In addition to the 'tor cairn' at SX58028944, an arc of conspicuous orthostats due east of the summit tor at SX58038922 caught the eye of this traveller. The summit crags themselves are crowned by an an almost impossibly tidy walker's cairn, a stone pile balanced upon the naked rock in a such a seemingly precarious fashion that a gust of wind might well send it crashing to the coarse grass below. So why the existance of several relatively substantial upright stones clearly standing vertical - well, more or less - as a result of human agency? My immediate theory was the arc may once have formed a section of kerb retaining a cairn of which the summit remnants are all that remain.

Funnily enough at least one earlier, not to mention more experienced traveller, came to a not too dissimilar conclusion. To quote Pastscape:

"A semi-circle of leaning orthostats adjacent to the E side of one of the outcrops forming High Willhays. The stones remain a maximum of 0.75m high and describe an arc some 9m in length. Small boulders and slabs are interspersed with the orthostats suggestive of a ring cairn, in this case attached to the tor. The outer ring... is visible as a slight scarp a maximum of 0.2m high curving around the NE quadrant of the inner ring. It may represent a second element to the cairn or, more likely, be the result of stone removal in the more recent past. The outcrop to which this cairn is attached is crowned by a recent walkers' cairn which presumably contains material derived from this feature. [Probert SAJ 15/9/2003, EH Field Investigation]"

Cadair Fawr (South) (Cairn(s))

These two upland cairns stand, as you'll probably guess from the title, immediately below and more or less to the south of Cadair Fawr.

According to Coflein the northern of the pair [at SN97721199] "measures 7.5m in diameter and 0.3m high, and consists of loose rubble consolidated around the perimeter". So, not exactly overwhelming in scale, then. But substantial enough. For me, however, the monument is given a massive injection of vibe by having been located between two small shake holes, the apparent - oh, come on! - association of Bronze Age monuments with such natural landscape phenomena quite a local speciality, so it would seem.

The second cairn lies at SN97791191 and "measures 7.1m (E-W) by 6.1m and 0.3m high. It is composed of loose unsorted stones and small boulders." [both quotes DKL/DJP 3.86].

These cairns would suffice as the focal points of specific visits in most areas, I guess. However such are the treasures in the locale that.... well, there you are.

Cefn Sychbant (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

Cefn Sychbant East

Unfortunately fast approaching darkness ensured I did not have time to do this site justice.... consequently I left it - together with a neighbour further east at SN98921108 - for another day.

Set to the approx north-east of the much larger monument at SN98551095, the exact form appears uncertain. According to Coflein the monument is:

"...a grass-grown stony ring bank 0.3m high, 1.2m wide...diameter of about 10.5 to 11.5m. There is slight evidence for an inner kerb of larger stones. In the 1950s 'a wrecked central cist' revealed a sandstone disk 4cm in diameter and 1cm thick, now in the National Museum" [David Leighton, RCAHMW, Jan 1983].

As for the cairn located at SN98921108:

"...defined by two stony arcuate banks on the east and west separated by a distance of 10m and suggesting an overall diameter of 15.4m. The banks are 2m-3m wide and 0.25m high.... On the cairn’s outside west edge is a embedded a thick sandstone slab, perhaps the remains of a kerb. It is not clear if this is a remnant cairn... or a ritual monument of the ‘hengiform’ or ring cairn type...." [David Leighton, RCAHMW, 19 Oct 2010].

Graig Ddu (Y Gamriw North-East Ridge) (Cairn(s))

Travellers walking the length of Graig Ddu, Y Gamriw's north-eastern ridge, will have the pleasure of visiting a trio of relatively substantial upland cairns in a linear procession. In fact I wouldn't have minded walking all the way back to Llanwrthwl... if I could have cadged a lift back to the car. As it was I had to settle for visits to cairns I and II - back in September 2012 - before dropping steeply southward down to the road. Although on second thoughts 'settle' is hardly appropriate in the circumstances, not with the robust Y Elenydd weather patterns seeing fit to illuminate the otherwise uncompromisingly hostile sky with wondrous lightshows of indescribable intensity. Not to mention subject me to a good dowsing or three. Needless to say images and/or comment regarding cairn III would be most welcome.

Oh, the technical bit. Coflein's data are thus:

Graig Ddu I - (SN95326171): "A mountain ridge-top cairn, 12.5m by 13.4m and 0.9m high, the centrally much disturbed." [RCAHMW AP965026/66; J.Wiles 16.09.03]

Graig Ddu II - (SN95666204): "...14.9m by 13.1m and 1.0m high, having a contiguous platform, 5.0m wide and 0.3m high, on the NE." [RCAHMW AP965026/67; J.Wiles 17.09.03]

Graig Ddu III - (SN95986255): "Cairn on E edge of mountain ridge, 8.5m in diameter and 0.5m high, of which it is thought only the base remains. A modern sheepshelter occupies the NW area" [J.Wiles 23.04.02]

Y Gamriw (North) (Cairn(s))

Located a little distance below, and to the north of, Y Gamriw's summit cairn, this pair crown a NE-SE aligned ridge, complementing the sentinel monument nicely. In my opinion. There are fine views toward the stone circle (and whatever else may be there!) located in the vicinity of Crugian Bach, not to mention further afield across Y Elenydd.

According to Coflein the north-eastern (Coflein II) is
"A much disturbed cairn, 14.9m by 16.7m and 1.8m high."

The south-western (Coflein III) is "A tumbled and ill-defined cairn, 15.2m in diameter and 1.5-2.4m high, a large central crater is occupied by rough stone shelters."

[RCAHMW AP965026/65 - J.Wiles 17.09.03]

Carn Gron (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

There is a trio of cairns located upon the summit plateau of 1,774ft Carn Gron, a shapely large hill / mini-mountain a little under 4 miles to the approx north-west of Tregaron. According to Coflein:-

Summit Cairn - SN73976106:
"A round cairn, 16.5m in diameter & 1.2m high, set upon the highest point of Garn Gron, having a shelter constructed on the E side, with the NE segment having been cleared to ground level; possible cist elements are exposed at the centre"

Cairn II - SN74006108:
"A modern cairn, 5.0m in diameter & 1.8m high, is set upon the turf-covered base of an apparent earlier cairn, 9.0m in diameter"

Western Cairn - SN73786114:
"A subcircular cairn, 15m N-S by 14m & 1.2m high, set on the W summit of Garn Gron, apparently touched on its NE side by Gwys-yr-Ychen-bannog linear boundary feature; a central disturbance displays possible cist elements".

[J.Wiles 23.07.04]

Banc Cynnydd, Elenydd (Cairn(s))

The Coflein entry by J.J. Hall [8 Sept 09] notes the following:

"A low cairn, up to 0.5m high and measuring 6m north to south by 5m. Most of the cairn body is in fact very low, less than 0.2m high, but stone has been piled up to create a marker cairn... on the northern side of the monument. There is no evidence of any intrusive activity."

Yeah, I'd concur with that. Incidentally Coflein cites the cairn to be located at SN8922773383, slightly off from what I made it. Happy to be subsequently corrected.

Garn Boduan (Hillfort)

Coflein has this to say about this overwhelmingly massive Lleyn hill fort:

"Garn Boduan is a titanic hill-top enclosure, about 512m from north to south by 384m, defined by two successive and somewhat divergent stone-walled rampart circuits. Within are about 170 circular stone walled structures, generally in the region of 5.2-7.3m in diameter. Upon the highest, eastern edge, of the site is a small stone-ramparted enclosure, about 70m from north to south by 30m. Both the greater and smaller enclosures have two gates, one of each being anciently blocked. A single sherd of pottery indicates second century AD occupation." [RCAHMW, August 2011].

The siting is not as enigmatic as that enjoyed by Tre'r Ceiri across the way, despite proving a magnificent viewpoint for the whole of Lleyn; nevertheless the defences - and in situ hut circles - stand comparison with ease.

Craig y Dinas Cairnfield (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

I must confess the existence of this extensive grouping of cairns to the west of the hillfort Craig y Dinas came as a complete surprise to me, nothing being shown on either the 1:25K or 1:50K OS map. It would appear there are also numerous hut circles /settlement features in the vicinity, too.

The relevant Coflein record is apparently based upon an oblique aerial image, the size of the main cairn here (at co-ordinates I've given for the site) clearly suggestive of a prehistoric origin, as opposed to later clearance. Hopefully the ground level detail I've been able to capture collectively makes a strong supporting case for the existence of some ritual monuments set within clearance piles of undetermined age.

According to Coflein the main round cairn is:

"Stone cairn, c.9m diameter, visible on oblique cover. Probable prehist. ritual monument. Part of larger cairnfield."

As regards the cairnfield:

"Extensive cairnfield c.169mx173m (mapped) which can be traced for some 530m N/S. Likely Prehist. origins mixed with U med clearance. Open pasture gently slopes to SW."

Note also the placement of a very large cairn near of the summit of Moelfre to the approx north-east.....

Graig Gethin (Cairn(s))

Unlike the larger cairn occupying the summit of this rocky ridge (SN879867) CPAT [PRN4960] reckons this cairn probably represents additional field clearance upon an original monument:

"Poss cairn some 7m dia built around natural outcrop may be natural feature (CPAT site visit, 1978). Area now afforested site unlocated - prob destroyed (OS, 1981)....Site is now occupied by a modern clearance cairn. Probably an ancient site reused (Gibson, A M , 1998 , Prehistoric Funerary & Ritual Sites: Upper Severn Valley)."

I was actually looking for the nearby Pen-y-cerrig cairn shown on the map a little to approx north-east. However I failed to positively identify that one - make of that what you will - but stumbled upon this instead as compensation. That'll do. Some great views, too, particularly toward Pumlumon.

Carn Nant-y-Llys (Cairn(s))

At 2,005 ft Pen y Garn is the lowest of the triumvirate of Cwmdeuddwr summits exceeding 2,000ft.... although not by much, it has to be said. Overlooking the old lead mining town of Cwmystwyth to the north, the peak stands as a north-western sentinel of the 'green desert' servicing the reservoirs of Cwm Elan.... the picturesque Elan Valley.

Tucked away in its little corner of Mid Wales, Pen y Garn (you might also find it called Bryn Garw on some older maps) is not exactly one of Wales' premier mountains. Nevertheless is does possess another small piece of the Bronze Age jigsaw of this land in the form of the shattered remains of a large cairn. Sadly it has been given a right hiding through the construction of an internal 'muppet shelter'... however the footprint remains to give a good indication of former circumference. According to a bang up to date fieldnote from Coflein:

'A ruinous Bronze Age round cairn, 15m in diameter & 0.4m high, is set on the summit of Pen y Garn. Only the base of the cairn has survived, the rest of it used to create a shelter which now occupies most of its interior. Towards its north edge, between shelter and cairn edge, is set a triangulation pilar. D. Leighton & T. Driver, RCAHMW, 17 June 2013'

Forestry is encroaching upon Pen y Garn in the inexorable manner seen elsewhere.... however there are still some decent views to be had from the (remains of the) ancient cairn, the best, for my money, that of the Pumlumon skyline rising above the impressive crags of Craig Dolwen to the north. Note that I approached from Cwmystwyth itself from the south.

Dunan Diarmid, Loch Duich (Stone Fort / Dun)

Well seen from the viewpoint at Mam Ratagan, this small stone fort appears not to have survived the passage of time too well (unfortunately I did not have time to check this out conclusively owing to the unexpected excellence of Caisteal Grugaig.... maybe next time, then). Nevertheless the landscape context is first class, the enclosure crowning a rocky promontory near the far eastern shore of Loch Duich, set beneath a towering mountainscape including 'The Five Sisters of Kintail'.

According to Canmore the dun is:

'... Oval on (sic) plan, the dun measures 24.5m E-W by 16.0m N-S within a wall c. 2.5m thick, reduced to a stony scarp with a few stones of the outer face visible intermittently around the W half. A deep hollow at the modern S approach probably denotes the mutilated entrance. In the interior in the NE, is a modern enclosure, 6.0m E-W by 7.0m N-S within a wall 0.8m thick. [OS (A A) 13 June 1974]'

Dunan Diarmid is one of a quartet of ancient defensive sites in the environs of Loch Duich.... the restored castle of Eilean Donan, to the west, apparently stands upon the remnants of a vitrified enclosure, whilst Torran a'Bharraich overlooks the southern flank. Arguably the finest is the broch of Caisteal Grugaig, near Totaig, complementing Eilean Donan guarding the confluence of Loch Duich with Lochs Long and Alsh.

Loch Ederline (Crannog)

According to Canmore this attractively located crannog within beautiful Loch Ederline is:

'a tree-covered boulder mound, the dry area being c 7m in diameter at the time of survey....around 75% of the site is submerged. The diameter of the base of the stone mound is 17m, and the site is located 55m from the modern W shore of the loch' [see Cavers, M G (2003a) 'Argyll Crannog Survey (various parishes), crannog sites', Discovery Excav Scot, vol.4 Page(s): 26]

Eilean Donan (Stone Fort / Dun)

In retrospect it is pretty obvious, I guess, that such an overwhelmingly strategic location as Eilean Donan should have been occupied and fortified for as long as humankind has detemined a need for such things... it took a while for the penny to drop, however, that the castle which delights tourists by the coachload is but the latest in a long line of defensive structures to stand upon this little island. A chance viewing of the magical word 'vitrification' in an old childhood book prompted a search of the Canmore database; thus:

' A straight length of collapsed walling some 55.0m long lies close to the shoreline on the NW side of the bridge.....and loose pieces of vitrification occur amongst the debris. Despite this, however, it may be relatively modern but there is little doubt that a vitrified structure formerly occupied the island. [OS (A A) 19 June 1974]'

Surely one of the most photographed castles in Scotland, the current structure is a virtually complete restoration (although apparently more or less faithful to surviving original plans) of a 13th century castle undertaken by Lt-Col MacRae-Gilstrap between 1912-1932. By all accounts it was a massive project, the castle, garrisoned by Spanish troops supporting the 'Old Pretender' Jacobite uprising, having been pounded to oblivion by three Hanoverian frigates sailing up Loch Duich in May 1719. Proper history, that.

No doubt Eilean Donan experienced an active prehistory, too, standing at the confluence of Lochs Duich, Long and Alsh, the latter a gateway to the sea via Kyle Akin. Note that a fine broch, Caisteal Grugaig, substantial remains of which still exist, overlooks the 'meeting of the lochs' from across the water to WSW. By all accounts all but a trace of Eilean Donan's Bronze Age ancestry has been buried beneath later masonry. But, needless to say men o'war could nae sink an island.

Dun Lagaidh (Broch)

In retrospect it is clear I mistook Dun an Ruigh Ruadh - just up the road - for this. Serves me right for not having the OS map of the area or that would have been two sites for the price of one. Anyway, to get to Dun Lagaidh it appears the traveller needs to proceed to the end of the tarmac in Loggie and follow the path NW (ish). The broch commands the most narrow part of Loch Broom. Apparently.

Anna and Graham Richie (once again) supply some detail by way of my battered Oxford Archaeological Guide to Scotland; in summary in seems that excavations undertaken during the 1960's established the first phase of the site to be a large, univallate stone walled fort founded c700 BCE and then 'vitrified'. Make of that what you will. Later the eastern section of the fort became the site for a powerful, defensive roundhouse.... a broch to you or I. Or perhaps dun. Finally, sometime during the 12th century, it seems this 'broch' was upgraded to serve as the donjon (keep) of a castle, the remainder of the fort similarly upgraded to serve as the bailey. So there you are, some two millennia of human occupation. Seems 'recycling' to save the environment is actually rather old hat. We've been doing it for years.

Loch Achilty (Crannog)

This appeared to be a good example of a crannog, albeit a fair distance away from the wooded picnic area at the western end of Loch Achilty. According to the Highland HER (MHG7791) it is:

'...a tree-covered, artificial island about 80 yards from south shore of Loch Achilty. It measures 54' - 60' by 34' - 42' and stands about 2' above normal water level. It is built of evenly coursed stones, and has a regular batter, foundations measuring 79' by 59'. Timber projects from the NW, SW and east sides. [O Blundell 1913; D MacDonald, A Polson and D Brown 1931].'

The other island within the loch, Eilean Mhielidh (NH 43485702) is 'undoubtedly natural and no trace of buildings could be found on it [OS (R D) 12 July 1965]'. It is apparently not clear whether this island or the crannog is associated with a gentlemen known as MacLea Mor.

NOTE: don't forget to check out the nearby henge Achilty.
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Hi, I'm Robert ... aka Citizen Cairn'd. I've a passion for attempting to understand the lives of the pioneering prehistoric inhabitants of these British Isles, seeking out the remains they left behind in order to ask myself "why here ... why did it matter so... why such commitment?". Needless to say I'm still pondering such intangibles. Just as an empty house appears to retain echoes of past humanity... so does the stone circle, the chambered cairn, the long barrow and the mountain top funerary cairn. Visiting them, I think, helps engender a certain 'connection' with this land of ours, with ourselves - our past, our present and our future; a reference point for those of us perhaps struggling to make sense of this so-called 'computer world' Kraftwerk warned us was a'coming in 1981.... danke, mein herren.

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 has always taken precedent. If you like what you see why thank you. But please do your own thing. Think for yourself.

So cheers... to Mr Cope for being his inspirational, annoying, confrontational self, showing that field archaeology can be FUN! - hey, who'd have thought it? 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');

And then, in no particular order:

George Orwell; Michael Collins (things are not often black and white...); Winston Churchill (for all his many profound faults... since without him I would not be here now); Martin L. Gore; Big Steve Chamberlain (sorely missed); Mr Beethoven; Giorgio Moroder; Richard Dawkins; The Pogues (for my North Walian soundtrack); Sophie Scholl (words fail me); W A Mozart (ditto); Michel Faber; Manic Street Preachers (the true spirit and voice of South Wales); Alan Pearlman; Nigel Kennedy; Will Shakespeare; Kraftwerk; Harry Hill; Claudia Brucken; Marc Almond; Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy; Christopher Hitchens; Mulder and Scully; John Le Mesurier .... 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.'

Margaret Thatcher - 'It pays to know the enemy – not least because at some time you may have the opportunity to turn him into a friend.'

Jo Cox - 'We have far more in common than that which divides us'.

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

Winston Churchill - 'KBO'.

My TMA Content: