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Fieldnotes by Ravenfeather

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Cairns O' The Bu (Broch)

Visited 20th June 2017

As the dig season for the Cairns draws towards its end, and the sun makes an appearance through the clouds, it seems like the right time for a trip down to South Ronaldsay to check out the excavation. There is a small parking spot down at Windwick bay, full when we arrived, so we squeezed the car onto the verge, please make sure you don’t block the drive of the neighbouring house though, fortunately we didn’t, but during our visit someone else had, prompting a visit from the irate householder unable to get his car out, giving a bit of a haranguing to the archaeologists!

Soon we were approached by a friendly archaeologist asking us if we would like a tour, and along with a small group of other visitors he proceeded to take us all around the site giving us a fascinating explanation of the various features, before taking us into the finds hut to show us some of the most recent finds, including a lovely bronze ‘Hand-pin’ found a few days ago.

Even without a tour though the site would be well worth a visit. The first thing that struck me was the size of the broch, walls at least three metres thick, with the fine sweep of its circular stonework and its interior orthostats clearly showing dividing partitions within the structure. Just seeing it partially emerged from the ground, and coming back into view for the first time in over 1,500 years was amazing. I was particularly struck by the holed stone orthostat which stood aligned with main broch entrance, the archaeologist suggesting it may have been a stone taken from an earlier neolithic monument from the surrounding area and re-used.

Outside of the broch work was proceeding on the large trench investigating the surrounding village complex. Two furnaces and a number of parts of broken moulds for bronze pins have been uncovered in this area, suggesting production of jewellery on a large scale, and suggestive of an obviously important site.

We learned so much about this fascinating place, particularly intriguing to me was the fact that apparently the broch had at one point been de-commissioned, the upper floors taken down, and used to infill the interior of the structure, but done in a careful way without destroying the internal partitions. Even more mysteriously a souterrain was then built outside of the structure which linked to a chamber built into the infilled broch.

We must have spent at least an hour with the archaeologist, who gave us a fantastic tour of this enigmatic site, and if you ever get the chance to visit during the Cairns relatively short excavation season I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Skae Frue (Cairn(s))

Visited 16th April 2017

With all the gems of the world heritage site of Brodgar to see a visit to the mound of Skae Frue might seem like something to be undertaken only by the dedicated stone-ticker. But if you are taking the time to visit the Ring of Bookan (and I really suggest that you do) then it seems only polite to walk a little way down the slope toward the loch, the green undulation of the tumulus peeking enticingly above the fence line to the adjoining field. There's even a handy gate nearby, so no danger of ripping the trousers whilst negotiating the fence.

Although the cairn is little more than a grassy lump it's not so much about what you see at the cairn, and more about what you see from the cairn. The hills of Hoy dominate the view, the slot between Ward Hill and the Cuilags notching the horizon, and you realise the perfection of the placement of this site. It also feels really nice here, particularly on a sunny day like today. Hidden from the road, the loch spread out beneath you, and from the top of the mound, looking back, the earthen ramparts of the Ring of Bookan dominate the next field.

Whilst lacking the grandeur of its nearby neighbours it's no less worthy of spending some time here to relax and contemplate the mysteries of the Ness, stretched out before us as we sit atop the mound.

Soussons Common Cairn Circle

Visited 5th February

It’s getting on in the afternoon, so looking for an ancient site that was a) easily accessible, with no massive hike required, and b) somewhere we’d never been before, limited the options somewhat. However a cursory look at the OS map seemed to show a likely candidate in the temptingly close to the road form of the Soussons Common cairn circle.

Heading south from Moretonhampstead on the B3212 we initially missed the turning, which probably in hindsight was a good thing, as it’s a very sharp left turn, which almost doubles back on itself. So turning around in the ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ village of Postbridge, and back up the road, we headed down the lane signposted towards Widecombe.

Within a couple of minutes the circle was visible off to our left in a clearing screened by forestry. There’s plenty of space to pull in, and I scamper out of the car and into the perfect little circle of twenty-three stones.

It’s almost too perfect here but I’m immediately struck by the atmosphere, it feels so welcoming and homely. Sheltered but not overpowered by the trees, seemingly remote but accessible on the quiet moors, pristine but not over-restored, there is just something about the place. An old camper van is discretely parked on a forestry track nearby, and the smell of wood smoke emanating from its chimney, along with the sound of wood being chopped for the fire, somehow just adds to the cosy air of domesticity.

It’s too damp for sitting, but I stand in the circle and ponder, surrounded by the sounds of the wind in the trees, birdsong, and the aforementioned crusty’s axe work. The central cist is well grassed over now, with only the top edges of the cist stones remaining as a faded outline, such a shame that people fail to treat these places with the respect they deserve, but at least this part of the monument is now protected as it slumbers beneath the turf.

Another of Dartmoor’s many gems, the circle is intimate in size, yet still gives a feeling of the specialness of the place. Once cairn stones would have filled this space, but today instead it feels a place of life, a small posy of heather placed by one of the stones showing it still holds a significant meaning for some, of which I am one.

Nine Stones (Cairn(s))

Visited 4th February 2017

There's surely nothing better than a pasty, a pint, and the prospect of seeing a hitherto unvisited stone circle. So as we finish up our lunch in the Tors Inn in Belstone, and I peruse the O.S. map, I couldn't feel more content.

Leaving the car at the pub we head off up the road past the old chapel/telegraph station (honestly!) towards the moor. It's been a while since I've tried to track down a new site with a map, and I'm hoping my navigational skills are not totally rusty, particularly if I'm looking for somewhere on a trackless moor, but at least the Nine Stones looks reassuringly close to the village.

Soon we reach the gate which opens on to the moor, there's space to park here if you want, but it's only a couple of minutes closer than where we left the car. Now checking the map I can see that we just need to head south-west to find the circle. It's been so long since I've been out in the field that I couldn't find my compass before setting off, but never fear, with modern technology to the rescue I turn to the compass function on my phone, only to discover that I first need to 'calibrate' it, which of course, requires a phone signal. Drifting between half a bar and emergency calls only, I manoeuvre the phone around as if attempting to signal by semaphore or perhaps deter a particularly persistent wasp, until just enough connection is made that the compass will now work.

Striking off across the moor we pass several walkers coming the other way, and quite a distinct and well-trodden path to follow. It's a crisp cold day, but blue skies soar above us, and the horizon is given a gauzy, soft focus look by a lingering vague mist in the distance. It's not long though before the stones of the kerb circle make themselves visible to our left, and I realise I probably didn't need the map and compass after all, so close are they to the path.

The first thing I'm struck by is the setting. The granite tops of Belstone and Higher Tors commanding the view as they overlook the circle, the landscape seeming very ancient indeed as you stand here amongst the stones.

Although called Nine Stones there are at least twelve by my count, and probably at one time even more. Nine I'm sure relates more to the sacred trinity of the number three in Celtic myth, as I'm sure does the etymology of the name Belstone itself, after the Celtic god of fire and the sun. Inside the circle there is an obvious depression in the centre, probably the remains of a cist, but it's really the setting and sense of place that affect me here.

Dramatic and windswept it feels remote, but is actually only about a ten minute walk from the village, hidden atop the moor, with the only sign of life a remote farmhouse to the west, a small stream and waterfall glistening as it cuts across the deeper green of the fields below us, and then of course the huge tors, like the fossilised remains of ancient leviathans as they dominate the moor.

Sadly I note that I must have missed the stones capering's, as it's 1pm now and everything is still, but you can't be too disappointed. It's a perfect place on a perfect day, the sky remains, dare I say it, a hazy shade of winter, but Bel must be pleased someone is taking an interest in his stones, as standing in the circle, the gentle warmth of the sun reminded me that the first stirrings of spring are at hand, and as life returns to the land, so I too feel alive here, such is the power still of 'old stones'.

Holm of Papa Westray (Chambered Tomb)

Visited 13th June 20016

There are some places that you want to visit for so long that getting there becomes akin to a pilgrimage. Holm of Papay was one of those sites that took on an almost mythic quality for me. I’d figured that out of everywhere in Mr Cope’s big orange book, this would be one of the most difficult places to get to. I spend a lot of time on Orkney, but even from there it seems impossibly remote, and from the mainland a trip involves a jaunt on a number of ever smaller boat trips, like a matryoshka of ferries.

But today the stars are aligned, and we are standing under glorious sunshine outside the Co-op on Papay, looking down to sea, the holm dominating our view, with the distinctive green lump of the cairn unmistakable due to the curious chimney like structure poking out of the top.

Inside the Co-op a handy poster advertises trips to the Holm with a contact number to call, and an enquiry with the lady at the shop (whilst perusing the rather good selection of single malts) suggests that I first contact the Papay Ranger to see if anything can be arranged and she gives me his number. Outside I can just about get a mobile phone signal and eagerly enquire as to when it would be possible to get over to the Holm, ‘Well’, comes the reply, ‘I’m not sure whether anyone is heading over there today, and I’m not around this afternoon otherwise I’d take you over’, instantly my heart sank, with the reality that perhaps I should actually have tried to arrange things before coming over to Papay and expecting to automatically get a boat to the Holm, the luxury of being able to regularly hop onto ferries to pop over to the other islands having blinded me to this fact. ‘Leave it with me’, says the friendly neighbourhood Ranger, and I’ll phone Tim the boatman and see if he’s about’.

So with some hope restored we walk down to the shore, just to be tantalised further by the cairn smugly filling our view, across an achingly narrow gap of water. I’ve been in this position before, when we visited Shetland we tried to get across to Mousa broch, but the weather was so windy during our stay (what a surprise!) that all boats were cancelled, and we had to content ourselves with staring wistfully at the nearby object our quest. Today the sun sparkles off the sea and there is so little wind that for Orkney it may as well be dead calm, and to be prevented from a visit by my own lack of forethought would be the final irony. We daren’t wander too far away, as the vagaries of the phone reception means that the signal bars on my phone are flashing on and off like a strobe light. We decide to head back up to the Co-op, feeling a bit in limbo, but at least there we know we can receive calls.

It isn’t too long before the Ranger calls back, to tell me that Tim is going over to the Holm later to shear some sheep, so to head down to the pier at the allotted time and we could come along.

We have a wander around Papay for a couple of hours while we wait for our trip before making our way to the pier. Moored at the end is a small boat, The Dunter, looking like a mini landing craft, with around eight seats and a small ramp at the front, and soon a lady accompanied by a sheep dog turns up and introduces herself as Tim’s partner, and we chat amiably for a few minutes until Tim turns up accompanied by his son and daughter, also here to help with the shearing.

We clamber down some very sleep and slippery steps at the end of the jetty, and step into the boat, doing our best not to plunge into the water, and then donning life jackets we set off! The crossing is a short but exciting one, the small size of the boat makes you feel very close to the water, as small waves slap against the bow spraying us all with salt water, and Tangle the sheepdog stands at the prow like a figurehead. We pass close to seals hauled out on the skerries, who regard us curiously, and Tim slows the boat to give us a better look, also pointing out gannets, terns and eider ducks as we pass them.

Nearing the beach the chambered tomb looms ahead of us, looking longer than anything else I’ve seen on Orkney (save for Midhowe, concealed within its shed), and as the boat grounds on the sand and the front ramp is lowered we step gingerly through the brine onto the island.

At first it’s hard to believe I’m actually here. Tim and family head off to a ruined shieling along the coast, and we are left alone, with just the sea birds wheeling overhead. Trekking up the short distance to the tomb we get fine views out to sea, the water deep ultramarine around us, and Papay and Westray both visible behind . The original low entrance on the east side of the tomb is now blocked to access, instead relying on ingress through a ladder from the roof. Atop the mound I’m surprised to see the brick ‘chimney’ structure, so visible on the tombs profile, is actually just a plinth for an information board! It strikes me as somewhat bizarre that wasn’t placed at ground level set back form the tomb itself, rather than going for the silhouette of a submarine look, but I suppose the roof isn’t original anyway so it doesn’t really matter.

Hauling open the hatch I’m into the tomb like a rat down a drainpipe, and in the cool dim interior I drink it all in. It’s lot lighter than I was expecting, several skylights providing a good level of illumination, but just in case, tucked onto a ledge, is the good old municipal torch, so beloved of sites in Orkney. Also though just like the vast majority of such civically provided accessories the batteries have run out. I ponder on whose job it would be to change them, and whether there is a position vacant within Orkney Islands Council for a Chambered Tomb Torch Maintenance Operator (if so can I put in my application now please). Rather more helpfully there are also several rolled up sleeping mats, not for those who fancy overnighting in the tomb, but to lay on the gravelly floor in order to enable you to crawl into the very low side cells within suffering multiple puncture wounds.

The plastic sheeting mentioned in the Fear’s fieldnotes is nowhere to be seen, but it’s still a little damp in here, and once again I’m disappointed to see that a build-up of green algal growth is starting to accumulate on the stones, a sight seen across all of the concrete topped chambered tombs in Orkney. It’s doubly tragic here, where it makes the unique carvings found within the tomb all that much harder to make out, and I wish the roof had been re-constructed in dry stone instead. I’m not too disheartened though for this place is still amazing!

There are seemingly endless chambers to explore, and with my phone’s flashlight in hand I inch into the low openings to several of them on my back, the mats definitely proving their worth. As I shine the light around inside the dark side cells, scanning for carvings, shadows fleeing across the walls, all of my Indiana Jones fantasies come to life and I’m elated. Scurrying from one chamber to another (there are 12 to choose from) I try to pick out any patterns or carvings amid the slimy green film covering the walls. It’s then I find it, the unmistakable ‘eyebrows’, along with some cup-marks on a lintel of one of the side chambers. There are also hatched, vaguely diamond shaped scratches into the stone, visually reminiscent of some of the carved stones recovered from the Links of Noltland that we saw in the visitors centre on Westray a few days ago.

We end up spending some considerable time in the tomb, its light and roomy interior making it a pleasant place to spend a while (if you’re into ancient burial sites that is), but with always half an eye on the clock, we know there is still a plane to catch back to Kirkwall later, and we will need to go and find Tim to interrupt him from his shearing before he can take us back, so regretfully it soon becomes time to leave.

I hope to try and catch a glimpse of the remains of other two chambered tombs as we walk across the island, but the large cleft of a geo cutting across our path on the way to forces us to backtrack and there’s just not time.

Before long we’re climbing back aboard The Dunter, on our way back to Papay. The trip to the Holm has cost £25 each, the flights from Kirkwall another £35, but the experience is priceless.

I can’t recommend it enough for anyone who gets a thrill out of these ancient places, and more than likely you’ll have the island to yourself! My one tip would be to plan the trip way in advance though. Luckily everything fell into place for us, and although the whims of the Orkney weather are not something you can plan on you can at least check things out with the Papay Ranger (he’s on Facebook) or phone 01857 644224, you won't regret it!

Knap of Howar (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

Visited 13th June 2016

The Knap of Howar is somewhere that captivated me as soon as I saw it in the papery TMA. A finely preserved ancient house seemingly perched at the edge of the world, inviting exploration. So it was with no little sense of excitement that as an anniversary treat Ellen had booked us a flight to Papay and a visit was on the cards.

Flying to the island is an experience in itself, and a flight from Kirkwall actually costs no more than taking a car on the ferry to the outer islands, but the small size of the aircraft and limited number of flights mean that it gets fully booked very quickly, so it pays to plan ahead and book well in advance. This meant we had to take a gamble on getting a good days weather, but fortunately this gamble paid off handsomely.

After only twenty minutes in the air, the Orkney's spread below, verdant islets amongst the shimmering sea in this beautiful clear weather. After landing on Westray we get to stay on the plane as it makes the world's shortest scheduled flight to Papay, a mere five minutes, barely seeming to get airborne before putting us down again in this remote rural enclave.

The Knap of Howar is only a few minutes walk from the airfield, and after disembarking along with the two other passengers aboard the tiny eight-seater aircraft we turned one way down the road along the spine of the island whilst they headed off in the opposite direction, and within minutes we were alone.

It's hard to describe just how peaceful it is, there's no sound of vehicles, and no-one else in sight, only the calls of the birds and the gentle susurration of the sea. It's also distinctly warm, especially so for Orkney, and I begin to regret bringing my coat.

Soon we reach a crossroads around which are clustered some historic looking farm buildings. One direction seems to lead towards civilisation, or at least a couple of houses and the Papay Community Co-op shop, the other, helpfully signposted to the Knap of Howar, leads through the farmyard. It all seems strangely quiet here, no sign of animals or people, but soon a fenced off part of the field near to the shore is visible, which obviously contains the structure themselves, and they're every bit as good as I'd imagined.

The two buildings form a dwelling with attached workshop/barn, right at the edge of the sea. The low doorways and the way the buildings seem to settle into the ground are reminiscent of Skara Brae (minus the crowds), but here you are free to explore the interiors at will, and really get a sense of the place.

The interior is finely preserved, a large worn saddle quern sits opposite a recess in one of the walls, which I lean against and look out through the doorway to the sea. The thought of someone thousands of years ago bending down at this very spot to grind grain, with perhaps an occasional wistful glance outside just as I'm doing now, is really affecting. It's also the little details you spot that really bring the place to life, such as a recessed shelf, the backing of which is a darker slab than the rest of the wall, a fine piece of flagstone covered with fossilised stromatolites, providing a rich textured backdrop against which to display some treasured possessions.

As Kammer says in his fieldnotes it is serene here, you feel completely cut off from the modern world, and I could happily hang out here all day, especially in such lovely weather. I settle for having a sandwich whilst sitting by the quernstone, and thinking of those people who would have spent their lives here so long ago. But the lure of possibly visiting an even more remote and exciting site soon pulls us on, as we set off in search of someone to take us across to the Holm of Papay...

Sorquoy (Standing Stone / Menhir)

Visited 12th June 2016

Now how have I missed this place before! It was only on a trawl through Canmore, trying to establish just how many standing stones remained in Orkney, that I noticed one on South Ronaldsay I’d previously missed. A further check on TMA showed this stone looked rather good, and armed with Wideford’s directions, on another fine sunny day, we headed off over the barriers towards St Margaret’s Hope.

The single track lane signed to St Peter’s Kirk leads you down toward the sea, the grey stone of the kirk itself soon appearing on the horizon, seemingly floating on the sea like grey stone ship. To the left of the road as we descend the slope the towering megalith of Sourquoy stands proud, furred with sea moss, and keeping its lonely vigil.

Down at the end of the road there is plentiful parking at the kirk, the stone clearly visible on its hillside just up the road. A short walk back up the lane shows the stone stands in a narrow gap between two fields now separate from the fence line. The narrow path seems to form some sort of drainage ditch, a gully running up the side of it, currently dry due to the recent fine weather, and there is just enough space to either side of the ditch to walk next to the fence towards the stone, and shortly the drainage channel ends allowing more space to approach the megalith.

And a fine stone it is, towering above you and with that particular aspect that South Ronaldsay stones have, whereby they appear to be standing sentinel and staring out to the ocean. Like the Moai of Easter Island they all seem to be faced toward the sea, in some way to watch out over the shore and peoples of the island, and perhaps the reasons for their erection were not dissimilar to those of the inhabitants of that far flung island.

There is certainly a fine view from the stone, the lucent sparkle of the sun on the sea causing me to don my sunglasses (who’d have thought I’d need them on Orkney!) and the warmth of the stone on my back promoting an overall sense of serenity.

Pulling myself away we wander back to the car, and just off down past the kirk is the lovely sandy bay of Newark. Sand Martins skim the beach and Oystercatchers nest in the fields along the shore, and I catch a glimpse of some chicks as they run between the shelter of overgrown tufts of vegetation, the warning peeps of the adult birds echoing across the sands as they wheel overhead. Just behind the church on the shore line stands a modern standing stone, erected to commemorate the millennium, a fine memorial carved with a variety of Pictish symbols and well worth a visit. It stands almost in line with its ancient neighbour, a handful of millennia separating the two, but the sense of sacred place remains, a connecting thread through the ages.

Quoybirse (Standing Stone / Menhir)

Visited 9th June 2016

A glorious sunny day on our trip to Westray with barely a cloud in the sky, and in my continuing quest to track down all of Orkney’s standing stones I notice one marked on the O.S. map enticingly close to the road. I try to spot it in the fields at the side of the road whilst simultaneously trying not to fall off my bike or veer into oncoming traffic (fortunately not much of a problem on Westray) but the stone proves elusive, and I figure it’s probably one of those small stones not easy to spot unless you’re right on top of it, how wrong I would turn out to be!

The rest of the day is pleasant though, visiting some of Westray’s other archaeological treasures and on our way back down the island I cast a final longing glance towards the spot where the map indicates the standing stone and just spot a tantalising glimpse of what could be the tip of a menhir peeking above a rise in the field. We are next to a farmhouse called Braehead Manse & Reid Hall, and propping the bike at the side of the road I follow a rough track up the side of the farm buildings which seems to lead toward another derelict house. Soon though I encounter a barbed wire fence across the track, placed to corral a herd of somewhat truculent looking cows who now seem to be the derelict building’s inhabitants. Although there is no way through I get a better view of the stone, and it looks a whopper!

Not to be defeated in the hunt for a site I head back to the road, where Ellen points out a gate into the field to the south side of the farmhouse, a field thankfully free of bovine interlopers, and just visible ahead the top of the stone. And what a stone it is, a slate-like finger, squared off and rising around 11 feet from its base of packing stones. The top is covered with a bristly growth of lichens, whilst the lower corners are rubbed to a polished smoothness due to its use as a cattle rubbing post. The menhir stands atop a small rise close to a stone fieldwall, looking down to Pierowall to the north.

The ‘front’ of the stone, or at least its widest face, draws the eye toward the western hills of Westray, hills that are topped with a line of cairns. I wonder if this stone sentinel in some way was meant to delineate this area, signifying a boundary with the sacred high grounds beyond. In this way it reminded me of the Stone of Setter on nearby Eday, which also seemed to signify the start of an area rich in ritual sites. Standing here I can see the cairns atop the hills to either side framing the stone.

There’s nothing better than finding a site for the first time, particularly when it exceeds your expectations, like this stone has. The calls of Curlews and Oystercatchers, for me the soundtrack of Orkney, ring out around us, the sun warmed stone on my back providing a sense of snugness, and I think how perfect it is to be here. It’s more than just having ‘bagged’ this stone, but instead having found somewhere I’m captivated. One day I’ll return and walk to the cairns in the hills, to look down on the stone from above, but until then we’ll have to leave, with just enough time to spot some Puffins on the rock stack of the Castle O’ Burrian nearby.

The Fairy Knowe (Chambered Cairn)

Visited 6th June 2016

Cuween hill is one of the most wonderful chambered tombs on Mainland, like a scaled down version of Maes Howe, without the attendant crowds of that site, and somewhere you can spend time to take in the atmosphere of the place.

Today is a glorious sunny day, with no wind, almost unheard of on Orkney. I take the opportunity of the fine weather and long northern summer days to cycle from the house, out along the Old Finstown road, passing the brooding flanks of Wideford Hill, its chambered cairn hidden from view at this angle, towards the hills surrounding Finstown and my destination. Soon the great bowl of Heddle quarry becomes visible, like a giant bite taken out of the hillside, and in the foreground the green lump of the Fairy Knowe, highlighted by the strange piles of rocks which have been constructed behind it. When I first visited Cuween Hill I got very excited by what looked like a line of standing stones arrayed above the top of the chambered cairn, only to find stacks of stones instead of fine megaliths.

I leave my bike in the small parking area at the foot of the hill, and head up to the tomb, the heat of the sun, and the echoing call of a cuckoo, give the evening a very summer idyll. Clambering over the stile allowing access through the fence which surrounds the tomb I notice the little municipal torch provided outside the entrance is still in situ, but lacking in batteries. No matter, the sun directly over the mound is bright enough to illuminate the entrance passageway, and even provide a dim glow into the interior.

A low shuffle down the entrance passage brings you into a surprisingly tall chamber, the ceiling arching overhead in a wonderful corbelled construction. My eyes adjust to the gloom enough for me to make out the darker squares of the small openings of the side chambers, one on each wall of the tomb. I crouch down and enter the side cell opposite the entrance. Inside this side chamber opens out, a smaller cell partitioned by a low stone step, and now turned away from the main chambers tenebrous interior the blackness ahead of me becomes almost tangible. It’s difficult to know how far this chamber will extend, I reach out gingerly, touching the wall, further away than I thought, and hunker down. Now the sensory deprivation seems total, sounds muffled to an almost inaudible extent, and the darkness enveloping me like a shroud. I relax, the stone beneath me not uncomfortable, and the chamber dry for once due to the lack of rain over the past week. Soon I think I hear the sound of dripping water, although none is there, and small dark shapes seem to flit before my eyes. Oh yes there are fairies here, though not the twee winged creatures of children’s stories, but the needle teethed mischievous peedie trows of the Orcadian landscape. Visions come easily here and as I mediate time seems to take on a fluid nature, and I’m unsure how long I’ve actually been here.

Eventually it’s a cramped feeling in my legs that brings me back to reality, and I uncurl myself and stumble outside into the sunlight. The site of cars on the road below reassure me that I’m still in 2016, and the sun overhead doesn’t even seem to have moved, although a glance at my watch shows I’ve been inside around half an hour.

I sit atop the mound to write my fieldnotes, And gaze down to the Wide Firth below, and try to make out Wideford cairn hunkered into its hill to the east. Whatever our distant ancestors had in mind when designing these tombs we will never know, but what’s clear to me is that they still retain an ability to affect us in the here and now, whether in wonderment at the dry stone construction, or as a place of shamanic journeying, they are still places of inspiration seen through whatever filter we want to put on them. For those venerable people who were buried here along with their dogs, a finer resting place can’t be imagined, and our continued wonderment now is surely a testament to the ancient builders.

Before I set out for home I soak in some more of the evening sun, the cuckoo has stopped now, but it still feels like summer.

Great Urswick (Burial Chamber)

Visited 30th April 2016

I would never have known about this place without the handy ‘sites nearby’ drop down on the TMA website. I’d been looking to see if there was anywhere to combine with a visit to the Druids Circle at Ulverston, and being only a couple of miles away this seemed to fit the bill perfectly. I’d done a bit of Google Streetview scrying before we set out and located what looked like a suitable layby to park up in on Hooks Lane just to the south of the village on the way towards Little Urswick. Being too busy scanning the fields for the chamber we initially overshot the site, and if you reach a crossroads on Hooks Lane you’ve definitely gone too far. Managing to turn the car around in the narrow lane we eventually made it to the pull in, and walked back down the road looking for the chamber.

It’s difficult to spot from the road but soon we reached a likely looking gate with pubic footpath sign, directly opposite a small stone building and noticed that actually there was space to park the car right next to the field gate. It’s always nice when a site can be accessed via a public footpath as it just makes the whole visit more relaxed, allowing you to enjoy the place without feeling like an intruder. So crossing the field we soon reached a stile over a stone wall with the slope on which the burial chamber stands behind it.

The burial chamber is cunningly concealed by a tree, which not so much as hides the chamber but erupts from it, pushing aside the stone orthostats as if in a time-lapse arboreal explosion. From the blocky stone facade the burial chamber resembles the result you’d get if you asked someone to build a chambered tomb in Minecraft, chunky stone slabs of grey stone forming the proud remains of a frontage, whilst behind the chamber layers of limestone outcropping rise in a wide shelf.

It’s really peaceful here, a few cows going about their business cropping the grass in a nearby field, and I squeeze into the remains of the chamber and sit in the dappled shade soaking up the atmosphere and writing some fieldnotes. Although small and ruined this is a lovely place. It’s certainly an unusual site, of what I’m sure antiquarians would have referred to as a ‘rude’ construction, and reminded me a bit of the Brane burial chamber all the way down in Cornwall. The top stone of the chamber seems to support a little ecosystem of its own, with various mosses, ferns and even a small tree growing there, and standing back from a certain angle the chamber resembles a giant turtle, the bushy greenery of the central tree forming the shell.

Decamping over to the limestone ridge to survey the view the sun is out, and the chamber blends nicely into the landscape, almost as if it’s a natural feature. I could happily stay here all day, I just wish we’d got a picnic with us, as it’s getting late into the afternoon now and we’ll need to move on soon to find somewhere to eat.

Crossing the field back to towards the car we encounter a couple of walkers examining an O.S. map, ‘Don’t suppose you know where the burial chamber is?’ they ask, I point them in the direction of the tree hiding the stones, they initially look at me askance, probably having expected something more along the lines of West Kennett, but head off anyway another two visitors for this engaging little site.

The Druid's Circle of Ulverston (Stone Circle)

Visited 30th April 2016

The Druids circle always strikes me as a bit of a Cinderella site, always overlooked for the more glamourous sites of Castlerigg, Long Meg and Sunkenkirk that lie further within the heart of the Lake District. It’s always been the case previously for me too, with never time to detour off as there always seemed bigger sites to see. Now it’s time to put this right and the circle is first on our itinerary for our weekend in the Lakes.

Engaging in the traditional British bank holiday pursuit of dodging both the showers and the traffic it’s not long before we turn off at Ulverston and are on the A5087 hugging the coast. I’d previously Google Street Viewed the hell out of this road, to make sure I’d recognise the sharp turning onto Birkrigg common, and so had no trouble in finding the un-signposted lane we needed. Pulling in on the grass next to a couple of other cars I was amazed to find I could just about make out the low shapes of the stones. I’d worried it might be harder to find, having read some of the previous fieldnotes, and the ominous pronouncement ‘needs an O.S. map’ from the papery TMA, but it seems the previously obscuring ferns have been quite brutally hacked back.

It’s a lovely setting for a site, and the circle’s not bad either. Blue skies stretch over the expansive stretch of Morecambe bay, and the tower of Bardsea church in line with the circle draws the eye, a fine juxtaposition of the old gods and the new.

The circle itself is intriguing, the small pristine ring of pockmarked stones initially looking like they tell the whole story, and only at a closer glance do you make out the outer circle of recumbent stones around the perimeter. It may be natural, but it almost looks like the circle sites on a henge, vague traces of a raised platform and embanked ditch catch my eye, but it’s probably wishful thinking on my part. As a site it makes a complex picture, and I sit amongst the stones and ponder.

The breeze is mild and the warmth of the sun is pleasant when it makes an appearance between the scudding clouds, and I’m struck by how nice it is here. Sadly there is still some traces of red paint on the stones, but it’s barely visible, and the circle will persist unbowed long after the existence of the idiotic vandal responsible is forgotten. A small piece of amethyst has been left in the centre of the circle as an offering, but it’s nice to see everything else is clean and tidy with no signs of litter about.

I walk to the nearby limestone pavement to get a slightly elevated view, serenaded on my way by a skylark, and have to concur with Mr Cope, that this truly is a ‘righteous hangout’, even in this region of spectacular circles the Druid’s Circle holds its own. It retains a certain charm of the plucky underdog, and is surely worth the visit in its own right. I like it here!

King Arthur's Round Table (Henge)

Visited 2nd May 2016

When visiting King Arthur’s Round Table I’d make two suggestions. Firstly the little village of Eamont Bridge is surprisingly busy, and there isn’t really anywhere designated to park if you’re coming to see the henge. We squeezed in amongst some other cars at the side of the A6, outside what seemed to be a rather busy hair salon and garage that seemed to be holding a yard sale. In hindsight it would probably have been better to park up at one of the two nearby pubs, where a leisurely drink, as opposed to a continual fear of getting the car bumped, might have proved more conducive to a pleasant visit.

Secondly make sure you come here first before visiting Mayburgh henge. Having just come from there it’s fair to say that after the grandeur of the amazing Mayburgh, which exceeded all expectations, there’s a palpable sense of let-down when you first see King Arthur’s table. Huddled between the intersection of two busy roads, on first appearances it bares more resemblance to a village bowling green, or King Arthur’s picnic spot perhaps? Like Carl before us we were somewhat disappointed with this place.

Shadows from the late afternoon sun pick out the gentle undulations of the earthworks. It’s a shame the northern edge of the henge seems to have been barbarously shaved off, along with the second entrance, but walking around the neatly trimmed grass of the lumps and bumps of the ditch and mound everything was pleasant enough, there just seemed to be something missing. The tree adorned top of the bank at Mayburgh is visible on the horizon, and as I wander around the circular centre of the henge I try to imagine how the sightlines must once have been between the two monuments, but it’s hard to strip away the modern trappings of the road and village.

I can’t quite put my finger on why I’m not so taken with this place, perhaps if it sat in splendid isolation, with just the majestic embankments of Mayburgh on the horizon, or in a way just felt a bit more ‘wild’ I’d appreciate it more. I was interested to read in Fitzcoraldo’s notes that it was once turned into a tea garden, as it still feels a bit like that now, perhaps just a little too manicured?

Still it’s so close to the road and near to Mayburgh it seems rude not to at least pay a visit when passing, but I think it’s perhaps best taken as an appetiser to the wonderful Mayburgh just up the road.

Machrie Moor

Visited 7th August 2015

Machrie Moor is nothing less than one of the megalithic marvels of Britain. Within the protective embrace of the surrounding hills the moorland harbours a wealth of fine stones, and the whole area is like some sort of pre-history park.

It almost resembles a showroom for the types of megalithic monument seen across the land. Walking over the moor I can almost hear the monologue of a Neolithic salesman;
“Ooh looking for the latest in contemporary design, well just step this way! Now here we have your traditional style stone ring, very popular nowadays, and room for conversion if you fancy an en -suite burial cairn, whilst just along here we have the more chunky boulder-style of circle with interior ring, very handy for resting your cauldron in if you’re of the giant persuasion. If sir is on a modest budget let me show you the four-poster, compact and suitable for all ritual needs, or if you really want to make an impression how about using some really tall stones…” the scope and type of monuments you will see here is unprecedented.

As with all moorlands things can get a little bleak in poor weather but today we are blessed with bright sunshine and the rain which has plagued us throughout a week in Dumfriesshire has blown itself away. There is still evidence of the recent wet weather though, as Carl mentioned in the previous fieldnotes one of the circles has temporarily turned into a marsh, although this only seemed to add to its magical atmosphere, the deep spiky green grass poking through the water providing ample perches for dragonflies, which continually buzzed around us during our visit.

The good weather has brought out the visitors and a steady stream of walkers cross the moor, the little car park at the start of the walk filled to capacity, but there’s plenty here for everyone, and some solitude to be found if you want it.

There’s not much more I can add to Carl’s excellent previous fieldnotes, funny to think he was here only the week before!

Soaking up the wonderful megalithic atmosphere of the moor, the blue sea shimmering behind us in the distance, time slips by quickly, and like a fine malt whisky Machrie Moor needs to be savoured and so we’ve elected to spend most of our day on Arran here, despite the wealth of other lovely megalithic sites in the area.

When I first visited here fifteen years ago I was totally blown away, it was the first really ‘premier league’ site I made a pilgrimage to after getting Mr Cope’s big orange book, and further opened my eyes to the prehistoric wonders that were out there. I still feel the same being here today as I did then, this really is somewhere very special indeed. Until next time Machrie Moor…

Dry Tree Menhir (Standing Stone / Menhir)

Visited 26th June 2015

After leaving Halliggye fogou it seemed rude not to visit the Dry Tree menhir as it was only a couple a miles away and so seemed a fitting way to finish off the day even though we didn’t really know what to expect.

I made the mistake though of first taking the turning into the Goonhilly Earth Station, and on arriving into the eerily deserted parking area it became apparent we were probably in the wrong place. I got out of the car for a scout around but was unable to spot anything vaguely megalithic. The area had a strange feel to it, the giant dishes of the listening station looming mute above the perimeter fences and with no visible signs of life inside the compound, it felt like the sort of place the survivors of a post-apocalyptic alien invasion film would end up at.

Getting back into the car we were almost ready to give up and come back another day, but fortunately we had a signal on the phone (would have been somewhat ironic if there had been no reception here of all places!) and a quick check of the internet suggested that we actually needed to park at the old RAF site next door.

So back down the B3293 and in minutes a brown sign indicating ‘National Nature Reserve’ pointed us into a turning which leads to a sizable parking area. Here several paths lead out over the downs, and information boards and some very good leaflets are handily available to guide the way.

Following the path which shadows the perimeter fence we soon see the stone ahead of us, and it’s much taller than I expected. From the angle we approach it reminds me a friendly giant with a tiny head perched atop his wide body. As I happily wander around the menhir taking photos from every conceivable angle I’m struck by the way the stone has such a different appearance from each side you view it from.

This is a lovely stone, I was a bit worried that close proximity to the perimeter fence might spoil the ambiance somewhat but the counterpoint of the modern dishes with this lovely stone just sort of works. I’d love to explore some more of the walks across Goonhilly, perhaps spotting some of the many barrows around which dot the landscape, but that will have to be for another time, only Cruc Draenoc barrow will be close enough for a visit today as I can see that one from the stone!

It’s nigh on 8pm now as we bid farewell to the stone, and hunger pulls us away home for supper. As we walk back we’re escorted by Meadow Brown butterflies that flutter along the path in front of us, a magical end to a lovely visit.

Goonhilly Down (Cairn(s))

Visited 26th June 2015

Cruc Draenoc is one of many barrows which dot the landscape around Goonhilly Downs, but this one benefits by its close proximity and intervisibility with the Dry Tree menhir.

From that stone the unmistakable lump of the barrow looms to the south west, easily distinguished by the trig point and concrete post which crown it.

We poke about the barrow, the late evening sun still blazing down on us. The mound itself is quite low, but it stands on the highest point of the downs, and the view out and down to the sea is wonderful. It’s difficult to discern the exact size and shape of the barrow due to the ferns which mask its outline, but it’s mercifully free of the thorny gorse which covers much of the downs, and no longer lives up to its old Cornish name, Cruc Draenoc, which means ‘barrow of the thorns’.

It’s a strangely beautiful landscape here, and a nice bonus to stumble across a barrow of this size at the end of a pleasant walk.

Halliggye Fogou

Visited 26th June 2015

We weren’t intending to visit any megalithic sites today, a thick sea fog blanketing everything in a damp muffling duvet of cloud when we awoke this morning in St. Just, but during a day spent in Falmouth the clouds finally burnt away leaving blue skies and blazing sunshine. So over a pint of Hobgoblin in ‘The Grapes’ a quick check of the TMA site on the phone (isn’t technology a wonderful thing!) produced a list of nearby candidates for a visit.

By far the most promising was Halliggye, somewhere I’ve never been before, and an impressive looking site to boot. So setting course for Garras on the B3293 we soon managed to find the Trelowarren estate and driving up the main drive (beware of the stealth humps though, which nearly ripped my car’s exhaust off!) soon the information board and layby appeared. It’s then only a short walk to the lovely enclosure surrounding the modern steps which lead down into the fogou.

As soon as we stepped inside we could tell this one was going to be something special. Ducking down to get through the entranceway, the passage soon rises enough to just about stand upright, and the feeble glow of my torch, desperately in need of some new batteries, struggles to illuminate the end of the corridor. Inching my way along due to the uneven floor, a long curved passageway soon opens up to the left, and I’m straight down it like a rat up a drainpipe.

The curve of the walls is disorientating as you carry on walking, the corridor seemingly wending its way into the depths of the underworld. It reminded me of the Tumulus de Rocher in Brittany, which had a similarly long and winding interior passage. Like Carl mentions in his fieldnotes, the stygian gloom of the surrounding darkness seems to suck the very light from my torch as I proceed, and only Ellen bringing up the rear with the light from her phone helps to penetrate the dimness.

Soon we reach the ‘stumbling block’ a raised stone ridge protruding from the floor, which marks the passage’s end, and I shuffle forward, crouched over, down the southern creep to the end of the fogou. Here I sit, Ellen waiting in the corridor nearby, and we turn off our lights. The darkness is all consuming. Total blackness surrounds you, and the atmosphere of the place becomes even more tactile. I become very aware of the sounds of my own breathing, and nearby an occasional squeaking sound, possibly from the bats that often roost here. I was expecting a damp, dank place, but it’s nothing like it. I can smell a faint but lingering scent of incense, then overlaid by a subtle lilac fragrance, and through the darkness I become more aware of all my other senses. If ever anyone needed help in practising mindfulness this is the place to come, something about it is affecting, sharpening your awareness of your place in this place, only the here and now seemingly existing as you float in the comforting darkness which surrounds you.
After maybe minutes or maybe hours, it’s hard to tell, the pinpricks of our torches come back on and we head back toward the entrance. Before leaving I wedge myself into the smallest northern creep, toward the original entrance to the fogou. It’s tiny but I can just squeeze in, although so wedged I fear I’ll ever get out! Happily after a bit of scrabbling I manage to ease myself back into the more spacious passageway, where we take more photos, before reluctantly taking out leave.

Although there is a suggestion fogou’s may have had a purpose as a place of storage this just doesn’t make sense to me, why construct such an elaborate and impractical cellar? I imagine it would be one hell of a hassle for an Iron Age farmer having to nip down the creep each time they wanted to retrieve an item! Visiting Halligye just strengthens my view that there was more likely some form of ritual purpose involved, seeing how an experience of the fogou can affect you psychologically I can only imagine the impact it would have had on people in that long ago culture.

Well I might have gone on a bit about this place, but it’s just that I haven’t been so blown away by a site visit for some time. There’s certainly a power here, and even for those less enamoured with the mystical mumbo jumbo a visit to Halliggye provides you with possibly the finest example of a fogou you could wish to see, so it’s a definite must visit.

Spurdagrove (Standing Stone / Menhir)

Visited 22nd May 2015

Scouring the OS maps for obscure Orcadian sites I’d not yet visited, I spotted a promising looking standing stone at Spurdagrove. So parking up at the nearby Loons RSPB reserve, and armed with some binoculars, we took shelter from the biting wind inside the bird hide, and scoped out the landscape looking for the stone. A plethora of fence posts and tufty grass made it hard to identify our target, and despite spotting some Tufted ducks amidst the wetlands, and a very cute gaggle of goslings with their Greylag goose parents, the lesser spotted stone of Spurdagrove continued to prove elusive. Checking the O.S. map it looked as if the stone should be fairly close to the road, so braving the icy breeze we walked along the lane from the hide.

Just a short way along the road we noticed a newly tarmacked layby, next to a short path which led to a seat looking out over the Loons and sheltered by a semi-circular concrete wall as a windbreak, the whole structure looking newly built. From here Ellen spotted the small stone, tucked away down by the fenceline.
A nearby gate gave access into the field which sloped down toward the stone, the ground becoming more wet and marshy as you approach the fence and the wetland beyond. Marsh marigolds lined the bottom of the field, and amidst the wonderful view across the flat marshland plenty of birds could be seen.

Approaching the stone the small ‘recumbent’ paired with it becomes visible, although at first I didn’t realise it as such, thinking it was just a natural stone outcrop. I’d been gingerly picking my way through the boggy ground, and now reached the fence, the small standing stone tantalisingly close just on the other side.
As I’ve said before in many fieldnotes, when I visit a megalithic site I always have an urge to touch it. Somehow it just doesn’t seem as satisfying if I don’t, it’s hard to explain. I think somehow it just gives me a sense of connection, touching the stone, my hands making contact with the same surface that, thousands of years ago, another pair of hands, those of a distant Neolithic ancestor, had toiled and struggled to move and set up the monument in this place for their own unknowable purpose. So I’ll often go to great lengths to have that physical connection. On this occasion it takes little more than donning some wellies, and carefully stepping over part of the rickety gate which is gently sinking into the marsh, in order for me to get up close and personal to the stone.

Practically abutting the fence, it’s a small and wide stone, with a sloping top, of a grey rock with cracks running diagonally across it and pale lichen growing over it in bands. The stone itself reminds me of a stunted version of the Comet stone at Brodgar.

Hunkering down near the stone out of the wind I watch Lapwings wheeling overhead, the sound of their mournful cries carrying on the wind and giving the place a melancholy air, but still I love it here. The earth smells rich and loamy down by the stone, and out of the wind even the sun has some warmth. I’m glad to have found another of Mainland’s standing stones, they’re all different in their own ways, and though Spurdagrove won’t win the award for most impressive, it’s got a great atmosphere in a lovely location, and I know I’ll be back!

Long Cairn

Visited 17th May 2015

The earlier rain has blown over now, but the brisk wind remains (well what did I expect, this is Orkney!) Now that the sun’s out I decide on a walk to the Long Cairn from the centre of Kirkwall. Taking the East road out of town you’re soon in the countryside, with the town spread out behind you as you head along the coast towards the Head of Work.

Once past the sewage works and a couple of gates negotiated, a vague path follows the shoreline to avoid the soggy moorland which comprises the rest of the headland. The walk grants superb views of the island of Shapinsay, seemingly only a stone’s throw away across the Sound, and allows me to get a good view of the chambered cairn atop Helliar Holm, the uninhabited island which practically connects to the south of Shapinsay, probably as close as I’ll get to it without a boat!

Skuas wheel around me as I walk along the headland and on arriving at the cairn I’m dive bombed by a tern, which obviously must be nesting nearby. The outline of the Long Cairn looks suitably chunky on the O.S map, and it’s just as substantial in real life. The large mound is visible on the headland from some distance as you approach. Some of the cairn stones are still visible amongst the grassy tumulus, particularly atop the mound where a small dip in the top has been accentuated by the piling up of stones around the depression by someone to create a partial windbreak.

I hunker in the dip to write my fieldnotes and marvel at the site. Another fine promontory location for a monument, and looking out to the west the dark heather clad slopes of Wideford hill draw the eye. The Long Cairn seems to be one in a chain of great burial structures, Wideford and Cuween atop the high ground and the Long Cairn sitting at the edge of the land, perhaps once a large landmark cairn on the coast like Midhowe was on Rousay.

The length of the Long Cairn can still be made out, as can the vestigial remains of the horned enclosure at the front of the cairn. I love the solitude here, so near to Kirkwall but seemingly so remote, one of the places I love to walk to in order to escape the hustle and bustle of Kirkwall when a cruise ship is in harbour!

Stembister (Standing Stone / Menhir)

Visited 17th May 2015

I’m told there are twenty-three standing stones on Orkney Mainland, and being determined to visit them all I turn to Stembister. It’s been on the radar for a while, and inspired by Wideford’s pictures and fieldnotes I’d attempted a visit before, driving up the track off the A960 and getting as far as the entrance to the farm, before finding I’d have to park in the farmer’s yard should I wish to walk onwards to the stone. Not wanting to intrude, and being a somewhat unsociable creature, I decided then against knocking on the door to request access, and turning the car around decided to find a different approach another day.

That was nearly a year ago, but today I’m back and having examined the 1:25,000 scale O.S. map it looks as if it would be possible to walk along the coastline to reach the stone therefore avoiding having to disturb the farmer. Taking advantage of some brief blue skies amidst the recent showery weather, I drive out to the car park at the wonderfully descriptively named beach at Sandi Sands. There are lovely views out here both to the north and south of this thin spit of land, with the large green mound of Dingie’s Howe, itself an ancient Norse ‘thing’ or parliament, built on the remains of a broch site, dominating the approach to the southern shore of the beach.

Climbing up past the Howe, and following the cliff edge I’m buffeted by a brisk wind as I walk along the vague track that runs next to the fenceline. It’s probably not a route for the fainthearted or anyone afraid of heights as it takes you pretty close to the edge, and I found myself having to keep one eye out for my footing, despite the distractions of the plentiful birdlife, and the desire to spot the pod of Orca’s that have been seen around the coasts of Orkney over the past few days. After negotiating the odd gully, and a quick clamber over a piece of fence which extended out to the cliff edge, the stone itself became visible.

Soon I was there, at a typical slab of Orcadian sandstone around 6’ tall, the tip bent at a jaunty angle, and somehow reminding me of the fin of a whale. The ever present tufts of sea moss ubiquitous on Orcadian megaliths tickle my neck as I sit with my back to the stone looking out to sea. It’s a wonderful view, with the island of Copinsay bold on the horizon, the stone wonderfully placed on its promontory, and reminiscent of the stones I’ve seen on South Ronaldsay in size and shape.

As with many other standing stones there is supposedly folklore surrounding giants attached, the oversized inhabitant of Stembister was said to have flung stones as far as Copinsay, presumably the standing stone here was the result of a duff throw, the name of the farm itself also coming from the old Norse, stein-bolstadr, meaning ‘stone-farm’.

As lovely as the view to the south-east is the same can’t be said of the opposite aspect, with the shabby agricultural outbuildings of the farm a glowering presence, and the farmhouse only a few feet from the stone. Such a close proximity does ruin the atmosphere somewhat, but as long as you fix your eyes out to sea you can forget the trappings of modernity and enjoy the stone, which I do until the clouds I can see sweeping along the coast whisk across me to unload some more rain, forcing me to hurriedly make my damp way back to the car.

Gardom's Edge (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

Visited 7th March 2015

Third time lucky! Twice before I’ve fruitlessly searched for this cup and ring marked stone, but given the preponderance of gritstone rocks strewn around Gardoms Edge it was like looking for a needle in a huge pile of needles. Today I’ve got Andrew Johnstone’s rather excellent ‘Prehistoric Peak’ book with me, which gives excellent directions and maps, and once we had arrived back at nearby standing stone we fanned out and walked back along the edge of the woodland, where just before coming level with the Nelson monument atop Birchen Edge across the moor a likely looking large flat stone became visible.

On the edge of the trees, long afternoon shadows pick out the intricate inscribed whorls and indentations of the cups and rings on the stone. I know the visible stone is a fibreglass copy, but it’s done so well, the naturalistic colouring and speckling of lichens giving it an uncanny realism, only broken if you tap the stone. Normally I’d be in two minds about such a replica, but the fact that the original stone is still here albeit buried out of sight, and the quality of the reproduction means that things seem to work, and the original location means you don’t lose the context of the placement as you would if the stone had just been unceremoniously dug out to be placed in a museum.

The patterns on the stones are intricate and intriguing, and some the best I’ve seen in Derbyshire, so I’m glad the decision to protect them this way was made. I don’t suppose we will ever know what inspired someone several thousand years ago to take the time to carve out these markings, but they still hold the power to make us wonder today, and enjoy the beautiful surroundings in which they are set.

It’s a pleasant place to sit by the stone, whilst Ellen sketches the designs, and the sun sinks lower, bringing the motifs into even sharper relief. I’m so pleased to have finally found the place, the efforts have been worth it, and after enjoying the rock art there is nothing else for it but to head back to the Robin Hood Inn for a celebratory pint of Hobgoblin before heading for home after a great day out.
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Megalithic wanderer and modern day pagan.

I've always loved anything historical, particularly megalithic sites (I've many a fond memory of visits to Stonehenge in the mid 1970's as we used to stop there every year on the way to the annual family holiday down in Bournemouth, which I think started it off), and the discovery of a certain book by Mr. Cope set off an obsession in the late 1990's to see as many of these wonderful places as I can.

Enjoys walking in the wildnerness and climbing mountains (currently on the worlds slowest round of Munroe bagging), travel, playing guitar, real ale and malt whisky, historical re-enactment, fencing and wargaming (although not all at the same time!) Also adores small furry critters (particularly cats)

Spends most of the year in the megalithic desert of the Midlands, although fortunate enough to live part of the time in Kirkwall in the megalithic oasis of Orkney, with my lovely (and very patient) wife Ellen, and the cute furball that is our cat Hecate.

Favourite sites would be Callanish and Ring of Brodgar (where I was handfasted) in Scotland, Les Pierres Platts in Brittany, Havangsdosen in Sweden, Glavendrup in Denmark, and Sunkenkirk in England.

My TMA Content: