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

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A circular tour of Denmark


'I'm thinking of going to Denmark on Friday, 'Stones'?
'Yeah', 'You've only just come back from Ireland' 'I knows, its the weather see, its settled all week' 'Driving'?, 'Yeah' 'I'll get the shopping in while you get your van ready', 'OK that's kind' and that was it, permission slip in back pocket and off to Puttgarden to catch the ferry across to Lolland. Despite a lot of earlier preparation I decided to follow the route Julian took in his book and trust in his research. The first problem I encountered was that a lot of the places have different names to the ones Julian uses which doesn't help and secondly Denmark is a big country and the sites are many miles apart, all made up for by his choices, particularly the passage graves, twin entrance passage graves, passage graves you have to climb steps to get to the entrance, twin passage graves with entrances at 90 degrees to each other and all open for exploration. I'll post pictures rather than going into a lot of detail, however, in summary, I started on Lolland at the might Kong Svends Hoj the first of the many passage graves and then down into the Frejlev forest which hosts numerous sites including Siddenious Jaettestue and Kong Grons Hoj. This is a magical forest with upteen monuments scattered throughout, ra ta ta tat, ra ta ta tat, unfortunately the biting insects were out in force and coming at me in waves, eventually I had no choice other than to beat a retreat leaving many more places left undiscovered. On to Mons in particular to see the twin entrance Klekkende Hoj and the close by Kong Asgers Hoj. Next up into Zealand to explore, of particular mention is the Jaettestue at Lumas. A unimpressive looking mound at the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, however, as I crawled through the passage I must of triggered a photo switch as the inner chamber suddenly burst into light, the shock made me raise my head and BANG!, crashed onto my stomach stars everywhere, head swimming and within minutes a lump the size of an egg protruding from the top of my head. For the next five days everyone stared but no one commented, aren't people polite. A quick visit to the Viking stronghold of Trelleborg and across the Storebaelt bridge to Fyn, more passage graves at Marhoj and the triple dolmens of Lindeskov. Finding my way back onto the mainland of Jutland it was North to visit the Viking graveyard of Lindholm Hoje, nothing can prepare you for the sight as you look down the hill, stone ships, circles, individual stones spread right across the hillside, not our era I know, still very impressive. The Troldkirkevej is close by and worth the walk up to it. Many sites on Jutland, however, the complex of sites at Trustup is particularly impressive, set deep in the forest, a circular walk takes you past the many monuments and the natural habitat of the area. Finally I dropped down into Jelling to see the Stones and now understand the Bluetooth symbol on my phone, a quick flick of the sat nav and I was heading for Germany and the road home. 'You know we are busy for the next three months don't you'? 'Yeah' 'OK then'

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Ireland - At last!


I am sat here writing this feeling very, very lucky, I have been fortunate enough to visit Carrowkeel, a totally magical, unforgettable location equalling anything in Europe; anyway, more of that later. I had postponed visiting Ireland on more than one occasion due to bad weather, however, this time there was no turning back, the van was packed and the ferry tickets were in my hand. It was a quilt free trip as we had recently had 2 weeks in the sun and a short break to Cornwall and so a quick dash from Lincolnshire to Holyhead and I was soon heading for the Hill of Tara. I arrived to an empty car park just before 7.00am on a very blustery day, the rooks were screeching, diving into the wind only to be swept back to the trees surrounding the church and graveyard, all very eerie. Even as a total non believer I could feel the power and the energy radiating from this site as I walked up the ceremonial route to the mound of hostages and the stone of destiny, ancient voices carried on the wind, only they were speaking English, more people had arrived and I realised I was standing on a grassy mound in Ireland, nothing more, nothing less, time to move on. A short trip to the Boyne valley were I was going to visit Newgrange and Knowth. I had read that the only way to enjoy these sites is to accept that they belong to the day tripper and that you are their visitor not the other way around and to just relax and become a tourist yourself, and I have to say I had a thoroughly good day out. A very pleasant visitor centre a nice run around the countryside in the transit bus and perfectly manicured site and pathways to walk on. I didn't even get upset by the controversial quartz wall at the front of Newgrange, its there now, no one is going to knock it down or change it we have to live with it and just hope they do not employ the same team to give Stonehenge a makeover after it sinks into the tunnel beneath. Back in the van and off to Loughcrew where I spent the night before exploring the following day. It was Bank Holiday Monday and I guessed it might attract a few people so I organised with the local guide Fechin to go up Carnbane in the morning before it got too busy. Armed with the key to Cairn T we enjoyed a beautiful sunny day, the views were spectacular and the artwork inside the cairn stunning. I could see across the valley to Carnbane West where Cairn L is located, I had also read that public access has been denied for a number of years following the last outbreak of foot and mouth. Given that it was starting to get busy I decided to head off in that direction. A quick hop over a locked field gate and a surprisingly tough little hill and I was looking into Cairn L an immaculately preserved cairn, possibly better than T, however, the real shock was to discover that there are 6 or 7 Cairns in various states of preservation up there and I had the whole place to myself, not a single fellow trespasser nor angry farmer. I ended up staying there for the afternoon soaking up the warm sunshine. Next day it was off to Carrowkeel. I had read that approaching Carrowkeel is like entering a lost valley and that is exactly how it felt, cliffs to either side, road just wide enough for the van and no one else in sight. The walk up to the most visited cairns G, H, K, L is nothing short of stunning and the cairns fabulous with no barrier to entry, you can crawl through the passage and play around inside to your hearts content, further on there is a large sinkhole and on again standing stones. On the way back down detours to the seldom visited Cairns C and D and then a scramble up to E and F provided even more stunning views. A word of caution if visiting these last 4, the paths are ill defined due to lack of visitors and its easy to miss them coming back, there a cliff hedges and sink holes around so please take care. I really did not want to leave this beautiful valley nor the mountains, I loved every moment there and every part of it and will definitely go back to explore the cairns I could see on neighbouring mountain tops. With a heavy heart I headed for Carrowmore which I didn't really enjoy after Carrowkeel, it was far too manicured and sterile, however, redeemed to some extent by the way it sat in the shadow of Knocknarea as indeed did everything. Overnight in Strandhill and ready to tackle the hill in the morning in order to visit Queen Maeve's grave. A walk from the beach at Standhill to Sligo rugby club and then up what is called the 'New Walk' up Knocknarea, actually very exciting as it gains height quickly and then follows a 300m board walk up through the trees before gaining open mountain. I didn't stay too long as no one seemed to understand the 'Do not climb' signs and for some reason I found it upsetting. Back down to the beach and a quick visit up the road to the famous court tomb of Creevykeel. Next day a longish drive down to the Burren to see the famous Poulnabrone dolmen, why this should be the most photographed dolmen in Ireland escaped me, however, the barren lunar like landscape was a most enjoyable drive. Next day was a tour through Carlow (nostalgic as I used to visit with work) and stops at the incredibly impressive Brownes Hill dolmen with its huge capstone and Haroldstown dolmen situated on a nasty bit of road. Finally I headed back towards Dublin viviting the 3 stone circles of Castleruddery, Athgreany and less visited Broadlees on the way. Castleruddery was particularly fascinating being a henge as well as a circle. Anyway it was all over bar the shouting, ferry back to Holyhead and dash home. Cannot wait to go South to Cork on my next visit just need to keep the home points building up

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Winter sun gods


It was mid January, Christmas and New Year were well and truly over, my curfew was lifted and wife said I could go out to play again. My New Years resolution is to visit Ireland and I was keen to get on with it, however, the weather was atrocious. A quick look at the weather map indicated Portugal was the only place basking in sunshine, fearlessly, after tea, 'I softly mumbled, I'm going to Portugal on Sunday', 'Thought you were going to Ireland?' 'It's the weather', 'For Gods sake do what you want just don't involve me in it' With that ringing endorsement I threw some warm bedding in the van, food in the fridge and set off for the euro tunnel on a cold Sunday afternoon. Non stop driving through the night and following day found me nicely tucked up in bed just outside the Orca complex ready for an early start on the Tuesday morning. The jewel is the Orca dolmen itself, however, there are around 10 other sites scattered across the hillside between the villages of Fiais and Azenha. The sky was a cloudless blue and the sun bright and warm despite the low temperatures and I decided to walk. The hillside is covered with ancient trees and natural rock outcrops some with early Neolithic artwork etched into them, all in all one of the most pleasant 4 hours I have spent anywhere. Next day down to the Alpalhao region of Portugal to visit a grouping known simply as Alta 1 to 4. An unfortunate encounter with a farmer and I was off to visit more friendly sites. It was soon time for another trip further south first to the Pavia district and then on to Evora itself. In my humble opinion this area rivals Brittany, Wiltshire and Orkney for the range and close proximity of the megaliths among them the better know 'Anta Grande do Zambujeiro' and 'Almendres stone circle' although by no means the jewels in the crown, these belonged to the amazing stones at Cromeleque da Portela de Modos and Cromeleque de Vale Maria do Meio. A few wonderful sunny days in Evora and I was beginning to understand why our ancestors would want to worship the sun. All to soon it was time to point the van North. There had been some disappointment, some sites I could simply find no way through the fences and one site the long horned inquisitive cattle destroyed any bravado I had left, other than that I would gladly do it all over again, however, not sure how I am going to swing that particular trip at the moment

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Harold, Elvis, Athur and Samson - The men of Wales


I had been grounded for the rest of this year when a few days expectantly opened up and my wife urged me to make the best use of them, however, it meant setting of the very next morning. The weather was foul with snow forecast across the hills so I reluctantly left my van at home at took the car, which had the bonus of 4 wheel drive, and I would have to rely on finding budget hotels along the way. This turned out to be overcautious as the weather was glorious with sunny autumn days making it a pleasure to be out and about. I picked out a route which skipped along the South Wales coast and after an easy journey cross country started at the Harold Stones just South of Monmouth. Interesting alignment of 3 standing stones, difficult to imagine that that was all there was to it and impossible to guess what it might have been part of. The site itself is not very attractive, nor are the stones, being forged from the local puddingstone and looking like concrete reproductions (if I have offended anyone then apologies all round). Next it was off to Cardiff to see the Tinkerswood burial chamber. Nicely set a field away from the road with the reception and burial areas clearly defined. From here it was a pleasant walk down the narrow lanes to St Lythams. Despite the unfriendly warnings of dire retribution for anyone who steps of the defined footpath it is a pleasant place to visit and the chamber differs in the sense that the capstone is supported by huge stone slabs rather than columns, the right hand one with interesting cup markings (original or added later I don't know). A longish drive from here to the Gower peninsula for a brief visit to Parc le Breos, an interesting site, as if the top half has been sliced off with a huge knife allowing you to look at the inner construction, however, the real, and unexpected, gem was just a few miles up the road at Maen Ceti. The chamber here has the most huge unlikely looking capstone on very small stone pillars. The setting is wonderful with a well preserved cairn alongside and the hillside overlooking the estuary is a treasure trove of fallen stones, lost cairns and other evidence of the importance a scale of development that must have been in existence here. I ended up spending the rest of the day here just wondering around like the proverbial child in a sweetshop. The following morning turned into 'heaven on earth'. I drove into Manorbier in search of the Devil's Quoit and instantly fell in love with the place, down onto the beach up onto the coastal path, the sun was gleaming off the white horses breaking onto the beach, nothing could have been more perfect. Despite deciding I wanted to live there I forced myself on to Solva to visit the interestingly named St Elvis chambers. A longish walk down the farm track, through ankle deep shit and there they are, two chambers next to each other, nastily fenced off, however, they did include some information and I was glad I had made the effort. Carrying on around the coast I next visited Carreg Samson near Abercastle. I drove a little too far and ended up in the farm yard and decided to park there anyway, as it turned out right outside the gate that led into the field where Samson sat making it a pretty easy trip. This is a great site despite being intimidated by the local herd of cows, and a setting to die for overlooking the bay in one direction the hills behind. Next the road took me up to Carreg Coetan, now set within a modern development of houses and bungalows, however, afforded its own little garden and a pleasant place to visit. Further around the coast and I was at Llech y Drybedd. There is nothing to indicate its existence and I was pleased I had noted the name of the farm. I parked on the main road opposite the farm track and set off up the path past the farm and keeping left at the fork. The chamber sits rather lonely, unloved and unmarked in the corner of the field and I hope at least provides some comfort to the dairy cattle in bad weather. It couldn't be put off any longer, time to visit the mighty Pentre Ifan and I was pleased it did not disappoint. A well cared for site down some narrow lanes it is clearly part of some bigger development long since destroyed. This is a site to stop and linger at to walk around two or three times to try and assess the original dimensions, the approach, the landscape 5 to 6 thousand years ago and where the people lived. Before working my way home I had a couple of inland sites I wanted to visit, the first was Craig Rhosyfelin believed to be where at least one of Stonehenge bluestones came from. Parking alongside the Ford there is easy access into the site through a field gate. It is a beautiful site set into a narrow valley and the side wall has crumbled revealing and allowing the texture of the rocks to weather gracefully. To the layman it seemed a huge stretch to call this a quarry as opposed to a natural rock outcrop left behind by the ice age, however, that was not my concern, I just bathed in the beauty of the place and the overwhelming sense of history. My last stop was at the sprawling site of Gors Fawr, rather like a Preseli version of Stanton Moor ie there is evidence of neolithic activity everywhere, stone circles, standing stones and odd stones which may or may not have been part of a larger structure. The area was sodden and I couldn't get as far as I wanted so I left behind the perfect excuse to go back to this wonderful part of the country, if only to visit the Devil's Quoit one more time. A dash down the M4, M5, M6, A14, A1 and I was back in Lincolnshire in time to throw the cat out.

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Autumn sun over Brittany


Well the Tom didn't do what a Tom is supposed to do and so there is no firm date for our new kitten which meant my negotiating power was at a minimum just at a time when the sun was due to shine over Brittany for a full week. So, rather nervously and with a slight twitch I approached my wife and said 'weather good in Brittany and it will be quiet, perfect time to go on a field trip' 'Whatever, just don't forget I have my own trips planned in November and I am expecting you to be Homo Domesticus for the full month'
so, slightly reeling from this response I packed my things, watched Peterborough beat Bury 3-1 and set off for the eurotunnel straight after.
Following an easy run through Normandy there was two sites I wanted to visit near St Malo before heading deeper into Brittany, the first was the Menhir of Champ Dolent, a huge standing stone set on open ground making it look even bigger, then on to the House of Fairies neat Tresse, the first of many Allee Couverte Graves I had planned to see on this trip. Set 150m or so into the forest it was a true fairy glen and a great start to the trip.
It was now time to head towards the coast to the region around Kerguntuil an area rich in megaliths and in particular covered alleyways perhaps the most famous one being the Prajou Menhir. All the locations were well signposted and the sites well cared for, could have spent days or maybe weeks in this part of France. Next a pleasant drive around the coast to the huge cairn of Barnenez with its visitor centre and paid access. As I was the only person there the security warden was more than happy to show me around in particular focusing on the way architecture changed from megalithic to stone block as the building of the cairn and its extension progressed. This is a wonderful site, however, something about paying and visitor centres puts me off a bit and I decided our very own Grey Cairns of Camster were equally as impressive and won hands down in terms of location and access.
The next two sites were to be a minor challenge as they could only be reached at low tide and I would find out if I had read the tables on French coastal tides correctly (available on the web of course as is everything). First stop was Kernic where the covered alleyway is engulfed by the tide twice a day, assuming it wasn't built this way there must have been some movement in sea level, in any case it is an absolutely beautiful site to visit and somehow I read the tides correctly and so off to Ile Carn Island only accessible at low tide. Like a small version of Barnenez you can still crawl into the left hand passage. The tide was out, however, there was no path it is a case of picking your way over the rocks and seaweed, paddling through the tidal pools and finding your own way across all the time worried that the tide would come in and cut you off. On my return to the safety of the deserted white sand beach I felt hugely elated and was punching the air when I noticed an old woman out walking her dog looking rather oddly at me!
Time to start heading back taking in a number of inland sites the first being the incredible Kerloas Menhir, the tallest standing stone in Europe, a full 9.5m and that's after having part of it blown off in a lightning strike. Very nicely set in a small thicket very much a must see site (no one there of course). A longish run across country to find the alleway of Mougau Bihan, perhaps the finest I visited complete with decorated stones showing axe and dagger, original or added later difficult to tell. Another longish run to the Necropolis of Liscuis, three covered alleyways sat on the plateau above the cliffs rising from the village. This was a long steep walk and after huffing and puffing for what seemed like miles I was rewarded with the most fantastic views and three wonderful examples of this kind of megalith. Now surrounded by trees and gorse they would have originally been in prominent positions looking out over the valley below.
Sadly it was time to head off to my last site the megalithic centre of St Just. There is a megalithic trail here which links a number of the key sites together and forms a most enjoyable walk past standing stones, stone alignments, graves, natural stone block alignments and much more a great way to end what turned out to be one of my favourite field visits. Of course Carnac is incomparable, however, Northern Brittany is certainly not to be ignored. Pointed the van North and home today just trying to find a way to tell my wife I'm heading up to Fleetwood tomorrow for an away game!
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