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

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Couldn't see ABBA anywhere


As we were unpacking our suitcases I asked my wife had she enjoyed her stay in Warsaw, she said yes, a fabulous time although it would have been better if you hadn't been humming ABBA tunes all week, you don't even like them. I then asked her did she still want that kitten, she slowly said yes, I replied good, so with that out the way I felt I could finally tell her. 'I'm planning on going off to Sweden before the colder weather sets in'. 'When?' 'Friday' Expecting the normal expletives and abuse worse than a Jeremy Corbyn critic I was taken off guard with 'I see, well say hello to ABBA for me just don't backtrack on the kitten'. (We already have a Dog and an older cat which I think is enough)
So come Friday evening with the week put to bed and the weather forecast looking excellent I packed the van up and set off for Sweden.
Three immediate points 1) Its a long way, I set off at 8.00pm on Friday and it was 9.00 pm on Saturday before I settled down in in Ystad on Swedens Southern coast. 2) Julians book is unusually light on Sweden and therefore quite a bit of internet planning is required ahead of any visit. 3) It was obvious that if the crops had not been harvested a number of these sites would have been inaccessible.
I decided I would follow Julians journey along the Southern coast before heading North to Falkoping, the Neolithic heart of Sweden, and finally pick off a few sites on the West coast as I headed home.
Early morning start and I visited two modern sites (estimate around 500AD), Disa Ting a stone square located on the shoreline and the mighty Ales Stenar. This may be a modern stone ship, however, it is a very powerful place. As I climbed out of the van I could feel myself being pulled towards the site, as I moved around and up the mother earth site it is located on I felt my pace quicken and as I ascended the final ridge I broke into a trot and there they were, heart breakingly lonely overlooking the sea and crying out to distant lands. Inside the 'ship' the hairs on my legs, hands and neck all began to feel the static given off by this place, the stones are all different materials, lovingly shaped from bright pink to dark blacks, they begin to morph into people, small people, fat people, tall people, people with helmets, people with beards. I became aware of a dog fighting with my walking boots and decided it was time to return to the van. On the way back I felt strangely emotional, what had taken place back there, had I somehow seen my future, was I to be part of those stones in some way, for ever? Shaking all such feelings off I moved on past the Trollasten, Tagarp Fem and off to Gardlosa, easier to find that reports suggested, and then Gladsax, here it feels a little uncomfortable as you simply drive up to the farmyard, dump your vehicle and set off across the fields, no one batted an eyelid and it was well signposted so assumed everything OK, and what a site, the burial chamber sits on top of a circular stone wall and commands the countryside. Believed to be one of the oldest sites in the area. Quick stop at the huge Kings Grave and onto the beach for Harvangsdosen. A wonderful sight with the sea crashing in as a backdrop discovered after a storm rather like our own Scara Brae. What I had not expected was the whole area was littered with Neolithic to Iron age remains and where ever you walked you discovered something new and unmarked.
Time to head North to Falkoping, the town itself has remains of passage graves everywhere, on roundabouts in front of banks and in parks. Just North of the town is the important site of Ekornavallen. Nothing could have prepared me for this. A huge site sloping down to the river just covered in standing stones, stone circles, passage graves, cairns, stone triangle and every sort of monument between neolithic and iron age. Swedens Kilmartin! Like a child in a sweetshop, where do you start, just wallow in the joy of zig zagging from one feature to the next. Too soon it was time to move on which raised an important question, quantity or quality, was I trying to see too much and not spending sufficient quality time at the individual sites? Should I pencil in fewer sites for my visits and get to know fewer sites better, but which ones, how do you know before you get there? Any way I did go on, to Karleby and the Luttra, both multiple sites with prominent megaliths situated atop of small hills and all perfectly aligned. Time to head South to the Varberg area to visit Klastorp and Blotabordet, however, the really fascinating site was the hillside of Grimton, a huge burial ground used from early neolithic and up to 500 AD (or so). Here there was a huge boulder circle, numerous stone circles, cairns, a stone traingle and various other standing stones covering the hillside and clearly little visited, in fact, and as is usual, I had nearly all the site completely to myself. Finally I stopped at Gillog on the way home just North of Malmo. Here it is an easy crawl/stoop down the passage into the main chamber of this wonderfully preserved burial mound. The scale and quality of this site would not look out of place on Orkney and a great way to finish my visit. Sadly time to head home, pleased to be seeing the family again but sad to be saying farewell to this warm welcoming country. I placed the van in the direction of Calais, set the cruise control and let the gps navigate the intricate motorway network back home to Lincolnshire. I never did say hello to ABBA, I did however, stop at Brugge for chocolate and that seemed to work just as well

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Medway Megaliths


For various reasons the last couple of months has seen my wife and I bobbing back and forward to France through the euro tunnel and every time we drive down the M20 I whine about not having time to stop off and see the megaliths. Well with 2 clear weeks before our next trip away my wife suddenly said 'Right, no excuses get yourself down to Kent and take a look at those bricks on the M20' As the shock of what she had just said sunk in I quickly loaded up the van and set off that very evening while the weather was still hot and sunny.
Next morning I found my way to a lay by near Kit's Coty House and set off to find it. Not difficult, however, no signage and so you need some idea of where to look, as it turned out it was in a field right next to the track off Pilgrims Way. Nice sight, however, imprisoned by railings and doesn't set the heart racing in the same way say a Cornwall Quoit does but does have a presence all of its own. Next a life threatening walk down the road to find the Coffin Stones which are smack bang in the middle of a very well maintained Kent vineyard. Not sure if I was supposed to wandering among the vines, however, glad I found it, an interesting collection of what looks like the capstone and side supports now collapsed onto each other. Risking life once again I set off further down the road to Little Kits Coty House. A very nice sight next to the main road but completely hidden by hedge and a small pathway. Spent a long time here trying to work out what was support and what was capstone.
Next it was off to the White Horse Stone, sorry, no matter how long I looked at it I couldn't see the horse just a large lump of chalk rock, none the less an interesting site, then onto the field where Smythes Megalith once stood. So much is written about it that I thought there must be something there, no, just an empty field. I questioned my own sanity when I found myself taking a photo of the field and made a note to seek counselling when I get back home. Finally went further inland to visit Julliberries Grave long barrow. Nice walk but not a lot to see and I resolved to call it quits for the day.

Next day went West to the Coldrum stones. What a magnificent site this is. Wonderful walk to it and the stones are set atop a mound giving incredible views over the Kent wheat fields. The tree overlooking the stones were covered in ribbons, trinkets and notes to various spirits. It was hot and sunny and I didn't want to leave and settled down with my back to the stones. Not sure how much time passed, however, I woke up to find a family peering down at me relieved to find this weather worn old man wasn't dead. I quickly grabbed my things and wandered off down the track and set off for Addington long barrow, another interesting site spread over both sides of the road (who allowed that?) and must have been a huge site in its prime. On to the Chesnuts and rang the number on the gate 'not available today' 'tomorrow?' 'Busy' OK best I leave it then. Not sure whats going on however I didn't encounter the friendly reception I have read so much about.

So with that one disappointment I worked my way back up the motorway system to Lincolnshire and thought what a lovely way to spend a few days and how kind of my wife to suggest I just get off and go. The phone went, it was my wife 'About that kitten I mentioned' I just caught myself in time and pretended to be disinterested, thought there is more negotiation to be had here than a couple of days in Kent!

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North Wales, a few walks into prehistory


My wife and daughter were busy helping out a friend which gave me an opportunity to squeeze in a couple of days in North Wales. I wanted to walk some of the tracks I had read about on this site
First stop was the small village of Rowen, easy access road and a big layby at the start of the village for the van. My aim was to walk the old road above Rowen to the Cerrig Pryfaid stone circle.
A very steep climb out of Rowen sees you gain height very quickly with magnificent views over Conway Valley and the sight of two Buzzards (huge birds, I think that's what they were) circling above it was a great start to the walk.
Just about out of breath when I came upon the Carhun stone which marks the start of a series of megaliths close to the track. A bit of looking around (surprisingly well hidden) led to the Caerhun chambered cairn and then on down to the small but perfectly formed Maen y Bardd (thought I was in Cornwall), where the sheep scurried away giving me disapproving glances at being disturbed. The track led on to the Ffon y Cawr standing stone and then to the Cae Coch stone and eventually the stone circle of Cerrig Pryfaid. Very small stones almost hidden by the grass, however, the two outlying stones and potential alignments, the location high above the valley and the true peace of the site makes it a very worthwhile visit.
Retraced my steps to Rowen looking out for ancient hut circles a burnt mound which I am not sure I found and back down the steep hill into Rowen. About 3 1/2 hours in all and guessing could be done in less if in a hurry.
Next up was a much easier walk, however, very rewarding. I parked up in Conway Falls cafe car park and walked up the steep track opposite, through the campsite and over the hill to Capel Garmon. What a shock, the site is in much better condition, larger and had more to explore than I was expecting and indeed as the sign said was very reminiscent of a Cotswold Burial Chamber. All in all 1 1/2 hours including lingering too long at the site.
Next day, it was pouring down and boy can it rain in North Wales, with no sign of let up I pulled into Penmaenmawr and parked the van up, no choice but to get on with it if I was going too see the Druids circle. The ascent was a bit of a shock, easy walk out of PMmawr up through the houses and access through the side of the farm, thereafter it was a steep accent through dark mist and pouring rain to the trackway on the top of the mountain. I could not see anything through the mist and navigation was impossible. I staggered around trying to keep to the well defined paths hoping I could easily retrace my steps if necessary. Eventually no choice but to pull the gps out and hope it was waterproof. As it turned out I was almost at the Craig Lwyd cairns so I started there, took some pretty damp photos and followed the gps up the circle 278 and then on to a very atmospheric druids circle where the mist suddenly lifted and all was revealed, wet feet, well wet everywhere, it was all now worthwhile. On to circle 275 and the weather closed in again as I dropped down to the Maen Cryn stone and the remnants of the Red Farm stone circle. It was hopeless by now I couldn't even see the path in front of me, so I navigated to the mountain road and followed it down into PMmawr, found the van dried off and changed my clothes with an uncontrollable smile as the weather turned to bright sunshine and I thought 'You B@stard'!
Next, as a little treat before heading home I visited the Bronze Age copper mine on the Great Orme which I really enjoyed, a final look at the stone row descending down the mountain to the sea (why there?) and time to work my way home. All in all a great way to spend a couple of days, just take a change of clothes.

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North East Scotland road trip


I had been planning this one for a while, however, it was shelved for a number of weeks due to an irresistable urge to go to the Hebrides to see Callanish and its environment. So the day finally came, I had taken my wife away for a short break before setting off to set aside all guilt feelings associated with yet another trip, and I was really focussed. Despite so many sites I resisted all temptation to stop until I got to a Clava Cairns just short of Inverness. Huge site and well cared for by Scottish Heritage, a little sanitised for my liking but a welcome stop. Next up to see the Hill o many Stanes like a Carnac for a model village, a short drive to the unbelievable Grey Cairns of Camster which I crawled into all of the available chambers, this is a real crawl not a stoop. Set in a remote part of Scotland they are still well cared for with a proper board walk across the boggy ground to the Cairns and demand your time and consideration, if they were in Wiltshire I am sure they would be among our most treasured sites. Over the hills to see the Achavanich Stone Circle or U shape to be exact, the stones face inwards rather than sideways and no one knows why. The whole area oozes evidence of a Neolithic presence.
Time waits for no one and I needed to be on the 7pm ferry to Orkney.
So much has been written about this place I will just comment on what I found useful
Get up early, like 5.30 am early and you can have the standing stones of Stennes, the Ring of Brodger and Barnhouse village to yourself
Go to Skara Brae after hours by walking up the beach to it, the tourists during the day will do your head in. You can go to the visitors centre and pay if you conscience troubles you (I did)
During tourist hours you can visit the fantastic Unstan Cairn, the wonderful walk to Wideford Hill Cairn, and the atmospheric Cuween Hill Cairn. On the South side of the island, and free of tourists whilst I was there, are Tomb of Eagles very much worth a visit for its dramatic cliff top setting and best of all the Tomb of the Otters or Banks tomb as it used to be called. This is a live site only partially excavated and he closest you will come to feeling like Indiana Jones, assuming of course you want to feel like him.
Maeshowe is fine, even though on the tourist route you only get in with a timed ticket and so is not overbearing
Finally a couple of warnings. I went for a second visit to Cuween Hill very early in the morning and when I crawled in I was shocked to find someone sleeping in their, banged my head on the ceiling when my torch light caught him, and the second warning, under no circumstances descend into the closed Minehowe pit. Pure evil resides their and I will post a seperate forum link about it
In summary Orkney is just magical, however, with days running out it was time to drive the van on the overnight ferry to Aberdeen where I wanted to get a first hand view of the recumbent stone circles unique to this area. The showpiece sites like Easter Aquhorthies, Cullerie, Tomnavarie, Midmar Kirk and the Loanhead of Daviot were fabulous, however, more interesting results were to be found at places like Cothiemuir Wood, Old Keig, Whitehill, Sunhoney, Nine Stanes and Esslie the Greater where the stones are scattered and the sites overgrown, the sites felt alive and real rather than recreations. I was unable to make any connections regarding alignment to the sacred mother hills, lunar observations and not in all cases alignment, what I did feel however was a strong sacred presence and a place to grieve for the dead. Time has run out and I am now on my way home, stopping for a coffee and to write a quick blog, hope I have not gone on too much

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Rather blustery at Callanish


I decided, at the last minute, that there was just enough time to squeeze in a visit to the Callanish Stones over the Bank Holiday, I then realised if I travelled over night I could make up enough time to walk Kilmartin Glen on the way up there. And so it was, I made the bed up in the van, threw some food in the fridge, packed my wellies and joined the A1 just North of Peterborough shortly after 10.00pm. I briefly stopped just short of Kilmartin to look at the standing stones around Bridgend and Dunadd Castle although it was still dark, blowing a gale and pouring down and so I didn't really get much done, and being 6.00am there wasnt much light. Drove on a little further to the start of my walk at the Ballymeanoch Stones and Duncraigaig Cairn, up to Ri Cruin and on to Temple Wood. From there past the various ' Nethers' and finally Glebe Cairn behind the church and back to the van via the Nether Largie standing stones and stone row. This is a fabulous walk through history and didn't take as long as I had expected. Temple Wood was particularly fascinating although so well restored it wouldn't look out of place on a roundabout leading into Milton Keynes. Not a sole around as you might expect early on a Sunday morning and really pleased to have spent time there. Onward through Skye and onto the ferry at Uig for a very rough crossing to Harris and Lewis. The morning didn't start well, gale force winds, heavy rain and hail, however, no option but to press on. Callanish 1 was even more inspiring than I had expected, a real temple of its time and definitely felt like there was some huge religious significance to it regardless of all the theories from a Astronomical Clock to a Time Machine. Callanish 2 was a wonderful place to be as you look out over both 1 and 3 and it all feels very interconnected. Both were under water and the wind so strong you needed to cling to the stones for protection. Callanish 4 was just about possible with wellies, however, the more remote sites were going to have to wait for another visit, for which I cannot wait.
I went on to see the huge Truishal Standing Stone and a few other sites, however, with little time left I went back to Callanish 1 to spend more time in the central stones and contemplate how the site had been developed over 1000 years and the changes in the outlook and religion of the people involved.
Dreaming over, another sick inducing crossing of the Minch and a very long drive home. Would I do it again? Tomorrow (subject to permission from my long suffering wife)
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My main hobby is trying to make sense out of the megalithic structures from our past. It started when I purchased the two books by Mr Cope and has not waned for a single second. My interest in the structures surges from design and construction to collective labour and communication and how do they fit with what must have been a fairly time consuming business of just existing in the new world of farming and metal technology. Complete amateur, do not profess to have any special insights, however, having a great time finding out and love reading others experiences on this website. Oh, by the way, love music and hill walking (and occasionally trespassing)

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