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my second Scottish stones foray

This, my second outing with the Scottish Megaraks, was even more enjoyable than the last one I attended with Scotty and BigSweetie. This time - after a few weather-related call-offs - there was myself, Nick Brand, BigSweetie and George Logan, although Irene did make it later on for puddings at the Moulin.

I was staying at the Moulin Inn - a treat to myself after a particularly good year selling my broomsticks, the windy weather of the autumn obviously encouraging people to buy - and met up with Nick, Andy and George in the car park down on Pitlochry High Street. After waiting for half an hour to see if anyone else was coming - and observing the curious local phenomenon of driving in a circle around anyone standing in the car park - Andy got a message from Martin to say he'd turned right out of Glasgow as his GPS told him, but somehow had ended up in Lancashire.

So we all piled into Nick's Big Red Beast (TM) and headed out past Faskally Cottages up to the Garry Bridge, turning off along Loch Tummel to the Allean Forest car park. We were planning on parking here and walking the long trek up to Na Clachan Aoraidh but some kind forestry person had left the gate unlocked so we drove all the way up. Sub-zero temperatures made us feel less guilty, but cheating is cheating.

When we got to the stones, we found that some idiot had started a fire in the centre of the circle, in the hole that was left by a 19th century "gentleman archaeologist". Why do people do this? I climbed in for a closer look, but the frozen ground prevented me from seeing how deep the ashes were. It had the appearance of a megalithic pothole.

We stopped for a rest (despite having driven up!) by the Ondy Burn. Ham sandwiches and a flask of tea were produced, then overcome with pangs of guilt we decided we should really make an effort to see some other sites before heading to the pub, since we were hours ahead of schedule. Andy told us about a fort in the same forest, a bit further down the hill, so we got back in the Big Red Beast and followed our tyre tracks in the snow back down, turning off to stop at the fort known as the Queen's View.

This fort is a mightily-impressive place, with a great view out the "door" down Loch Tummel. If the trees of the forest weren't there, the views would be even more spectacular and would show off even better the supreme defensive position it occupies. After slipping and sliding our way around the fort for a while, Andy suggested heading down to Blair Atholl to look for a stone he'd failed to locate once before.

So on it was to the Bridge of Tilt caravan park to find the Clach na h' Iobairt, which we did, next to caravan 12. It's a bit sad-looking, hemmed in by a caravan and a tree, but at least it's afforded plenty of protection.

By now we were really feeling the cold, so we decided to head for the Moulin Inn - the real reason for coming out on the first really cold day of the winter! Settled into one of the snug booths, log fire roaring, we soon warmed ourselves up, helped in no small part by the pints of Old Leatherhead that were going down a treat. This was followed by the inevitable Scotsman's Bonnet, a delicacy I was introduced to not long after my move north from Surrey. Even more inevitable was the honey sponge and custard which followed soon after, and as the darkness fell quickly outside, I settled in for a night of fending off spaniels and quaffing ale, while the rest of the Megaraks headed out into the cold to make their way down the icy A9.

Na Carraigean — Images

<b>Na Carraigean</b>Posted by ActionMan


my first Scottish stones foray

Despite moving up from the south of England at the end of last year, fed up of the constant noise of planes overhead, and the general hustle and bustle of the south-east, I'd yet to get out and look at any stones in my new Perthshire home. Piles of boxes sitting in the house - full of God know's what - had prevented me so far, but on this crisp wintry day there was no stopping me, I was going looking for stones.

One of my new colleagues in the broomstick factory had given me a book of poetry, and many of the poems mention stoney sites around Perthshire, so I decided to head for Fowlis Wester, the subject of one of the poems, which had also come highly recommended by the Scottish Megaraks. And rightly so, for Fowlis Wester is a truly magical place, a cradle of secrets that Harry Potter himself would be proud of.

I began at junction of the main Perth-Crieff road and the road up to Fowlis Wester. Here, in the corner of the field, stands the unassuming New Fowlis cairn, ignored daily by the busy Perth commuters, oblivious to its long since vanished importance. As George Dunn wrote:

It's easy to wait here, the wind blowing through
The branches of the elms still my heart
I came in uninvited although that was not strictly true
My troubles asked me to come here & be with them

How appropriate that seemed to me as I stood amongst the trees fo shelter from the icy wind blowing down from the Braes of Fowlis above, in which direction I headed, into the village, but turning off for Crofthead Farm and its mighty stones.

There are 4 stones here - 2 huge parts of a split boulder, and a pair of standing stones a little further up the hill. The flatter half of the massive boulder has 4 cup-marks close to it's four corners, which seem to be aligned with their standing neighbours. I wandered up to them, and drank in the stunning views, resplendent in the bright winter sunshine. I was feeling the first pangs of hunger now, so I dropped my bag and sat in the shelter of the taller stone to have my picnic beside the Blether Burn. Ham sandwiches were the order of the day, washed down with a flask of hot tomato soup.

Feeling re-energised, I set off for the long slog up to the stone circles on the Braes of Fowlis. The thick snow had drifted deep, and the going was hard. Castle McCormack rose darkly out of it's powdery white surroundings, signifying that my climb was nearing its end. Soon I spied the outlying standing stone, and although the snow was deep on the track, on the circles it was only lightly sprinkled, apparently protected by the heather. The wind up here was biting something terrible, and despite someone of my stature being able to shelter behind the outlier, I soon departed in search of warmth.

Rather than re-trace my steps back down to the village, I decided to follow the track on, over the crest of the hill. Rather foolish perhaps in hindsight given my lack of local knowledge and not being dressed entirely properly for a Scottish winter, but I was soon rewarded when the Foulford Inn came into view.

As I found out over a pint of Old Haverer, the landlord has two main hobbies - all things boats, and all things megalithic. Portholes instead of windows, old gnarled oars on the walls, even an anchor in the corner! I could quite easily have spent all night there, but time was dragging on, I was far from Balbeggie, and those boxes won't unpack themselves!

Fowlis Wester Cairn — Miscellaneous

The poem below is part of an anthology of poetry from Perthshire. The poem gives you a hint at the mystery of a site passed and ignored by so many people on the journey to work every day.Good to know that at least one soul has taken the time to stop and ponder this place that sits within 10 yards of the busy main Crieff - Perth road.

Fowlis Wester Cairn — Miscellaneous

The Burial Mound at Fowlis Wester

It's easy to wait here, the wind blowing through
The branches of the elms still my heart
I came in uninvited although that was not strictly true
My troubles asked me to come here & be with them

They who built this they knew how to honour
The dead but now in life I circle it
Round clockwise a couple of times
Once for the rain and twice for those other hands

I would like to read the stone but they won't
Show me their language instead I read
The trees & one of them tells me that
In 1896 John Martin carved out his name

I wonder if like me he held his breath
& let the time turn to sunlight
Some startled crows get even more startled
As the traffic rolls but not these thought

Which cluster in this circle & the rabbits who
Burrow here do they understand time
& does it hold them as it does me
A beguiling set of stones traveling to our deepest

Distance the gods of their flight are worried
About strange concessions & I am jealous
Of them & what they have seen because
I am part of a river here in strathearn & I am flowing

From one silence to another & make no mark
I have no stones I just watch the shochards
Bringing in spring I say my farewells
I get my bus & I'm back in the river.

George Dunn

Fowlis Wester Cairn — Images

<b>Fowlis Wester Cairn</b>Posted by ActionMan<b>Fowlis Wester Cairn</b>Posted by ActionMan

Fowlis Wester Standing Stones — Images

<b>Fowlis Wester Standing Stones</b>Posted by ActionMan
I used to live near London, stuck in the rat-race, working all hours. I had what you might call a mid-life crisis and felt very unwanted where I was.

I saw what fun the Scottish Megaraks seemed to be having, so headed north, and now live in the sleepy Perthshire village of Balbeggie, working as a broomstick maker in the nearby hamlet of Glencormick.

Interests: archery, stones, Harry Potter

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