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

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Callanish (Standing Stones) — Images (click to view fullsize)

<b>Callanish</b>Posted by a23<b>Callanish</b>Posted by a23<b>Callanish</b>Posted by a23

Callanish and its Environs — Images

<b>Callanish and its Environs</b>Posted by a23

Callanish (Standing Stones) — Fieldnotes

What can you say about this place? You have to go, even though it's a bit of a pilgrimage...I first visited last year for a few days, then felt drawn back and spent a week there this summer, staying in Ann + Angus Smith's holiday cottage - an ideal location less than 10 minutes walk from the site.
The site is almost painfully impressive - maybe because of its scale or state of preservation - or maybe because of the nature of the stone that makes it. When you then add in the lunar (and solar) calculating factor one's mind becomes blown! I found it was very difficult to stay in the present time when there - there seems such a sense of history; but also a sense of drama and maybe theatricality.

When you go you MUST meet up with Margaret Curtis (see Gyrus's post ). By all means visit yourself first - but you'll never see it the same way once you've done a walkround with her. She'll show you the burial cairn by her house(ruthlessly bisected by the road builders several years ago) which she reckons is the start of the place of procession to the site itself - maybe a mile up the slopes, much in the way one might imagine processing up the Avenue at Abury...then the alignments of the stones, the "windows" between various pairs of stones which align with landscape points relevant to moon set/sunrise etc.

One of my pleasures when staying for a week was to walk up to the stones after sunset and sit, in the starlight, in splendid isolation, playing appropriate sounds on my walkman - Odin worked particularly well! After an hour or so, it becomes as close to a shamanic experience as I've had anywhere (even the midges ceased to concern me).
It really is a must!

Knowe of Yarso (Chambered Cairn) — Images

<b>Knowe of Yarso</b>Posted by a23<b>Knowe of Yarso</b>Posted by a23

Blackhammer (Cairn(s)) — Images

<b>Blackhammer</b>Posted by a23

Taversoe Tuick (Chambered Tomb) — Images

<b>Taversoe Tuick</b>Posted by a23<b>Taversoe Tuick</b>Posted by a23<b>Taversoe Tuick</b>Posted by a23<b>Taversoe Tuick</b>Posted by a23

The Fairy Knowe (Chambered Cairn) — Images

<b>The Fairy Knowe</b>Posted by a23<b>The Fairy Knowe</b>Posted by a23

The Fairy Knowe (Chambered Cairn) — Fieldnotes

This has to be the most fabulous cairn in Orkney! Yes, it's dwarved by the might and elegance of Maes Howe, but it beats them all on atmosphere for my money.
The tomb is set up a farm track, well signposted, about half a mile out of Finstown (if coming from Brogar). There's a gentle slope to climb, and the monument sits pertly nestling inot the hillside. Historic Scotland provide a torch beside the entry, and the tomb wasn't locked (day or night).
Creeping inside for the first time is a bit of an act of faith...esp if your torch is low on batteries! There is a low, narrow entrance of maybe 5.5 metres, which was wet and made one mess of my jeans. Inside the tomb is beautifully restored and entirely dark - no artificial roof with light panels here. The main chamber is a good height - maybe 61/2 -7 feet and there are 3 chambers opening off. Each of these is also of good height, allowing you to stand erect inside but the entry to each is narrow and not for those of a claustrophobic disposition. The chamber facing the entrance has a double chamber inside.
The construction of the tomb is beautifully done with small flagstones and if you switch your torch off inside you could easily be back the 5000 years to it's building. The symbolic crawling back inside the mother was particularly strong in here - I could have stayed for hours! So good we visited it 3 times over our week on the island. A must!

Unstan (Cairn(s)) — Fieldnotes

Heading from the great mothership of Maes Howe towards Stromness, take a R (signed) shortly before the junction that leads to Stromness and park at the house. You reach this beautifully formed "mini-maes howe" down a fenced path - it appears to be open round the clock , as we visited late evening. The entrance chamber has been cut away, but inside are the stalls and the gravel covered floor. Much of the walls is incomplete, and there is not the fine stonework seen at "big sister" or at Cuween.

Unstan (Cairn(s)) — Images

<b>Unstan</b>Posted by a23<b>Unstan</b>Posted by a23

Old Bourtreebush (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

Take a R off the A90 onto farm track just after the Portlethen junction. Park at the abandoned farmstead and head over the fields to the stones, which are obvious on the gently sloping hillside. The first circle you come to is Auld Bourtreebush - a ruined but rugged circle. The stones are large and of reddish quartz - fascinating feelings of desolation and despair hit me walking around the stones. Heading on E the circle of Auchquhorthies is easily visible, and reached by walking along the field edges plus a bit of barbed wire crossing. The stones are again of a good size and surrounded by what appears to be a ring of smaller stones. Our visit to this site was cut short as the cows which were stubbornly surrounding the stones, and making no sign of being frightened by us, got a lot more assertive when their bull arrived - unfortunately the adjacent field through which we had to leave also contained a bull (whom we hadn't noticed on our approach) and some nifty footwork was required! As we beat our escape the 2 bulls bellowed at each other - but whether in emnity or rejoicing at repelling the human invaders, I dunno...

Cullerie (Stone Circle) — Images

<b>Cullerie</b>Posted by a23

Cullerie (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

This is an oddity! On the way out to Midmar, Sunhoney etc, take a L turn down to this site. The "restoration" is initially offputting, detracting from the sense of antiquity, but spending time soaking in the landscape around and contemplating the smooth, curvy stones themselves pays dividends. The boy, however, was not impressed (no recumbent!) and we headed off...

Stonehead (Stone Circle) — Images

<b>Stonehead</b>Posted by a23

Stonehead (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

We scurried to this site in the face of an approaching storm. If you're heading from Dunnideer then you park before the small road heading S and walk a hundred yards or so down that road. The stones are in a horse field on your L. The remaining stones (flankers & recumbent only) rear up at an angle like crazy teeth in a giant's skull. The sheer size of the recumbent is truly astonishing - my boy who had been attracted to recumbents all thru this trip had to accept defeat when trying to climb up onto this one! To imagine the circle intact! sends shivers up my spine.

Midmar Kirk (Stone Circle) — Images

<b>Midmar Kirk</b>Posted by a23

Cothiemuir Wood (Stone Circle) — Images

<b>Cothiemuir Wood</b>Posted by a23

Cothiemuir Wood (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

This is very near to Old Keig and makes a special ending to a day out. The circle is easy to locate - assuming you have an OS map that is- simply park on the forest track at the first "crossroads" and head north into the field, going along the wall west - then keep going straight ahead thru the trees til you come upon the circle. A wonderful place - the stones of an impressive size and a huge recumbent which is almost cylindrical in shape. The trees/bushes/other foliage all around add to the magical feel - you almost expect to see fauns and satyrs coming out of the trees. Birdsong, nature at her most tranquil...I sat near the kist for a while and played a bit of Pink Lady Lemonade by AMT - heaven!!

Tomnaverie (Stone Circle) — Images

<b>Tomnaverie</b>Posted by a23

Tomnaverie (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

Heading north 6 miles out of Aboyne brings you to this site - turn L into a parking area beside the stones. There's a quarry behind the stones which has encroached very near the circle itself - there was info about a restoration project at the site, so perhaps the balance will be addressed! Most of the uprights are toppled (and some disappeared into the quarry), leaving an impressive recumbent and her flankers, nicely bracketing Benachie in the distance. This is a difficult site to get a "feel" for with the desolation/destruction around, but it's got a lot to offer if you take the time to absorb what's around you...

Sunhoney (Stone Circle) — Images

<b>Sunhoney</b>Posted by a23

Sunhoney (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

Sunhoney - a most apt name as the place seems to drip with the essence of summer. We visited midmorning in July, taking the farm road (R) for Sunhoney Farm. Park at the further away farmhouse - friendly inhabitants suggested the best route to take. Head up the lane and along the side of the cornfield. The stones stand in the midst of a small copse of trees and are just delightful - a wide grin split my face when we first entered the ring. There are nine good sized standing stones plus the rather "recumbent" recumbent which has toppled forward, revealing cupmarkings on it's rear face. So near to farmland you could be a thousand years away. Lovely!

Bernera Bridge Circle (Stone Circle) — Images

<b>Bernera Bridge Circle</b>Posted by a23

Old Keig (Stone Circle) — Images

<b>Old Keig</b>Posted by a23

Aikey Brae (Stone Circle) — Images

<b>Aikey Brae</b>Posted by a23<b>Aikey Brae</b>Posted by a23

Aikey Brae (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

On the map, this site looks dead easy to find. Driving west from Mintlaw there's a large parking site at a quarry which looks the obvious route. Cut over the hillside, through virtually impenetrable firtrees, gorse,etc and you find...you're lost. Many scratches later go back to the car, drive on taking the next Left - you drive down almost to a farmstead. On your left is a small walled lane going towards a copse of trees. Park there, go up the lane and into the woods. A path marked by stones leads you to the other side of the trees whereupon you come across the wonderful , magical circle of Aikeybrae. There are 5 largish uprights and a giant, phallic looking recumbent. This place conjures an atmosphere of serenity and spellbinding - I'd love to visit late at night & see the site by moonlight.

Loanhead of Daviot (Stone Circle) — Images

<b>Loanhead of Daviot</b>Posted by a23

East Aquhorthies (Stone Circle) — Images

<b>East Aquhorthies</b>Posted by a23

Trethevy Quoit (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech) — Images

<b>Trethevy Quoit</b>Posted by a23

Bernera Bridge Circle (Stone Circle) — Images

<b>Bernera Bridge Circle</b>Posted by a23

Bernera Bridge Circle (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

I don't know if this circle has a name. Margaret Curtis didn't either - so maybe it doesn't! Well worth a visit - take the B8011 heading from Callanish and drive towards the island of Bernera - linked now by a bridge. Park immediately after crossing the bridge and the circle is on your left, just up from the roadside.

The stones are impressive, 4 large standing and it appears that the southern edge of the circle has fallen into the sea due to coastal erosion. The stones are of the same gneiss that the Main Callanish complex is constructed of, but have assumed fantastic shapes with whorls and spirals suggesting an almost human form. In the centre is an odd arrangement of stones which forms a natural seat - rumoured to be a birthing chair. Indeed, if you sit in the "chair" with your feet up on the facing stone there would be no more natural position for birthing.

About 500 yards away to the other side of the road are a series of cupmarked rocks along the water's edge. Continue along the road for another few miles and you come to a lovely little beach, where pictis houses were discovered in the late 1970's

Ceann Hulavig (Stone Circle) — Images

<b>Ceann Hulavig</b>Posted by a23

Ceann Hulavig (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

Go and see this circle - but do it on a dry day!
The site is reached by taking the B8011 about 1 mile before Callanish village (from Stornoway) It is easily visible on the righthand side of the road, on a rigde. There's room for roadside parking - access is over a swampy verge and barbed-wire fence, then up the hillside.
There are 5 large stones in a sunken circle of very marshy peat - I guess caused by animals using the stones to scratch on. The stones are half covered with lichen, giving a bearded appearance which is most unusual. There's a rugged, untamed feel about this place - remote and hardcore. As with the other Callanish sites, the orientation is towards Sleeping Beauty and there are lunar alignments.

Cnoc Fillibhear Bheag (Stone Circle) — Images

<b>Cnoc Fillibhear Bheag</b>Posted by a23

Cnoc Fillibhear Bheag (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

This has to be the most blatantly sexual circle! Essentially a ring of stones, some missing, some fallen, surround an enormous phallus addressing the triple goddess with Sleeping Beauty providing the backdrop. As with the other Callanish circles (and there are 21 others discovered at present) the positioning towards Sleeping Beauty is paramount, and like the main Callanish site, this one has lunar alignment.
However it's the sexuality of these stones that impresses. The phallus is replete with glans and whorls of quartz stream from the "eye" in a representation of semen. The Goddess is represented as maiden by the smooth white stone on the left, as mother by the reddish central stone, which has unmistakable breasts and as wise woman by the right stone, tall and more impenetrable.
Staying in the Smiths' house, which is all of 300 yards away from this site, is the perfect location to visit at all hours of the day or night...
Location is dead easy, right beside the main road (on the left) as you come into Callanish village (before the cattle grid!)

Fang Circle (Stone Circle) — Images

<b>Fang Circle</b>Posted by a23

Fang Circle (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

Fang Circle is unique amongst the Callanish sites (ie those that take their basis from "sleeping beauty") in that it is sites at her "feet", looking up towards her belly. The name appears to be a corruption of [sheep] fank and indeed, a fank is what the circle has been converted into.

To reach the site, take the main road from Stornoway to Harris, pass through the strung out village of Baile Ailein and take a left turn down a narrow track. Continue for approx 5 miles until arriving at a farmstead on the right - you can park at the farm. The circle is then about half a mile along the loch shore, partly built into the walls of a disused sheep fank. At least 5 stones are identifiable, 2 standing free of the surrounding stonework.

The setting is one of the most peaceful in Lewis - we were fortunate to visit on a calm, bright morning. The waters of the nearby loch were still as glass and reflected Sleeping Beauty as she rose above. This is indeed a place for worship, reeking as it does of ancient atmosphere.

Rousay — Fieldnotes

Visited Orkney last week and spent a day on Rousay. Unfortunately Midhowe was closed due to Foot in Mouth, but we went to 3 of the other chambered cairns.
Walking from the ferry terminal, the first along the way is also the most impressive-Taversoe Tuick. Discovered about 100 y ago, in true Victorian fashion by the Lady of the house in whose grounds the tomb is located (she was shocked to think of the summer afternoons spent lying on the mound unaware of the skeletons a short distance below the surface). The tomb is unusual, having two layers, and seems to have been designed this way rather than having a second tier added at a later time. Access is through an artificial opening in the upper layer-the original creep is very low & narrow and blocked by a grille. There's an exciting feeling inside - a metal ladder allows access to the lower chambers, all of which are well preserved. There's a glass roof which leaves the chamber feeling bright and airy, not damp at all. Outside there's a small chamber adjacent to the main tomb with a heavy wooden door covering it over - the boy had to creep inside and be closed in...
About a mile further along the road is Blackhammer cairn, situated about 50 yards from the roadside. This is a long stalled cairn, reminiscent of Unstan, but longer. It is preserved up to chest height, with concrete walls & ceiling. A heavy sliding door permits access in the midpart of the tomb - alas no symbolic crawling to enter.

The third cairn we visited was the Knowe of Yarso. This is a further mile away, but requires you to take a path (signposted) up a farm track and over some heather hillside for about 1/2 a mile from the roadside. We did this in a sudden blizzard of snow and hail, which made the cairn a real haven when we reached it. Again it is of stalled construction, with an outer and an inner chamber, reasonably large. Entry via a metal door - no creep. Again, it is preserved about 5 feet from the ground, with concrete above. A bit of a disappointment after the walk up - had little atmosphere I felt. The view from the top is spectacular however - looking over Eynhallow and the mainland.

Mayburgh & King Arthur's Round Table — Fieldnotes

I'd considered dropping in on these henges the last few times I'd driven up the M6 but never quite got round to it. Henges don't send me aquiver in the way they should... or so I thought. Travelling back from julian's Bolton gig early on Saturday moning, having been advised to check them out by the man himself, with no map or TMA in the car and only Julian's directions from the night before to guide me, we neared Penrith. A downpour of some considerable intensity began as we got within 5 miles, almost like my resolve to go was being tested. Visibility out the windscreen was poor and I almost went straight thru the lights on the main roundabout off the M6.
Turning up the small road past King Arthur's Table, driving along to Mayburgh with no real expectations, wrapping up and setting off for the short walk across the style. Climbing the raised henge, looking down on the solitary stone left in the centre of the ring - wow! Walking over the rather wet & soggy ground towards the stone and being enveloped by the surrounding walls of green - you could be 1000 miles away from the M6, not a couple of hundred yards. There was a feeling of ancient ceremony, almost being able to imagine a ring of people stood atop the henge ring lit by flickering torchlight ot moonlight and something heavy going down. So even in the pouring rain it grooves. Give it a look next time, don't merely pass by...

Chûn Quoit (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech) — Fieldnotes

Julian describes Chun Quoit as a megalithic mushroom , and he hits the nail on the head. This is a fantastic site and well worth a visit, along with men-an-tol & the nine maidens. Access from the small farm road just before you get to men-an-tol, space to park where the road stops, then a fine walk for about 15-20 minutes up a narrow path, with little sense of getting anywhere until the Quoit is right in front of you, arising from the heather with it's rounded back like the veritable fungi it is. Such a perfect creation, compact, beautifully shaped. I had problems wiping the grin of happiness from my face when there. Walking round the stones there's a chance to marvel at the different perspectives it takes on. It's possible to creep inside, though just a little anxiety inducing if you happen to be in any way portly, and it was nice to see no defacing of the innards except for one small silver pentagram. This is Cornish heaven.
The nearby ruined hill fort/city is well worth walking up to to round off the walk.

Carn Euny Fogou & Village — Fieldnotes

Near to the circle at Boskawen-un
(across the road then along a narrow winding farm road). Never having been to a fogou before, wasn't quite sure what to expect. An easy walk from the layby took me there, greeted by a man cutting the grass and his collie dog, which seemed determined to pull the laces out of my boots, but backed off in a big way when I went near the Fogou. It had been raining in the days before my visit, so there was about 8" water lying in one end of the fogou, making access to the creep wet! The main chamber was dry underfoot and very roomy, with a very peaceful feel all around. Not in the least claustrophobic. Village ruins are not really my cup of tea however - didn't seem anything particularly special about them, but fogou well worth a visit
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