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Balfarg (Henge) — Images (click to view fullsize)

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Balbirnie (Stone Circle) — Images

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Ardross (Souterrain) — Fieldnotes

Worst souterrain in the world!

There's a small layby below the hill, a straight line will take you to the worst souterrain in Scotland, if there are no crops in the field. Probably best just to have a quick look at the castle then go and see a really good site.
I'd regrettably chosen this place to visit because it was close to the sunrise site of lundin links and because the pictures on here and elsewhere made it look quite good, scant though they are.
Thankfully, the kids were still in "it's too early" mode so I had the place to myself, I walked up the hill making for a rough patch of low scrub, I was hoping for a footpath, a sign, something to let me know I was going the right way. Behind me I could see the Firth of Fourth with Big Bass rock shimmering in the morning haze.
I'm at the top now standing right next to the malignant heartless beast that is Ardross, the worst Souterrain in all of Fife.
I've done a bit of research and know there is a hatchway that must be accessed to enter the, you know what. After a summer of Fogouing on Land's End I was quite excited and a little eager to get into this Iron age stone womb, so I quickly walk round the edge of the scrub expecting to see a formal entrance of some kind, but there wasn't one, a swear word slipped uncharacteristically from my crest falling face.
I could see there were some quite large boulders on the top of the low mound so I mount the low mound and stride through the long grass. For a second or two I was thinking I'd got mixed up and come to the wrong Souterrain, this one was obviously an ex souterrain, the good souterrain Id seen inexpertly photographed must be elsewhere. As I approached the large boulders I suddenly and quite unexpectedly began falling, down, not over, straight down, I only stopped falling when my body had filled the gap I was falling into, my left foot was still dangling, free of contact with a floor, my right foot was half way up my back. After the initial surprise I decided now should be the time to express the pain flooding through my left leg, no words would come, not even a bad one, just a long groan that morphed into a whimper. My hankey had fallen from my pocket, so I carefully tucked it back in, I had dropped my compass too but couldn't quite grab it, I was fairly stuck. Then some words came.
In the end I had to wriggle and push upwards until I was finally free, my leg was throbbing from knee upwards, but you know what I thought, so there is something here after all.
Then as I was fumbling with my compass it fell down the hole.
More words.

I had a look at my leg, it was hurting enough to prompt thoughts like is it broke? There was a long graze up my outer thigh, but not much bruising. My thoughts went back to the souterrain, worst souterrain ever.
I pulled the grass back from the hole I'd fallen into, expecting to see part of a souterrain, instead it was just a rabbit hole, a deep, perpendicular rabbit hole, they have now exceeded there evil beyond that of the dreaded gorse, and earned the moniker of M****r F****r.
And there well out of reach was my compass, a choice word or two and a second later..... screw it.
I carefully raised myself to my feet and carried on inspecting the low mound, almost immediately I found the man hole cover that lets you in, I wasn't feeling particularly strong but I gave it a tug or two, dug through the dirt with my fingers trying to find an edge to get under and pull up, but it wouldn't budge. Worst souterrain this side of Elie.

At least I knew I was in the right place, but it wouldn't let me in, is it locked? has no one been there for ages? the man hole cover was getting buried. What a disappointment, this is Es Tudons levels of disappointment, you wont know what that means, imagine a child's face
on a burglarised Christmas morning.
The walk back to the car was a nightmare, every footfall exquisite agony, still got the rest of my list to go at too, limping and groaning all the way.
Worst souterrain in the world.

Lundin Links (Standing Stones) — Fieldnotes

No fieldnotes for 11 years!
It's a long way to Tipperary, I've heard it said, fortunately, I'm going to Lundin Links, and just in case Lundin links never makes it's way into song or film it's in Fife, Scotland. Still a long way though, I've given myself five hours to get there before the sunrises, it will be close, i'll be racing against the sun.
The sun beat me, but I won on a technicality, the equinox sunrise, from Lundin Links' tall standing stones, is somewhat obscured by the row of houses on the edge of the golf course, giving me a much needed extra ten minutes.
I parked in the small road by the golf club entrance grabbed the camera, left the sleeping kids (for they had both blessed me with their presence)in the car, and scurried off round the corner and off to the stones.
As I approached the most impressive ruined four poster stone circle in the world I could see the sun had most definitely risen but the stones were still in shadow, a tree had saved my bacon, I bet that's never been said before. At best it was a draw? I got in position and awaited the suns loving caress, golden light dappled and speckled through the leaves of the giant Oak tree, I took a few pictures. The sun doesn't totally see the stones until it's gotten above the tree, and by that time it isn't really sunrise anymore.
I think a summer solstice would be best, the sun would rise closer if not out of Largo Law the big hill to the north east, framed by the stones, which aren't at the corners of a square but a rectangle, well, a circle actually, but, you know. Then it's lots of pictures in the golden sunlight of a perfect equinox weekend, I say weekend, it's actually tomorrow, the equinox, but for a myriad of reasons we are having our equinox today, on Saturday.
The stones are pretty damn impressive, two, three times taller than me, and two are proper twisty shapely stones. They are a beautiful muse, and an honour to photograph in such good light.

Ardross (Souterrain) — Images

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Lundin Links (Standing Stones) — Images

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Devil's Punch Bowl (Natural Rock Feature) — Fieldnotes

Last May I came down this way to have a look at Buwch a'r Lloe standing stones, but I also, if we'd had enough time, wanted to go and have another walk around the waterfalls at Devil's Bridge. Three months later and yet another plan goes to pot, this time I wanted to go to Dolgamfa kerb circle, via Ysbyty Cynfyn church circle. But the rain was unabating, we'd got wet enough for one day, so I decided Devils bridge alone would suffice, for now.
I am fairly certain I've said "This is the most beautiful place in Wales" before, but that's because I'd forgotten about Devil's bridge, I have kicked myself hard, repeatedly, because this time I really mean it. This is the most beautiful place in Wales.

There are no ancient remains here, no cairns or stones, no fort, no huts. But, we are left with the option of natural rock feature, and this is certainly one of those. The Afon Mynach is a short lived river it's entire length is no more than four kilometers, for most of it's stretch the water hurries along at an untroubled pace, but soon enough it all kicks off.
The river narrows, squeezing itself through an ever tighter gorge, fallen logs try to bar the rivers progress, the river cares not, it just keeps on going.
Then it does something funny, as the chilled water pours through one particularly narrow crevice, it starts to swirl, the current grinding round and round, forming circular holes in the bedrock for the river to negotiate through, three in all (maybe).
Then it's through the narrowest river gorge I've ever seen, A slim serpentine, a water worn fissure, bridged by one of the most should be famous bridges in the world.
The Mynach, having endured the chasm, now falls 90m, over five falls, creating one of the most sit and watchable sites in Wales. Old trees, copious fernage, with unstoppable moss, all bathed in late summer rain, sweet sweet rain that falls from the heavens and makes everything shiny and exquisitely bewitching.
Then the Mynach disappears through another tight ravine and is gone, in a few hundred yards it'll join the Afon Rheidol. A nice river to be sure, but the best bit is now behind it. It is off to the sea now passing below half a dozen hill forts til it finally empties into the Irish sea at Aberystwyth.

Though there are no ancient remains here, I'm sure the place would have been know to the Iron age people who lived nearby, and maybe to the Bronze age folk too, kerb circles close by to the north are close to water worn gorges. But devils bridge is the water and rock site par excellence, they were here alright, as mesmerised by the otherworldly beauty found here as I am.

In the beginning though it was the bridges above the Mynach that brought me here, and are I believe worthy of mention.

The present road bridge is a late twentieth century reconstruction of an iron or steel lattice girder bridge of 1901. Immediately below is the bridge built in 1753.
The 1753 bridge frames the comparatively diminutive lower bridge which, perched on the living rock above the river chasm, has a single arch perhaps 6.0m wide that crosses some 30m above the gushing torrent. This stone rubble bridge is thought to be a medieval structure, perhaps sixteenth century, although it appears to have been much restored when the 1753 bridge was built over it.

Devil's Punch Bowl (Natural Rock Feature) — Images

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Pendeen Vau (Fogou) — Fieldnotes

Had I tried to leave the best til last I couldn't have done much better than Pendeen Vau. I had only one problem, it's exact whereabouts, The map was pretty vague, yes I knew it was at a farm, or at least in a farm yard, but I couldn't quite get which of the houses had that very farm yard. Off I went, on my own, down the lane, before too long I was at the lighthouse, this I decided was definitely too far, so I back tracked, talking to Eric on his phone looking at the map and going on street view and such trying to figure out which of the houses had it, but then I was back at the car and with only one way to go. We peeled off the lane, right, down a red gravel farm track, I parked just fifty yards from the farms front door.

It was universally agreed in the car that I would be going solo on this one, no kids no dogs, just me, camera, torch and Fogou. At the front gate I looked in the front yard and reckoned on a back door approach instead, but that felt too invasion of privacy so I went back to the front gate opened it and went in, no path across the lawn or letter box in the front door persuaded me that the back door is the way to go. As I approached the back door an Audi with occupants old stopped right by me. Time to apply charm and smarm, I said hello and asked If I can have a look at your Fogou, he said of course do you know where it is? I said I think I can see it from here through the gates, with that he left me to it, no hesitation at all he didn't even blink. I challenge anyone to come up with a more trusting, care free farmer any where in England.
I, quite literally had the place to myself, so I shimmied straight up the drain pipe and took some photos of the site from above on the farm house roof. Then I went in had a cup of tea, watched Countdown, had a quick lie down, then headed back out to see the Fogou, right, yes the fogou.

Through just three gates and I'm in the farm yard, the fogou sits before me. There are no cows, no mud, no gate covering the entrance, it was as if someone above had created the most awesome visit ever.
Torch, camera and twine at the standby position I entered the labyrinth. There is a lot of rubble on the ground, unsure whether that was something I should be concerned about I carried on with one eye on the roof.
In short time i'm at the tiniest entrance I've ever seen in an ancient site, only in actual caves are passages smaller than this. I crawl through, almost on my belly, squirming and wriggling through without getting dirty proved impossible. Inside the Rab cut chamber, I use the words calmly and without stammer but still have no idea what they mean, does it just mean it's underground? hewn out of the earth itself. At the end of this domed passage is a small pit full of dirty water, did some one dig here looking for bones and stuff?
On the domed roof is a silvery spread of I don't know what, possibly the same kind of stuff as the green glowing mossy stuff, but silver. Dangling down from a crack in the roof are what look like roots hanging with brownish watery droplets on them, and I guess that's what they were, rather than the strange cave dwelling worm? that hangs silk with droplets on them and they catch an insect and then pull them up to feed. It would have been cool if they weren't just roots.
Back out into the fogou's main passage I carry on along the passage til it gets too small to get into, there is a small gap through which you can see back out into the world, turn and take a photo.

Then it's back to the tiny portal, sit for a bit, photo a bit then back outside. I go round the back and have a look at the blocked creep entrance.

And I'm just about done, back in for some toast, and that's it.
Noting on the way in and now the way out That antiquarian Dr William Borlase was born and lived here, firstly I thought well no wonder he got interested in things with a Fogou in his back yard, then I wondered if he'd built it himself after getting inspired by all the other sites he'd seen.
I'd have one in my yard if I could.

Carn Euny Fogou & Village — Fieldnotes

It's almost time to go home now, there's just time for a couple of fogou's and Tintagel castle.
It's been twelve years since I was last here too, but the only thing that seems to have changed is you cant get through the creep passage in the fogou anymore. But, crucially we had the place to ourselves again.
With heatwave Herbert (i'm naming heatwaves now) still pouring on the sunshine we made our way straight to the fogou, glorious shadows embraced us lovingly. Inside the round chamber/beehive hut, which is it? There were no Swallows here this time, like most of nature they aren't doing very well. But hey, the football season has started so it's not all bad.

Once out of the shade we go up to the top and find some more shade to sit in, shade and an iron age view unrivaled in the central Penwith peninsula.
But the shade can't contain us for long, we enter the big house with a cobbled porch, there is an annexed section by one wall, and a small gully through the wall to outside the house. But best is the north east entrance to the fogou, it actually seems to be in the corner of the house, there's a chance it may have just been excavated that way. But either way it's a beautiful little place, if there was no such things as fairies it would be necessary to invent them to explain this place.
Attention should be applied to the rectangular windowed house as well, if only to acquaint ones self with the 18th century part of the site.

The aerial picture on the perhaps new information board seems to show more round houses over the wall at the west side of the village.
One Fogou to go.

Tregeseal (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

It's been twelve years since I was last here, and right from the start there is one glaring similarity, driving here is a real pain in the horse. Driving and navigating, with two kids and two dogs, it's not easy, sometimes I get really confused, is it this way? that way? can I get my car up there? will there be a spot to park in? In the end I parked, I'm still not sure where, I could see a farm, and someone perhaps watching me. We went quickly in the direction I hoped was right.
A couple of fields later and I'm beginning to look for stones, a likely rocky outcrop will sort out their whereabouts for me. From on top of which they are indeed visible, wow, we made it, and with one of our number still wearing her slippers.
Over a stile or for what passes as one round here and we are in the presence of brilliance, a more or less complete and perfect circle, there are a couple of gaps, but there are also other stones on the general periphery of the ring, but there provenance is generally unknown.
A weird dip in the land sits on the edge of the circle, later I find out it was a quarry that threatened the ring. (Burl)
The kids sit in the middle of the ring with the dogs whilst I wander about taking pictures deftly omitting the squatters from any of them.
The sun was getting real low, any anxiety from our off beat approach had subsided and I settled into the magical scene. Now we were all squatting in the centre of the stones, a lone woman was approaching from Carn Kendjack but after she saw we were there she went off somewhere else, then returned when we left. That's the way to do it.

There are moments in time, lots and lots of them, but most are none descriptive empty moments, some are quite bad, some are quite good, but just a few are perfect, the light, the view, the stones, the company, the moment when a plan comes together, when all is good with everything.
Moments to live for.

Pendeen Vau (Fogou) — Images

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Carn Euny Fogou & Village — Images

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After visiting over a thousand ancient places and driving between fifteen to twenty thousand miles every year I can only conclude that I'm obsessed with these places, and finding this website ten years ago only compounded that obsession, at least I'm not alone anymore.

My favourite places are:

Ring of Brodgar
Balnauran of Clava
Nine stones close
Bryn Celli Ddu
The Druids circle (penmaenmawr)
HafodyGors Wen
Gwal y Filiast
Grey Wethers
Boscawen Un
La Roche au Fees
Talati De Dalt

and these are only the ones that immediatly spring to mind, so many stones and not enough lifetimes.

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