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Fieldnotes by tjj

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The Longstone of Mottistone (Standing Stone / Menhir)

As this is the only remaining neolithic long barrow on the IoW it was a must to visit whilst spending a few days there earlier in the week. We accessed it by taking an uphill, woodland hollow-way track from the back entrance to the small old church (also worth a visit for the wildlife churchyard). Road on a blind bend so cross with care.

The now faded interpretation board told us it is 6,000 years old and that the stones had been moved from their original position by the end of the 1800s. The long barrow remained intact until the 1700s when it was disturbed by quarrying and later by excavations in 1850 and 1956.

Leana (Cl. 68) (Wedge Tomb)

Visited 22/5/18: Having just visited Parknabinnia we spotted a small group of people at what appeared to be another wedge tomb on a high point on the other side of the narrow road. It was a beautiful morning so a pleasure to make our way slowly towards them looking at all the wild flowers (mostly orchids) on the way.

I think we were sort of hoping the group would have moved on by the time we reached the wedge tomb but they were engrossed in drawing and measuring the tomb. We could also see it was the same small group we had had a happy chance encounter with the previous day - an archaeologist named Ros and three American students. As with the day before, Ros was helpful and generous with the information he gave us - am very grateful, as our two encounters enhanced our own visits tremendously.

Parknabinnia (Cl. 67) (Wedge Tomb)

Visited 22/5/18: Following on from previous day when we had a happy chance encounter with Ros, an archaeologist, and his three archaeology students, who had told us about Parknabinnia wedge tomb we made our way out there this morning full of anticipation. Close to the village of Kilnaboy, what a wonderful site - easily accessed as well sign-posted near to the narrow road which is part of the Burren Way. The wedge tomb is still in reasonable condition and set inside a stony circular area.
We could see some people on the other side of the road at what appeared to be another wedge tomb on a high point. We slowly made our way towards them taking in the wonderful displays of wild orchids on the way. The people turned out to be Ros and his students again. Ros generously spent some time talking to us telling us where we might find other wedge tombs further back in the fields behind Parknabinnia around a large area of hazel scrub.

We thanked him for his help, went off to examine another collapsed wedge tomb before going back to Parknabinnia. The field behind Parknabinnia turned out to be a bit hazardous as the spongy moss concealed not just limestones but lots of holes too. Although the OS map shows many red dots representing megalithic tombs we decided we wouldn't risk twisting an ankle (or worse) and were unsuccessful in finding any more.

Teergonean (Court Tomb)

Visited Monday 21/5/18: A perfect antidote to the Cliffs of Moher - not that they are anything but breathtaking and spectacular. Dispiriting in the same way visiting Stonehenge is - pay at the carpark for the 'Cliffs of Moher Experience', Visitor's Centre and shops built into the hillside, limestone paved walkways ... and hundreds of people.

To find Teergonean Court Tomb we headed to the seaside village of Doolin and eventually found the right road out towards the sea (road signposted to Roadford House restaurant). Drove along this narrow road until it stopped and then climbed over a small stone stile. In front of us lay limestone slabs, lots of gorse and to our delight quite a few bloody crane'sbill (a lovely deep pink flower, common throughout the Burren but not commonly found elsewhere). We spotted a small group of people by the court tomb and headed towards them. They turned out to be a friendly, knowledgeable archaeologist and three American's doing a course in archaeology. The archaeologist was explaining to them the court tomb was probably of great significance because it was at a crossing point to the Aran Islands. He seemed happy for us to join in and ask questions and went on to tell us about the wedge tombs at Parknabinnia near Kilnaboy.
This encounter made cheered me up no end as felt the Burren was now starting to give up its secrets. Tomorrow Parknabinnia.

Poulnabrone (Portal Tomb)

Visited today Sunday 20/5/18 - am in County Clare exploring the Burren, this trip mainly focusing on the flora and geology. This being the west coast of Ireland, however, while the rest of the British Isles has clear skies and sunshine, it was overcast and windy this morning on the Burren. The weather cannot detract from this amazing landscape though - wild flowers out in profusion. Orchids, violets, primroses are everywhere, also gentian and large patches of mountain avens. Two delicate quite rare alpine flowers I've personally never seen before.

At the car parking area there is a man selling trinkets and another one playing Danny Boy on a tin whistle whilst sitting in a plastic tent. A film crew seem to be there with cameras and a drone. There are lots of people wandering over the the limestone slabs, including a botany group from Germany who managed to find the tiny gentian flowers.

The information board tells me Poulnabrone is a portal tomb situated in a karst limestone plateau 150 metres above sea level. The tomb was constructed from great slabs of lime stone over 5,000 years ago. Archaeologists have discovered the remains of 30 people at this ancient site.

The Burren is an amazing landscape - have only just scratched the surface of what it has to offer but here for the rest of the week. At the moment of writing this the rain is coming down in stair rods ...

Trethevy Quoit (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech)

Visited: 10 Oct 2017

Visited after our trip to the Hurlers. As expected down a narrow single (almost) track road to a small 'island'. From here Trethevy Quoit is well signposted to a field gate. What initially surprises about this ancient monument is its proximity to some nearby houses and to the field entrance. I had read quite a bit about damage being done to the base of the monument by cattle and farm vehicles though could see no evidence of animals or any recent damage on this occasion.

It is an enormous monument which can't help but impress. Oddly though, I was strangely unmoved by it - perhaps I missed viewing it from a distance on the skyline first as with other monuments of this nature I have visited. Didn't have to walk through a bog, or jump a stream, or circumnavigate farm animals. Perhaps it was just too easy.

Very glad to have seen it though.

The Hurlers (Stone Circle)

Visited: 10 Oct 2017.
Part of an 'archaeology day' while visiting east Cornwall for a few days last week (also on same day walked by Golitha Falls, took in an early Christian stone cross, Trethevy Quoit and an ancient well).

We were turned away from the first car park as you drive into Minions as it had been taken over by a film crew for filming "The Kid Who Would Be King" (to be released 2018). So we parked at the second car park which had a horse transporter lorry carrying stunt horses parked up in it. We walked across the moorland towards the Hurlers and spotted a large fake trilithon, about the same height at Stonehenge. it did seem surreal especially when a friendly man in a high viz jacket told me not to take photos. I'm not very good at doing as I'm told these days.

It was a bit of a grey day with mist hanging low threatening to turn into rain and the whole experience seemed to be coloured by the bizarre nature of the background activity though I wouldn't go as far as to say it distracted from my first impression of the Hurlers. We wandered over to the Pipers - two comparatively large lichen covered stones, then had to choose between walking over to the Cheesewring or going to have a cream tea in a friendly looking cafe at Minions. The cream tea won.

A bit later we watched some of the filming taking place on the other side of Minions and perhaps more dramatically one wild pony chase another off into the distance then gallop back again across the road. Heart in mouth while watching.

Duloe (Stone Circle)

Visited: 9 October 2017.
Last week spent a lovely few Cornish days based in Fowey. Took a slight detour on route to visit Duloe stone circle. Not that easy to find using a road atlas and we were almost in Looe before we realised we had gone too far. Find it we did though as I have wanted visit Duloe since first reading Julian Cope's impressions in the TMA book.

Dated 2000BC, it is unique for being Cornwall's smallest stone circle with the largest stones. There is a (now much faded by the elements) information board which gives quite a lot of information if you able to read it. The circle is less than 12 metres in diameter and consists of eight quartz rich stones which contain ankerite. This suggests they were obtained from Herodsfoot mine, although similar stones are found at Tregartland Tor, Morval.

A nearby farm is recorded as being named Stonedown as far back as 1329 but the circle was not officially discovered until 1801, probably because it was bisected by a hedge and stood half in an orchard and half in a field. The bisecting hedge was removed in 1858 by Rev T.A. Bewes of Plymouth and 1861 the fallen stones were set up although the one broken in the process now lies prostrate. At the same time an urn said to be full of bones was discovered at the base of the largest stone but broken accidentally by the workmen and now lost. In light of this it is thought be a bronze age burial mound.

Llety'r Filiast (Burial Chamber)

Visited 13th Sept 2017: my second visit to the Great Orme. The first two and half years ago was specifically to visit the Copper Mines. This time we went went up to the top of the Great Orme by the tramway from Llandudno - which is a recommended and enjoyable experience. As before, however, there was a fierce wind blowing along with daunting rain showers sweeping in over the Great Orme headland. Wonderfully dramatic but not really walking weather. Had a look around the Visitor's Centre and learnt about Cromlech ar y Gogarth or Cromlech on the Great Orme (Llet y'r Filiast). The helpful volunteer told me it could be found about 150 metres below the Great Orme Mines so we used our tramway return tickets to take us back down to the Halfway Station. From here we found our way down to some houses on the higher edges of Llandudno - and asked a local resident. The cromlech was actually in a field at the end of Cromlech Road with a good stile into the field. In the great scheme of magnificent restored portal tombs this one was quite small but none the less very satisfying to find on that wind swept chilly North Wales day. The cherry on the cake of a memorable day.

Kintraw (Standing Stone / Menhir)

Visited Friday 26/5/17:
The most perfect day and, unfortunately, our last full day in Argyll. Kintraw standing stone and cairn can be seen clearly at a sharp bend as you drive towards the village of Ardfern and Loch Craignish and there is a small pull-in parking area opposite the site. This particular day the sun shone, the sky blue and it was warm - the best of sort of summer day. Kintraw is probably the tallest standing stone I've ever stood next to. It is also in the most fabulous location overlooking Loch Craignish and the loch-side village of Ardfern. I did wonder what its purpose was as it was unlike any of the other standing stones we had seen in the Kilmartin area - being almost cylindrical in shape. Although Loch Craignish was visible from the site I don't think the standing stone or cairn could been seen from the loch.
Made a bit of a mistake here though as my companion-in-charge-of-map-reading told me that Kintraw and the Clach an t-Sagairt Cairn were in the same place so we made the assumption it was the cairn next to the standing stone. Have since found out it wasn't and we've missed it.
Anyway after a leisurely lunch in the Crafty Cafe Tea Room in Ardfern we spent a peaceful afternoon visiting the ruined chapel of Kilmarie (Kilvaree) -
which is dedicated to the 7th century Irish monk St Maelrubha of Applecross - and then exploring the remote coastal area nearby.

Torbhlaren (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

Visited 25/5/17 as part of our visit to Kilmichael Glen

Following the road from Kilmichael Glassary northeast out of the village to the bridge over the River Add (where Dunadd gets its name) we continued walking along the quiet single track road which runs along the valley bottom. A little bit further along on in a field on your left there is a single standing stone which has cup marks similar to those at Ballymeanoch and Nether Largie. One more stone is known to have stood in the field (and there may have been others). In the same field there two earthfast rock outcrops which are covered with cup and ring marks. On the day we walked by there was a tractor cutting the grass in the field and the gate was firmly secured - we decided not to climb over on this occasion.

Kilmichael Glassary (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

Visited Wednesday 24/5/17

More wonderful rock carvings on easily accessible panels just behind the local primary school. It is ok to park in the small car park by the school though visitors are asked to avoid school pick-up times.

To quote "In The Footsteps Of Kings" by Sharon Webb (Walk 11):
“Within the fenced enclosure you will see two groups of cup and ring markings carved into earthfast rock slabs. There are many single cups as well as cups with rings and gutters. Look out for the cups with rings shaped like a keyhole which occur on both slabs. Some of the outcrops around the fenced enclosure also have markings, but please don’t be tempted to pull back the vegetation as the carvings are liable to be damaged by stock.”

After examining the panels walked back down to the village - with some free range chickens and an anxious cockerel keeping us in their sights. Next over the Glassary Churchyard to look at some medieval grave stones – apparently the ‘Kil’ element in the place name Kilmichael Glassary indicates an early Christian settlement in the Glen.

Cairnbaan (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

Visited the evening of 21/5/17:

Found this walk by chance on our first evening. Having been out for most of the day on the way back to our accommodation we noticed a simple sign pointing to ‘cup & ring marks’ just on the corner by the between the Cairnbaan Hotel and adjacent houses. So at around 8.30pm on our first evening (the rain had stopped, the light was lovely) after a pleasant towpath walk to the hotel we found the narrow path up to the Cairnbaan rock art panels. A steep uphill walk through pinewood and bluebells. Small signposts point the way to a clearing where the rock are panels are protected by railings. There were metal steps provided, however, to let visitors have a closer look. There are actually two sites with other outcrops a bit further uphill (look for the sign post). This second site is described as being one of the best examples of cup & rings around.

The lower panels contain mostly pits or cup marks, some of which are surrounded by rings and a few have lines leading out from them to natural fissures in the rock. According to the information board the Neolithic people who created the rock art may have chosen these outcrops for their views over an important route into Kilmartin Glen. The designs would have been pecked out using quartz hammerstones like those found during excavations at Torbhlaren in Kilmichael Glen. Experimental work showed that each pit took 30 to 90 minutes of repeated pecking and much concentration to create.

The upper panels contain a complex arrangement of pits, concentric rings and lines, 29 symbols in all. Again, referring to the second information board we learnt that schoolmaster Archibald Currie was the first person to write about rock art after visiting Cairnbaan in 1830. He suggested the concentric rings could represent planetary orbits around the sun. Sir James Young Simpson (pioneer of chloroform as an anaesthetic) also became a shrewd scholar of Scottish rock art observing in 1867 “They evidently indicate wherever found, a common thought of some common origin, belonging to a common people”

This walk appears as Walk 14 in "In The Footsteps Of Kings" by Sharon Webb.
Fabulous views over the Crinan Canal towards Lochgilphead to the south and hills to the north.

Templewood (Stone Circle)

Visited Sunday 21st April 2017.

This was a surprising site, not at all what I was expecting - we walked from the Nether Largie Standing Stones in the rain. Access very easy as everywhere is signposted. The bluebells were still out under the trees which, together with the relatively small size of the stones, gave the site an enchanted atmosphere. I don't think I have done this site justice as at first sight it is unspectacular compared to other stone circles. Strictly speaking this was definitely an ancient burial site which is something we are not able to say about other larger stone circles.

As with all the other sites around Kilmartin there was an excellent interpretation/information board which really helped in the understanding of the site. I have reproduced the information below:

Templewood started as a timber circle about 5,000 years ago. The wooden uprights were soon replaced with stones while a second larger stone circle was built to the south. Between 4,300 and 4,100 years ago, two cairn covered stone graves or ‘cists’ were built outside the southern circle.
Then about 4,000 years ago the northern circle’s stones were pulled from the earth and possibly re-used in nearby burials. A cist was built in the middle of the southern circle, slabs were placed between its standing stones and it was surrounded by a low cairn of cobbles. Cremated remains were buried inside the southern circle about 3,300 years ago.

Into the heavens: The two cairns built inside the southern circle about 3,300 years ago have small stone ‘false portals’ at right angles to their kerbs. Both these fake entrances face south-east towards the midwinter moonrise.

The ‘Archer’s Ghost’: Traces of those buried at Templewood emerged during excavations led by Jack Scott in the 1970s. In one grave he found three flint arrowheads, a scraper and a decorated Beaker pot but no human remains. Analysis of phosphate levels in the grave revealed the position of a person whose body had decayed away. In another grave the tooth of a child aged between four and six was found.

Nether Largie South (Cairn(s))

Visited on 21/5/17 and again on 24/5/17

This is one of the first and oldest monuments in Kilmartin Glen and reminded me a bit of West Kennet Long Barrow back home in Wiltshire. It had been re-used and rebuilt at least twice.

Information taken from the Interpretation Board.
The tomb was used for burial about 4,300 years ago when Beaker pots and flint arrowheads were placed with the dead inside the chamber. A few generations later, in the Early Bronze Age, the monument was remodelled and converted into a circular cairn like the others along the valley bottom. Two stone graves or 'cists' containing the remains of important people were added.

See plan of the tomb - this is what was found:

1. Flint, unburnt human bones, ox bones.
2. Pottery, unburnt human bones, ox bones.
3. Three beaker pots, cremated human bones.
4. Slab covering cremated human bones.
5. Empty stone grave with unburnt bones and pottery nearby.
6. Neolithic bowl.
7. Burnt human bones, broken quartz pebbles, flint knives and arrowheads, a cow tooth.

The Great X of Kilmartin (Stone Row / Alignment)

Visited Sunday 21/5/17

It is difficult to talk about these stones without mentioning the Nether Largie South Cairn and Templewood Stone Circle as they are very close together and seem intrinsically connected to each other.

Drawing on the information on one of the excellent interpretation boards, this X-shaped monument consists of five tall standing stones and the stump of another (no longer visible) 300 metres to the west. A central standing stone with two others at some distance either side.
Three of the stones have rock art symbols on one side and had probably been prised from outcrops decorated about 1,500 years earlier. These decorated stones may have been erected approximately 3,200 years ago about the same time as those at Ballymeanoch.

Alexander Thom (controversial archaeo-astronomer) claimed this was one of the most important lunar observatories in Britain. Recent analysis supports the idea that the stones mark where the moon rises and sets at key points in its 18.6 year cycle. The standing stones also line up with the midwinter sunrise and autumn and spring equinoxes.

Baluachraig (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

Visited Thursday 25/5/17

Stopped off here again as had missed it when visiting Ballymeanoch and Dunchraigaig earlier in the week. Parked in the small car park designated for Dunchraigaig - the path to Balauchraig rock art panel is on the right of the cairn not though immediately obvious. By chance, we came a cross two American men, father and son, who were also looking for the path to Baluachraig. The father was a talker and pretty much told us his life story on the walk down. Not an uninteresting encounter but something of a distraction.
I've posted a photo of the excellent information board which gives a better image of the cup and ring marks than I could capture in the weather conditions the morning we were there.
We later went on to Ormaig from Carnasserie Castle car park. The grey clouds disappeared, the sun came out ... Ormaig blew me away and, blissfully, we didn't see another soul.

Dunchraigaig Cairn (Cairn(s))

Visited Sunday 21/5/17
This was the first site we visited after Achnabreck and did so by chance really as would have passed it on our way to the 'big' sites in Kilmartin. As it turned out it seemed to form part of an astonishing archaeological complex comprising Ballymeanoch standing stones, kerb cairn and henge. And the Baluachraig rock art panel (same small car park on the opposite side of the road and same gate for all three sites).

Dunchraigaig, as with all the Kilmartin sites has a superb interpretation/information board. This one tells us that the cairn was excavated in the 19th century firstly by Rev. Reginald Mapleton and then again in 1864 by Canon William Greenwell. Inside the graves they found two decorated pots, flint chips and human remains. Among the cairn stones were a whetstone for sharpening metal, a stone axehead, a flint knife and pottery. All now lost.

Ballymeanoch

Visited Sunday 21/5/17
This was the first site we visited after Achnabreck in the rain. Or rather I should say after the Dunchraigaig cist/cairn - as you have to walk past cairn to get to the field where the Ballymeanoch stones stand. To the right of Dunchraigaig is a path to the Balauchraig rock art panel - which we visited later in the week. I mention it here as it seems to be part of the whole picture. The small car park is on the opposite side of the road and is signposted for Dunchraigaig.

Ballymeanoch is an amazing, atmospheric place. One field contains:
- A four stone row of exceptionally tall stones, one of which has cup marks on it.
- A two stone row which apparently included a third holed stone. This stone has been moved from its original position and now lies in a different part of the field near the kerb cairn.
- A kerb cairn
- And a henge. Not clearly visible until you walk up to it. The henge is the only surviving one of its kind in Scotland.

Spent quite a bit of time here soaking up the atmosphere before heading to the Kilmartin Museum and cafe.

Achnabreck (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

Visited 21/5/17: We passed the sign for Achnabreck on our way to the accommodation we were going to be staying in at Cairnbaan so it was with no difficulty we drove back there the next day. We could have walked but that morning it was raining ... heavily. We were undeterred and, after a bumpy drive up the forest track, found the designated parking area.
The information/interpretation boards are abundant and full of useful information. We followed the clearly marked trails up to Acknabreck 1. In no way did the rain spoil the enjoyment of seeing my first Kilmartin rock art panels although my photos didn't do them justice. On then to Achnabreck 2. A smaller though as equally impressive panel. We understood there was third panel further on and did walk on a bit to find it, unsuccessfully. Very much wanted to walk back up there from Cairnbaan - as there is a narrow short-cut road just past Cairnbaan Hotel which comes out opposite the sign for Achnabreck - in better weather but one week just wasn't long enough.

Achnabreck - also known as Achnabreac in Gaelic which might contain elements that mean 'speckled'.
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Passionate about:
Nature; stone circles and all ancient sites that involve walking through unspoilt countryside/being near the sea; islands around the the British Isles, especially those with ancient monuments.

My TMA Content: