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

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Round and round in circles.

It's that time of year again, the most over-rated season of all, Autumn.
The last vestiges of my stone hugging obsession still demand that I be at some stones on the solstices and equinox's, though in recent years it has become less important to be there on the exact day, a couple of days out is now acceptable when before it wasn't.
I decide upon a Cumbrian excursion, the plan such as it was, was to be at Brat's Hill stone circle and neighbours for sunrise, then go to Sampson's Bratfull cairn but I overslept and got up fifty minutes late, given how much sleep I usually get, an easy thing to do when trying to get up at 3am.
Swearing at the world in general I make my way up the M6 motorway, realising that I have no chance of getting to Boot in time I tweak the plan slightly and head instead for Castlerigg, then onto Boot.
But the second disappointment of the day was about rear it's ugly and unwelcome head, just getting over the Thelwall viaduct when my car started to heavily overheat. I had to now dissuade myself from throwing in the towel, turning round and going home. Instead I stopped at Charnock Richard services filled up with water, bought a bottle of the stuff and carried on calmly up the M6. All was well, I made it to the big Cumbrian ring with time to spare and without the red dashboard light coming back on.
Many years ago when I decided that solsticing and equinoxing should be something that I should be doing (What do we call someone who goes out to stones on these quarterly points of the year) the first place I went to was Castlerigg, I was all alone at the stones, but it was pretty foggy and wet. So being back here for another equinox, on my own, just as my obsession wains, seems to be very fitting, a full circle kind of thing. But, for now, everything is as it always has been.

Castlerigg — Images

26.09.17ce
<b>Castlerigg</b>Posted by postman<b>Castlerigg</b>Posted by postman

There are three other people here, a couple with a camera on a tripod, and a single chap similarly tripoding, they've secured their seats for the sunrise and I slot myself in between the two, further back, lest anyone try to speak to me.
The sky is behaving itself for a change, there are clouds but they're shapely, impressive, enhancing clouds. After three equinox's here I have determined that you may never be able to see the moment of sunrise from Castlerigg, because it is blocked by the north end of Low Rigg, but then there has always been horizon hugging cloud obscuring the rising, it could be that the sun rises out of the joining point of ground and hill, I doubt the skies will ever be perfect enough to determine such an assertion. I wonder if the sun does a similar thing at the solstice with Blencathra, there's only one way to tell, look at Fitzcoraldo's picture of the solstice sunrise, it seems to bare me out.
The sun has risen, and I have said good day to it, taken 150 photos, and i'm ready to try and nurse my car through the mountains, the couple that was here have gone and a late comer is now talking to the other chap and looking at me, will he try and talk to me too? No, cause i'm going, now. Bye stones.

As a postman, I've been delivering to Thirlmere Rd for nearly nineteen years, so it was with some satisfaction that I drove down the A591 alongside that very Mere, then I realised I was thinking about work whilst out stoning, punishable by death in some places, I put my foot down and leave Thirlmere behind.

Reaching Ambleside (we've got one of them too) I think refilling the radiator before trying to nurse my car over Wrynose and Hardknot pass would be a good idea, it would have been to if the thing hadn't erupted boiling water straight into my face, propelling the water cap fifteeen yards away, the woman refueling her car asked If I was OK, I nodded, so, with still bubbling flesh hanging off me, I refill the radiator, buy another bottle, so I don't get caught short in Eskdale, wipe myself down, I thought boiling water was supposed to be, well, boiling, or at least quite hot, not at all, shrugged it off and kept going.
Have you ever heard of the Death road in Bolivia, where someone dies every week, sometimes by the bus load, well that's what Hardknot pass is like, not really, but it's as close as England gets.
Reaching Eskdale and the village of Boot, I see there's no where else but the railway carpark at Dalegarth to park, £3.50 for the day was I thought quite reasonable. The walk begins.
Boot is a nice little place, with, I think, three pubs, that's a lot of alcohol for such a little place. Crossing the river and passing the 16th century mill the walk goes seriously up hill, it is steep, wet and very uneven, I remember my ex wife came up here with me last time, pre digital camera, pre children, looking at it now I must congratulate her for getting as far as she did, which was the group of mining homes that cluster near another cairn like structure that I forgot to photograph on the way back down. That time, I was left to go on alone see the stones and then come back for her, but because of the waiting woman I didn't have enough time to find the Low Longrigg stone circles. No such restrictions this time, just me, the mountains, the weather and some stones.

The ground has levelled out and I'm heading for a slight mound, from on top of which I hope to be able to see the stones, brilliantly the circle is just the other side of the mound, and just a bit further on I can see the stones of White Moss, no sign of Low Longrigg though.

Brat's Hill — Images

28.09.17ce
<b>Brat's Hill</b>Posted by postman<b>Brat's Hill</b>Posted by postman

Brats Hill stone circle is the largest of the five circles up here, some stones are large and prominent, whilst others are lying down and barely seen over the grass. There is what seems to be a central standing stone, well, its definitely a stone and it's around the central area, but there are also five cairns within the circle, the stone is on the circumference of one of the round cairns, so perhaps its to do with that. The cairns are a nice addition too, perfect little round mounds with occasional kerbing visible. I stroll over to the alter, a rock outcrop that is thee place to look down upon the circle and get a good view of the area. There is one big dark mountain away to the back, a quick look at my map magically informs me that it is Scafell, our biggest mountain, been up there twice, been in whiteout twice, a most uncooperative mountain.

A pair of walkers have encroached upon my musings so I push on to the White Moss stone circles. They are about 30 yards from one and other, the south west circle occupies one end of a very low ridge the stones being about the sizes of a toaster to a large microwave, one for the kitcheny types there. There's two cairns here, one is just outside the circle and the other is well inside it and may even have a cist lid still in situ. The north east circle, for me the best one up here, if it were alone it would still draw me in. All the stones are stood nice and up straight in a restored kind of way, a cairn inhabits the inside of the circle. Together with a view of Scafell this is one of the best stone circles I've ever been to, if it's not on your list of places to visit, you should stop visiting places.

White Moss — Images

28.09.17ce
<b>White Moss</b>Posted by postman<b>White Moss</b>Posted by postman<b>White Moss</b>Posted by postman

More people are coming, taking the obligatory photo, look I'm in a stone circle and my arms are out wide, click, move on.
I get out of their way by marching off in what I hope is the direction of Low Longrigg, I have a map and a compass, but in the end, walking round and round in circles getting ever higher is what found me the stones. Something I've become accustomed to.

Nobodies going to be coming over here in a hurry, map only says there's cairns here, they're really off the path, hiding in long grass, I have the place to myself.

Low Longrigg — Images

28.09.17ce
<b>Low Longrigg</b>Posted by postman<b>Low Longrigg</b>Posted by postman

If anything the view from Low Longrigg is even better that that seen from White Moss, solely because Great Gable has now come into the picture, perhaps my favourite Cumbrian mountain.
Both of these stone circles are ruinous, the stones low, the south west circle has a central cairn in it, the north east circle has two.
I stay here at these two circle the longest, the view is spectacular, the way Great Gable forms a valley with Kirk Fell, is possibly reflected in one of the stones in the north east circle, if memory serves it is the closest stone to Great Gable.
I don't like walking, a walk has to have a destination, anything will do really, but five stone circles is a pretty good destination, and if the long walk keeps the people away then so much the better
In the end I'd been up there for four hours, and in the very end I managed to get the car back home without much palava.
postman Posted by postman
1st October 2017ce

A circular tour of Denmark

'I'm thinking of going to Denmark on Friday, 'Stones'?
'Yeah', 'You've only just come back from Ireland' 'I knows, its the weather see, its settled all week' 'Driving'?, 'Yeah' 'I'll get the shopping in while you get your van ready', 'OK that's kind' and that was it, permission slip in back pocket and off to Puttgarden to catch the ferry across to Lolland. Despite a lot of earlier preparation I decided to follow the route Julian took in his book and trust in his research. The first problem I encountered was that a lot of the places have different names to the ones Julian uses which doesn't help and secondly Denmark is a big country and the sites are many miles apart, all made up for by his choices, particularly the passage graves, twin entrance passage graves, passage graves you have to climb steps to get to the entrance, twin passage graves with entrances at 90 degrees to each other and all open for exploration. I'll post pictures rather than going into a lot of detail, however, in summary, I started on Lolland at the might Kong Svends Hoj the first of the many passage graves and then down into the Frejlev forest which hosts numerous sites including Siddenious Jaettestue and Kong Grons Hoj. This is a magical forest with upteen monuments scattered throughout, ra ta ta tat, ra ta ta tat, unfortunately the biting insects were out in force and coming at me in waves, eventually I had no choice other than to beat a retreat leaving many more places left undiscovered. On to Mons in particular to see the twin entrance Klekkende Hoj and the close by Kong Asgers Hoj. Next up into Zealand to explore, of particular mention is the Jaettestue at Lumas. A unimpressive looking mound at the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, however, as I crawled through the passage I must of triggered a photo switch as the inner chamber suddenly burst into light, the shock made me raise my head and BANG!, crashed onto my stomach stars everywhere, head swimming and within minutes a lump the size of an egg protruding from the top of my head. For the next five days everyone stared but no one commented, aren't people polite. A quick visit to the Viking stronghold of Trelleborg and across the Storebaelt bridge to Fyn, more passage graves at Marhoj and the triple dolmens of Lindeskov. Finding my way back onto the mainland of Jutland it was North to visit the Viking graveyard of Lindholm Hoje, nothing can prepare you for the sight as you look down the hill, stone ships, circles, individual stones spread right across the hillside, not our era I know, still very impressive. The Troldkirkevej is close by and worth the walk up to it. Many sites on Jutland, however, the complex of sites at Trustup is particularly impressive, set deep in the forest, a circular walk takes you past the many monuments and the natural habitat of the area. Finally I dropped down into Jelling to see the Stones and now understand the Bluetooth symbol on my phone, a quick flick of the sat nav and I was heading for Germany and the road home. 'You know we are busy for the next three months don't you'? 'Yeah' 'OK then'
Posted by costaexpress
4th June 2017ce

Kilmartin Glen - the land of mist and cuckoos

May 20th – 27th 2017: we stayed in a comfortable small house by the Crinan Canal village of Cairnbaan which, as it turned out, was within walking distance of two amazing rock art sites. The archaeology of Kilmartin spans the period from Neolithic to early Christian, although it is thought that people have lived in the area since the Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic periods. It includes cairns and cists (the earliest being Neolithic), standing stones, one henge, a small stone circle, an ancient hillfort, mysterious rock engraving sites. And, more recently, ancient remote chapels where engraved tombstones can be seen (also to be seen in Kilmartin churchyard). To mention briefly in passing, we visited two of these, namely the Keills Chapel beyond the small sailing village of Tayvallich and the equally remote Kilvaree Chapel beyond Ardfern.

Firstly I will talk about the rock art/engraving and this was my primary reason for going to Argyll and definitely on my ‘bucket-list’. I am not exaggerating if I say they blew me away; there they were in front me, engraved stones I had only seen photos of before. Our first site visit was Achnabreck quite close to where we were staying. It was pouring with rain so we drove up a stony track in the forest to a car park. There were interpretation/information boards at every site which was extremely helpful. Achnabreck 1 and Achnabreck 2 consist of numerous cup and ring marks, both are protected by a fenced enclosure. Both astonishing! (we understood there is a third one but we did not find it on that occasion in the rain). By evening the weather had cleared and, having earlier seen a sign for cup & ring marked stones by the Cairnbaan Hotel we set off again on foot. This was a wonderful surprise. The footpath starts on the corner by the hotel and rises steeply into pine wood (bluebells still out along the way). Two separate sites close together both inside protective railings but a metal stool provided to enable closer inspection, amazing views over the Crinan Canal. Other sites visited later in the week include Kilmichael Glassary – wonderful rock carving just behind the local primary school. Access easy. Ormaig – quite the most satisfying visit which included a longish walk from Carnassarie Castle. Standing stones and hill top cairns along the way. These panels would have been quite hidden until relatively recently as were situated on a forested hill-side. The forest has now been felled (commercial forestry is an important industry in Argyll) making the panels much easier to find; they include the quite rare rosette motifs. We also saw the cup and ring engravings on the Baluachraig panel which is very close to the Dunchraigaig cist and the Ballymeanoch standing stones.
Standing stones and cairns. Visited Ballymeanoch and Dunchraigaig also on our first day, still sort of raining. The field containing the Ballymeanoch standing stones consists of one fallen holed stone (moved from its original site), a kerbed cairn, a 4 stone row, a 2 stone row (which once included the holed stone) and amazingly a henge – the only surviving henge in Scotland. Then onto the Nether Largie standing stones or Great X and the Templewood stone circle. We visited Nether Largie South chambered tomb separately to the other linear cairns so the full significance of this amazing site didn’t sink in until later in the week. Neolithic and chambered it is the oldest cairn in the linear cemetery. As well as the Great X Stones nearby there is also a solitary standing stone a dozen or so metres away in the next field. Later in the week, on a warm and sunny day we visited Kintraw standing stone and Clach an t-Sagairt Cairn on a hillside overlooking Ardfern and loch Criagnish. Stunning site and views – Kintraw standing stone is one of the tallest I’ve ever seen and must be related to the cairn. Lots of other standing stones - the two on the hillside near Carnassie Castle pleased me immensely, visually they seem to be aligned with the hilltop cairns of Carnassie and Cairn Baan.

And then there was Dunadd sacred hill fort with its ceremonial ‘footstep’ stone and wild boar carving at almost the top. I did manage to get to the top though came down somewhat tentatively as the boulders slippery in the drizzly misty conditions. Would loved to have gone back up there on one of the two hot days we had later in the week but a week just wasn’t long enough.
I mustn’t forget to mention the wonderful Kilmartin Museum with its great café. Or the superb information boards at every site. The week was also about nature walks through the ancient oak wood Taynish National Nature Reserve (I can still hear the cuckoos). Exploring coastal areas and small villages such as Tayvallich and Ardfern. Looking for water falls on the hillsides and visiting the beaver trials loch near to where we were staying (here I unknowingly picked up a tick but Friend spotted it later that evening and operated with a tweezers).

An amazing week, Saturday morning on our return journey we called in at the Crarae Garden described as Britain’s Himalayan Glen. Very peaceful at 10am in the morning and containing the remains of a Neolithic burial cairn. Also broke the journey back to the crowded south by visiting a good friend from Wiltshire currently based in Carlisle – a different sort of history around there as she lives in Brough by Sands in a 16 century longhouse built on Hadrian’s Wall.
I must thank my good friend and companion M for facilitating all of this by doing the driving and map reading.
Thanks too to all the people who responded to my forum post – it is so difficult to imagine Kilmartin Glen until you visit. It lived up to and surpassed all expectations.
And finally I must mention the lovely, very helpful book “In The Footsteps Of Kings” by Sharon Webb (with acknowledgements to many others). Contains 25 walks in the area, all with details of archaeology and maps.
tjj Posted by tjj
29th May 2017ce
Edited 12th August 2017ce

White Light

We travelled to St Margarets Hope spending the hour or so on deck. I was very moved by the abandoned houses on Stroma, the island looked so strange. A fellow passenger was also strangely moved after sliding across deck cos the idiot Paddy ( our friend) was hollering about spotting a whale..needless to say no such creature was visible. We saw plenty of puffins though.
We were lodged at Birsay with good views of the Brough. I thought I'd miss the trees but I didn't; I missed their shelter though. We were blessed with bright days on the whole & the wind cut through like knives; the old woman whose cottage we stayed in said she didn't notice it anymore.
Straight out to Stenness, Barnhouse, the Ring of Brodgar & Scara Brae. I've seen these places so often on the telly & in photos but what can't be properly captured is the wild, wild surroundings. The water everywhere is wonderful. The big big sky. I cried at Stenness cos it didn't feel real; they're like a modern sculpture reaching for the heavens. The settlements ground me with their beds, hearths, alcoves & cupboards..layouts that feel so familiar.
(What's with the trapezoid like stones? There's one at Stenness, one at Brodgar & one at the Clava Cairns.)
The Ring of Brodgar has some preservation work going on so we couldn't full circle. It's surrounded by mounds; one of which is overrun with rabbits. There's really well chiselled graffiti on some of the stones; also at Stenness & Unstan burial chamber. There were lots of folk about; coachloads of Americans.. I do admire their enthusiasm, but boy can they yatter, mind you Paddy saw a few of em off spouting his usual half baked bollocks. I loved the lonely Comet stone & the huge witchy stone as I saw it; I couldn't get near to kiss it though cos of aforementioned works. We walked round & round, sheltering behind the mounds. We gazed at Maes Howe across the landscape. It was glorious.
At Scara Brae the guide/ guard showed us the drains..drains! He explained that the rectangular boxes were watertight; that the beach had been a fresh water loch untill the sea encroached. He was a good lad but looked slightly blue; it was freezing in that wind.
The Maes Howe tour was ok. A lovely guide called Sharon. The carved out platforms are larger than I'd realised & so exact. The chamber itself is smaller than I'd thought. I impressed the Yanks by declaring that the Vikings came through the roof. Paddy waffled on about about blocking stones shielding us from the underworld much to their bemusement; our embarrassment & Sharon's irritation.
Next we visited Unstan; these chambers are set out like stalls in a stable, with little hidey holes. Paddy sought to frighten me by crawling in first but I could see his feet sticking out; still he was quiet for a bit as he waited to strike out. Small mercies.
The situation of Cuween is spectacular; the views from here & Wideford Hill are spectacular. We only drove to the top of Wideford Hill; not visiting the chamber. When we stepped out to explore I was literally blown sideways & some driving rain set in. There was a chap arriving back to his car from the direction of said chamber with various digging implements who looked like he'd been to hell & back. I didn't ask him what he was up to cos I couldn't move my lips. We resloved to go back but didn't. A regret.
Off topic but I found a sea glass beach at Stromness & spent a happy couple of hours adding to my collection. Sea glass to me is precious.
Next to the Broch of Gurness where the fog set in & swirled about. We spent a happy hour discussing all things past with the brilliant guardian here. The enthusiasm of most officials encountered on Orkney is great. The brochs are marvellous, they shout out solidity, safety & status to me. We saw two seals here out to sea, their heads bobbing up & down.
Next to South Ronaldsey of course; the Tomb of the Eagles.I have some splendid photos of Nick & Paddys arses as they crawled in & out. I chose to slide in on the trolley lying on my back. Much hilarity on my part ensued as Paddy "assisted" Nick out of the tomb. What a pathetic display.
Anyway the tomb itself is grand, with the "stalls" & it's situation. The talks prior to the actual visit were informative but perhaps a little overdone? I don't know, I just got a bit impatient. Two young girls who spoke to us were very impressive though. There was a chap who kept asking questions about craniotomy & tethering poles who grated somewhat. His wife was allergic to milk & various other foodstuffs we discovered later when they plonked themselves at the table behind us at Skerries Bistro. What a waitress! The grub was scrummy.
Here we met Hamish who told us the full saga 're the Tomb of the Otters. He's awaiting DNA results from the bones of the inhabitants. He said we would be able to boast about having visited the tomb on the verge of game changing discoveries. This is a dark wet place but amazing inside. It was stated that Ronnie ( the finder of tomb of the eagles) wasn't called Fox for nothing! Hmm!
So, Orkney my lasting impression, wild, bright, beautiful & haunting.
Stopping briefly at Inverness we got to see the Clava Cairns which are magical. Lots of cupmarks. The lovely little round cairn with its pink quartz. The stone pathways to the middle cairn. A trapezoid stone again. Some trees..yeah. Up the road another standing stone & cairn. Some suspicious stone jumbles in surrounding gardens & the ubiquitous Paddy informing some Outlander trail Americans that our ancestors on Orkney lived with & amidst sea otters in blissful harmony.
Posted by carol27
17th May 2017ce

The Cunning of a Fox, the Smell of the Wind & the Lips of a Fish....

I might also add, the Light. The light on Orkney is white light, apart from when the fog, sea frets are blowing through. The wind makes sure I'm awake at all times. I've never known wind like it; not even on top of the White Horse. My senses have been battered. It's absolutely beautiful.
The landscapes of Scotland are stunning. Driving to Ullapool ..Well I'm used to Yorkshire moors, but the mountains, the water ..Glencoe. I struggled to comprehend the majesty. The absolute majesty. The water is the deepest blue, like a sapphire. Water everywhere.
The trip over to Lewis was good; laughing like schoolkids as we rolled with the boat. Callanish in the sunlight, white light, wild wind. What do I think? Beautiful glittering stone.; a cist so precise it could come from Ikea; bewilderment (I like bewilderment), & more water. I started to see the hill woman; when we got to Achmore I saw her get pregnant.
Callinish two & three, four or whatever.. great traipses across the land; major Callinish always in view. I don't have sufficient enough language skills to describe this place.
My first broch..I mean, come on. Dun Carloway. Seriously one of the most beautiful, awe inspiring situations & buildings I've ever seen. It stands so proud. The staircases , the thickness of the walls, the spiralling of construction, it's outlook.
Next, going back, the Hill of many Stanes. I loved this place..like a beautiful garden with stones instead of flowers;The Grey Cairns of Camster ..whoa, monster stuff. I loved the boardwalk; crawling/ crouching through narrowing passages made me feel a bit anxious & I wasn't sure about the juju. Idiot.
Anyway.. Orkney. I'll attempt that tomorrow. Still here, still being battered:)
Posted by carol27
14th May 2017ce
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