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

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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, map reading and tick removals.
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

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

Ireland - At last!

I am sat here writing this feeling very, very lucky, I have been fortunate enough to visit Carrowkeel, a totally magical, unforgettable location equalling anything in Europe; anyway, more of that later. I had postponed visiting Ireland on more than one occasion due to bad weather, however, this time there was no turning back, the van was packed and the ferry tickets were in my hand. It was a quilt free trip as we had recently had 2 weeks in the sun and a short break to Cornwall and so a quick dash from Lincolnshire to Holyhead and I was soon heading for the Hill of Tara. I arrived to an empty car park just before 7.00am on a very blustery day, the rooks were screeching, diving into the wind only to be swept back to the trees surrounding the church and graveyard, all very eerie. Even as a total non believer I could feel the power and the energy radiating from this site as I walked up the ceremonial route to the mound of hostages and the stone of destiny, ancient voices carried on the wind, only they were speaking English, more people had arrived and I realised I was standing on a grassy mound in Ireland, nothing more, nothing less, time to move on. A short trip to the Boyne valley were I was going to visit Newgrange and Knowth. I had read that the only way to enjoy these sites is to accept that they belong to the day tripper and that you are their visitor not the other way around and to just relax and become a tourist yourself, and I have to say I had a thoroughly good day out. A very pleasant visitor centre a nice run around the countryside in the transit bus and perfectly manicured site and pathways to walk on. I didn't even get upset by the controversial quartz wall at the front of Newgrange, its there now, no one is going to knock it down or change it we have to live with it and just hope they do not employ the same team to give Stonehenge a makeover after it sinks into the tunnel beneath. Back in the van and off to Loughcrew where I spent the night before exploring the following day. It was Bank Holiday Monday and I guessed it might attract a few people so I organised with the local guide Fechin to go up Carnbane in the morning before it got too busy. Armed with the key to Cairn T we enjoyed a beautiful sunny day, the views were spectacular and the artwork inside the cairn stunning. I could see across the valley to Carnbane West where Cairn L is located, I had also read that public access has been denied for a number of years following the last outbreak of foot and mouth. Given that it was starting to get busy I decided to head off in that direction. A quick hop over a locked field gate and a surprisingly tough little hill and I was looking into Cairn L an immaculately preserved cairn, possibly better than T, however, the real shock was to discover that there are 6 or 7 Cairns in various states of preservation up there and I had the whole place to myself, not a single fellow trespasser nor angry farmer. I ended up staying there for the afternoon soaking up the warm sunshine. Next day it was off to Carrowkeel. I had read that approaching Carrowkeel is like entering a lost valley and that is exactly how it felt, cliffs to either side, road just wide enough for the van and no one else in sight. The walk up to the most visited cairns G, H, K, L is nothing short of stunning and the cairns fabulous with no barrier to entry, you can crawl through the passage and play around inside to your hearts content, further on there is a large sinkhole and on again standing stones. On the way back down detours to the seldom visited Cairns C and D and then a scramble up to E and F provided even more stunning views. A word of caution if visiting these last 4, the paths are ill defined due to lack of visitors and its easy to miss them coming back, there a cliff hedges and sink holes around so please take care. I really did not want to leave this beautiful valley nor the mountains, I loved every moment there and every part of it and will definitely go back to explore the cairns I could see on neighbouring mountain tops. With a heavy heart I headed for Carrowmore which I didn't really enjoy after Carrowkeel, it was far too manicured and sterile, however, redeemed to some extent by the way it sat in the shadow of Knocknarea as indeed did everything. Overnight in Strandhill and ready to tackle the hill in the morning in order to visit Queen Maeve's grave. A walk from the beach at Standhill to Sligo rugby club and then up what is called the 'New Walk' up Knocknarea, actually very exciting as it gains height quickly and then follows a 300m board walk up through the trees before gaining open mountain. I didn't stay too long as no one seemed to understand the 'Do not climb' signs and for some reason I found it upsetting. Back down to the beach and a quick visit up the road to the famous court tomb of Creevykeel. Next day a longish drive down to the Burren to see the famous Poulnabrone dolmen, why this should be the most photographed dolmen in Ireland escaped me, however, the barren lunar like landscape was a most enjoyable drive. Next day was a tour through Carlow (nostalgic as I used to visit with work) and stops at the incredibly impressive Brownes Hill dolmen with its huge capstone and Haroldstown dolmen situated on a nasty bit of road. Finally I headed back towards Dublin viviting the 3 stone circles of Castleruddery, Athgreany and less visited Broadlees on the way. Castleruddery was particularly fascinating being a henge as well as a circle. Anyway it was all over bar the shouting, ferry back to Holyhead and dash home. Cannot wait to go South to Cork on my next visit just need to keep the home points building up Posted by costaexpress
8th May 2017ce
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