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Do you know the way to Barnenez?

Do you know the way to Barnenez?
I've never been so
I may go wrong and lose my way
Do you know the way to Barnenez?
I'm going there to find a great big cairn in Barnenez
Allee couverts and some dolmens
See a whole bunch if you've got a car
In an hour, maybe two, you'll get quite far
Don't go too fast or they'll quickly pass
And all the stones are lying there amid the gorse for you to find
I've got lots of photos from Barnenez
Wo oh oh-oh, oh-oh oh-oh
Can't wait to get back to Barnenez
Wo oh oh-oh, oh-oh oh-oh
Do you know the way to Barnenez?

Côtes du Nord on a wild, wet Wednesday
Sane people do not go out in weather such as we experienced that day: grey skies and steady rain coming in at a slant with the occasional hailstorm. Sane people especially do not take cameras outside in these conditions. Welcome to the madhouse. There're lots to see on the north coast of Brittany. First stop Barnenez just 40 miles west from our cottage up on the north coast of Brittany.

It's so big and grand, this one has a visitor centre and mighty glad of it we were, too, as a shelter from the storm. 75metres long and with twelve burial chambers within its stony step-pyramid mound this is a beast and reminded me strongly of an out-size Camster grey cairn combined with Egypt's Saqqara pyramid.
During its excavation and reconstruction, a huge chunk was left missing deliberately to expose the manner of construction.

Four of the burial chambers are open to visitors the others are walled up. Each chamber has a different manner of construction – corbelled vaulting, dolmen-type chamber, side slabs only, etc. Inside the visitor centre are some of the carved, decorated stones found within the cairn which are very intriguing – one looks like a sheaf of corn. There are also some cracking photographs of the cairn before, during and after its excavation and examples of the finds – beads, pottery, axes – discovered there.

We drove back east from Barnenez towards Lannion - there are lots of sites to see round here including many alleé couverts and menhirs.

St Uzec menhir is just bizarre and thanks to the Christians, its ancient power now seems to glow more strongly. Some zealous twat in the 16th century decided to attempt to mute its pagan power by carving a crucifix on the top. All it does, however, is to make Christianity seem like a fly-by-night and pathetically bullying force. Still, the menhir is beautiful, striking and much larger than I had imagined.

Over on the touristy island of Ile Grande, which you can drive over a causeway to, is the Ile Grande allée couverte which is rather pleasant being neither small or big, long nor short. Just yer average local allée couverte for local people.

And just one kilometer away just before you get to the causeway is Prajou allée couverte which is much longer than Ile Grande allée couverte.

We were intrigued by the carvings on the inside of the end chamber which was cut off by a blocking stone. Moth crawled in for a better look. Two pairs of carved semihemispheres and a couple of long lines with dots running parallel. These have been interpreted as pairs of breasts by 'experts' - probably men - but I asked, could they not be testicles or even eyes? We were to keep seeing these odd carvings on stones all over Brittany…

En route to Kerguntuil we noticed this…

…at the roadside, Keryvon allée couverte. The end of it is practically falling away onto the beach. Only one capstone left up.

There are two monuments in the same field at Kerguntuil and they proved harder to find than I thought due to sh*tty, ambiguous roadsigns and an inadequately scaled map. I got very cross. Finally, as we located them, a pair of jays swooped down in front of us.
Kerguntuil dolmen is less of a dolmen and more of a large stone room at the roadside.

It was so tall inside that I could only just reach up and touch the whopping capstone. It has been shored up with walling on one side for stability. You get the impression it has been used for centuries as an animal shelter. Well, wouldn't you? On the other side of the field, crouching now as part of a field wall is the Kerguntuil allée couverte. It's an average sized allée couverte and like so many round here has strange carved semihemispheres on one of its wall slabs. Here, there are six pairs of them, on this occasion each pair has a smiley curve below them. Moth read them as pairs of breasts with pregnant bellies below. We read somewhere that they were pairs of breasts with necklaces. But, I ask you, have you ever seen a woman wear a necklace below her cherry-muffins? No. Me neither.

As few miles further east, you reach the very beautiful mediaeval town of Treguier. Just by where the bridge crosses the Jaudy river estuary you'll find, opposite a hotel, Tossen-Keler cromlech

It now has its own little parkland to inhabit, but it wasn't always so. This entire cromlech (or stone circle/ horseshoe thingy) was relocated to its current position in 1963 for a reason I failed to discover. It used to have carved stones within it but these have been moved to protect them.

I noticed one last monument symbol on the map, not far from where we were at Treguier, but I had no instructions to get there. We took the chance and went anyway. Thankfully, we picked up a signpost. As we parked, the heavens opened, but by now this failed to move us, our shoes and trousers were already soaked to the thigh. Men ar Rompet allée couverte is a bit trashed but its location is simply lovely overlooking the wide expanse of the estuary.

It had bigger, thicker stones than all the other allée couvertes we'd seen today further to the west.

For the most part, the stuff up here in the north may not be as 'hollywood' as the sites around Carnac, but if you're in Brittany anyway, it's certainly worth investigating.

Jane Posted by Jane
1st May 2005ce
Edited 24th November 2005ce

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