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

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Beinn na Caillich (Cairn(s)) — Fieldnotes

Now while there are obviously much, much worse things to endure than a day (or two) of trademark driving Highland rain seemingly intent upon proving Mr Newton wrong - in every conceivable respect - with its sheer gravity-defying persistence, that's not to say the spirit can't flag somewhat under the sustained onslaught. For what it's worth I rely upon one of WS Churchill's idiosyncratic maxims to see me through: 'When you're going through hell, keep going!'... perhaps better expressed in the secular as 'Keep Buggering On'... or, if 'text-speak' acronyms are your thing, 'KBO'.

Suitably inspired, and not subscribing to the warped doublespeak uttered by the democidal Stalinist apologists Orwell warned us would keep on exploiting the credulous to this very day, but rather the knowledge that the universe very much does not revolve around me, I persevere. To greet the following dawn beneath the exquisitely contoured profile of (Broadford's) Beinn na Caillich - instead of in my bed back home - inferring from the swirling cloud base that there might, just might, be an opportunity to correct a forced omission from last year and visit the 'other' Beinn na Caillich. The one overlooking Kylerhea, that is. Although lacking the titanic summit cairn of its gloriously mammarian 2,402ft namesake, this mountain is nevertheless eulogised as the last resting place of Grainnhe, wife of Fionn, whom students of Celtic mythology will recognise as head of the mystical warrior-giant clan The Fiennes.

Yeah, the folkloric pedigree could not really be any higher, could it? Trouble is I baulk at the prospect of the perceived severity of the climb; forewarned is not always forearmed. Hence, and before I can change my mind - yet again - I set off along the A850 toward the mainland, soon enough veering to the right to follow a wondrously single track road descending through Glen Arrochar to eventually terminate at the Kylerhea ferry. Caol Reithe in the vernacular, this little hamlet apparently name-checks another of those behemoths of lore, Mac an Raeidhinn. Suffice to say it would appear the long jump was not his forte. But there you are; neither is it mine. Aside from said ferry plying its summer trade across the water to the glories of Glen Elg, Kylerhea is home to an Otter Sanctuary, the latter serviced by a more than adequate car park. Now, having found I lacked the extra 'oomph' to ascend both Sgurr na Coinnich and Beinn na Caillich from Bealach Udal last year, starting from more-or-less sea level this time around strikes me as being a somewhat nonsensical thing to do. But hey, two rather Germanic-looking ladies 'doing Skye' override the cautionary inner voice... and no doubt 'tweak' those miscellaneous male insecurities a gentleman is obliged not to mention in polite company. 'OK, let's give it a go', I whimper to myself. What could possibly go wrong?

Despite being nowhere near as hot as last year, those extra c1,000ft of ascent - following the tree line to the north-west of Beinn Bhuidhe across a mercilessly rough, trackless terrain - exact a pitiful toll. Furthermore, as if that was not enough, the Allt Grianach and Allt a' Choire Buidhe have carved formidable gulleys into the landscape, isolating Coire Buidhe, as if by defensive design, behind great 'V-sectioned' ditches complete with glacis scarp, although the cascading watercourses do accord the opportunity to replenish an already much-depleted water supply. Really hard going. In retrospect, it might well be a better idea to circle around to the left instead of right... but hindsight is a wondrous thing, is it not? So, rather the worse for wear I eventually reach the high ground beyond and continue northwards, my not-so-cunning plan being to arc around and make the final ascent of Beinn na Caillich from the (hopefully less brutal?) northern flank since, much to my chagrin, the southern appears prohibitively steep to these glazed eyes. Nonetheless, the 2,401ft summit is a long time coming... so much so that I have full empathy with Craig and Charlie when it comes to collapsing at a feminine threshold. Tell me about it, my bespectacled friends.

The sheer breadth of the panoramic vistas to be experienced from Grainnhe's domain is breathtaking. Or at least would be if I had any breath left in me to relinquish. Surrounded on all sides, save the west, by water, it's fair to say aficionados of coastal viewpoints will want to come here. To the north stratocumulus clouds dispense their erratic aqueous content upon Loch Alsh and its environs... however, keeping a measured distance like predatory border collies only too aware of the consequences of losing control, Beinn na Caillich remains inviolate all day. How's that happen, then? Beyond, the undulating, occasionally serrated skyline of Glensheildaig Forest, Applecross and mighty Torridon stretches away to apparent infinity. It is a mesmerising sight, one within which even the artificial construct of the Skye Bridge does not disappoint with its graceful arching span of concrete. Indeed, select any azimuth upon the compass and it is nigh on impossible to find fault, the optic nerve overwhelmed with data at all times. Jeez. Hey, even looking 'inland' - as much as one can upon Skye - the 'other' Beinn na Caillich more than holds its own in foreground profile before a peerless Black Cuillin horizon, the 'Old Man' looking on from Trotternish with apparent detached indifference to the two 'Old Women'. The nomenclature accorded the landscape by us humans suggests a need to grasp the time immemorial - and not let go. The implication of permanence, being overseen, protected by the ancestors upon the heights still; a palpable exigency of the current state of affairs having to reflect the way things have always been, perhaps? A baseline to help make sense of an ever-changing world.... nevertheless, the hills and mountains remain as they were, the cairns still reassuringly gracing the skyline? Or... were they viewed as Lennon's 'folks on the hill'? Something to be feared, but necessary to maintain order?

OK, a viewpoint to last an eternity. But what of Grainnhe's cairn? How does it compare with 'Saucy Sue's' across the way? Simply put, to my mind it doesn't. What could? Although substantial enough to grace many of the summits I've had the pleasure of spending time upon, clearly this cairn would not suffice to represent the last resting place of a giant... even a presumably elegant, feminine one. However, there are, to my mind, more factors in play here than sheer bulk, the volume of stone. Consider: Undertones versus Beethoven? Well, I happen to think the world is a better place for having both the 6th and 'True Confessions'.... not to mention the sublime 'Teenage Kicks'. Multiple, disparate viewpoints approaching the same dilemma from differing angles. Human emotion, why we feel what we feel. And more to the point, what it actually feels like to feel. Perhaps you do, too? It is those emotional sensibilities, the apparent tactility with the landscape suggested by the extreme environmental conditions... the epic physical and mental struggle just to be here.... the feelings associated with - and driven by - where this cairn IS that makes it so special for me. In short, it's the location itself that matters. The primaeval, proto-monument.

As I sit and ponder whatever comes to mind the two 'Germanic' ladies duly arrive by way of the 'prohibitively steep' (ahem) south flank. Funnily enough, one is indeed German, both as blown away as I am. I assist with photographic duties and in due course, they continue toward neighbouring Sgurr na Coinnich. However, having been there, seen that... done it last year I opt to - if not stand on the shoulders of giants - at least hang out in their 'abode' until advancing time insists I begin the descent or face benightment. Now, being well versed in the legendary antics of another of the ginormous brethren, Idris, I reckon I can be forgiven for not wanting to risk the latter option. Mythical or not, it's all in the mind, you see?

I end the day with The Five Sisters of Kintail a resplendent vision in skyline pink, a widescreen Copeian panorama through the windscreen at Bealach Udal. Brutal, uncompromising... yet compellingly beautiful at the same time. The summa of my visit here, perhaps?

Dyffryn Mymbyr (Stone Circle) — Images (click to view fullsize)

<b>Dyffryn Mymbyr</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Y Ro Wen (Cairn(s)) — Images

<b>Y Ro Wen</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Bwlch Goleuni (Long Barrow) — Images

<b>Bwlch Goleuni</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Carnedd Moel Siabod (Round Cairn) — Images

<b>Carnedd Moel Siabod</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Carnedd Moel Siabod</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Carnedd Moel Siabod</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Carnedd Moel Siabod</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Sling (Burial Chamber) — Fieldnotes

Now, despite being well aware that a visit to Sling - or Frondeg, if you prefer - was long, long, long etc. overdue, a spare hour or so before dark... in absolutely appalling conditions... and with a hole in my left boot, to boot.... probably did not constitute the ideal circumstances to introduce myself to the area, to be fair. But hey, what could possibly go wrong? I mean, how difficult can it be for a guy long practised in locating obscure cairns upon hill-fog cloaked summits to find a monument a couple of hundred yards from the road? Come on, really? But there you are; suffice to say I've never possessed a plan, for better or worse. Clearly, since I never actually located the primary monument, I'll need to return at some point. Preferably not in a torrential downpour conjoining with near-zero visibility to fiendishly diabolical effect, though...

The reason for this lamentable personal muppetry is simply that, like Ironman before me, I had no doubt whatsoever that the secondary 'fallen stone' first encountered when leaving the public footpath represented the capstone of a burial chamber (possibly earth-fast?) supported upon what I saw to be clearly defined orthostats, the whole surmounting the remnants of a cairn.... albeit covered by industrial-grade brambles such as to cause even Br'er Rabbit to pause to consider options. Or, to put it another way, THE burial chamber I'd come to see. As that Kurgan bloke said in Highlander, 'There can be only one'. Who's ever heard of two such monuments so close together in North Wales? Malin More, yes, but Gwynedd? Naturally, the fact that, as usual, I had not done my homework - and therefore was not aware of the specifics of what I was actually looking for - duly negated the need to venture further into the soaking mist. So that was that. But again, there you are.

What particularly puzzles me in hindsight, however, is the almost total absence of detail upon Coflein, or, indeed, anywhere online concerning this secondary site? How can such an obvious - to me and Ironman at least - burial chamber, however it may be subjectively categorised, not have generated some interest? Hey, any interest? Does anyone know what was going on here back in the day, because it seems to me that here we have nothing less than a megalithic cemetery slumbering amidst the quarrying residue west(ish) of Bethesda?

Browsers of the 'Archaeologia Cambrensis' - see link - will notice that pages 62-63 of Volume 13, Series 3 give a brief mention of other internments being discovered in the immediate locale c1855 (to judge by the somewhat nebulous 'nearby'). I know, I know... I hark on. But a traveller can perhaps be forgiven for thinking some professional archaeologists maybe favour the showpiece Wessex sites for, er, non-professional, personal reasons? Let's face it ... you will never see a myopic Guardian reporter turning up at Sling demanding to know why CADW and 'The Tories' (who else?) haven't done more to protect what may lie forgotten, unseen, round about here. It's a scandal, I tell you! The Sling and arrows of outrageous fortune, as Will Himself almost put it. Most certainly not during periods of proper North Walean weather the Bethesda locals take in their stride. Coats? We'll have none of that southern tomfoolery here, and no mistake. So basically, who cares? Well, call me a hopeless romantic, but I happen to believe the prehistoric heritage of Wales is every bit as important as World Heritage show sites. One can't complete the jigsaw with a piece or two missing, can one?

Needless to say, I fully intend to have another look at some later date and form my own opinion... with my own eyes. I hope I have the opportunity since despite - or perhaps even because of - the inclement weather, I sensed this place is the real deal. With a story that deserves to be told.

Sling (Burial Chamber) — Images

<b>Sling</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Sling</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Sling</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Sling</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Cwm Tywyll (Ring Cairn) — Images

<b>Cwm Tywyll</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Cwm Tywyll</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Cwm Tywyll</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Cwm Tywyll</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Cwm Tywyll</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Cwm Tywyll</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Cwm Tywyll</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Cwm Tywyll</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Cwm Tywyll</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Nant Esgeiriau (Round Cairn) — Images

<b>Nant Esgeiriau</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Nant Esgeiriau</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Pennant cairn (Cairn(s)) — Images

<b>Pennant cairn</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Pennant cairn</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Pennant cairn</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Pennant cairn</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Pennant cairn</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Pennant cairn</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Pennant cairn</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Nant Esgeiriau (Round Cairn) — Images

<b>Nant Esgeiriau</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Nant Esgeiriau</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Nant Esgeiriau</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Nant Esgeiriau</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Nant Esgeiriau</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Nant Esgeiriau</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Nant Esgeiriau</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Nant Esgeiriau</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Nant Esgeiriau</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Nant Esgeiriau</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Ffridd Camen, Y Berwyn (Ring Cairn) — Images

<b>Ffridd Camen, Y Berwyn</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Ffridd Camen, Y Berwyn</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Ffridd Camen, Y Berwyn</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Ffridd Camen, Y Berwyn</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Ffridd Camen, Y Berwyn</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Ffridd Camen, Y Berwyn</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Ffridd Camen, Y Berwyn</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Ffridd Camen, Y Berwyn</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Ffridd Camen, Y Berwyn</b>Posted by GLADMAN
Showing 1-50 of 11,659 posts. Most recent first | Next 50
Hi, I'm Robert ... aka Citizen Cairn'd. I've a passion for attempting to understand the lives of the pioneering prehistoric inhabitants of these British Isles, seeking out the remains they left behind in order to ask myself "why here ... why did it matter so... why such commitment?". Needless to say I'm still pondering such intangibles. Just as an empty house appears to retain echoes of past humanity... so does the stone circle, the chambered cairn, the long barrow and the mountain top funerary cairn. Visiting them, I think, helps engender a certain 'connection' with this land of ours, with ourselves - our past, our present and our future; a reference point for those of us perhaps struggling to make sense of this so-called 'computer world' Kraftwerk warned us was a'coming in 1981.... danke, mein herren.

George Orwell - '...during times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act'....

Martin Gore - 'Like a pawn
On the eternal board
Who’s never quite sure
What he’s moved towards
I walk blindly on'...

Truman Capote - 'Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavour.'

Oscar Wilde - 'The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.'

John Lydon - 'It is a reward to be chastised by the ignorant.'

Winston Churchill - 'The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.'

Ultravox - 'Taking shelter by the standing stones
Miles from all that moves....'

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