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

Fieldnotes by thelonious

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Browne's Hill (Portal Tomb)

31/08/2019 – The amount of quality sites in Ireland is a little overwhelming. Planning our trip was hard and I just didn’t know where to begin. In the end we said pick 3 sites for the week. That would be a good start. First pick – Drombeg, easy start, this was a must for me as it was an Irish recumbent. Next up was Maeve's Cairn, an upland cairn of unbelievable size. Last pick was no problem too - Brownshill Dolmen. I just had to see that capstone. 3 picks done, now to plan the trip. I had no clue where the sites where in relation to each other. Turned out a little tricky as they where in 3 different parts of the country. After a little think, we decided to go for it. More travelling than I’d have liked but least we’d see a good bit of countryside.

It had been a great holiday so far. Maeve's Cairn was amazing, Drombeg was as good as I’d hoped. Today was our last full day in Ireland. Tomorrow we’d be back in Aberdeenshire. Early train from Cork to Dublin then a train back to Carlow. Got there about 11 o’clock. It’s a walk of just over 2 miles to the dolmen. Mostly pavement but the last section for about 400 metres is just along a narrow verge and the road is a little busy at times. Not brilliant but it’s short.

Reaching the carpark, there were just a few cars there. We walked down the track to the site. Great access. Brownshill Dolmen can be seen across the field but it’s only when you get up close does the size hit you. The capstone is just a monster. We had a sit on the bench there as folk came and went. Great to watch expressions as folk came face to face with the dolmen. Everyone looked pretty amazed and so they should. The site is a proper head shaker, how the hell did they lift that size!!? We got the place to ourselves soon enough and I had a walk round the dolmen. I loved the back of the capstone. So rounded and huge, very huge, like huge plus 1. I didn’t go under the stone. You can easily but the weight above! The weather was just lovely, blue skies and white fluffy clouds gave a perfect backdrop to the stones.

This was the last of the sites on our trip to Ireland and what a visit to finish on. This big friendly monster just made me smile. Hard to leave to make the walk back to Carlow to catch the train to Dublin.

I remember commenting that I had to visit here on a ryaner photo earlier this year . He replied saying it should be compulsory, he’s not wrong.

Drombeg (Stone Circle)

29/08/2019 – Morning bus from Cork to Rosscarbery. Takes about an hour and a half. It’s a fine way to see the countryside. Rosscarbery is a nice town, good shop and pub. Plenty of buses back, every couple of hours.

From Rosscarbery we walked west along the quiet country roads towards Drombeg. A walk of just over 3 miles. It seemed to pass pretty quick. The excitement built with each passing mile. Drombeg had been a long time in coming. For the last few years we had often talked about making the trip to Ireland and each time it was always Drombeg that was top of the list. Living in the north east of Scotland, the land of the RSC and to make the journey to see a recumbent stone circle so far away in the south west of Ireland was beyond exciting. In a week of many adventures, this was the big one.

Passing the good sized car park, we walked the short track to where the stones lived. First sight, I was a little surprised. Though not the largest of circles, it was still bigger than I’d imagined. The stones looked so solid. A few people were there already so we gave them space and walked on to the hut circle. There’s a fine rocky bit behind, which we headed for. A great vantage point to sit and take in the scene. Though not busy with people, it was steady. We decided to have our lunch first before finally making it down towards the circle. We sat, looking down and across the hut circle to the stone circle, it was a great way to take in the location. Interestingly folk were giving, consciously or unconsciously, other groups time in the circle to themselves which was lovely.

I’m not sure how long we had sat, eating, chatting, daydreaming away but I noticed that everyone had drifted back to their cars and the place had gone quiet. We got up and strolled the short distance to finally touch the stones. We had made it to Drombeg. A happy moment.

I was keen to see if it felt like a RSC. It did, it really did. The recumbent is lovely and the placement of the stones and shapes were just great. I was pretty blown away. Maybe it was because this was the sole focal point of the day. There are plenty of other sites in the wider area but today it was just Drombeg for us and I liked it for that.

Circling the circle, close to the stones first then on a wider arc. Dark greys turned to light as the sun broke through the clouds. Just for a short time but it was enough. The circle seemed to come alive. We had been there a couple of hours by now. Time to go. Why do stones always look their best when you have to leave? Are they giving you something to remember or just trying to make you stay a little longer. Just a few more minutes... and then we would go.

Seemed longer returning to Rosscarbery to catch the bus back to Cork. What a day, what a circle!

Carrowkeel-Keshcorran Complex

27/08/2019 – I really wanted to get to Carrowkeel. Looks like it had everything. Quality cairns, high on a hillside in a top location. After seeing rayner’s sunset photos on here a few months back I knew I had to visit.

It was our last day in Sligo so it felt a bit now or never. Unfortunately the weather forecast was grim. We toyed with not going but we’d have got wet anywhere today. Might as well be on a hill with great cairns.

I worried that without a car this one might be tricky to get to. Turned out fine. It’s close to the main road from Sligo to Dublin so there’s a good bus. We caught the 8.00 from Sligo bus station to Castlebaldwin. Didn’t take long and we were walking by 8.30. There’s buses back from here in the afternoon every couple of hours so there was no need to rush. Nice to not have to treat the day like a raid. Worth mentioning the petrol station in Castlebaldwin has a great cafe/shop so ideal for waiting for any bus back to Sligo.

It’s a 3 mile walk from Castlebaldwin to Carrowkeel. Very quiet country roads and more enjoyable than I thought it would be. The rain was pretty terrible. Fell for most of the day. The worst weather day I’ve had out for many a year. No wind which helped and we did stay quite cheery powered up by chocolate and Tayto crisps (I love Taytos, very hard to find in Scotland).

The final approach is a gentle incline up an ever decreasing quality of road. You can drive up to the top. I’d love to know if any TMAers have braved it? There's a newish carpark at the bottom. Much better to start here as the walk up is nice and your car will thank you for it. The landscape here is wonderful and my favourite on our trip. The road takes you between steep limestone ridges. Huge cairns could be seen on the tops through the mist and rain. The road bends back left and then up and around to near the top. From here it’s a short climb to the first of the cairns.

Cairn G – Not the most exciting of names but it’s good, very good. As we approached, it appeared from out of the mist to greet us. The excitement upon seeing the entrance for the first time, nearly too much. We had stepped into a megalithic wonderland. Suddenly the crap weather was working for us and the rain and low clouds created a vibe to the place that was amazing. A feeling of quiet wild loneliness, just us and the cairns on the hillside. Like we had entered a different world. Rucksacks off and a quick shimmy through the entrance, we entered the short passage and then the chamber. Standing up in the high roofed centre, a relief to be away from the rain. Dark but with no need of our headtorches, peacefully away from the outside world, what a contrast! Great chamber and recesses. Loved the orthostats.

Cairn K – After leaving cairn G and having a look at cairn H, we made our way to the high point of the hill and Cairn K. The passage is longer on this one. A bit of a hands and knees job. The cruciform chamber just wow. Great corbelled ceiling. A few cracked lintels so best not to climb the outside.

The rain stopped for a short while so we plonked ourselves down next to K to have our sandwiches. What a place. No views but because of the mist it felt like this cairn filled landscape could have gone on forever. The rain came back hard and though I’d have loved to have explored the hillside more, it felt best to leave it for another time. I was so happy with the day so far, more wasn’t really needed.

We walked back to Castlebaldwin and the bus, very wet but very happy. A great day out and one of my favourite megalithic days ever I think.

Carrowmore Complex

26/08/2019 – It was afternoon by the time we reached Carrowmore. I was tired. We had made the journey over Knocknarea and then walked the quiet roads to here. It was a welcome sight to see a coffee shop/van next to the visitors centre with a few outside tables and chairs. I needed a rest and a coffee (plus iced dough ring). Then with my power up, it was time to enter Carrowmore.

There’s a nice few info rooms to walk through and you can get a map (and an audio guide if you want) to the site. The rain had started to fall now but nothing too bad. We made a slow walk round the grassy fields, tomb after tomb. The place is jampacked with them. Each with their own little character. You don’t get access to them all but the walk takes you past a good enough number. I think I read that 65 tomb monuments were noted in the 1800's but only about 30 survive today. The earliest dating from around 3700 BCE. No access to Site 7 at the moment which is a shame but you can still view it from afar. Site 51 is a bit mad. Great tomb hiding in a reconstruction cairn held in place with lots of wire. I wasn’t that keen but Mrs T liked it.

I can’t remember how many tombs the walk takes you on, both sides of the road, maybe around the 15 mark. I liked the little ones the best like site 54.

It was a great afternoon spent there and it really is a must see place.

We left to make the slow walk back to Sligo. The roads are OK-ish to walk. A few fast cars, fat trucks and big tractors but nothing too bad, we survived to tell the tale.

Knocknarea (Cairn(s))

26/08/2019 – I was pretty excited waking up. Today the plan was a visit to Knocknarea then on to Carrowmore megalithic cemetery. They looked on TMA to be two wow sites. It was misty yesterday so I was a bit worried about the hill having its cloudy hat on again today. A quick peek through the curtains and I was happily greeted by the morning sun. It was a good start.

There’s a good bus service from Sligo to Strandhill (S2 - every hour). A 20 minute journey took us to just north of the big hill along the coast at Mannionstown (Brees Pub). From here there is a great signposted walk up Knocknarea. It’s not a huge gain, maybe around 300 metres. The hill looks pretty great from this side, very steep. The track was good. There is a section of walkway that was hard going but we took our time. It wasn’t a day for rushing. The top of Knocknarea is quite flat but you still have to get close before you see the cairn and then there it is! What can I say about Maeve's cairn, it’s big, very big. It must be a good 10 metres in height. Standing next to it, the cairn just seems to grow. Stone upon stone, taller and wider. Close up my vision was just one of cairn and nothing else. It’s just fantastic.

We circled it once and then walked a little way north to the ruined cairn there. It was easier to take in from here and also the surrounding view which is very good. Luckily it was very quiet on the hill today. It’s a fine place to sit with your sandwiches and a brew and just look out to sea and along the coast. I could have stayed all day.

I liked the stones in the big cairn. There’s a lot of fossils in them, coral maybe, just guessing. Worth mentioning also that there are a lot of signs round the cairn and also on the way up asking folk not to climb the cairn. Seems a reasonable request considering how many people climb Knocknarea each year.

After one last goodbye to big Maeve and a look at the stones to the south we headed down SE towards the carpark on what looks like the main route up. It’s not as steep as the north side. Near the bottom you can loop back round the hill to the start again but we carried on, walking down the quiet roads to our next destination - Carrowmore megalithic cemetery.

Slieve Dargan (Passage Grave)

25/08/2019 – First full day in Sligo. What to do, what to do? We are on public transport all week so a bit restricted. Buses don’t get going until late morning on Sunday but there’s an early-ish train so we decided to go for that. Looking for a combination of hills and prehistory we picked for our first day a trip to Slieve Daeane.

Short train ride (09:05 from Sligo) to Collooney. We headed along the Sligo Way north east through Union Wood (nice area) to Ballydawley then using the forest tracks past the stone row we climbed to the high point of the Sligo Way just south of the top. Leaving the track we made the short but steepish climb to the top of Slieve Daeane. There’s a decent sized cairn at the summit with a trigpoint on top. I bet the views from here are great on a good day. It wasn’t that day today. The cloud base was low. We sat next to the cairn, eating our butties, looking into not much of nothing. Good vibe to the place though.

Next we made our way west to the cairn on top of Slieve Dargan about 800 metres away. The straight line distance is short but the cloud made things a bit tricky plus there’s a good down and up between the two tops, very steep, grassy slopes. The cairn on Slieve Dargan has a good sized footprint but it’s pretty trashed. It’s listed as a passage tomb but I couldn’t see any internal structure.

Downhill and another 300 metres to the west is Cailleach a Vera’s House, a passage tomb on the last of the rises. The cloud had lifted by now so the view past the cairn to the landscape beyond was impressive as we made the approach. This is the pick of the three cairns we visited today. Visible passage and chamber which you can look down into. Really taken with this one and the location is excellent. Well worth a walk up.

From here it’s only about 350 metres back to the Sligo Way path. The terrain is rough and a bit wet but nothing really to put you off.

Meeting up again with the path, it was back west to Collooney to catch the train back to Sligo. A really nice day out.

Carriblair (Stone Circle)

25/05/2019 - Tricky site this one. Not to get to though. It's next to the road and parking is easy. The gorse and stuff has been cut right back so the site is looking pretty good nowadays.

Why tricky? Well, because I don't really know what it is. After reading Canmore I'm still not sure. I've added it as a stone circle (looks like one to me) but if anyone thinks different please say and I'll change it. Other contenders are cairn, cairn circle or even a henge.

There's a cist in the middle of a grassed over cairn with good size boulders surrounding this (only the north side remains of the circle) and there seems to be a bank and ditch outside this as well. A lot going on.

To the SW is the big standing stone Clach Biorach. Was this an outlier to the circle? It is a very different stone to the ones used in the circle.

Interesting place and our last site of a great trip up north. A good way to finish.

Achinduich (Stone Circle)

25/05/2019 - We've driven past this one a few times. Never really felt the right time to visit. We had got moving early as the rain was due. Coming through Lairg we decided to stop and have a look. Good parking in the layby to the north on A836. Just a short walk along the road to the gate leading to the rough pasture where the circle is. I liked the little climb up to the stones. Only half the circle left and a few small stones hinting at an inner circle. I liked this one.

Grumbeg (Chambered Cairn)

24/05/2019 - This one is not far from the road. Easy parking. This cairn is right in the middle of a cleared township. Makes you wonder what they thought about it as they went about their daily lives. The cairn is pretty ruined but it's still worth a look if you are passing. We walked on a bit further to have a look at the hut circles to the north and then on to Pole Hill. This area is full of hut circles. If you have time Carn Gruama Beag is worth a walk up. The views down Loch Naver are excellent.

Clach an Righ (Stone Circle)

23/05/2019 - On the way back from visiting the stone rows to the south east we finally reached Clach an Righ. What a welcome sight. It's a lovely looking circle. Not that big but the stones are a good size. Each upright stone's axis is radial to the centre. Reminded me of The Great U of Stemster in that regard. I can't think of others like this. I'm sure there are lots though. We plonked down on a nearby log to finished off our brews. Just taking in the scene.

With a nod to Gladman, it was finally time to head off again. His photos and fieldnotes had put an idea in our heads to seek out this place. He's good at doing that.

Loch Rimsdale (Multiple Stone Rows / Avenue)

23/05/2019 – Lets start this by saying one thing – Multiple stone rows are brilliant. This is a fact, if you don’t agree, move on. There’s no place for you here.

Look where these are on the map! Right bang in the centre of the middle of nowhere. I just had to visit.

14 or so miles in the rain there and back. And look at the photos! They look rubbish, why the hell bother? No bragging rights to be had here for this little lot when you get back home and show the photos to friends and family. They’ll just shake their heads and give you that look, it’s just poor old thelonious and his stone thing, least it keeps him away from the normal folk.

Who wants to be normal though? As much as folk don’t get why we visit stones, I don’t get why the masses spend all Saturday and every Saturday in shopping centres. Is it living, really living? Not for me. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe we are all a little odd on here. It’s good to be odd a little I think. Hello to my fellow oddities :-)

We were going to start at Rosal but there was logging going on so we parked a little SE at the start of the track off the B871 near the corner of the forest marked on the OS map (NC 7021 4141). From there it was up over Beinn Rosail to the kerb cairn on Meall a' Choire Bhuidhe. Raining and a bit rubbish underfoot. To visit the kerb cairn there’s a deer fence and trees to contend with (I’ve grumped about this elsewhere). From here we made for the track to the south at NC 6943 3778. I was really tired today and the damp wasn’t helping my mood. The stone rows still looked a long way off on the map but from now on it was track most of the way so after a couple of Jammie Dodgers for power we headed SE.

It’s a pretty straight forward enough walk from here. Just keep on the track until you hit the ride heading SW at NC 7189 3516. Straight up along that and it takes you to the big clearing which has the rows in it.

42 stones in 4 rows counted in 1975. The ground is slowly eating them up. We could only find 9 or 10. The big 4 terminal stones are still showing well. I use the word big in relation to the other stones. They are all pretty small. I’d say none over 0.5m. Such a great site though. Prehistory mini mysteries.

There’s a probable standing stone to NW too.

We sat and had our butties and a brew. Tired, wet but very happy. It was now just a matter of a trigpoint and another hill top to find and then it was back to the track and the start via the excellent Clach an Righ stone circle.

One big pointless walk and all the better for it. This is living.

Meall A Choire Bhuidhe (Kerbed Cairn)

23/05/2019 - Cairn with kerb stones on west side.

I was proper in a grump on the way to this one.

Rubbish weather and tough walking to get there. Once there a high deer fence to contend with. Last 50 metres was a thick forest of trees and a quagmire underfoot. No views and the cairn is pretty hidden.

I've been, you don't have to.

Meall Meadhonach, Loch Eriboll (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

20/05/2019 - Iron Age Aisled Roundhouse or Wheelhouse or Wag? You take your pick. All I know is that it is brilliant.

It made for a good sandwich spot on our walk over the hills from Laid to Durness.

Worth a visit for its lovely location. Some of the lintels look like they have been put back up. They look proper dangerous! No way would I sleep under them.

Allt An Tighe (Cairn(s))

20/05/2019 – Finally made it here. Our visit to this cairn had been a long time coming. First noticed it on the map well over a year ago. It ticked a lot of boxes for me. A cairn, high up on a hill, in the middle of nowhere. It didn’t really matter if it turned out a bit rubbish, the adventure to get there looked worth the trip alone.

After spending the last year boring Mrs T about how we really should make the journey up to see it, we decided to go for it. Our whole 10 day trip up north was based round this cairn marked on the map. I didn’t really know anything about it and avoided looking for photos on the web. I wanted a surprise.

Staying in Durness I didn’t really relish the idea of a walk there and back so after a bit of digging we found out Durness run a Dial-a-bus. It’s not everyday and mostly in the morning I think. Phoned up the evening before and the woman said no problem, pick you up in Durness at 10.00am tomorrow to take you to Laid, on the other side of the hills east of Durness. 8-9 miles or so, less than £2 each!!! Brilliant service.

We got dropped off at the start of a track heading up hill (NC 4160 5958). Just north of the phone box (marked on map) on the A838. We used the track to gain a bit of height and then followed the Allt an Lagain uphill. Don’t start heading off early towards the cairn. Best to hit the ridge as it’s stone and makes walking a lot easier. Very interesting area for walking. The stones/rocks are great round here. Weather today was very rubbish. Our heads were down and our hoods were up. The rain was heavy at times and the hillside misty. It didn’t matter though. In fact it added to the atmosphere. After a time a shape appeared in the distance, I thought surely that’s not it. It looked brilliant. As we got closer the rain lessened and the mist cleared. There it was – a wonderful D-shaped Neolithic chambered cairn. Wow!

I was really taken with this one. It’s still in great nick and these folk really knew how to pick a location. Everything combined to make a wonderful visit. The mist on the hill, the quiet, the cairn and the great views down to Loch Eriboll and beyond.

Nice D-shaped front to the cairn and you can make out where the passage would be. After walking round it a few times we just stood to catch our breaths and take it all in. Finally we had made it here and it felt good.

Worth mentioning are a small lines of cairns heading north from here. Some even have small standing stones by them. I don’t know if they are from the same time as the big cairn but there is something going on here. People have been visiting this special place for years I think.

With the rain still falling we reluctantly left the cairn behind and started north to our next destination – the aisled roundhouse below Meall Meadhonach. From there it was back over the hills to Durness. A long day and hard on the legs but just great, really great. The cairn was worth the wait.

Cromalt (east) (Chambered Cairn)

17/05/2019 – Did my knee in a bit a few weeks back and it’s still sore. Our trip to this patch was mainly for walking, a few ups and a few downs. Thinking I didn’t want to chance my knee with hills every day, I turned to trusty Canmore for a bit of inspiration. Looking at the map I noticed two chambered cairns marked at Cromalt I’d never seen before. I thought that will do nicely for a day trip out. They are a little bit in the middle of nowhere nowadays. After a bit of umming about the best route to them we decided to start at Knockan. There is good parking in the layby on the A895 (NC 2119 1058). There’s a decent track, marked on the OS map, heading SE that took us about half the way. After that it was a bit of bashing over rough ground, trying to head in a straight-ish line to the first cairn at NC2393208131. After a good look at the cairn (very good with nice stones of the chamber still in place) we headed east to this cairn at NC2500907977.

No access problems but I think I’ll mention the going underfoot. There hadn't been much rain round here for ages so the ground was very dry and that made the walk easy going really. If it had been raining for a week before we came I think it would be a completely different kettle of fish. Very soggy and tough going would be my guess. Also a few streams to cross.

The cairn itself is very nice. Not in that bad a condition and a few big stones showing. Location is a little different to a lot of the chambered cairns round here. Very open area. It did remind me a little of Loch Ailsh chambered cairn. Same kind of ditch round this one which may be natural due to the rate of peat build up surrounding the cairn compared to the stony cairn itself.

Very enjoyable day out. Two nice cairns and a bonus one near the start at NC21721041.

Cromalt (west) (Chambered Cairn)

17/05/2019 – Tricky to pick my favourite between the two chambered cairns at Cromalt. The one to the east still has plenty of stones left and the cairn shape is better. I did like this one though to the west. Just the stones of the chamber showing on top of the grassy remains of the cairn. If you’ve made it this far you might as well visit both.

Knockan (Chambered Cairn)

17/05/2019 – On the way to Cromalt chambered cairns we noticed this one. Just off the track heading SE from the houses at Knockan. I didn’t know of a cairn here but thought it looked like a could be through the binoculars. We decided to have a closer look on the way back. Turned out it was a chambered cairn on a nice little rise. Top surprise at the end of the walk. It’s not in great condition but there are plenty of stones left and one big orthostat still in place. I liked this one with its fine location overlooking the river below. Worth a look.

Creag Nan Uamh (Cave / Rock Shelter)

16/05/2019 - First day of our trip up north. The sun was shinning and it even felt a bit warm! We arrived at the good sized car park off the A837 feeling a little bit excited as we had been wanting to visit these caves for a while. There is a good path to the caves, about a mile up the lovely Allt nan Uamh. On a sunny day this really is a nice walk. The climb to the caves isn't hard. Lots of orchids about today lining the path up. There are 4 main caves to look in. They don't go back too far before getting narrow but are a good size at the entrance. Easy to imagine people living here. The view is wonderful too. The caves are probably best known for the many animal bones found here like Brown bear and even Polar bear! Human bones have also been found and dated to the Neolithic period. Suggestions have been made that it could have been a place of burial.

If you are ever in the area this place is well worth a visit. The hill (Beinn an Fhuarain) behind is worth a bob up too if you have the time, for some wonderful views.

Deuchny Wood (Hillfort)

05/05/2019 - Big car park to the west (NO14462366). This area looks popular for locals. Lots of signposted walks. We took the track east to near the hillfort then just a little climb to the top. The walk's nice enough, lots of lovely trees to look at and a nice time of year to visit. Everything is starting to look very green. The hillfort covers a fair sized area but there isn't much to see. One really just for the hillfort addicts. Views are good though from it.

The walk from the same car park to Kinnoull Hill to the west is better and worth doing as well if you happen to visit. Also to the south east the gothic looking Binnhill Tower is good on Bin Hill.

King's Seat (Cairn(s))

04/05/2019 - 10 years since my last visit! Too long as it's a fine cairn in a lovely location.
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