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Fieldnotes by sals

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Las Colombinos (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech)

Signposted from Trilla, this looks on the map as though you could get to it from the lake but we'd driven that way, and didn't spot anything that looked un-gated and passable .....
It's quite a way by track from the village - there were may points when we wondered if it was advisable to challenge the hire car - but the dolmen signs appeared every so often, and eventually after a 90 degree bend where the fields opened out, we found the dolmen tucked in a little copse.
A breezy spot, with quality graffiti and an intriguing view towards the Pic de Bugarach -

Las Apostados (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech)

South of the pretty village of Ansignan (with a stunning viaduct across the fields) and west of barrage sur L'Agly (lake, or reservoir) is the hilltop commune of Trilla with two dolmens. As you drive up the hill, and before the village, this is signposted off to the left along a rough track. The little hire car bumped along a way, then we came to a fork in the road with a no entry sign on the higher track, but handily a "Dolmen" sign for the lower one, and there was just enough room to park - but not much room to turn, small cars only!

Not much more than 100m along, another sign pointed up to the right and a few rough hewn steps led up to the dolmen.

It's a wide and low construction, with a capstone of maybe 1.5m by 2.5m.

Dolmen du Sem (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech)

I thought it was going to be good, but this site still took my breath away (and I don't mean from the climb up to it) and made an instant jump into my "top 10" (dolmens, I can't judge site types against each other).
If you are visiting the stunning Grotte de Niaux, this is only 15 mins or so away ....

South of Niaux, head to the village of Vicdessos. Don't cross the bridge into the village itself - head straight on and up. (The village is lovely, by the way, with a town square complete with bandstand and bunting, and a couple of picnic benches along the riverside.) This road has been used as part of the Pyrenean stages of the Tour de France .... hence steep in places with switchback turns! The dolmen is sightposted from Vicdessos, and there's enough room for a couple of small cars to park at the bottom of the track that leads to it.

There are some uneven steps and potentially a bit of a scramble to get to the top - but wow. And wow again.

A substantial chunk of glacial granite, in the most stunning spot, with views over snowcapped mountains in France, Andorra and Spain.

Grotte du Mas d'Azil (Cave / Rock Shelter)

A stunning spot! There's plenty of parking just opposite the cave, and the day we were there, there were people bungee jumping from the outcrop.
The footpath into the cave takes you to the visitors' centre, a strange contrast between hot sunshine with birdsong, into the cool with the roar of the water almost dizzy-making.
The link has details of the visit - as the cave art here is not visible to the public, we just chilled out on the grass for a while.
A great picnic spot for a day out in this area - there's plenty to see!
Oh - and the road to the town actually goes through the cave too .....

The Cave of Niaux (Cave / Rock Shelter)

Situated south of, and well signposted from, Tarascon-sur-Ariège, up a single track lane from the village of Niaux. Try not to meet a coach coming up on the way back down, as we did - it was a rather long reverse to get back to the car park for passing purposes!
We had pre-booked, and almost all of those who turned up "on spec" for the only English tour that day were turned away. The visitors' centre is not open all the time (shop and tickets) but the first floor had an open air exhibition of the history of the cave (boards all in French) and of cave paintings of the era across Europe. There are also public toilets hidden behind the shop.
We arrived a bit before our tour time, to take in the spectacular view, and also to do a quick change - stout walking footwear is essential, and we had be also advised to wear warm clothes.
Please note - there is no photography, or light other than the torches supplied, allowed in the cave.
Our guide explained the cave system and which bits are accessible - the tour is basically to the Salon Noir (Black Chamber) as other parts of the system are beyond underground lakes.
The caves had been known about by locals for a significant time - graffitti (rather elegant script!) has been dated back to 1602 - but their importance and age only recognised in the late 18C. There are dot-and-dash finger paintings before the Salon Noir, but the main images are all found along one side of the salon. And they are incredible! Analysis of the drawings shows that crude brushes were used for some, and the drawings were made without hesitancy - just amazing for art that has been carbon dated to 14,000 years old, that's late in the last ice age!
The majority of the images are horses, bison and ibex. The cave's unique item - a stoat - is past a lake and hence not part of the tour.
Tour time - over an hour. The cave floor is wet and slippery in places, you have to duck and negotiate a couple of narrow passages, and there's a climb up a sand dune - so for adults of reasonable mobility.
Highly recommended!

Cueva de la Pileta (Cave / Rock Shelter)

Visited 26 Sept 2012.

West of Ronda, marked on most road maps and easily located with a big sign from the road to a parking area with info boards.

A series of uneven and slippery-when-wet stone steps lead from the car park up to the cave entrance and ticket hut (which also serves drinks in season), where there is a covered waiting area. The entrance fee varies by total group size - 8 euros pp reducing to 7 if there are more than 15 people on a tour. The maximum tour size is 25.

By 4pm, a group of 20 or so had gathered and the entrance was unlocked so we could all move into a foyer area, where the guide lit and distributed battery lanterns for the visitors, and filled his paraffin lamp. I had a small head torch which came in handy, though your own torch is far from essential. The tour was mainly in Spanish with a few words of English added; one of the other visitors was leading a group of Scandinavian and German tourists, and he kindly translated a fair amount of info into multiple languages for everyone.

The tour lasts just over an hour, progressing through the cave system looking at the rock formations, explaining history and discovery, with fabulous cave paintings along the way. The end point is the painting of a huge fish .... then a faster walk back along the same route to the entrance.

There are lots of steps within the caves, so I would recommend to reasonably sure-footed visitors. On the way back, we crossed with the next tour starting .... which included family groups, one with children of around 2 and 5 years, and another with screaming baby in papoose .... the latter changed their minds and left .... it's really not a visit for little ones imo.

Please note - no photography past the entrance area, you will be asked to leave if you try to sneak a few shots. This may be to keep the light levels reasonably constant, but also repeated camera flashes would have ruined the ambience of the visit.

Palaggiu (Alignement)

258 menhirs in 7 groups, in a glorious setting. It's about 1.3km from the road to the alignment, along a wide but rutted track with a reasonably sharp climb to start. We weren't entirely sure of the location and there was a fair bit of "are you sure ..." on the way, but so glad we trusted out instincts and spent a very pleasant couple of hours exploring the stones, chilling out under the magnificent oak tree, and trying to find the 3 carved stones we'd read about.

Cauria Fontanaccia (Burial Chamber)

It's huge! Almost on the scale as Sa Coveccada
across the water in Sardinia. The sign specifies the capstone as 3.4m x 2.9m, and it's tall enough to stand up inside.

Renaju (Alignement)

A stunning spot! Dozens of menhirs in a copse, explored in dappled sunlight. A confusion of rows, some dating to around 5000 BCE. In a gated area, but with full access allowing witnessed stone hugging.

Stantari (Alignement)

Two rows of stones running N-S with some great examples of carved swords and faces.
Picture taken in May - the wild grass and flowers are lovely but do hide some of the carving.
Fenced in, but only a few metres away.


A site group consisting of the alignments of Stantari and Renaju, and the fabulous dolmen Cauria Fontanaccia. The location given is the beginning of the track to the group, and there is space to park here. Free and open access, no facilities.
Well worth spending a few hours here! It's about 500m from the track / car park to Stantari.

Filitosa (Complex)

Corsica's "show site" and signposted from miles and miles away (erratically, of course!).
Entrance fee, gift shop, museum, refreshments etc.
A path from the entrance gate takes you past the museum to a paved square where Filitosa V (3m tall, fabulously carved) has been re-erected. There's a boundary wall before the main part of the site, with a barrow to the left and the central monument ahead. Now, we'd become aware of new age twinkly pan-pipe type music as we entered the complex, and thought it was coming from the museum - but no, piped all round the site. And this was not the only unwelcome modern feature - rather than having info boards placed at a distance from the important features of the complex, there are metal obelisks set in concrete providing audio on demand in a variety of languages. Oh!
The official website gives a good description of the site, so I won't ...
Crossing the stream, the muzak was finally drowned out by the croaking of frogs and the speakers had not been continued on the other side where 5 impressive stones have been re-sited, with a quarry beyond.
Phallic stones - 10/10
Atmosphere - 2/10
Take earplugs or your own audio distraction to enjoy the complex fully!

Tomb I (Rock Cut Tomb)

Northwest of the groups of tombs so visible from the access track, and in line with the field boundary, this tomb is just to the right of the path.
A short dromos, into a chamber with a central pillar and a niche opposite the entrance, and then two doors to the right. Climbing through, you're on a little rocky platform and the ground slopes away towards 4 doors set up from floor level and with a magnificent step to reach the farthest to the left, and a further chamber beyond the second left.
Something about this made me think of the fantastic Hal Saflieni Hypogeum on Malta - but on a much smaller scale of course. I spent what seemed like ages just sat enjoying the cool and the calm and the shafts of sunlight illuminating the entrance.
As in Tomb XVI a twice trepanned skull (image linked) was found here - though this person was not so lucky .... they didn't survive the second operation.

Tomb XII (Rock Cut Tomb)

I couldn't believe my eyes when I found the plan of this tomb .....
The long dromos or corridor was partly flooded so I'd climbed down into in it where it narrows, and straight in to the main chamber (pictured) with doors at the centre of each of the walls. I'd also noted a chamber to the side of its antichamber, but didn't realise quite how extensive either part was. Take a look at the plan!

Tomb XVI (Rock Cut Tomb)

One of the most important tombs at this site, and we didn't find it. It's in the area of scrubby vegetation between the very visible tombs such as Tomb VIII and the buildings you pass on the track to get here - hence the grid reference is not absolutely accurate.
It was found still sealed with a slab, and finds included burials from around 2000BCE (though other finds have been noted from the much ealier Ozieri culture) and a twice trepanned skull.

Pozzo Sacro di Pedrio Canopoli (Sacred Well)

This holy well is right in the centre of Perfugas, next to the church. It was discovered in 1923, and named after the owner of the garden it occupies.

The area around has been partly excavated, but it's the well itself that's the shining star in white limestone. There's a passageway and then steps down into the well chamber with its perfectly circular cross section.

It's fenced off and locked! I enquired at the library on the corner about a key, and was directed to the museum and tourist information .... right at the far end of town on a scorching hot day. When we got there - shut!

Su Lumarzu (Sacred Well)

We'd been to the village of Rebeccu 18 months previously, just after visiting the nearby domus de janas Sant' Andrea Priu and not found this, but we had better instructions this time ...

Drive into the village and park in the main square. Exit the main square on foot opposite the way you came in, and follow the path which bends to the right, leaving the village, and Snow White and the 7 Dwarves (no kidding, a full set of gnomes adorn the house on the way) to your right, with open fields falling away to the left. Another path from the village joins from the right, and less than 100m later, there's a track to the left with a signpost "Fonte".

The path was being cleared for the summer, and we exchanged greetings with 4 groups of men, scythes in hand but all taking breaks, on the way. About 150m along, there's a tiny wooden bridge, and the font is up on the right.

An incredibly verdant setting! If not for the grass cutters, we'd have had to wade through chest high greenery to get here!

The Nuraghic font itself is a tholos style chamber; water flows along a groove through the entrance hatch (about 60cm square) in the basalt block frontage and zigzags along the entrance hallway (about 5m long) and drains away under a paving slab at the end.

Domus de Janas Della Rocca (Rock Cut Tomb)

On the main road, right in the centre of Sedini, the tombs are cut into a massive 12m limestone block. Dated to around 3000BCE, in more recent times it's been used as a jail, but now houses a museum (apparently - siesta time, all quiet and closed up when we were there).

Longu (Nuraghe)

A slight accidental detour took us through Padria, and in the village we spotted one of the brown signs directing us to an archaelogical area.

Follow the signs - part way along, there's a huge map at the roadside of areas of interest in the vicinity - and right at the end of the road there's a gate on the left with a path and steps climbing the hill.

On the plateau, there are nuraghic village huts - hard to work out in the long grass - and the nuraghe itself is to the left behind a tree. It doesn't look that impressive ..... till you get round the other side!

Pottu Codinu (Rock Cut Tomb)

On the SS292 south of Villanova Monteleone, with great views towards Lago de Temo.

It was 2pm on a gloriously hot day; the site is fenced off and a recently adapted notice said that it would open at 14:30, so we sat in the car park and had a picnic, and read. And waited. No sign of anyone, we waited another 10 mins and then decided to wait no longer. Beardy took the direct route of over the tall padlocked gates, and I went for the walk along the drystone wall between the barbed wire approach. For future reference, the easiest method if needed is the exit I used - under the tree at the corner of the road and carpark!

The entrance fee is 1½ euros, and we left sufficient coins on a stone by the ticket hut, in case someone appeared ...

There are 9 tombs here, set into two outcrops of rock, of which the most interesting is no 8, with its main chamber (through an anti chamber) having a ceiling carved to represent a roof and rafters, and a false door to the afterlife. The tombs mainly have double framed entrances and cups in the floor of the anti-chambers for offerings, and grooves which I assumed where for drainage.

Admittedly, we'd missed some carvings (other than the architectural features) here, but for a signposted, pay to enter site, I was a little disappointed, compared to what we'd seen already (and without knowing where our next stop would be, the fabulous Santu Pedru).
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Yorkshire based stone searcher and Cope music fan with intentions to be tidy and green, and with a fondness for baking.
Married to Beardy - at Castlerigg - and honeymooned round Perthshire, Aberdeenshire, and the Western Isles.
Recently taken to European excursions.

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