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Fieldnotes by ironstone

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Park Neuk (Stone Circle)

Can I possibly be the first TMA-er to visit this lovely little four-poster in twenty years? Almost certainly not, but I am definitely the first to report that it's no longer fenced-in, the stones are free to ramble though it would be a shame if they did. Another bonus was finding it without any difficulty so quite why Julian says 'needs an OS map' only he knows. I didn't even need a satnav in following the signposted minor road from Alyth to Bridge of Cally through Simpson's Farm shortly after which the copse noted in previous TMA pics shows up on the right. There's a handy verge to park on and then it's a short walk up the slight slope, turn right through the copse and hey presto, there it is. The views down to the Siddlaw Hills are tremendous, it's a great setting in some very verdant countryside.

Tordarroch (Clava Cairn)

Grrrr....! It's happened again. After somehow failing four years ago to locate the turning off the B-whatever it is this time I take a chance despite the 'road ahead closed' sign and as soon as I spot the small whitewashed church to my left I know I'm in the right place so I park there rather than risk driving on and finding my way barred at a tight turning-spot in this narrow lane. I soon see the monument away to my right but between it and me is a field containing what looks like a very large Highland bull. Fortunately by walking on a bit I find a gate into another field free of cattle and by following the right-hand edge (yes, I had read Gladman's very helpful fieldnotes) I attain my objective. It's horrendously overgrown (cf Torbreck/Lundin Farm/Gunnerkeld/Lamlash of my previous experience) as well as too-tightly fenced-in but I try hard to rein in any disappointment. I don't necessarily want every site I visit to be meticulously tended but it's just hard to reconcile what I'm looking at with the expectations garnered from most of the pictures posted here. Ah well, I'm pleased to have seen it but I leave with the wish that the landowner could spare a bit of effort better to maintain this precious relic.

Torbreck (Stone Circle)

Why is it that I look at the pictures of circles on this website but then what I actually encounter sometimes ends up looking quite different? I'm thinking Lundin Farm, Lamlash and Gunnerkeld to name but three and now here's another one, the reason being the same in all four cases, namely that they've all turned out to be much more overgrown in the flesh (so to speak) than on the screen. I guess I've just been unlucky in each case, the respective custodians of the circles just not having got round lately to a bit of cutting back of the shrubbery/undergrowth and that's a particular shame in the case of this delightful little ring upon whose merits others have better held forth than I can probably manage. It's also particularly surprising given the care which has obviously been lavished on cultivating the field in which it stands on its little mound, a local walker who I spent a few minutes chatting with aptly describing the surrounding area as being populated by 'The Good Life' types with much evidence of small-scale self-sufficiency going on. Anyway, it's still well worth a visit and I daresay if I come back again I'll find it shorn of all its encroaching foliage.

Bryn Cader Faner (Cairn(s))

I thought I'd seen them all, all of the sites with that unmistakable 'wow' factor; Brodgar, Callanish, Machrie Moor, Pobhuill Finn, Swinside, we all know them, but then I came here and was blown away all over again, and not by the wind since I had the enviable good fortune to arrive on the warmest and sunniest day of the year so far. Those old weather Gods were smiling on me again; the forecast four days beforehand was so unpropitious (the symbol with a dark cloud and two drops of rain for the whole day) that I foresaw myself having to give it a miss but gradually it improved until I knew that I was going to be blessed with fine weather to make what I anticipated was going to be a bit of a hike. Previous fieldnotes seem to presume a knowledge of the site or an easy competence in map/landscape reading, skills with which I'm totally unfamiliar so although it's pretty obvious from the OS map where it is and how to get there I was still anxious about finding it without more precise guidance. How windy and narrow is the road? Is it easy to park at the end? Is there room to turn round? These are the sorts of questions I want answers to before I set off. Ok, so here's my take; you follow the B4573 through the centre of Harlech until just before it veers left to rejoin the A496; there's a right turn which should be signposted 'Eisingrug' but isn't. Follow that until you reach said hamlet where there's a sign pointing left to Maes-y-neuadd. Take that turning and then almost immediately turn right on to a very narrow single-track road marked as a dead-end. This winds slowly upwards with no real passing-places but eventually arrives at a grassy space just before an open gate with room to park half a dozen or so cars. It would be tempting to take the track just ahead of you but that simply leads to the farm; the correct one is to the right (ie behind you if you've parked on the right) and that eventually goes round in a rough semi-circle until you arrive at a gate with a footpath sign. Although the map shows a path going to the left as the one that leads to the circle, on the ground it's not that apparent with the terrain very churned-up so I followed what I assumed must be the path only to find myself arriving at the little lake Llyn Eiddew-bach. Possibly others have made the same mistake as I was able to make out a reasonably-trodden path that then veered to the left across the bogs and brought me on to the correct path leading directly to the circle. You see it from a fair way away so it's a genuinely thrilling approach. When I got there I was puzzled; in my 'Circles Of Stone' book from 1999 Burl describes it as having been vandalised by 'licentious soldiery' in WW2 with only 15 stones standing on one arc but I counted 26 or so making a virtually complete circle. Has it been restored in the intervening period? Maybe I'm just misunderstanding his description but, whatever, it's stupendously well-sited and unique.
The walk's about half an hour each way; as others have observed, it's tremendously squelchy but so well worth the effort. I went on to see Harlech Circle, Argoth and Diffryn Ardudwy, all wonderful in their own ways but it was the buzz of visiting this memorable monument that stayed with me all day.

Leys of Marlee (Stone Circle)

Who would have thought that a six-stone ring bisected by a road could possess such an aura? Driving through it to park in the nearby driveway to whatever facility that is I wasn't at all sure about it but then walking back along the road for a closer look I just thought 'Wow!' It probably helped that the stones and surrounding ground, trees and foliage were all encrusted with frost lending the whole site a wonderful silvery sheen but even so this re-jigged ring has atmosphere in abundance. Yes, the traffic races through it but it's hardly a steady stream and somehow you just stop noticing the cars and vans, taking care of course not to linger in the middle when something's approaching. Being so easy to find and requiring so little effort this is definitely one not to be missed if you're in the vicinity.

Lundin Farm (Stone Circle)

You know that slight sense of disappointment when you arrive at a site and it doesn't look quite like it does in all the photos you've seen? Well, I got that here where the mound is a lot more overgrown than I expected and the two smaller stones in particular consequently somewhat obscured by shrubbery making photography difficult from some angles. But then..... I looked at it afresh, bathed as it was in beautiful golden late-afternoon autumnal sunshine (where I'd been racing to arrive before the sun dipped below the horizon) and saw it for what it is, a unique setting with that tree sprouting in the middle, enough leaves still on the branches to enhance the picture, especially with the backdrop of the frost-covered landscape, the temperature having failed to climb above -2 all day. Disappointment swiftly changed to enchantment and I sat for 15/20 minutes lapping it up until the sun slipped behind the hills and it suddenly started feeling very cold.

Stannon (Stone Circle)

Not really much to add what others have said about this circle save to observe that for once the TMA 'needs an OS map' direction couldn't be more appropriate, not because you have to trek across miles of trackless moorland but because getting to it involves driving down seemingly-endless miles of twisty Cornish single-track roads with high hedges, erratic signposting at junctions and lots of potential for wrong turns. Leaving the A30 behind at Bodmin I found myself almost literally driving back into the past, St Breward the nearest and biggest settlement presenting as a village from my 1930s Shell Guide. I was very relieved at finally emerging on to the moor and spotting the abandoned china clay works.
I loved it, blessed as I was by sunshine and lack of wind but wasn't tempted to venture on to Louden Hill or Fernacre, suspecting that neither of them could add to what I was seeing and experiencing at this site. Noticing the number of fallen stones did prompt some reflection on that old chestnut of mine, namely the extent to which some restoration work could tastefully be carried out, reminding myself again of how the careful re-erection of three fallen uprights at Boskednan transformed that site. There were a few of the fallen stones equivalent in size to the larger ones in the circle and I wondered at how the aspect of the monument might be 'enhanced' (for want of a better word) by them being stood up again. I know that this is a hoary old subject probably already debated to death before I started contributing to TMA but I wonder if the same thought has struck anyone else who's visited this splendid ring.

Cashtal yn Ard (Chambered Cairn)

Helpfully signposted off the A2 in the village of Glen Mona this is easy to find though the single-track road is very narrow with few passing-places and there's a ford to cross before the final section. As Kammer says, parking is tight; given that I'd found a postcard with a picture of the monument, and it's clearly the biggest of its kind on the island, I had expected a layby at least but hey, I'm not complaining, I'm just glad to have made it here before the rain starts with the wind whistling through the high branches in the copse of tall trees nearby lending the site an appropriately ethereal atmosphere. My only real gripe is that the surrounding fence is just a little too close (shades of Torhousekie and Cairnholy in Galloway), it would be nicer if the site were a bit more open like its better-preserved English brethren at West Kennet and Wayland's Smithy. I'd had the same feeling earlier in the day at The Mull Circle, another fine monument seeming just a tad hemmed-in by its fence.

Burn Moor Complex

Once more the weather Gods smile on me; looking at the forecast a few days earlier it was so grim I toyed with the notion of postponing my visit planned a couple of months beforehand. I'm so glad I didn't; to echo previous comments, and allowing for Julian's need to limit the number of sites featured in TMA, I still can't quite understand why this amazing complex didn't make the cut. To employ a term I'm sure he'd approve of, it's a veritable megalithic mindfuck of a place, the moorland scattered with cairns and circles in various states of ruination/preservation. On this wondrously sunny afternoon I can't think of anywhere better to be, Scafell Pike looming majestically over the wide sweep of the landscape within which these monuments sit. With my customary inability to read a map correctly I not only take the wrong (and very steep) left-hand route up the hillside (instead of the gentler path to the right of the gate out of Boot) but also go left instead of right at the top, certain that the circles lie in that direction. When fruitless encounters with bits of rock sticking randomly out of the moorland scrub fail to produce any sighting of the object(s) of my quest, I take heed of the advice given to me by the proprietor of The Boot Inn to 'get up on one of the lumps and bumps' and spot what just HAS to be a stone circle way off in the distance to the east. The nearer I get, the more it reveals itself as White Moss, a beautiful little circle, much-better preserved than I'd hoped and the perfect introduction to this wonderful complex. It reminds me very much of Machrie Moor albeit without the big showstopping monoliths that lend that site its aura; here, that's provided by the stupendous views, the setting of the circles operating as a focal point for the aforementioned Scafell Pike and other surrounding hills (cf Castlerigg). To my eyes it looks very much as if the line of sight through White Moss and its more ruined companion is designed to draw your eyes towards the gap through which the sea is visible far away to the west. Brat's Hill is big circumference-wise even though its many stones are smallish and might be less visible later in the summer when the scrub's grown a bit more. The two Low Longrigg circles are a bit more battered and not immediately easy to spot but do provide a wonderful vantage point for views back towards the others. I end up spending a couple of hours wandering backwards and forwards between all the circles, the only person in this vast landscape, thrilled to bits and marvelling at my good fortune in being able to enjoy it in such perfect conditions. I leave with huge reluctance and a fervent desire to communicate the majesty of this site to the world at large. If you've thought about going but haven't got round to it yet, start making plans now, you won't regret it. It's not the most accessible of sites but the effort required isn't that great when set against the pleasure to be gained.

Uneval (Chambered Cairn)

I definitely agree with Gladman that Julian's fieldnote in TMA doesn't give a true sense of the effort required to reach this splendid site but then I think the route Julian took is shorter than Gladman's suggestion albeit, as I discovered, the advantage gained in terms of distance is offset by having to negotiate a fence. Sitting in the nice cafe at Cladach Chirceboist Uneval (the hill) is prominently visible directly in front of you in a north-easterly direction. It looks a darn sight nearer than it does from the starting-point suggested by Gladman which I originally drove up to. Even though it was a fine sunny day and hadn't (I believe) rained for over a week I still didn't fancy trekking across such a wide expanse of boggy terrain so wondered if I could get to it from the main road (the A865) instead. Driving back down towards the cafe I spotted an open gate on the left, about 150 yards before the cafe, and what appeared to be an abandoned single-track road leading to nowhere. Deciding against driving up this (basically it's just loose gravel, rocks and ruts and pits with nowhere to turn which might be very awkward if it's wet) I parked up and set off walking. Re-reading TMA on my return I see Julian says 'the road soon disappears' so assume he must have gone this way and indeed after about three-quarters of a mile or so it ends in a mass of rubble. At this point Uneval is at about two o'clock so off I traipsed over the bog until I came up to Loch Fada and saw that along the top of it, cutting off the route to Uneval, ran a fence, not a particularly forbidding one but still topped with a couple of strands of barbed wire. Getting over it wasn't a huge deal; I'm a month shy of 60 and still reasonably agile so it shouldn't pose most people any great problem. From then on it was steadily uphill through the bog and gorse, still something of a slog but much less so than if you'd come all the way from Gladman's starting-point. Either way it's well worth the trip, as much for the monument itself as for the stupendous views, all the better for being seen in such piercingly clear light. The people that built this really had an eye for its positioning in the landscape.
I was lucky; in less favourable conditions, both underfoot and overhead, this wouldn't have been half so enjoyable but don't be put off treating yourself to what Julian aptly describes as 'the megalithic chaos' of this wonderful place. Walking back to the car I felt extremely pleased with myself, equivalent to when I made the long hike to White Moor on Dartmoor a couple of years ago. I'd reckon on about 45mins/an hour each way but be warned, there is a lot of bog and a couple of small streams around Loch Fada. I went in up to my calves a couple of times but then I walk too fast and perhaps take less care than I should. The road is shown on the OS map; I think it's the one that goes to the left of Loch Fhaing Bhuidhe though once I'd set off walking I couldn't get it out to check because the wind was too strong so I just kept my eyes glued on Uneval and headed in that direction.

Barbrook II (Stone Circle)

A lowering sky over the moor, standing at Barbrook 1 looking upwards wondering if it's going to brighten up, thought I'd kill some time by going in search of the other monuments dotted about which I hadn't planned on visiting (why?). Followed the track past a couple of cairns and then whoah, there it is, something quite unique, got my pulse going. I'd definitely rate it as more worth the trip than Barbrook 1, charming though that little circle is. Reading the previous fieldnotes afterwards had me thinking again about the whole 'to restore or not to restore' conundrum and in this case the argument comes firmly down on the 'restore' side. As I sat there marveling at it the clouds shifted, the sun poked through and I skipped back down to Barbrook 1 feeling very pleased with myself.

Trefignath (Chambered Cairn)

Although I haven't really got much to add (in descriptive terms, at least) to previous posts I still feel as if I should say something about how the ruined magnificence of this majestic monument somehow transcends the godawfulness of its current setting, so much worse now than Julian's description in TMA as noted by my predecessors. As if the proximity of the A55 (new since Julian's notes) and the aluminium plant wasn't bad enough, now in the field next to it you have an apparently abandoned development site loaded with rubble etc; with no signs to guide me, I parked on the stump of a road presumably intended originally to lead into whatever was going to be built there, guessing that I must be somewhere near the monument which I then espied about 60/70 yards away to my right through a gap in the trees. It's impossible to envisage just how prominent it must have been when constructed but now it feels sadly marooned in its wasteland although its power to enthral is amazingly undimmed.

The Twelve Apostles of Ilkley Moor (Stone Circle)

The mistaken impression I got from most of the previous fieldnotes is that (a) it's a bit of a slog getting to the stones and (b) they're not that easy to find. As someone famous for misreading even the simplest of maps/directions and blithely walking past circles standing in plain sight I thus approached my visit to this one with some trepidation. Well, all I can say after my visit is that this was one of the easiest I've made so I thought I'd set out my directions in the hope they'll inspire others to follow because the Twelve Apostles are well worth spending half an hour with, almost for the views alone; were those really the dishes of the Fylingdales early-warning (or whatever they're used for now) station gleaming whitely in the far distance off the the north-east?
So; if you're coming by car, drive into Ilkley town centre then follow the sign for 'Ilkley Moor' which leads to a turning signposted 'Cow and Calf Rocks.' Follow this all the way to the cafe sited under said rocks where you can park. Unless you want to mingle with all the sightseers on the rocks, take the rougher left-hand path which goes behind them and stay on this until you reach the Backstone Beck. On crossing, again take the rougher left-hand path; although this climbs more steeply it cuts a large corner off the route you would otherwise follow in taking the lower, smoother path until it intersects with the Dales High Way. When you reach the High Way by the higher path you simply turn left on to it and keep going until you reach the stones; after crossing another small beck the path is laid out in large flagstones so your feet won't even get wet. I reckon it's a mile/mile and a half at most.
It's a very evocative spot, unusual in that you can see urban areas to north, south and east yet you're still in the sort of seclusion that only a moorland site can offer. Don't expect to have the stones all to yourself especially at weekends, judging by the number of walkers about on the Sunday afternoon of my visit though I still got twenty minutes; it's probably less busy during the week.
They're a quirky little group, sitting in their clearing surrounded by gorse and heather. I imagine it could get quite dark up there on a day when the clouds are low and the rain horizontal but on a pleasantly bright mid-September afternoon the moor was a fine place to be and I left the stones uplifted and ready for the two-hundred-mile drive back to London.

Down Tor (Stone Row / Alignment)

I've parked in the carpark at the eastern end of Burrator reservoir as directed and set off down the main path with the plantation on my right. After passing a picnic area with a ruined house there's a path to the left up through the bracken emerging out on to the moor and a steady climb up to the top of Down Tor. The views are fantastic, Sheeps Tor away to the southwest, and the sky's a mix of bright blue and high, fluffy clouds, some darker ones threatening the forecast rain which mercifully doesn't come. I expect to see the circle and row from the top of the tor but then remember the sweetcheat's note and put my disappointment on hold, cresting the next rise and there it is, majestically isolated in this epic landscape.
I'm not big on the tecnicalities of these sites, it's all about atmosphere for me and this place has it in shedloads. The big stone at the end of the row abutting the circle really is a big beast and looks to have been dressed on its south-facing side, so smoothly does it present itself to the circle. I walk to the end of the row and back, a permanent smile fixed on my face and get twenty minutes to myself before someone else hoves into view so I decide to leave it to him, exchanging appreciation as I pass. He echoes Greywether's comment about it being sufficiently remote to deter visits from most of those parked back at the reservoir, but I pass six more people heading towards it as I climb back up Down Tor. The views remain stunning and I face the prospect of the long drive back to London with spirits lifted.

Yellowmead Multiple Stone Circle

A warning to those like myself who have difficulty in interpreting OS maps or are basically a bit thick about following directions. In the heading this site is said to be also known as 'Piskie House'. On the OS map the name 'Piskie House' appears next to Sheepstor itself whereas the circle is described simply as 'cairn circles'. This misled me into thinking that what I was looking for was right next to Sheepstor despite the contrary visual evidence of the photos posted and what others have said in their fieldnotes. I wasted a good hour fruitlessly searching for it in the wrong place, having walked within about 30 yards of it at one point whilst looking in the opposite direction. I can't find it being named 'Piskie House' in any other book I've got. Burl makes it clear that refers to 'a long narrow cave concealed under a granite overhang'.
Anyway, I found it in the end and can happily echo all that others have said about this site.

Le Grand Dolmen de Bagneux (Burial Chamber)

One of the more curious megalithic sites I've visited but well worth a detour to see if (as I happened to be last week) you're in the Loire Valley, specifically in the vicinity of Saumur. It's very easy to find, no tramping around the countryside with an OS map,all you need is a good road map of the area. It's in the suburb of Bagneux, a left turn just off the D960, the main road going south out of town towards Montreuil-Bellay, well signposted. Truth to tell, the bar/restaurant in the garden of which it's situated struck me as a bit rundown with only one old local perched on a stool as I walked in. I had expected to pay an entrance fee to see the monument but as there was no-one behind the bar I stepped through the plastic curtain leading to the garden and there it was, a big rectangular structure sitting in the shade of the surrounding trees. It's had some restoration work with concrete blocks added to support the entrance but they're hidden behind one of the 'porch' slabs and don't detract from its aura. There's no need to stoop as you go in and I could stand to my full height. The car parked by the side would have spoiled my photos but it was moved by the proprietaire after she had demanded 4 Euros from me and I had bought a drink which seemed the proper thing to do, the Kronenbourg slipping down very pleasantly as I took my pictures. It's genuinely impressive in its incongruously eccentric location, the big capstones resting evenly on the walls. There's some homemade information boards and a book of old prints/postcards showing how it once stood in open countryside which makes its survival in such good condition in its present setting all the more remarkable. Well worth 15/20 minutes of your time if you're in the area and fancy an alternative to a chateau.

Lamlash (Stone Circle)

Well, three years on there's no improvement; this struck me as one of the loneliest circles I've visited despite being only a few yards from the main road. I also managed to miss it at first (following my usual pattern) but with careful scrutiny was able to make out a path that was just trodden enough to guide me through the undergrowth as well as indicating that it does receive some visits. I was surprised to find it so overgrown when on the ferry coming over there was a cartoon-type map of the island with a symbol of three monoliths marking its spot hence I expected a sign and a cleared location. I'm not saying I wanted it surrounded by a neat little fence a la Torrylin or Auchgallon but surely it wouldn't take much effort for the local authority or Scotish Heritage or whoever to cut back the bracken on a regular basis so we could see what's left of the circle as its makers intended. I'm glad I went but left feeling a little sorry for it.

White Moor Stone Circle

Whilst not criticising the directions given by previous contributors, as someone who nearly always manages to misread even the simplest of OS maps and doesn't go in for GPS-type devices, I thought that I could share my experience of visiting this wonderful circle last Saturday in the hope that future searchers might be aided in locating it. Even though I've driven all the way from London to visit the sites on Lewis and Orkney, somehow arriving at this site after trekking across what seemed like three or four miles of moorland struck me as a much greater endeavour. Ok, the weather was blissful and the ground underfoot mostly dry, but there were still some tricky sections requiring careful navigation around boggy patches where the path seemed to disappear.
The main thing for me was locating a suitable starting-point for the walk. A local recommended parking in a layby near the entrance to Olditch Farm halfway between two bridle-paths both of which lead up to the moor. A note about the layby; it's on the left as you drive up from the south to Sticklepath but you could go by without seeing it; you have to reverse into it ('you turn in on yourself' the local had helpfully observed).
The southerly bridlepath (ie the one behind you as you park which we came back on) leads up to a point not far from Cosdon Hill stone rows from which the path then goes all the way to the circle, with necessary diversions round the boggiest bits. Even though it had been dry recently, sections of the initial path up to the moor were still very wet whereas the northerly bridlepath was much drier and it brings you out on to a path which leads up to the top of Cosdon Hill from which you can go straight down to the circle (in theory; we missed the top, following some other walkers, and ended up going down the side of the hill to the stone rows and thence to the circle). Both bridlepaths involve steady uphill climbs, not too strenuous but
with stops and diversions it was about two/two and a half hours each way, echoing what others have said.
The first sighting, coming over the shoulder of Little Hound Tor ( after another unplanned diversion off the path to avoid some bogs) and seeing the outlier first, was a genuinely exhilarating moment and if like me you're a bit misanthropic about sharing your visits to sites like this with others (apart from your own companions) then you're unlikely to be too worried about intruders at this place.
Magical, everything I wanted and more.
I blame Traffic. What did 'Rollright Stones' mean? Once I found out I wanted to know more but apart from the obvious sites, including the Rollrights themselves, I didn't know anything about all the others. Then along came Mr Cope and his wonderful book and I haven't looked back since. My eldest daughter getting a place at Edinburgh University 2 years ago opened a gateway to the Highlands and Islands, visits to her being combined with trips to places I'd thought were just too far away. I'm the world's worst OS map-reader but really enjoy finding these magical places, preferably solo at first though I love nothing more than introducing them to friends and family.

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