|26 September 2009
What's quite a lot like Cornwall, but with fewer people, nicer cheese, empty roads, better weather and bigger megaliths? Brittany, of course!
The very far west of Brittany, Finistere, literally 'Land's End', is the place to find giants. Specifically, giant menhirs. After a while, any menhir smaller than about four metres tall, which anywhere else in the world would impress you, in Finistere you find yourself thinking 'Pah, what a pathetic tiddler.' Size matters around these parts.
We started with Lannoulouarn menhir.
At six and half metres tall with a rounded profile this monster stands proud on a little rise of land surrounded by huge fields, which today are inhabited by a nervous flock of partridges which exploded noisily out of the field next to it.
You can drive right up to it, the lane runs right past it.
Just east of the little town of Porspoder and you enter the land of the giants where around every corner, there seems to be another monster menhir. Take Kerhouezel…
The menhir of Kerhouezel has many names. I've also seen it called Kerdelvas, and in our 1984 edition of 'Megalithic Brittany' Aubrey Burl calls it Kerreneur. Well, whatever it's called it's another six and half metre whopper, very slim with four rounded sides and a gracefully tapering top.
And then, just a couple of kilometres away there is a pair.
The pair of menhirs at a fork in the road near St Denec are each individually relatively small for round here. One measures 3.2m, and the second 3.1m, but add that up and you have a total befitting of Finsterian menhirs! Small and pointy, they reminded us strongly of The Pipers
. There's also a fallen one of a measly 2.7ms, so once this was almost certainly an alignment.
If you like a nice shapely pair, but want them a bit bigger than St Denec, drive a little way on to find the menhirs Mesdoun.
This is a very nice pair of menhirs standing 60ms apart in the same field. One measures 4ms and the second 3.9ms. Slender, finely and evenly shaped all the way to the top, like most of the menhirs here, each one seems to have four distinct sides.
Less than 500ms away from the menhirs Mesdoun, I spotted another 'dolmen'sign at the roadside. After having seen what was beginning to feel like a million menhirs in a matter of minutes (such is their frequency) the sight of a dolmen was too good to miss.There are so many monuments round here that not all, indeed not even 50%, of them are marked on the map, so we got into the habit of reading every road sign for clues. This was the Poulyot dolmen.
But back to the menhirs. We'd deliberately left seeing the biggest until last and now it was time to face the monsters. The biggest pair of all, in fact!
Kergadiou menhirs are a pair: the standing one (or should I say towering?) is 8.75ms tall and an utter beast! Some books say it's the second tallest menhir in Brittany.
Eighty metres away in the same field, its partially fallen twin is no less impressive. Lying like a beached whale at perhaps 25 degrees, like a giant sundial, it is an unbelievable 11ms long - 11ms! It is less of a menhir and more of a runway on an aircraft carrier. It simply invites you to run up its flat surface and stand on the summit from where there's a good 4m drop to the ground.
And yet the Kerdagiou menhirs are not the tallest still standing. That title goes to the mighty Kerloas menhir which is only a few kms away.
Oh la la, it's big. Very big. They say the tallest still standing menhir in the world. And I can believe it. It's 9.5ms, for goodness sake! That's 31 feet in old money. And it used to be taller still! A lightning strike a couple of centuries ago knocked 2ms off the top apparently. Quite apart from its sheer dizzying height, it is a curious shape; not even and slender like most of the menhirs, but wider than it is thick.
It has two curious sticky-outy hemispherical lumps carved on either side, each about the size of half a football. Each is at about belly height. I could well imagine superstitious people wanting to increase their fecundity coming to the menhir to rub their abdomens on the lumps in the hope of getting babies. They'd have been better off just having sex…
It had been an Obelix sort of a day.