The last day of our holiday (24.6.2011) and the weather is not exactly promising - much as it has been throughout really! We haven't managed to do the usual open-top bus tour around the peninsula yet, so decide to brave the forecast and go for it, combining with a fleeting stop-off at The Pipers and Merry Maidens.
The number 1 bus (the closed top double decker) drops us near Boleigh Farm, and it's a quick hop over the gate to see the Pipers. Although we pass them often, this will be the first actual visit for over 10 years. My, haven't they grown? Well no actually. I think I've just got smaller.
These are the whoppingest standing stones you could wish for, despite the lean on the NE stone it's still a giant. The granite is marked with various vertical cracks and shows no sign of having been worked or shaped. They are what they are, these two.
If it's necessary to play favourites, I prefer the SW stone, as it has a nice chunky-from-one-side/pointy-from-the-other aspect to it.
Sadly it starts to rain while we're here, so we head back onto the road for the short walk round to Merry Maidens...
These beasts are MASSIVE. Must be at least 12ft high and standing about 100 metres apart in separate fields. Access is easy. Park in entrance to field on the B3315. The first (slightly larger) stone is 50 metres from the entrance into a flat but muddy field. Just before the stone is a gate to your right which gives access to the field in which the other stone stands. As I pondered these two stones a jet flew overhead - I bet these two stones could tell a tale or two?! Definitely worth stopping for a look when visiting the Merry Maidens.
A few minutes' walk from the Fogou, immediately after passing the wretched little hamlet of Boleigh, brings the tourist to the two remarkable stones called the Pipers; giant musicians turned into stone for playing on the sabbath to the dance at which the Merry Maidens were similarly transformed.
The pipers are two huge pillars of granite, about three hundred yards asunder, and are conspicuous objects in the surrounding locality. Another tradition reports that they mark the site of a final victory obtained by Athelstan over the Cornishmen; but, unfortunately for the probability of this, there is no good evidence to show that he was ever in this county.
They are figured in Borlase, p. 164. Sometimes they are called the Giant's Rocks, and are stated to be the sepulchral memorials of two giants; and occasionally the Giant's Grave, as if they were the head and foot stones of the sepulchre of one giant.
Although in most cases the gigantic standing stones wherever found, mark the site of graves, this is not invariably the case, for of "the Pipers," two huge Cornish monoliths, Mr Borlase says he could find no trace of a sepulchral origin after careful examination. These "Pipers," which measure 15 feet and 13 feet 6 inches in height, stand 85 yards apart, pointing north-east and south-west, and about 260 yards in the latter direction lies the circle called the Nine Maidens, or popularly the Dance (Dawns) Maidens, with which they are traditionally associated, since the legend says the DAnce Maidens were girls turned into stone for dancing on Sunday, the "Pipers" having been the musicians on that memorable occasion.
Another tradition makes these stones to mark the position occupied by the Kings Howel and Athelstane who here fought a great battle.
p 148 in
Notes on Some Cornish and Irish Pre-Historic Monuments.
A. W. Buckland
The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. 9. (1880), pp. 146-166.
There is a very basic campsite just over the hedge from the Pipers. Just a field and a toilet plus shower. All you need really. Penzance is not too far away if you do need anything and you have the whole of Penwith to explore close at hand.
If you do find you have some spare time after visiting all the sites from TMA then just take a walk along the coast path from Penberth Cove or Lamorna to St Loy's Cove where you will find a tea shop/Cafe that serves wonderful home grown food.
Other places worth visiting include Porthgwarra right down on the South West tip where caves have been cut through the cliffs to reachthe beach and as you head west round the headland you come across a giant hole and some of the most dramatic cliffs in Cornwall.
And don't go to Lands End!