On our motohoming odyssey we saw more than twenty sites but this was the most spectacular. The car park was nigh on full because of a summer fayre or something (games, stalls, etc)
Yep there was lots of local people there but because they live with this Loire type dolmen they can almost ignore it and get on with the party. It was a beautiful summers afternoon the light shone through the leaves in that wonderful way that it does and all was perfect.
The entrance is amazing, the lintel is perfectly horizontal and low enough to make you stoop or bow to enter but then the capstones soar way above you. No finds of any kind were found here no burials or anything which just deepens the mystery surrounding this place. The entrance faces the mid-winter solstice
Fifteen miles or so to the south east of the city of Rennes, near Essé is one of France's most famous prehistoric monuments: the super-sized La Roche-aux-Fées.
Well-signposted from the main roads and now with its own small village close by, this colossal construction is more megalithic hall than over-sized allée couverte. Indeed, the size of its groundplan is pretty much the same size as the ground plan of our house.
We've all seen pictures in guidebooks and on the telly of famous iconic buildings throughout the world; the Taj Mahal, the Alhambra Palace, the Giza Pyramids, Angkor Wat, and so on. But just like all those places, the familiarity with them doesn't lessen the impact when you stand face-to-face with them.
And so it was for me at La Roche-aux-Fées on this miserable chucking-it-down April day. It is jaw-droppingly vast; made up of 40 giant slabs of purple cambrian schist, obtained from at least 5kms away. Its six gigantic capstones weigh between 40 to 50 tonnes each. Surely this wasn't only ever a tomb? Today it wasn't.
Today it served as a wonderful and roomy shelter from the pelting rain, a place for me to sit, think quietly and sketch; have a cuppa and feel its stones enclose me and protect from the dreary outside world.
The large car park suggests hundreds of visitors come here in good weather but today it was almost entirely ours. I wasn't going to be rushed here. Feeling safe and dry inside, I got out my paints and make a little sketch. I loved the way the damp stones glistened in the wet and made the massive slabs hanging above my head seem to loom even larger still.
A hunter was pursuing a deer one day. Over hill and dale he chased, never getting any nearer to it, although he repeatedly galloped faster. At last, drawing his bow, he shot an arrow at it, exclaiming, "Should you be the devil himself I will pursue thee till eternity."
The deer struck by the arrow halted at the entrance of the dolmen and turned into a maiden of dazzling beauty.
"Have thee thy wish," she cried. "Thou shalt hunt for ever."
She vanished and the huntsman, it is said, may still be seen careering madly on a white horse, bow in hand, after an invisible quarry.
Another story relates to the days of Druidism.
It was the custom of this particular sect of Druids to offer up to the sun human sacrifices two or three times a year. Usually the victims were criminals or prisoners captured in war.
On one occasion the larder of victims was bare - not a criminal, not a prisoner of war. One of the priestesses who did the butchering was a young and lovely girl.
"No victims," she said. "Then you shall have my youngest brother."
Screaming with horror the boy was placed on a flat altar stone in the mouth of the dolmen and the priestess sharpened her knife in anticipation of the cruel deed entrusted to her.
The boy pleaded in vain for his life.
"Were you God himself I would kill thee," his sister said.
Just as she was about to plunge her knife into his helpless body, he cursed her.
"May your soul be doomed to haunt this spot for ever," he cried.
Quite unmoved, she ripped his stomach open and then calmly and slowly cut his throat.
She did not survive him long. For her impious words and in fulfilment of his curse she was doomed to haunt for ever the Fairy Rock.
Tradition also has it that round the rock, with hands clasped, lovely fairy girls used to dance and sing nightly, when the moon was full and the stars shone brightly. On one occasion a country swain stood watching them and was so enraptured that he knelt down and worshipped them.
"Go home," they cried, "and see what awaits there."
He tore himself reluctantly away, and went home to find to his great surprise, a large box full of gold coins, a gift from the fairies. He was a rich man.
He spent his money quickly and when it was all gone, he visited the Fairy Rock night after night, but he never saw the fairies again.
The Roche aux Fées is about six leagues S.E. of Rennes, and a mile and a half S. of Esse, and is situated in a field which takes its name from the monument, and is called the field of the Roche aux Fees..
.. Formerly a forest surrounded it. It was at one time preserved with great care; but since the revolution, much injury has been done to it by the wanton folly of the peasantry, who imagined that a treasure lay buried under it.
Yeah, yeah, those awful revolutionary peasants. p85 of the Foreign Quarterly Review v26 (1840/1).
The eponymous fées are of course the Brittany fairies - and we shouldn't forget their husbands, the poulpicans.