The Modern Antiquarian. Ancient Sites, Stone Circles, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic Mysteries

Miscellaneous Posts by GLADMAN

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Cadair Fawr (South) (Cairn(s))

These two upland cairns stand, as you'll probably guess from the title, immediately below and more or less to the south of Cadair Fawr.

According to Coflein the northern of the pair [at SN97721199] "measures 7.5m in diameter and 0.3m high, and consists of loose rubble consolidated around the perimeter". So, not exactly overwhelming in scale, then. But substantial enough. For me, however, the monument is given a massive injection of vibe by having been located between two small shake holes, the apparent - oh, come on! - association of Bronze Age monuments with such natural landscape phenomena quite a local speciality, so it would seem.

The second cairn lies at SN97791191 and "measures 7.1m (E-W) by 6.1m and 0.3m high. It is composed of loose unsorted stones and small boulders." [both quotes DKL/DJP 3.86].

These cairns would suffice as the focal points of specific visits in most areas, I guess. However such are the treasures in the locale that.... well, there you are.

Cefn Sychbant (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

Cefn Sychbant East

Unfortunately fast approaching darkness ensured I did not have time to do this site justice.... consequently I left it - together with a neighbour further east at SN98921108 - for another day.

Set to the approx north-east of the much larger monument at SN98551095, the exact form appears uncertain. According to Coflein the monument is:

"...a grass-grown stony ring bank 0.3m high, 1.2m wide...diameter of about 10.5 to 11.5m. There is slight evidence for an inner kerb of larger stones. In the 1950s 'a wrecked central cist' revealed a sandstone disk 4cm in diameter and 1cm thick, now in the National Museum" [David Leighton, RCAHMW, Jan 1983].

As for the cairn located at SN98921108:

"...defined by two stony arcuate banks on the east and west separated by a distance of 10m and suggesting an overall diameter of 15.4m. The banks are 2m-3m wide and 0.25m high.... On the cairn’s outside west edge is a embedded a thick sandstone slab, perhaps the remains of a kerb. It is not clear if this is a remnant cairn... or a ritual monument of the ‘hengiform’ or ring cairn type...." [David Leighton, RCAHMW, 19 Oct 2010].

Graig Ddu (Y Gamriw North-East Ridge) (Cairn(s))

Travellers walking the length of Graig Ddu, Y Gamriw's north-eastern ridge, will have the pleasure of visiting a trio of relatively substantial upland cairns in a linear procession. In fact I wouldn't have minded walking all the way back to Llanwrthwl... if I could have cadged a lift back to the car. As it was I had to settle for visits to cairns I and II - back in September 2012 - before dropping steeply southward down to the road. Although on second thoughts 'settle' is hardly appropriate in the circumstances, not with the robust Y Elenydd weather patterns seeing fit to illuminate the otherwise uncompromisingly hostile sky with wondrous lightshows of indescribable intensity. Not to mention subject me to a good dowsing or three. Needless to say images and/or comment regarding cairn III would be most welcome.

Oh, the technical bit. Coflein's data are thus:

Graig Ddu I - (SN95326171): "A mountain ridge-top cairn, 12.5m by 13.4m and 0.9m high, the centrally much disturbed." [RCAHMW AP965026/66; J.Wiles 16.09.03]

Graig Ddu II - (SN95666204): "...14.9m by 13.1m and 1.0m high, having a contiguous platform, 5.0m wide and 0.3m high, on the NE." [RCAHMW AP965026/67; J.Wiles 17.09.03]

Graig Ddu III - (SN95986255): "Cairn on E edge of mountain ridge, 8.5m in diameter and 0.5m high, of which it is thought only the base remains. A modern sheepshelter occupies the NW area" [J.Wiles 23.04.02]

Y Gamriw (North) (Cairn(s))

Located a little distance below, and to the north of, Y Gamriw's summit cairn, this pair crown a NE-SE aligned ridge, complementing the sentinel monument nicely. In my opinion. There are fine views toward the stone circle (and whatever else may be there!) located in the vicinity of Crugian Bach, not to mention further afield across Y Elenydd.

According to Coflein the north-eastern (Coflein II) is
"A much disturbed cairn, 14.9m by 16.7m and 1.8m high."

The south-western (Coflein III) is "A tumbled and ill-defined cairn, 15.2m in diameter and 1.5-2.4m high, a large central crater is occupied by rough stone shelters."

[RCAHMW AP965026/65 - J.Wiles 17.09.03]

Carn Gron (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

There is a trio of cairns located upon the summit plateau of 1,774ft Carn Gron, a shapely large hill / mini-mountain a little under 4 miles to the approx north-west of Tregaron. According to Coflein:-

Summit Cairn - SN73976106:
"A round cairn, 16.5m in diameter & 1.2m high, set upon the highest point of Garn Gron, having a shelter constructed on the E side, with the NE segment having been cleared to ground level; possible cist elements are exposed at the centre"

Cairn II - SN74006108:
"A modern cairn, 5.0m in diameter & 1.8m high, is set upon the turf-covered base of an apparent earlier cairn, 9.0m in diameter"

Western Cairn - SN73786114:
"A subcircular cairn, 15m N-S by 14m & 1.2m high, set on the W summit of Garn Gron, apparently touched on its NE side by Gwys-yr-Ychen-bannog linear boundary feature; a central disturbance displays possible cist elements".

[J.Wiles 23.07.04]

Banc Cynnydd, Elenydd (Cairn(s))

The Coflein entry by J.J. Hall [8 Sept 09] notes the following:

"A low cairn, up to 0.5m high and measuring 6m north to south by 5m. Most of the cairn body is in fact very low, less than 0.2m high, but stone has been piled up to create a marker cairn... on the northern side of the monument. There is no evidence of any intrusive activity."

Yeah, I'd concur with that. Incidentally Coflein cites the cairn to be located at SN8922773383, slightly off from what I made it. Happy to be subsequently corrected.

Garn Boduan (Hillfort)

Coflein has this to say about this overwhelmingly massive Lleyn hill fort:

"Garn Boduan is a titanic hill-top enclosure, about 512m from north to south by 384m, defined by two successive and somewhat divergent stone-walled rampart circuits. Within are about 170 circular stone walled structures, generally in the region of 5.2-7.3m in diameter. Upon the highest, eastern edge, of the site is a small stone-ramparted enclosure, about 70m from north to south by 30m. Both the greater and smaller enclosures have two gates, one of each being anciently blocked. A single sherd of pottery indicates second century AD occupation." [RCAHMW, August 2011].

The siting is not as enigmatic as that enjoyed by Tre'r Ceiri across the way, despite proving a magnificent viewpoint for the whole of Lleyn; nevertheless the defences - and in situ hut circles - stand comparison with ease.

Craig y Dinas Cairnfield (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

I must confess the existence of this extensive grouping of cairns to the west of the hillfort Craig y Dinas came as a complete surprise to me, nothing being shown on either the 1:25K or 1:50K OS map. It would appear there are also numerous hut circles /settlement features in the vicinity, too.

The relevant Coflein record is apparently based upon an oblique aerial image, the size of the main cairn here (at co-ordinates I've given for the site) clearly suggestive of a prehistoric origin, as opposed to later clearance. Hopefully the ground level detail I've been able to capture collectively makes a strong supporting case for the existence of some ritual monuments set within clearance piles of undetermined age.

According to Coflein the main round cairn is:

"Stone cairn, c.9m diameter, visible on oblique cover. Probable prehist. ritual monument. Part of larger cairnfield."

As regards the cairnfield:

"Extensive cairnfield c.169mx173m (mapped) which can be traced for some 530m N/S. Likely Prehist. origins mixed with U med clearance. Open pasture gently slopes to SW."

Note also the placement of a very large cairn near of the summit of Moelfre to the approx north-east.....

Graig Gethin (Cairn(s))

Unlike the larger cairn occupying the summit of this rocky ridge (SN879867) CPAT [PRN4960] reckons this cairn probably represents additional field clearance upon an original monument:

"Poss cairn some 7m dia built around natural outcrop may be natural feature (CPAT site visit, 1978). Area now afforested site unlocated - prob destroyed (OS, 1981)....Site is now occupied by a modern clearance cairn. Probably an ancient site reused (Gibson, A M , 1998 , Prehistoric Funerary & Ritual Sites: Upper Severn Valley)."

I was actually looking for the nearby Pen-y-cerrig cairn shown on the map a little to approx north-east. However I failed to positively identify that one - make of that what you will - but stumbled upon this instead as compensation. That'll do. Some great views, too, particularly toward Pumlumon.

Carn Nant-y-Llys (Cairn(s))

At 2,005 ft Pen y Garn is the lowest of the triumvirate of Cwmdeuddwr summits exceeding 2,000ft.... although not by much, it has to be said. Overlooking the old lead mining town of Cwmystwyth to the north, the peak stands as a north-western sentinel of the 'green desert' servicing the reservoirs of Cwm Elan.... the picturesque Elan Valley.

Tucked away in its little corner of Mid Wales, Pen y Garn (you might also find it called Bryn Garw on some older maps) is not exactly one of Wales' premier mountains. Nevertheless is does possess another small piece of the Bronze Age jigsaw of this land in the form of the shattered remains of a large cairn. Sadly it has been given a right hiding through the construction of an internal 'muppet shelter'... however the footprint remains to give a good indication of former circumference. According to a bang up to date fieldnote from Coflein:

'A ruinous Bronze Age round cairn, 15m in diameter & 0.4m high, is set on the summit of Pen y Garn. Only the base of the cairn has survived, the rest of it used to create a shelter which now occupies most of its interior. Towards its north edge, between shelter and cairn edge, is set a triangulation pilar. D. Leighton & T. Driver, RCAHMW, 17 June 2013'

Forestry is encroaching upon Pen y Garn in the inexorable manner seen elsewhere.... however there are still some decent views to be had from the (remains of the) ancient cairn, the best, for my money, that of the Pumlumon skyline rising above the impressive crags of Craig Dolwen to the north. Note that I approached from Cwmystwyth itself from the south.

Dunan Diarmid, Loch Duich (Stone Fort / Dun)

Well seen from the viewpoint at Mam Ratagan, this small stone fort appears not to have survived the passage of time too well (unfortunately I did not have time to check this out conclusively owing to the unexpected excellence of Caisteal Grugaig.... maybe next time, then). Nevertheless the landscape context is first class, the enclosure crowning a rocky promontory near the far eastern shore of Loch Duich, set beneath a towering mountainscape including 'The Five Sisters of Kintail'.

According to Canmore the dun is:

'... Oval on (sic) plan, the dun measures 24.5m E-W by 16.0m N-S within a wall c. 2.5m thick, reduced to a stony scarp with a few stones of the outer face visible intermittently around the W half. A deep hollow at the modern S approach probably denotes the mutilated entrance. In the interior in the NE, is a modern enclosure, 6.0m E-W by 7.0m N-S within a wall 0.8m thick. [OS (A A) 13 June 1974]'

Dunan Diarmid is one of a quartet of ancient defensive sites in the environs of Loch Duich.... the restored castle of Eilean Donan, to the west, apparently stands upon the remnants of a vitrified enclosure, whilst Torran a'Bharraich overlooks the southern flank. Arguably the finest is the broch of Caisteal Grugaig, near Totaig, complementing Eilean Donan guarding the confluence of Loch Duich with Lochs Long and Alsh.

Loch Ederline (Crannog)

According to Canmore this attractively located crannog within beautiful Loch Ederline is:

'a tree-covered boulder mound, the dry area being c 7m in diameter at the time of survey....around 75% of the site is submerged. The diameter of the base of the stone mound is 17m, and the site is located 55m from the modern W shore of the loch' [see Cavers, M G (2003a) 'Argyll Crannog Survey (various parishes), crannog sites', Discovery Excav Scot, vol.4 Page(s): 26]

Eilean Donan (Stone Fort / Dun)

In retrospect it is pretty obvious, I guess, that such an overwhelmingly strategic location as Eilean Donan should have been occupied and fortified for as long as humankind has detemined a need for such things... it took a while for the penny to drop, however, that the castle which delights tourists by the coachload is but the latest in a long line of defensive structures to stand upon this little island. A chance viewing of the magical word 'vitrification' in an old childhood book prompted a search of the Canmore database; thus:

' A straight length of collapsed walling some 55.0m long lies close to the shoreline on the NW side of the bridge.....and loose pieces of vitrification occur amongst the debris. Despite this, however, it may be relatively modern but there is little doubt that a vitrified structure formerly occupied the island. [OS (A A) 19 June 1974]'

Surely one of the most photographed castles in Scotland, the current structure is a virtually complete restoration (although apparently more or less faithful to surviving original plans) of a 13th century castle undertaken by Lt-Col MacRae-Gilstrap between 1912-1932. By all accounts it was a massive project, the castle, garrisoned by Spanish troops supporting the 'Old Pretender' Jacobite uprising, having been pounded to oblivion by three Hanoverian frigates sailing up Loch Duich in May 1719. Proper history, that.

No doubt Eilean Donan experienced an active prehistory, too, standing at the confluence of Lochs Duich, Long and Alsh, the latter a gateway to the sea via Kyle Akin. Note that a fine broch, Caisteal Grugaig, substantial remains of which still exist, overlooks the 'meeting of the lochs' from across the water to WSW. By all accounts all but a trace of Eilean Donan's Bronze Age ancestry has been buried beneath later masonry. But, needless to say men o'war could nae sink an island.

Dun Lagaidh (Broch)

In retrospect it is clear I mistook Dun an Ruigh Ruadh - just up the road - for this. Serves me right for not having the OS map of the area or that would have been two sites for the price of one. Anyway, to get to Dun Lagaidh it appears the traveller needs to proceed to the end of the tarmac in Loggie and follow the path NW (ish). The broch commands the most narrow part of Loch Broom. Apparently.

Anna and Graham Richie (once again) supply some detail by way of my battered Oxford Archaeological Guide to Scotland; in summary in seems that excavations undertaken during the 1960's established the first phase of the site to be a large, univallate stone walled fort founded c700 BCE and then 'vitrified'. Make of that what you will. Later the eastern section of the fort became the site for a powerful, defensive roundhouse.... a broch to you or I. Or perhaps dun. Finally, sometime during the 12th century, it seems this 'broch' was upgraded to serve as the donjon (keep) of a castle, the remainder of the fort similarly upgraded to serve as the bailey. So there you are, some two millennia of human occupation. Seems 'recycling' to save the environment is actually rather old hat. We've been doing it for years.

Loch Achilty (Crannog)

This appeared to be a good example of a crannog, albeit a fair distance away from the wooded picnic area at the western end of Loch Achilty. According to the Highland HER (MHG7791) it is:

'...a tree-covered, artificial island about 80 yards from south shore of Loch Achilty. It measures 54' - 60' by 34' - 42' and stands about 2' above normal water level. It is built of evenly coursed stones, and has a regular batter, foundations measuring 79' by 59'. Timber projects from the NW, SW and east sides. [O Blundell 1913; D MacDonald, A Polson and D Brown 1931].'

The other island within the loch, Eilean Mhielidh (NH 43485702) is 'undoubtedly natural and no trace of buildings could be found on it [OS (R D) 12 July 1965]'. It is apparently not clear whether this island or the crannog is associated with a gentlemen known as MacLea Mor.

NOTE: unlike myself, don't forget to check out the nearby henge.

Beinn Na Caillich (Chambered Cairn)

Unfortunately missed these... I would say due to the somewhat misleading RCAHMS nomenclature... but that would be unfair since I was in no fit state to visit anyway back in May, following a day upon the sacred summit towering above.

To reiterate the discussion findings, note that this site has nothing to do with the great cairn crowning Beinn Na Caillich, but - according to 1:25K OS map (they are not depicted upon the 1:50k) - consists of two chambered cairns within forestry at the co-ordinates given, that is in the vicinity of the Broadford River.

I'd suggest taking the Old Corry road just outside of Broadford and, parking near the Electricity Sub Station, it would appear an audience can be gained by following the pylons beyond (to the approx south-east), keeping a little to their right. Perhaps. Might need to cross a water course, so happy hunting!

Nisbet, NE of Cow Castle (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

Sited a little way to the approx north-east of the fabulous Cow Castle upon the same ridge, this is actually a quite well defined enclosure, particularly when viewed from Langloch Knowe across the pass.

An RCAHMS record (1978) reckons the site measures 'internally about 37m by 30m' [and] 'has been enclosed originally by a boulder-faced, rubble-cored wall, probably not more than 3m thick, now represented by a low scarp or crest-line on all sides except the S and SW where it survives as a grass covered stone bank measuring 6m in maximum thickness.'

The site possesses fine views toward the large enclosure crowning nearby White Hill; unfortunately an ewe consumed by her inability to help her (presumably) dying lamb ensured I could not linger.... my presence was the last thing she needed. Thankfully the farmer arrived soon afterward to no doubt do what needed to be done.

Scotsburn Wood Cairn 3 (Chambered Cairn)

This is the cairn mentioned by Strathspey in his Scotsburn Wood East notes....

I guess most anywhere else but here the monument - described by the Highland HER as being '15.5m in diameter and 1.2m high, truncated in the S by a forestry road' (MHG14289) - might well be the objective of a primary visit. However in Scotsburn Wood it undertakes the role of a pretty substantial supporting act.

Cheers to Mr Grant for opening a shaft to this rich seam of Scottish prehistory. As is usually the case within forestry, I struggled to find anything .... but a combination of 1:25k map, compass and luck won out in the end. Persevere, for there is true vibe to be experienced at the monuments here, my friends.

Loch Borralan Crannog

According to the survey made by Assynt's 'Hidden Lives' project in Nov 2009:

'This crannog appears as a circular flat-topped island approximately 8m from the shoreline of the loch. It is covered in grass with no trees. The island was about 15m in diameter and 1m high above the water line at the time of survey. A causeway is suggested from the east side connecting to the shoreline of the loch but due to high water levels it was inaccessible and therefore not wholly visible at the time of survey. No details of construction methods were visible from the shoreline'.

Source: Text/Report/Fieldwork Report: Cavers, G & Hudson, G. 05/2010. Assynt's Hidden Lives: An archaeological survey of the the parish. AOC Archaeology Group and Historic Assynt. 01/08/2010. Digital. 13, p.71.

Graig-ddu, Black Mountains (Round Cairn)

Not shown on the OS 1:50K map, this mutilated cairn, set upon the southern flank of Graig-ddu, is nevertheless well worth seeking out if lonely, upland sites are your thang..... not only for the sublime views, but also for the shattered remnants of a cist matching those within the Cwm Bwchel cairn to the north. No doubt about this one, then.

According to Coflein:

'A round cairn, 15m in diameter and 1.5m high, having a central cist, which has produced bone fragments and pottery sherds. (source Os495card; SO22NE14) J.Wiles 04.03.03'.
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Hi, I'm Gladman... aka Citizen Cairn'd.... although, funnily enough, it states 'Robert Gladstone' upon the passport. Aside from (apparently) having an illustrious historical forebear in the 'Grand Old Man', I've a passion for attempting to understand the more prosaic lives of the prehistoric inhabitants of these British Isles, in particular through visiting the tangible remains they left behind. Yeah, every monument blows me away, but in particular those highland piles of stone with the appropriately monumental views. Visiting them, I think, helps engender a certain 'connection' - however intangible - with this land of ours, a reference point for those of us struggling to make sense of this so called 'computer world' Kraftwerk warned us was a'coming in 1981....

Suffice to say, then, that mine is not an exercise in dryly cataloguing sites for the benefit of future generations - as much as I might try I haven't yet been able to embrace altruism to that extent - but rather an attempt to try and reconcile why I am so incredibly moved by these constructions of stone and/or earth representing a time when everything was, by all accounts, literally a matter of life and death. Yeah, just as an empty house appears to retain echoes of past humanity... an illusion, perhaps, but symptomatic of the consciousness that apparently sets us apart as a species... so does the stone circle, the chambered cairn, the long barrow and the mountain top funerary cairn. We may only be able to hypothesise as to the nature of human interaction undertaken. But clearly it mattered. A lot.

I make no claims for my contributions except to state that I've done my best to relate what I've seen. Enjoying the moment always takes precedent. After all, this is not a rehearsal. The majority of my earlier images are (variable quality) scans of archive prints taken back in the days when photography was, well, 'photography', the others idiosyncratic digital attempts to capture the impossible.... 'mood', a sense of vibe ... without that false post production manipulation that has, in my opionion, so blighted the medium. I'd like to think some of them convey something of what I've felt. Likewise my opinions are those of an enthusiastic amateur lacking further state education. If you like what you see, why thank you! But please go see for yourself, make up your own mind, relate what you think, share what you experienced... do your own thing, so helping to keep the facists, communists, authoritarians and the dark shadow of organised religion from the door. As the great Ian Dury once said, 'Be inspired, be inspiring, be magnificent!' ... and thus the circle turns in on itself to go round again, as upon the great kerb stones at Bru na Boinne....

However... let's not get carried away. Steady now. In a society where computer generated fantasy is all too prevalent, where many people seem - to me - unable to even walk down the street without plugging into the 'matrix' machine, please be aware that reaching some of the more remote upland sites in the British Isles can be potentially dangerous, even life threatening, for the unprepared... or arrogant. Treat the landscape and weather with the respect they deserve (take map, compass, waterproofs etc) and you hopefully won't go far wrong. If in doubt, pop a question in the Forum. That's why Mr Cope puts up the readies to run TMA.... Thank you Julian.

So cheers... to Mr Cope for being his inspirational, confrontational self, showing that field archaeology can be FUN! - hey, who'd have thought it? my sister (the wondrous Mam Cymru) for using her female 'macro' vision to help me see the detail throughout an ongoing re-exploration of the South Walian uplands, albeit upon dodgy ankles, knees etc... to my own mam for insisting 'young men should have adventures' (that was a while back, now!).... and my Dad for unwittingly inspiring a profound love of high places. Oh, and to Aubrey Burl for those pioneering guides BC.... 'Before Cope'.

For what it's worth some of my other inspirational people are:

Charles Darwin (for his humanity... amongst, er, 'other things'... although let's not forget Wallace for forcing the great man's hand with his own magnificent contributions);

And then, in no particular order:

George Orwell (peerless essayist with the ability to change his mind); Michael Collins (things are not often black and white...); Robert Moog; Winston Churchill (for all his faults); Martin L. Gore (favourite songwriter...from just up the road!); Big Steve Chamberlain (sorely missed); Giorgio Moroder - the analogue sequencer; Richard Dawkins (much maligned - and asks for it - yet helping to carry the torch of reason during an age of devolutionary religious resurgence); Shane MacGowan (for my North Walian soundtrack... and for making Christmas that little bit more tolerable!); Sophie Scholl (words fail me); W A Mozart (ditto); Manic Street Preachers (the true spirit of South Wales, not the bleedin' misogamist male voice choirs); Nigel Kennedy; Pat Jennings; Stuart Adamson; Will Shakespeare; Kraftwerk; Harry Hill (there's only one way to find out!); Vince Newman; Claudia Brucken (proving Germans do have passion); the (Allied) generation of WW2 for making this possible; Mr Beethoven; Marc Almond; Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy; John Foxx; Christopher Hitchens; Mulder and Scully; John Le Mesurier (do you think that's wise, sir?).. and anyone who has ever asked 'Why?' - the true legacy of punk. Last but not least, Gaelic beauty Karen Matheson... 'the call is unspoken, never unheard'.

George Orwell - '...during times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act'....

Norman MacCaig - 'I took my mind a walk. Or my mind took me a walk — Whichever was the truth of it'.

Martin L. Gore - 'Like a pawn on the eternal board; Who's never quite sure what he's moved toward; I walk blindly on....'

Truman Capote - 'Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavour'.

John Lydon - 'Don't believe illusions; 'Cos too much is for real'.

Winston Churchill - 'KBO'.

My TMA Content: