Saturday 4 February 2012

Walking to the stones of Dartmoor, Cork and Kerry

Dunbeacon Stone Circle in County Cork

I have always had a love of walking, ever since I was a child and was walked along the cliffs of the Norfolk coast by my parents. It has stayed with me, but was not always easy, especially being bought up in a new town in Essex and having more "teenage" pursuits to follow. My love of the stones came a bit later, when I went to the Stonehenge festival in 1979. It was the first time  that I had experienced any kind of megalithic monument and I was immediately taken by it's sheer size and majesty and the complete mystery of it all, helped in part no doubt by the occasion, the hippies, the druids, the mystics all present and their veneration of Stonehenge. I didn't get to see the summer solstice that time, but was lucky enough to be there for it in 2006, and at Avebury (another great site, better possibly even than Stonehenge itself) in 2008.

Little Hound Tor Stone Circle on Dartmoor
Over the next few years I became more and more interested in pre christian and pagan ideas and beliefs, reading about all these mystical sites around the British Isles and Ireland. Then in 1986, I upped sticks and moved to Devon, spending a few months around the Tiverton area before moving into a small cottage in the Dartmoor village of Throwleigh. Poring over the ordnance survey explorer map of Dartmoor, revealed a whole wilderness of Stone Circles, Standing Stones, Stone Rows and Cairns, all waiting to be explored.
Over the next 25 years, I tramped the moors, visiting as many sites as I could, often walking in excess of 20 miles a day. Soon I invested in a camera and captured all that I could on film.
I left Dartmoor at the begining of 2010 and after a bit of travelling, came to settle in West Cork, another area full of Stones, along with the neighbouring County Kerry.
There are similarities between the two areas, both are rugged, wild and beautiful, full of history and antiquities. Both require a lot of good navigation to find the sites, though you may just stumble across some stones not even mentioned on the maps. There are differences too...Cork and Kerry do not have the luxury of the detailed explorer maps, only the 1:50 000 discovery series, which are not quite as accurate for pinpointing sites.The other big difference with Dartmoor is access. I was so used to the free access of the Dartmoor National Park, no fences, just miles and miles of wilderness. Now of course, most of the sites in Cork and Kerry are on private land, and the Irish farmer, although, very friendly, hospitable and accomodating, has a great love of electric and barbed wire fences. Coupled with the fact that nothing is sign posted and that parking is virtually impossible in a lot of the narrow lanes means that each area presents its own challenges and adventures. But that is all part of the fun.
This is my guide to and experience of the stones and hopefully it will encourage others to get out to explore and enjoy our heritage, before it is lost in the tide of so called progress and modernisation.

Coetan Arthur in Pembrokeshire

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