Tag Archives: standing stone

Cornwall (1) The ‘Merry Maidens’

Prehistoric monuments, such as stone circles, megaliths or menhirs (standing stones) and quoits, provide interesting features in the landscape of the British Isles.  The best known examples (Stonehenge and Avebury) are familiar to most, but they are not alone  –  more than 1300 stone circles have been recorded in the British Isles  and more than 10000 standing stones.

The monuments have their origin in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages (broadly between 4000 and 1800 BCE).  Precise dating is notoriously difficult because they do not respond well to carbon dating techniques and there is an absence of artefacts that might be used for guidance.  Similarly there is doubt about their purpose(s).  Specialists in many disciplines, but with a shared  interest  –  eg., geologists, archaeologists, anthropologists, astronomers, antiquarians, experts in folklore and legends etc  –  now pool their knowledge to shed light on a distant age.

Not surprisingly, over the centuries these intriguing phenomena have often been explained through legend and folklore.  In the case of the Merry Maidens stone circle  the nineteen stones were once innocent girls who were encouraged to dance on the Sabbath by two evil spirits in the guise of pipers.  A sudden bolt of lightening from an otherwise clear blue sky transformed the girls and the pipers into their present state.

The image below is one of the pipers.

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Standing alone

Standing alone

 

Yes, it is a Neolithic standing stone  –  but somehow there is a stillness and quietness about the scene that suggests to me a young shepherdess tending her sheep.

 

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Old Man of Gugh

The substance of this post was originally published a year or so ago, but the lighting of the image has been modified a little to capture something of the mystery I associate with the Old Man.

Gugh is a small island in the Isles of Scilly off the south west tip of England.  It is one km long and 0.5km wide and is joined to the larger island of St Agnes by a sand bar.  As a consequence it is accessible only at low tide.  There are just two houses on Gugh.  The island has several entrance graves, cairns and burial mounds dating from the Bronze Age.  The Old Man of Gugh is a menhir (a standing stone) 2.7metres tall and belongs to that period.

I always see in this picture a tall old man with white beard, bracing himself against the strong Atlantic winds.  At the stroke of midnight he begins his steady walk of a watchman guarding his territory, returning to his post before the first cock crow.

There is more background information in my post The Isles of Scilly.

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Old Man of Gugh

Gugh is a small island in the Isles of Scilly off the south west tip of England.  It is one km long and 0.5km wide and is joined to the larger island of St Agnes by a sand bar.  As a consequence it is accessible only at low tide.  There are just two houses on Gugh.  The island has several entrance graves, cairns and burial mounds dating from the Bronze Age.  The Old Man of Gugh is a menhir 2.7metres tall and belongs to that period.

I always see in this picture a tall old man with white beard, bracing himself against the strong Atlantic winds.

There is more background information in my post The Isles of Scilly.

Old Man of Gugh

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Scilly Rocks 8

To the best of my knowledge this granite rock on St Agnes in the Isles of Scilly has no local name, but when I first saw it it became the ‘Mysterious Feline’, and so it has remained.  I apologise for the quality of the image  –  it was edited during the first wave of enthusiasm after I acquired Photoshop 7.  But I still feel the grittiness enhances the character.  Maybe that’s just an excuse!

Scilly Rocks 8

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Scilly Rocks 7

In my introduction to Scilly Rocks 1 I mentioned the extraordinary granite outcrops on the Isles of Scilly.  This photo provides yet another example.  I recommend that you click the above link and, indeed, look in on the related images.  It is scarcely necessary to comment on the similarity of this rock formation to a giant tortoise.

Scilly Rocks 7

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Scilly Rocks 1

In addition to their natural beauty and evidence of earlier cultures  –  such as the standing stone on Gugh and various cysts and burial chambers from the Bronze Age  –  the Isles have an air of mystery about them.  Especially St Agnes.  Granite outcrops suggest strange creatures from a fantasy or mythological world  –  giant lizards, serpents, turtles, birds of prey  ………   You are never alone on St Agnes!

Scilly Rock 1

See also The Isles of Scilly,Scilly Rocks 2, Scilly Rocks 3, Scilly Rocks 4, Scilly Rocks 5, Scilly Rocks 6, Pebble Tower

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