15 September 2013

stranger at the stones

When on holiday if we are driving with no time constraints and something looks interesting on the map we like to pull off the road and investigate. Cairn Holy caught our eye last week whilst in Dumfries and Galloway (Scotland.) Cairn Holy is the site of two Neolithic burial chambers situated on a hillside overlooking Wigtown Bay, a short drive up an unmade single track road.

I spent time lining up artistic shots with the camera, to frame the view with the bay in the background, lying on the grass, trying to avoid the plentifully scattered sheep poo, the wee timorous beasties (midges) and other flying insects. 

While we read the information on the display board, taking in the details on age and purpose of the stones, another man had noiselessly parked up and joined us in the enclosure. As we were about to continue up the hill to investigate the second cairn he approached us and asked a question ‘What do you perceive?’  

All those lessons about how much do you engage with strangers flooded in at once. But we quickly realised he was an earnest sort of facially hirsute fellow, armed with nothing more threatening than a notebook and pencil, so we stuck with him. Although his delivery was a little irritating and pendantic and he used those types of closed questions designed to make the answerer look a bit dim if they get it wrong (a teacher that likes to show off his knowledge), he actually had really interesting perceptions to share. This is the short-winded version.

If you stand directly in front of and facing the tomb on a particularly spot of grass that is well worn, you will see the sun set as follows on these days:

winter solstice – sun sets at the point of the stone on the far left

summer solstice – sun sets at the point of the stone on the far right

on the days of the equinox and those days only - sun sets exactly in the centre of the middle two stones

None of this information was available on the tourist display board nor does it seem to be readily available on websites. The tangible sense of history with the landscape was quite moving. That people could have stood on the spot we did for thousands of years and watched the same sun setting had brought an extra dimension to the place, because of an encounter with bearded bloke unknown.

Once we had returned from investigating the second cairn the stranger had disappeared down the road, gone as quickly as he had suddenly materialised.

more here on cairn holy

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