The Old Stones: Megalithic Sites in Britain & Ireland
Ready for an adventure exploring ancient burial chambers and stone circles? The Old Stones, a guide to Megalithic Sites of Britain and Ireland, will ignite your imagination and set you on a trail back in time, with a tale (or two) to tell at each stop…
Delve into Megalithic Sites of the Neolithic & Bronze Ages through the eyes of The Old Stones. The book is described as “A Field Guide to the Megalithic Sites of Britain and Ireland” and covers over 1000 sites, includes stunning photos and incorporates plenty of fascinating information in a variety of ways. It’s the most detailed field guide ever published and creates a sense of excitement and adventure once you see how many sites are waiting to be explored.
We’ve all heard of Avebury and Stonehenge but The Old Stones highlights many lesser known sites with equally interesting monuments. Wherever we are located or visiting around the Britain and Ireland, some fascinating Megalithic structures will be nearby!
Setting the Scene
The book’s introduction sets the scene well… ‘Imagining Prehistoric Landscapes’ inspires us see these incredible sites in their original landscapes; boundary free, often with wolves and bears roaming the vicinity. The Neolithic era is separated into Early, Middle & Late, followed by the Bronze Age, and discusses the different types of monuments made throughout these times.
It was a captivating read, with the ‘Passage Graves’, which were Middle Neolithic Chambered Tombs, particularly sparking my imagination. Archaeologists discovered that the narrow passages into the tombs had distinctive acoustic properties. If people sang or made noises it could create a ‘Helmholtz resonance’… blow over the top of a bottle to familiarise yourself with that sound. Let’s assume it wasn’t deliberate and we can imagine the eerie atmosphere it would have created, especially due to being so close to numerous dead bodies buried within the tomb. The author points out, it could equally have produced a euphoric experience for those entering within its walls, creating an mystifying and uplifting atmosphere instead. Decide for yourself how this ‘inexplicable’ acoustic effect would have made you feel!
Spoilt for Choice…
The main body of The Old Stones is separated into regions, with maps at the start of each area, marking the many sites found locally. It presents each site by giving the name, monument type, nearest village, map co-ordinates, an informative description and usually a photo. Some quotes from individuals are dotted around to tantalise you with more personal perspectives. “It truly is a wonderful place. The wind blows through the trees creating an eerie hush, only broken by the sound of waves lapping the shore.” Tony (Enkidu41) is written about Innisidgen Upper – also known as The Giant’s Grave – found on the Isles of Scilly!
Four favourites of mine…
Carn Gluze (also known as Ballowall Barrow) in Cornwall, a chambered tomb situated on a spectacular cliff-edge, hidden for many years beneath mine waste.
Devils Ring and Finger, a holed stone in Staffordshire, found on private land and so you must seek permission to visit!
Gwal-Y-Filiast (also know as Bwrdd Arthur – Arthur’s Table) a chambered tomb set within some atmospheric woodlands in Carmarthenshire, Wales.
Callanish (also known as Calanais), a striking stone circle in Isle of Lewis, Scotland. The tallest stone is an impressive 4.7m (15ft 7in) high!
And there’s more…
Extras such as “Top 10 Pieces of Music Inspired by Prehistory” and short articles by archaeologists, rock art enthusiasts and the like, all enrich the reader’s experience. Edited by Andy Burnham, it’s ultimately created by a whole community of ‘megalith enthusiasts’ and as such, feels comprehensive and well rounded.
I read the Introduction over a few days and now, whenever it beckons me in, I flick through and home in on any that catch my interest. ‘The Old Stones’ is one of those wonderful books we return to time and time again. With each perusal we’ll discover new sites to visit and absorb more interesting facts. You can also head to The Megalithic Portal, the world’s most-visited standing-stone website, to join the world of ‘Megalithic Enthusiasts’!
The Old Stones Edited by Andy Burnham, Watkins Publishing. Start your adventure back in time and buy your copy here.