Tuesday, 18 August 2015

In Search of the Cornish Quoits

Unique Burials on the Penwith Peninsula

The quoits are a special type of burial chamber, unique to Cornwall - and if you are visiting the great county they are well worth seeking out.  This is the first I visited, Lanyon Quoit, perhaps the best known as it lies close to the road.

Measuring up!  I'm six feet four - and though the size is impressive, Lanyon Quoit is actually not as it should be ...

The massive capstone collapsed in the early 19th century and was restored by a local archaeologist who actually put the capstone back on at the wrong angle!

A monochrome version gives atmosphere.  These quoits were originally covered by a mound, which over 5000 years has been removed by a combination of wrecking and weather.

The capstones were usually places at a sloping angle.  Note the mistake here?  That huge capstone should have sloped from the central pillar up to the two biggies at the front.  Nevertheless, it's still a stunning spot.

This one is even better, though.  Walking up onto the Cornish moors near the fort of Chun Castle, we encounter the famous megalithic 'mushoom' of Chun Quoit.

This one is beautifully preserved - at least, the chamber.  The remains of the mound can be seen in the foreground.

The way into the burial chamber was designed to be tricky: I managed to squeeze through the tiny gap on the right.

Measuring up to the mushroom.

The capstone is a massive hunk of granite,  Beyond lies the Atlantic Ocean.  This is another world.

And when you manage to squeeze inside .... well!   Just awe inspiring.

Chun Quoit in a wider context.

The remains of the covering mound and possible entrance passage.

Mulfra Quoit has also lost its capstone - the only advantage being that a modern day explorer can get into the main chamber.

Despite the condition, it still packs a punch.  It was over 1500 years old when the Pyramids were built!

So perhaps we can forgive the condition!

You've got to be brave to climb in there.  The capstone's only been leaning like that for maybe 200 years: a miniscule amount of time compared to the age of the chamber.  

You could end it in worse places, though.

Zennor, home to the legend of the Zennor Mermaid, is the key to the last of the quoits I visited.

Zennor Hill (or Zennor Tor) is a stiff climb - but the granite formations are fantastic.

The tors were chosen as sacred places by the ancient  people - perfect for burial.

This is the legendary Zennor Quoit - supposedly a great table where King Arthur once dined.  It is immensely old (3500 BC) - and has a rather sad recent history.

A farmer in the 19th century was annoyed by it and thought he could use the stone to make a cattle shed.  He erected four pillars (seen above) and was all set to plonk the massive capstone on top. What a plonker he was!  Luckily he was stopped by a horrified local vicar who paid him 30 shillings to be on his way and leave 5000 years of history in peace.

Despite the damage, it's one of the best prehistoric chambers I've ever seen.

Climbing into the chamber is very tricky as you must squeeze beneath the sloping capstone. 

A view of the entrance to Zennor Quoit - steeped in history and legend.

The capstone weighs an incredible 13 tons.  Why not give these quoits a visit when you are next at the southern tip of England?

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