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June 12th 1998

Culsh On Monday we continued our tour of megaliths in Aberdeenshire. The first stop was Glassel, a small fairy stone circle in a forest full of squirrels. Then we walked up to Bucharn round cairn and to Tomnaverie stone circle, where Diego became crazy trying to shoot fine photos without the fence that surrounds the monument. Then we drove to Culsh, a splendid souterrain. It is not truly prehistoric (it is dated AD 100-200) but it has some interesting cupmarked stones. The last stop of the day was Old Keig, a disrupted circle with a gigantic recumbent. It is sad that thos site is left in a nearly abandoned state: it is hard to get to it (barbed wire fence to cross, ouch!), the grass is high and it is easy to fall and break an ankle (many rocks lie hidden in the grass). At least, we didn't run up against some bulls. We haven't ever seen so many as here in Scotland: it seems to us that ALL the Scottish farmers put bulls (or enormous, unfriendly cows with their calves) in the fields that megalithic enthusiasts have to cross to get to their beloved sites. We can pretend to be fearless, but two days ago the first news on BBC Scotland was that a poor man got killed by a bull that crashed a fence, so we are not feeling bold when we see cattle in a field.

NeilOn Tuesday it rained so much that we decided to spend a day in town and drove to Aberdeen. There we didn't do any shopping (everything is so expensive to us when we have to take into account the unfavourable exchange rate of Italian Lire againts UK Pounds!) apart from some books. We visited the four main bookshops in Union Street and warmly recommend John Smith & Son. The Archaeo section is full of interesting titles and there is a friendly lady there, Mrs Sue Bryson, who is an archaeo expert. She is very nice and can give you lots of info and suggestions about archaeo books. Then we went to the Marischal Museum, where we've met Neil Curtis, 34 years old, Assistant Curator at the museum and we had the lucky opportunity to have a chat with him on archaeo subjects. Here you may find a little more about him and the museum.

We spent the night by Stonehaven and then drove to the nearby beautiful Auquhollie ogham stone and the four Raedykes ring cairns (no bulls but barbed wire fence on our way). We got also pretty depressed (especially Diego) because we usually walk, find the sites and have to take the photos in the rain, and when we come back to the car and have to drive for a while, some sunshine comes out of the clouds (and of course it disappears again when we get out of the car to reach the next site): it seems a kind of a curse. We know we are whining a lot about the weather, but you know, sunshine is important for us, not only in a photographic way, but also to cheers us up a little. Anyway, the next site, Auquhorties stone circle was so beautiful (and bull-free) that we forgot the rain and the cold.

EggsAt Cullerlie stone circle we had also some sunshine and a surprise: we discovered that an oystercatcher, an elegant black and white bird with a long, bright red beak (Scotland is full of them in this period) laid its three eggs in one of the eight central cairns. Poor bird: if lots of megalithic enthusiasts will be visiting Cullerlie in the summer, we don't know how the chicks could survive! Of course, we left the nest undisturbed as soon as we could. Then we managed to visit also the recumbent stone circles of Sunhoney (it is in a peaceful grove and its recumbent bears a lot of cupmarks), Midmar Kirk (a stone setting beside a church) and Castle Fraser (we couldn't get in, because it was surrounded by crop).

Balquhain Yesterday has been another big day for recumbents. We visited six of them: Loanhead of Daviot, Easter Aquorthies, Balquhain, Cothiemuir Wood, Whitehill and Tyrebagger. It is astonishing to see how these stone circles, even if they share the same structure, can be very different one from each other.

We are going now to Shetland, up to the northernmost part of Scotland (as a matter of fact, these islands are more Norse than Scottish, and we expect the weather will be the same). Keep your fingers crossed that the rain there doesn't turn to snow! See you again on mainland in three days.


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