Well, November rolls around yet again - so it must be time for the annual Moulin Puddingfest. Accordingly, plans are carefully laid, promises made to attend, and the by now semi-traditional rally-point decided on. Andy models a new assembly-point hat (the last one having apparently made its break for freedom during a pogo-fest at King Tut's Wah Wah Hut in the fair city of Glasgow) and he and I roll into Pitlochry car park 15 minutes ahead of time. Could this be the best-attended Scottish meet ever? Well..... no, actually. But full marks are due to the foreign legion, one of whom drove 3 hours in the early morning darkness to meet a gang of nutters she'd never met before, on a day which started off pelting with rain... The perils of the internet, eh?
Irene turned up. Pebblesfromheaven turned up. Moth turned up. George didn't. Phone call from Martin, with an inventive excuse - car broken down in Wick, awaiting tow down A9. Pretty good, that one. We crossed him off the list. ScottY phoned - car non-functioning. Crossed off list. Oh, well, on with the show. So the Big Red Beast (TM) rolled out of Pitlochry with 5 souls on board, bound for the Fortingall area. Andy had put together a full and demanding programme, daylight was short, the rain had stopped, and we were intent on making the most of it. Passing Croft Moraig and Newhall Bridge, we headed into darkest Perthshire.
First stop Clach an Tuirc (The Boar Stone) near Fearnan. It's big, and it's covered in ivy. Unfortunately it is impossible to see the alleged cup marks on top due to this. But it's big, and covered in ivy, and definitely there. Next, into the field at Cromrar, where according to Canmore, a variety of cup marked rocks awaited our viewing pleasure. An hour later, we had found one (big, obvious, not in the place Canmore says it is), and found the marker (remains of a corn kiln) for another. GPS (yes, an un-named person, not Martin, had one with them... but had the sense not to use it for navigation purposes) confirmed we were in the right spot. Could we find it? In a word, no. We looked for a while and then thought - no, there's not enough time to waste on this. Let's find something more interesting to do. The views down Loch Tay were pretty good though! At this point George caught up with us. Delayed, he had gone to Fortingall first and then spotted us up the hill from the road. We told him what we had and hadn't found, and he decided to have a look for himself and then catch up with us at the next stop.
So on and up to Bridge of Lyon, find a parking spot, over the gate and into the field with the 'Roman Camp' (probably medieval remains) and through to the next field where the standing stone and its fallen partner lie. Irene practiced her hide and seek skills unsuccessfully here whilst we enjoyed the sunshine and the aroma of rotting sheep from a burial pit not too far away. Back into the first field where we showed Moth and Pebbles the cairn and ditch known as 'Pontius Pilate's Grave), complete with fallen stone, which bears several large cup marks. Then (George having again caught up) along to Fortingall itself. Into the field to view Carn an Marbh (the Mound of the Dead), which is an old cairn re-used as a plague victim burial pit in the 14th century. A quick look at the cup marked rock in Fortingall kirkyard, (a chance for Irene to add to her pipe clay stem collection) and then a walk down the road to the field containing the 3 circle remains.
George had already told us there appeared to be few cows about this morning, so in we went, and headed out to the stones. One solitary cow wandered noncholantly past, apparently using the technique of 'if I pretend I don't see them they'll go away', and Moth took the opportunity to snap a quick photo of megaraks looking at something other than old rocks. As one of the veggies present, he hadn't realised that most of us were already thinking of dinner as we stared at it... These circles, though heavily disrupted, have caused a lot of speculation over the years. Excavation has revealed that they were all 4 posters, with smaller stones set equi-distant between the four larger stones, making them eight-posters... Confused? Go and see them. After a while, it makes perfect sense, A lovely setting, and Irene was inspired to tackle hide and seek again, with markedly greater success!
Now it was time for some innovation. George and Andy had previously been out to a site reported vaguely on Canmore as a cup marked rock with possible disrupted circle at a place called Upper Gaskin. It was felt we should have a look, so off we went, by now in the two cars. Over to Tummel Bridge, and up the road to Over Bohespic, where we parked and headed of up a forest track. About 20 minutes in, George led us south from the track to a large and heavily cup marked rock in amongst the forest. Around about it there lie the remains of at least two concentric circles, and nearby the remains of two small cairns, now sadly disrupted. This is largely unreported or recorded, and the only real recording of the site appears to be the work this intrepid pair have done, logging the positions of all the likely stones. The light was starting to fade a little (it was well after three now) and we headed back down the track. Nearing the cars, suddenly George left the track and dived north into the wood towards a large flat stone, and began clearing the pine needles from the top of it. There, revealed, was a perfect group of cup marks. Another success for the Scottish Megaraks! Not recorded on Canmore, George strikes again... We took some photographs and noted its position.
Stomachs were rumbling, so we decided to have one last try - we had visited every site on the proposed list, but Edintian circle was felt to be achievable if the forest gate was open. It wasn't, so despite stuffing Moth in the luggage compartment to get everyone into the BRB (TM), we had to turn back. Trundling toward Pitlochry, it was commented that Pebbles hadn't seen Faskally, so we stopped. Asked at the house. Had a look. And tried taking photos in the dark... with limited success. The owner of the cottages gave us a nice photograph of what it looks like in daylight, however, so Pebbles wasn't totally heart-broken. Then - puddings! the whole real point of the day out...
Back to the Moulin, where (despite a distinct lack of spaniels), we negotiated the menu and managed to select several items suitable for veggies and carnivores alike, washed down with the locally-brewed ales. Contact was made with south of the border, and Jane expressed her regrets at missing the megalithic event of the year. Not only that, but it was raining where she lives. Unlucky! Main course over, and on to the one true main event! Andy struggled manfully against a late challenge by Moth, who had skimped a little by ordering a starter with chips instead of a real main course, as he had heard of Andy's prowess in the pudding department. A strong and well-spooned challenge, but the master brooks no imitators. A broken man, Moth had to finally admit defeat before the twin-spooned dervish that is Andy in full pudding-frenzy mode.
Whilst Pebbles settled in with a full glass of Laphroaig and the idle contemplation of tomorrow's breakfast, the rest of us made plans for home. Yes, it was finally over for another year... Our thanks are due to the two Southerners who risked life, limb and stomachs to brave the annual Puddingfest! No longer new recruits, but seasoned Scottish Megaraks.
Andy's view of the day can be read (eventually)here.