Rain lashed the windows, wind whip-wooed around the roof rack as we pulled into a lay-by on the A30 at Boscawen-Un. My daughter was curled in a ball on the passenger seat looking very much like she was going to stay put. I got out, hurried to the boot and jammed my wellies on.
"We're going to see three sites today, sweetie. I'd like you to join me for two. This one has the shortest walk."
"Back soon then."
I closed the boot and blip-blipped the car locked. Chassé-ing through a kissing gate, I made my way down a thin track cutting through wet, rust-coloured grasses. Very quickly I was standing on Creeg Tol looking across at Boscawen-Un. I took some miserable looking photos (one featured above). I needed a wee but decided not to relieve myself on any ancient sites. I picked up the pace, not wanting to leave my daughter all alone in a lay-by all for too long, and jogged awkwardly down the track towards the stone circle.
The site is walled. Access from the Creeg Tol side is up and over a simple stone-step stile. Suitably windswept, a bent tree shelters the steps, perfectly vignetting the already atmospheric spot. I up-and-overed.
I never know what to do when coming face to face with a stone circle. I feel the same way entering a church, but at least in a church you are usually met by an ancient parishioner brandishing leaflets before you can get too anxious about stage directions. But here? All the parishioners are long gone. Should I bow, close my eyes prayerfully? Or just march on in? I felt time breathing both "hurry up" and "slow down" down my neck.
I tarried and, caught in two minds, did the most indecisive thing I could think of and walked around the outside of the circle. This actually felt weirdly appropriate. Sizing the thing up, literally. Back at the beginning I entered the circle. The space changed. I felt something. Maybe just the rush of anticipation. Who knows, who minds? Feeling is everything. I touched the stones. This felt like the right thing to do. I actually hugged one. Also the right thing to do. Hugging wards off unwanted attention from unsettled spirits.
In the centre of Boscawen-Un is a large stone at a 45 degree angle. No one knows whether the angle is intentional or whether the stone is slow-diving into the earth. I found some offerings at its base. I took some photos. Time again whispering at my ear: "Back to the car". I spun around, saying a 360 degree goodbye to Boscawen-Un. I could have stayed for longer. Would have. But paying it the attention of a hurried visit also felt like enough. It was a tribute of some sort, especially given the foul weather.
Back up the track. Quick backward glances to see the site once more, twice more. A gust scooped my hood off. The jogging had forced my walking socks to retreat down my feet and my heels were cold. Awkward jog back to the car, boots levered off. My daughter was still curled up on the front seat watching the rain curl down the windows. I fell into the drivers seat, spraying water.
"Wow. That was something! Wanna see some pictures?"