There was much to be had on our recent holiday in Brittany – food, drink, sunshine and echoes of the second world war. But one of the most unexpectedly delightful discoveries had to be the many megalithic monuments dotted around the countryside.
For those of you interested in these bizarre reminders of our ancient past, Brittany is a litany (sorry) of these sites and it’s very easy to holiday there and do a bit of stone chasing at the same time. It’s a widely held belief in stone circle circles that the same people who built these ancient monuments then came over to Britain and got it going over here. Nobody’s really sure and that’s the lovely thing for me. Either way, they are still here, thousands of years later and they are still a joy for the modern antiquarians amongst us.
The French seem to delight in their megaliths as much as we do with well-signposted sites all of which were well respected and looked after. What I did find particularly hilarious however was that the two sites I visited did not deliver the trippy, tranquil experience I sought but exactly the opposite.
The first stone circle was slap bang in the middle of a village (not unlike Avebury) and the week before the annual ‘Festival of the Megaliths’ had taken place. I absolutely love the fact that these stone still inspire folk to gather and have a good time, whilst we still don’t know exactly what these stones were for, this was surely part of the deal. On the day we visited, the stones were occupied by a band of intrepid free running teenagers which at first appalled me but on reflection what better respect to show these old megaliths, still relevant and inspiring congregation albeit 2012 style.
The second site was a Dolmen which is essentially a tomb monument that would have been originally covered in soil. The millennia has seen it stripped of its outer clothing and the stones still stand. It looks like a tunnel created and the ‘creep’ – where the bodies or whatever they put in there – still creates a sense of awe when one crawls inside it.
This time, there were no free running teenagers in the ancient forest where the dolmen was situated. Instead there were fifty local primary school children using the location as a base for a day trip. Again, the site is still a place where people congregate and their noise was joyful and added to the atmosphere.
Brittany is home also to Carnac in the South which is the largest concentration of standing stones in the world. We didn’t go there as it was a 3 hour drive – but that’s a definite for next time.