Discovering the corvally cairn, a neolithic structure on the Isle of Man. Sometimes called the quartz crystal ‘cave’, it’s an unexcavated mound with a solid quartz entryway.
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When I first moved to the island I heard rumors of the ‘Crystal Cave’, a place that some people consider mystical. It is a small man-made space constructed of slabs of white quartz that could have been built 4000-5000 years ago near the Devil’s Elbow. Its real name is the Corvalley Cairn which would have been helpful knowing when I was trying to learn more about it. Google ‘crystal cave’ and you’ll find nothing. Then while researching neolithic sites on the Isle of Man I came across this video. It shows the exact place I’d been looking for and with it we were able to find the site.
The Corvalley Cairn is a sacred mound built by people thousands of years ago.
To this day the site has not been excavated and sits in a field with views of the sunset and the Irish Sea. Historians still do not know what the mound contains or its true purpose. A cairn is a type of monument or tomb built by people who lived in the British Isles in the Neolithic. Usually large earthen mounds, they can include ditches and platforms that historians suspect made them ritualized spaces. They are often set in places where the sunset or sunrise can be viewed and can even be aligned to catch the light at the Solstices.
What makes the cairn at the Devil’s Elbow special is the tiny room that’s accessible from the side of the mound. It’s a space only large enough for a single person to fit inside. What it is and why it was built remains a mystery.
Finding the quartz crystal cave
My friend Clare and I have a common interest in forgotten history and quirky places so I messaged her about trying to find the cave. We decided to set out yesterday, along with her couch-surfer Hitomi, to discover the elusive site. You can find more of the places we’ve discovered and shared on Lovely Greens over here.
We only had a vague idea of where it was though – the video and some obscure directions from a friend who’d been before were our only guides. After driving back and forth along the coastal road and then setting out on foot we finally found it. I’m unsure if the land has legal rights of passage though so the only directions I’ll share right now is that it sits at the top of a hill near the sharp bend in the coast road called the Devil’s Elbow.
You approach the mound by climbing up a steep hill and it isn’t visible until you’re nearly upon it. The cows that live in the field were extremely surprised to see us and took off to the east along a well-worn path. Our friend that visited this same place probably came from that path and general direction but I’m unsure where it starts.
The place catches your eye thanks to a white crystal landmark
The Corvalley Cairn can clearly be seen across the field thanks to a massive white quartz lintel stone set into the mound. The entrance is tiny and I squeezed inside brushing through a spider’s web. It’s damp inside probably from rain running in through the entrance.
Inside, the space is small and created completely with white quartz blocks. The floor is dirt and covered with shards of shale and other debris and I wonder if under it is yet more quartz. It’s a strange space that does seem like a tomb.
I plan on visiting the Manx Museum’s library to see if anyone there has any further information on this space. I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting to know if plans to excavate it are on the table. I want to know more about the people who built it and to understand why.
Update on July 21st, 2016: I’ve spoken with a few people about the site now including a former archaeologist from Manx National Heritage. The site does sit on private land and you would require permission from the landowner to visit it yourself – please don’t trespass especially since there are animals in the field that may be dangerous. The site is also called ‘The Giant’s Grave’ by people who live in the area.