The Truth About Cairns

Jan 05, 2012 No Comments by

Where they come from? No one knows.

What is their purpose? No one knows.

How did they appear with no creator in sight? No one knows.

I have seen similar creations on many trails so I recognized these piles of stones as not just any old piles of stones. These have character. They have purpose. They have history.  My own family on the English side have shared the legends and folklore that are throughout the United Kingdom. In Scotland, it is tradition to carry a stone up from the bottom of a hill to place on a cairn at the top.  “I’ll put a stone on your cairn” is an old Scots blessing. The word cairn derives from the Scots but it goes back centuries to Europe and Asia.Cairns are in ancient mythology, coastal regions sea marks, defensive hill forts, etc. They range in size from small rock sculptures to man-made hills of substantial stone. Today they are used for many purposes. The most common use in North America is to mark mountain bike and hiking trails. Placed at regular intervals they can indicate a junction or where the trail direction is not obvious. Most trail cairns are a foot or less in height. Some are built to protrude through the snow.  Some are erected as historical markers or for simply an artistic or decorative reason.

Whatever the reason, the trails I have recently been on are just really neat. The layers of rock in some are very carefully balanced. Some are just a few rocks. Some are majestic in height. Each are thoughtfully assembled. I believe these are created by a long established business;  Fairy Houses, LLC. I have heard from reliable sources that crews work tirelessly in many wooded and open areas putting thought and care into their work. These wee folk work by the light of the moon into the late night hours. The construction division of F.H., following the design plans of the creative team, magically place these stones into artistic arrangements. When all is set in place, the equipment is moved on to the next location. Their work is left for you to chance upon them, to lift your spirits or to use them as their purpose of marking the trail.

This is the real story.


About the author

Debbie Curtin writes stories about people, places, events and other topics of interest that engage the reader. As a member of the New Hampshire Writer’s Project, Debbie keeps ‘in the game’ with other like minded people. She has been an artist and creative person all her life and uses the unlimited sources of inspiration that abound everywhere in her writing as another art form.
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