The Horse Club of The Dolmen de Merilles in Asturias
While visiting Asturias this August, we hiked to the Dolmen de Merillés and encountered the ‘horse club’ of the dolmen. Eric and I hiked a couple of hours from the tiny village of Tuna to reach this ancient, megalithic stone structure. It turned out to be one of the more magical moments that I take away with me from this trip. To think back on them is a delight and like a visit back in time.
The Trail to the Dolmen de Merillés
The trail there, is up the whole way, gradually traversing lush green hills and mountains in a steady ascent. It affords spectacular vistas of the ridge after ridge of mountains and fields. The flowers are colorful and abundantly slope down the terrain like a glorious veil. Various types of trees provide the relief of shade from the intense August sun and we get to admire the occasional livestock grazing in fields, the cows and sheep gazing back at us as curiously as we are looking at them.
Above Image – The village of Tuña in the valley below.
So What About the Horse Club?
Ah…but what about this ‘horse club’? It was not what we expected at all and quite the funny surprise. The dolmen is on a sloping side of a high mountain, just below the ridge top. There are not many trees this high up, just a handful near the dolmen and the rest of the terrain is exposed, covered in soft, green grass and flowering shrubs. It feels high, open, and expansive like you can reach and touch the sky overhead. As we were approaching from below, I saw a small stone building with an old stone wall around it and thought it was a shepherd’s hut. It turned out that this is where the dolmen is, just on the other side of the small structure and within the low rock wall.
When we reached it, it was surrounded by this club of horses. There must have been more than a dozen, with a handful of them being foals. The stone hut was a feed shed and here several horses had their heads inside its windows, eating away at whatever was stored inside for them. Some of them never did show their faces the whole time we were there.
The rest of the group were female horses, many of them pregnant and with a large bell around their neck that clanged loudly with each movement. We soon got to know which foul seemed to belong to which mother, for the young ones were quite curious about us from the beginning. A couple of them came quite close to us, but their mother would start tossing her head and coming towards us to intercept any contact with their baby.
These horses seemed pretty funny to us. One was right at the dolmen, with her head low and nestled in between two of the lower pillar stones that hold up its top stone. She was trying to keep cool and keep the flies away from her face, so she was using the monolith to help her with that. She moved a little, to scratch herself against this ancient stones, but otherwise didn’t leave the dolmen, so she’s in most of our pictures.
Another of the horses kept swinging her head up and down and up and down, making her bell clang. It was so constant that we realized she seemed to be purposefully making her bell ring. Maybe its her way of singing…!?!
We loved our time with this horse club, but we got the hint that while they let us hang out for a bit in their lounge area, we weren’t really qualified to join. The ground was a minefield of horse poop and the flies were relentless. So we stepped just outside the stone wall ring and enjoyed our picnic lunch at some nice wooden picnic tables that have been placed there next to the information board. The board has information about historical and archeological significance of the dolmen. And the large bushes growing along that part of the wall, was full of wild blackberries. They were a great addition to our lunch.
Visiting the dolmen was a fantastic hike and wonderful time. It feels as though it has an energy of its own that we got to take with us. The horses were a part of that magic and I think were also enjoying it with us. It was a sweet-feeling place; serene and pristine in its natural beauty. While there is information about its possible uses and purposes back in history, I do not feel drawn to know or understand what those uses were. No ideas are coming to my mind, yet I like that it is still there – its longevity and sense of permanence. It stays on this hillside for so many centuries and looks out over the land, while people and animals come to look over it. This is how I felt the magic of the Dolmen of Merillés.
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Written by Amalia Maloney Del Riego
Writer & Film Co-Producer
I love traveling and tend to be a slow-traveler, taking time to enjoy places and especially the local culture. ‘Eating and drinking’ my way around a new place and meeting the people, is how I love to travel. Enjoy my other writings and published poetry on my site AmaliaVida.com.