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Crabs Cairn (Cairn(s))

Visited: April 20, 2018

Crabs Cairn Revealed

With summer in full flow I spent the morning enjoying a ramble round the Tullos Hill Cairns in Aberdeen. And I was delighted to note that major removal of gorse thickets had at last opened up Crab's Cairn to view.

The offending undergrowth had been sawn off about 15 centimetres above ground level, and completely removed from the site. My only complaint is that the remaining stumps of the gorse bushes now represent a significant 'trip hazard' for the unwary.

Hopefully, further work to render this site visitor friendly will be undertaken before long.
LesHamilton Posted by LesHamilton
20th April 2018ce

Binn Hill (Cairn(s))

14/04/2018 - It had been a nice day so far mooching about a few hills between Keith and Fochabers. We were making good time so in the afternoon we decided to head a little north to the coast and visit Binn Hill. I had remembered seeing Drew's post about the cairn on TMA a while ago and thought the location looked good.

Parking and access from the south is good. The walk around Binn Hill is excellent. A very pretty place especially in the sunshine. The cairn wasn't too hard to find at this time of year before the bracken does its thing. OKish cairn with a couple of decent sized kerb stones still left.

If you visit and have the time, it's worth walking round the hill. The top has what looked to me like an old enclosure, very intriguing. From east of the summit you can head down through the 'sea of stones' to the sea. Just a lovely area with one of the most extensive shingle systems in Britain.

I've been a bit fed up recently so it was a good visit to cheer me up a little. Sunshine, a nice place to walk and old stuff to look at, that will do me.
thelonious Posted by thelonious
17th April 2018ce

Brodie Wood (Cairn(s))

Heading east, from Aberdeen on the B9077 take the first minor road heading south past Tollohill. Keep going until a short distance past the primary school. I was given permission to park at a nearby cottage. From there I jumped the fence into a field and headed the short distance west, jumped another fence and was immediately in the Brodie Wood cairnfield.

The main cairn at Brodie is situated on a rocky knoll. It is 9m wide by 5.5 long and is 0.5 high being rectangular in shape. Various misplaced boulders make up a type of kerb.

NJ9159901001 This cairn is circular in shape sitting at almost 4m wide and 0.5 tall.

NJ9160300977 The best of the smaller cairns is very similar to it's near neighbour but has some larger boulders presumably kerbs.

NJ9158600964 Once again very similar to the above cairns.

All of the cairns are to the eastern side of Brodie Wood and look over to Kincorth Hill as well as looking down the River Dee. A little hidden gem next to Aberdeen. Nice place!

Visited 18/1/2018.
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
17th April 2018ce

Aran Fawddwy (Round Cairn)

Aran Fawddwy (2,969ft) is one of Wales' classic mountains, its volcanic crags deeply scoured and crafted by the unimaginably powerful forces of glaciation to form a towering cathedral of igneous rock. Together with its slightly lower northern neighbour, Aran Benllyn (2,901ft), the landscape might be considered by some - such as I - the archetypal hybrid of North/Mid Walian upland topography: the stark, uncompromising brutality of unforgiving cliff faces offset, tempered, by the softer green of subsidiary ridges and rounded hills overlooking sylvan cwms; valleys where farmers ply their trade much as they have done so for centuries past. Beast and beauty writ large upon the southern extremity of Snowdonia.

It is this (relative) geographical isolation from the traditional mountain heartland of Gwynedd that, in my opinion, accords The Arans their sense of singularity, a perceived notion of uniqueness perhaps only approximated by the equally sublime heights of not-too-distant Cadair Idris. Local history suggests that this 'aloofness' may not merely reside in the cognition of the modern traveller, the sentinel peaks namechecking the medieval cymydau (commotes) of Penllyn and Mawddwy... by all accounts, judging by the violent antics of the notorious 'Red Robbers' said to reside in and around Cwm Cywarch during the 1500's, pretty volatile areas back in the day. Furthermore, walkers wishing to visit both main summits will need to set foot upon Erw y Ddafad Ddu... 'Acre of the Black Sheep'. Hmm.. is there something we should know, Mr Cope? It is therefore fitting that Aran Fawddwy should be crowned by what is - in my opinion, all things considered - Wales' finest upland Bronze Age cairn. Coflein has this to say:

"Remains of a large cairn located on the summit of Aran Fawddwy. The cairn is stone built and measures up to 16m in diameter and up to 4m in height. An Ordnance Survey triangulation pillar has been erected on the E side of the cairn"

OK, so the dimensions of the stone pile are impressive, although nowadays perhaps not to the degree suggested by the professionals; however, for me, it is the sheer sublimity of placement, the overpowering exquisiteness of location which sets this monument apart. Perched upon the eastern flank of the summit crags, the cairn quite literally stands upon the edge of the abyss, overlooking a vertiginous, perpendicular drop to Creiglyn Dyfi cradled over 1,000ft below. Now I'm well aware words can only convey so much. So imagine, if you will, the late, great Stuart Adamson standing atop this cairn performing an guitar solo (with E-bow, naturally) expressing all the joy, pain, love, sorrow, exhilaration, frustration, altruism, anger, fear, hope.. that, collectively, we call 'being human'. Hey, that's what I mean.

Needless to say this dark lake Creiglyn Dyfi has form, being none other than the source of the Afon Dyfi (Dovey), the river undertaking a majestic procession south-westward to Cardigan Bay following a suitably tumultuous birth, erupting from the tarn as Llaethnant or 'Milk Brook'. Legend has it that St. Tydecho was responsible for this moniker after, er, somewhat miraculously turning the nascent, cascading stream into nutritious dairy produce to assist impoverished locals during times of famine... wondrous chap that he was. However those who have approached Creiglyn Dyfi via Foel Hafod-fynydd - incidentally a fine walk - may well wish to contest the veracity of this incredulous claim. Or not. Nevertheless it is telling, perhaps, that such transcendental occurrences are attributed to the locale; although whether Bronze Age priests were the initiators of such a metaphysical vibe or merely drawn here by pre-existing spiritual memes kept alive by Neolithic locals is no doubt a moot point. Whatever the truth, there is in my view no denying the 'special relationship' formed between landscape and human psyche in the vicinity, particularly when looking from above seated in the abode of the gods. Just the spot for a people to set their VIP upon the path to eternity, one might say?

The views are inspiring looking upon a more horizontal - albeit elevated - plane, too, with the long escarpments of Cadair Idris and Y Rhinogydd to the approx west, Snowdonia to the north beyond Aran Benllyn, Y Berwyn to the east... and the green hills of Mid Wales stretching away to the southern horizon. Given clear skies, of course. Although, to be fair, swirling cloud does add an additional, ethereal dimension to proceedings if countered by accurate compass bearings facilitating the way down. Note that the unnamed former occupant(s) of the great cairn are not the only legendary VIPs to be commemorated up hereabouts... as a memorial to SAC Michael 'Mike' Aspain upon nearby Drws Bach makes abundantly clear, the RAF St Athan Mountain Rescue gentleman having been killed by lightning whilst on duty during June 1960. There really are no words one can say, so perhaps a brief, silent salute in passing is appropriate. Oh, incidentally two men had to be airlifted off the mountain in January 2014 (just a year before my last ascent) after being paralysed - I kid you not - by another lightning strike. Yeah, Aran Fawddwy can be a dangerous, foreboding place.... primeval forces created it and are at still at work here. Natural forces of a magnitude beyond our limited comprehension. Is it any wonder priests attempted to fill the void?

Arguably the classic route to Aran Fawddwy is the linear traverse of the main ridge starting from Llanuwchllyn at the southern end of Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake). However my three ascents to the summit ridge over the years have, for logistical reasons, all commenced within the dramatic environs of Cwm Cywarch, as mentioned above the former haunt of the Red Robbers. It is to the credit of the Snowdonia National Park Authority to note that, in addition to managing the very militant local land owners, a (relatively) new car park now alleviates parking issues of yore. I speak from experience, having found myself bogged down to my axle whilst parking upon grass prior to an ascent of Glasgwm back in 2008. Surrounded by towering buttresses of rock, it is a suitably epic spot to begin a foray into these wondrous mountains crowned by quite possibly Wales finest upland cairn. All things considered....
GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
14th April 2018ce

Glan Hafon cairn (Cairn(s))

What is it about me and high places? For a man with vertigo to be consistently drawn to hill and mountain tops over the entire course of my adult life could be considered somewhat paradoxical, perhaps? It's a valid point. Furthermore, any attempt to resolve such a personal conundrum is surely doomed to failure, if only due to lack of objectivity. Well, it goes without saying I'm too close too the subject matter. However, for what it's worth....

Although too young to appreciate the cultural, not to mention social impact of punk as it was happening - in retrospect I much prefer, for example, the insubordinate political potency of SLF than the comically naïve pseudo-Marxist bollocks of first wavers, The Clash - it was the 'question everything you're told' mentality of the movement which has had a fundamental impact upon my worldview. To deploy 'Why?' at the vanguard of the fight against blaggers and hypocrites. A pretty simple philosophy consistent with the DIY ethic of punk: to always see both sides of an argument by actively seeking an alternative viewpoint. Or at least try to. No-one's perfect. Needless to say, putting competing stuff into context can be difficult, requiring a suitable environment to utilise whatever brain matter Nature accorded me, one mercifully free from the inane, misogynist chants of rappers and TOWIE. Such as the high places of Britain.

Yeah, the aerial viewpoint, by its intrinsically 'detached' nature, challenges one's perception of this crazy, spinning globe and, more importantly, of the antics of the human beings that depend upon it as a temporary stage for chasing passing visions. At least until we all bugger off to Mars with Matt Damon, that is. Hey, what a laugh that'll be. Party hats all round! In practice I've found the results to be instructive, the car full of anger upon the approach to the parking area suddenly of no more consequence, by proxy - in the grand scheme of things - than the concerns of the inhabitants of a nearby ant colony. So, if there is such a thing as 'human spirit'.... a soul... that can (eventually) be determined from electricity flowing across synapses, arguably it is the primeval uplands than best meet the criteria for a 'spiritual domain'. If so, wouldn't it be ironic to note that our Bronze Age forebears appear to already have had that sussed millennia ago?

Anyway, aside from facilitating incoherent musings upon the most fundamental subjects, aerial viewpoints possess other, more tangible benefits... such as the ability to see detail in the landscape that can't be seen from below. No shit, Sherlock? Indeed it was during a visit to the fabulous hill fort surmounting Craig Rhiwarth last year that I first truly appreciated the form of Mynydd Glan-hafon rising across the cwm. Although falling a few feet short of the hallowed 2,000ft mark (1,994ft/608m) - and thus discounted from almost every 'serious' Y Berwyn walking itinerary you will come across - I guess the evidence of my own eyes heard the siren call. So, a hill must be a certain height to be worthy of my boots? Why? Ah, it's that punk ethic again.

Consequently I find myself reprising the ... it has to be said ... rather fine approach to Cwm Glan-hafon upon the green track skirting the south-eastern foot of the overwhelmingly sheer Craig Rhiwarth, one beady eye upon the threatening cloud base. The track forks right beyond some rather delectable woodland to descend to, and subsequently cross, the Nant Sebon. Continuing north, it soon becomes apparent that Mynydd Glan-hafon will offer no easy ride; the ludicrously steep gradient of the path encountered just beyond the deep gash carved by the Nant Ddial makes that as crystal clear as the cascading waters of the latter. The siren's call is strong, however - as Bernard Sumner will no doubt concur - and I eventually arrive at the col between Y Clogydd and Mynydd Glan-hafon itself.

According to Postman, not to mention the lesser authority of Coflein, there are a couple of cairns hereabouts upon this saddle. However I haven't done my homework so press on riding my little pony, so to speak, toward the summit. Despite having used all my vast (and ultimately useless) experience of these things and delayed leaving the path to avoid nasty occurrences of stamina sapping bog... I inevitably encounter an awful lot of the stuff. Too much. But there you are. Nevertheless I reach the summit ridge, taking a bearing from the fence line to the top of the Nant Ddial gulley. Just in case things deteriorate, you understand? As it happens the fence is a useful prompt leading travellers to the actual summit and, beyond a traverse fence to the east, the slightly lower trig pillar. As it is I ignore the latter being more intrigued by a small cairn surmounting a rocky outcrop near the junction.

Mynydd Glan-hafon is a wondrous viewpoint, arguably the best perch to appreciate this fact being the aforementioned cairn. This is not marked upon either the 1:25k or 1:50k map nor, indeed, cited by Coflein. However beneath the obviously modern 'marker cairn' resides a substantial, earth fast footprint. Now to judge by the paths - or rather, the paucity of them - up here upon this deeply unfashionable hill, the possibility of the cairn being erected by walkers is, in my opinion, pretty slim. Furthermore the cairn does not occupy either of the twin summits. So why construct a marker? Just saying. In my opinion this looks kosher. Other opinions most welcome.

As I sit and admire unfamiliar perspectives of the familiar... such as the main ridge of Y Berwyn rising to the immediate north, beyond the natural aquatic wonder that is Pistyll Rhaeadr, the sylvan beauty of the Tanat Valley, the mighty ancient fortress of Craig Rhiwarth etc.... the erstwhile reasonably clement conditions begin to falter as Moel Sych intercepts and subsequently grasps an incoming low cloud base to its not inconsiderable breast. Yeah, in very quick order visibility is reduced to more-or-less zero. For me, it is at times like this that upland cairns invoke the optimum 'spiritual' (here we go again) vibes, the opaque vapour inducing a very localised, almost claustrophobic intensity shutting out the outside world from any deliberations. Perhaps this idiosyncrasy was an integral facet of the Bronze Age plan, the Bronze Age experience? Assuming there ever was one and these monuments were not simply erected by ancient punks disavowing the 'rules'.

Time moves on and, despite having a fence line as my personal guide, not to mention preset compass bearing, the disorienting nature of walking in hill fog never abates. For me. Learning to trust one's judgement when all the senses are saying "Are you sure, you muppet?" has proved a major challenge across the years, one I doubt I will ever meet. But then again, so what? Leaving the sanctuary of the wire - and having opted to place self preservation before additional cairns - I manage to locate the Nant Ddial. Following a very steep, rough descent, the towering flank of Craig Rhiwarth slowly materialises through the dissipating gloom like a cosmic hand operating a rather dodgy natural cloaking device. Bit unpredictable, apparently. The return to the car is joyous, a feeling prevalent of being allowed brief inclusion within a spectacle outside of the normal human remit. Bit like hearing the opening bars to New Rose for the first time.

So... not at all sure I've managed to answer my autobiographical question posed at the start: why do I seek out the high places? Hey, maybe to some degree, perhaps? Although simply pointing at Mynydd Glan-hafon and uttering 'Bleh!' might sum it up nicely enough. But then again, if Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible taught me anything growing up (I'll leave Rat Scabies out of this) it's not to be afraid to challenge my preconceptions, to continually push my limitations (wherever I encounter them, in whatever context), and to try not lose the child inside... that sense of inherent curiosity and wonderment. That alternative 'aerial' viewpoint. Don't let the Ed Sheerans and Adeles of this bloody computer world we now find ourselves in drag you down. Don't use the factory pre-sets, so to speak... program your own sounds. Yeah, who's to say what can and can't be done? Have a go and see. Just try not to kill yourself in the process should you chose to stumble in my footsteps. For me that's the true legacy of the punk ethic, my friends.
GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
31st March 2018ce
Edited 3rd April 2018ce

Cefn Penagored (Kerbed Cairn)

Idwal couldn't find it, I know why, it is an utter B'stard to find.
This is my second attempt to locate this kerb cairn, it is not on any map, no one has been here before me, except coflein, and they're not always completely trustworthy. We walked this way and that, couldn't find it, we then split up, Alken went high, I went low, still couldn't find it. When looking at a picture or two of it on Coflein I took a photo of the screen with my phone, so with phone in hand we were desperately trying to match up the picture on my phone with the landscape around us, it was not easy, no, it was hard.
we sat on a rock and wondered if it was normal to keep looking. Then I finally saw something on the ground that was in the phone picture, so we carried on, normal or not. Alken went low, lower than I went, and I went high, but not as high as Alken went. Then at long last I found it.
Since Coflein sent it's envoys out to photograph the place a lot of growing has occurred, the gorse is closing in on itself and choking any paths through it, the moss, which had all but covered all the stones, we stripped off the moss and generally tidied up a bit and set about photographing the place, sufficiently enough that subsequent explorers will not have as hard a time of it as we did.

This is what Coflein says of the site....
CEFN PENAGORED CAIRN AND RING CAIRN
There are two cairns set in close proximity on the slope of the Cefn Penagored ridge. Both cairns are about 6m in diameter but are of different forms. The upper cairn has a clearly defined structure marked by a prominent ring of large stones, some over a metre in length. The lower cairn is defined by an earth and stone bank which includes a large quantity of white quartz. There is a small stone lined cist at its centre.

Ring cairn? there is no ring cairn, and there is no cist at it's center.
Confused?

Ps, We also tried and failed to find another ring cairn.
Ffridd Camen, ring cairn (Possible)
SJ04743447
A bank of earth and stones, 2.0m wide, 0.4m high and 10.5m overall diameter, with orthostatic internal kerbing, and possible cist elements visible.
Could not find.
postman Posted by postman
26th March 2018ce

Cefn Penagored Ridge (Kerbed Cairn)

Seven years later and I'm back, and I've got a sweatcheat with me, a sweatcheat? there is only one, well, two, but the other is fictional.
Walking west north west from the Cwm Tywyll ritual complex (a group of cairns), towards the big hill that is Cefn Penagored, aim for the exposed rocks at its southern end. Now turn and walk straight to the very top and you'll pass this kerb cairn on the way, it'll be on your left. Coflein is very confusing about this wide ridge, there are two cairns upon it's sides, or maybe four, or even five, we only found two, about 250 meters apart, but separated by a sea of Gorse, call it a nasty name, go on, it doesn't care.

First time I saw this kerb cairn I couldn't work out which one of the two or four or five it was. This is the Cefn Penagored ridge cairns, it is supposed to have two other low cairns associated with it. Couldn't find them, or maybe we found one, with a big fallen stone in it??? See pictures.
Coflein also says the cist is intact but we could only see the two long side panels but not the end slabs, perhaps they are under the grass.
Alken rather fancied he could see a double line of kerb stones, I could too, or maybe they are just stones near a cairn, we both often see possible kerbing in most cairns, but then we wear our stoning goggles at all times.
postman Posted by postman
26th March 2018ce

Cwm Tywyll (Ring Cairn)

After spending time at Nant Esgeiriau cairn and then Pennant cairns we gave over some time to have a good look round the Cwm Tywyll ritual complex.
Avebury, Stonehenge, Ness of Bordgar, these are all ritual complexes too, but lack of fame isn't the only difference between those and here.
A few cairns, a ring cairn and a small standing stone are what it takes to be dubbed "ritual complex" here in the North Walean uplands. An ignorant walker would walk right on through it without noticing it, there are no temples or trilithons here. It's a subtle complex.
But still quite beautiful, the views in all directions stir the soul. We never saw no small standing stone, just a cairn and the ring cairn, coflein only says it's a possible ring cairn, but i'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that Thesweatcheat and myself have been to more ring cairns than the person who said possible, and we say definitely a ring cairn.
I'm not sure I discerned the three eccentrically concentric stony rings, it's a bit of a messy ring cairn, for sure, but still a ring cairn.
A small cairn is across the footpath, worthy of note only because of it's close proximity to the ring cairn.
postman Posted by postman
26th March 2018ce

Rhyd-y-Gethin (Cairns) (Cairn(s))

Just over one or two fences, and within site of the Yr Aran cairns are three cairns, lower down the slope are two partially grass covered low mound of stones, both have lumps of quartz on top. Map and Coflein says there should be just one lower down cairn but we could clearly see two. from these two cairns we can see the other cairn higher up the hill, about half way up. It seems to have big white somethings piled high on top of it. We walk up hill.
This is the best of all the cairns here in this big group.
It is the largest and has lots of big quartz chunks piled on top of it mixed with the more normal coloured rocks, they probably aren't original, and might cover the only intact cist up here. Who knows.
Views of the Berwyns, Sian Llwyd and very distant Snowdonia are very good.
postman Posted by postman
26th March 2018ce

Yr Aran cairns (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

I last came here 7 years ago on a misty summer solstice morning, lack of knowledge made me miss half of the cairns. Coflein later told me that one or two of them have cists, and elsewhere I missed a ring cairn and a kerb cairn so I promised myself one day I would return.
For a change, Thesweatcheat and myself find a coinciding day off work with no hindrances, apart from car over heating problems, it's on it's way out cant be helped. So here we are.
There is no footpath up to the cairns, early on in the walk we came across a farm, saw the farmer and asked if we can get up there pointing to the hill top we wanted to climb, worryingly he asked why we wanted to go up there, we said "cairns" you know the ancient ones, he pointed out there are no public footpaths up there, I gave him my best innocent smile, we'll be alright wont we? He pointed out the way up and off we went.
A steep farm track took us almost all the way to the cairns, it was hard work, did I say it was steep?
The cairns are all low and small, some have kerbing showing and some have been dug into revealing the cairns innards, didn't see any cists.
Then the farmer turned up in his buggy with his two dogs. We chatted about the cairns and stuff and discovered his family had been farming here for four generations, I took a chance and asked if he knew much about the Berwyn incident. He knew a lot, his granddad had been on tele talking about the tremor, the loud bang, the lights, the army.
Not interested in the Berwyn incident? never heard of it? Long drawn out sigh.

So, not all the cairns here, there are over a dozen, are grouped under the name of Yr Aran cairns, strangely the two or three furthest south over the fence are called Rhyd-y-Gethin, which is stranger still as Rhyd-y-Gethin is the other side of Yr Aran and down in the valley. Two Yr Aran cairns are over the north south fence but north of the west east fence, there are a few fences up here. It is farmland, not open access Berwyn nature reserve.
these two cairns are much the same as the cairns by the trees. Hope that all makes sense.
postman Posted by postman
26th March 2018ce

Kincorth Hill East (Cairn(s))

From Abbotswell Road follow the Kincorth Hill path heading west until the fence heads south. At this point follow the fence to the trig, which by this time the visitor will have noticed sits on top of the site.

This cairn has tremendous views east to the many ancient sites on Tullos Hill. It also has not so tremendous views to some of Aberdeen's busied industrial estates.

The eastern site of the cairn has seen a vast amount of damage. A lot of quarrying has happened. Meanwhile the eastern side seems to have been protected by the trig and the fence.

What remains is a cairn that was originally well over 18m wide, standing at almost 2m tall with a trig plonked on top.

A nice day to go explore and re-visit the other cairn almost a mile to the west.

Visited 18/1/2018.
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
20th March 2018ce

Westerord Plantation (Cairn(s))

There are more than 20 small cairns on this wee and not very high ridge, the largest of which is in the photographs. This cairn is just over 6m wide and 0.5m tall. 4 kerbs remain in place. The usual cairn material scattering and houking has also taken place.

I found at least 16 of the nearby cairns in various states of ruin. At least the trees now are protecting them for a little time.

Westerord can be found just to the south of Westhill. Take the second minor road south on the B9119, heading west from the A944. At the first corner take the track west and ask permission if requiring to park. From the house head south east and walk straight, uphill, to the cairn.

Visited 11/1/2018.
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
19th March 2018ce

Hill of Finavon (Cup Marked Stone)

A sandstone boulder decorated with 17 cup-marks on its upper surface and measuring around 0.7m by 0.8m can be found in an area of rig and furrow cultivation here. BigSweetie Posted by BigSweetie
19th March 2018ce

Finavon (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

A piece of sandstone carved with a cup mark surrounded by two concentric rings was found on the ground just south-west of the ramparts of Finavon fort in 1987.

Measuring around 0.28m by around 0.25m, it is now housed in the McManus Galleries in Dundee.
BigSweetie Posted by BigSweetie
19th March 2018ce

Bryn Castell (Hillfort)

Ah, hill forts.... of all the myriad monument types featured within - or should that be on? - TMA I would have thought the hill fort would be the simplest to define? A fort built upon a hill, right? What could be easier? Hmmm. For starters, how does one define a hill? My Oxford English Dictionary reckons a hill is "A naturally raised area of land, not as high or craggy as a mountain", whereas a mountain is "A large natural elevation of the earth's surface rising abruptly from the surrounding level; a large steep hill". Pretty woolly explanations, to be fair. Open to interpretation, particularly when, for example, the locals upon The Isle of Skye refer to the peerless, 3,000ft plus naked rock of The Black Cuillin as 'hills'. Depends on your point of view.

Herein, then, lies my dilemma when attempting to categorise the superb little fortress of Bryn Castell. As we human are wont to do. In my estimation a 'mountain' imparts a certain mind set upon the visitor, irrespective of height above ordnance datum. An (apparent) appreciation that primeval forces - represented, perhaps, by the extreme application of adverse conditions such as cold, wind, precipitation etc - are acting upon the human cognitive process, somehow accessing seemingly forgotten memes (or other ancestral 'group knowledge' cascaded down the millennia - hey, clearly I'm no expert here) long since subsumed beneath an accumulation of modern behaviours and values which, I guess, only time will reveal may or may not represent an incremental advancement of our species. A feeling that, just perhaps, the landscape may actually be 'speaking' to us, unlocking that door in the psyche behind which a lot of interesting 'stuff' lies in cold storage. Reminding us that we should really be taking a lot more notice of the base forces which shape our environment. That we should show more respect to the Nature of Darwin and Hawking, venture forth from the geodesic dome on a more regular basis. Like Michael York who, upon finding that his 'life clock' is now blinking, decides to do make a break for reality in Logan's Run. Making sure not to forget Jenny Agutter as he does so, naturally. Or something like that. Whatever the truth... for me, Bryn Castell is a 'mountain fort' since it causes me to think of such things.

The current 1:25K OS map depicts Bryn Castell as a 'Settlement'. Not something to raise the antiquarian pulse, to be honest. However, needs must, the site featuring upon my 'bad weather list', invoked upon those unfortunately all-too-frequent days (such as today) when cloud sits upon the North Walian uplands like a gigantic mothership piloted by intergalactic beings having much to learn in the parking department. As if maintaining solidarity with said cloud base, my mood is not lifted by the presence of one of those pathetic, black-clad 'heddlu', er, individuals avoiding doing any worthwhile police work by pointing his little laser at me, so ensuring I miss the turning at Bontddu first time around. Look for the massive blue (I think) 'chapel' and follow the very steep, very minor road to its eventual terminus at a parking area beyond a gate (at SH657202).

I ignore the rough track heading left, instead venturing forth straight ahead through a gate to ascend a green track... the old London to Harlech 'road', no less, travelled when 'horse power' was quite literally just that. And employed by all. At a (presumably relatively modern) marker stone a track veers to the left (west) while the main, walled route continues to ascend the excellent, grassy Y Braich - or 'The Arm' - reaching down from the heights of the southern Rhinogydd above and beyond. Now since Bryn Castell is located upon the southern-most extremity of Y Braich sticking to the main route will do; however I veer to the west to enjoy what, in my opinion, is a much more memorable approach, the site towering dramatically above to my right.

So... a short climb finally brings me to the fine, univallate 'fort. As Postman says, the view southwards across Aber Mawddach toward Cadair Idris is absolutely stunning, even when viewed under somewhat less than ideal conditions. However it is that to the north, looking up the aforementioned Y Braich to the high summits of Y Rhinogydd, the latter obscured by swirling vapour, that seems to awaken the hunter-gatherer in me. The 2,462ft Diffwys periodically beckons through the gloom, the brutal landscape occasionally illuminated by washes of sunlight all too quickly extinguished, as if by the silent admonition of a cosmic Warden Hodges: 'Put that bloody light out you ruddy 'ooligan!'. The path appears tempting, the foreshortened scene promising an memorable afternoon... if only the cloud would break. I wait in vain, deciding to return and make the climb some other time. As it is the weather provides an opportunity just two days hence. The route is a lot steeper than it appears.....

Suffice to say, then, that Bryn Castell occupies a damn fine spot. But what of the archaeology? Well, for such a small site the defensive wall is pretty strong (albeit clearly robbed to the east to build a dry stone field wall). Furthermore, the northern high point of the enclosure features the remains of an enigmatic round structure which could, I guess, be variously interpreted as 'round house', proto-donjon or round cairn. Or none of the above. For what it's worth, the feature is perfectly profiled upon the skyline when viewed from the valley below, a characteristic suggestive of a cairn. But then again... Guess only excavation will confirm. Yeah, right. A retrospective perusal of Coflein suggests that, as with a number of other upland defensive enclosures clustered around Cadair Idris, the small size of Bryn Castell might suggest use as a temporary citadel rather than permanently occupied home?

Despite the impressive, nay, intriguing remains, for me the primary reason to come here is to enjoy that (obviously) indefinable 'mountain vibe'. As with Crug Hywel upon the southern slopes of Pen Cerrig-calch far to the south, Bryn Castell belongs to the uplands, as if a small, wild bird cupped in the grasping hand of Y Rhinogydd. To call it a mere hill fort is to do it an injustice.
GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
18th March 2018ce
Edited 21st March 2018ce

Balgay Hill (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

This slab features several cup marks including one which appears to be surrounded by a ring.

It was found on Balgay Hill and donated to the McManus Galleries in 2006.

I couldn't find any reference to its discovery so have given it a grid reference which places it at the top of Balgay Hill.
BigSweetie Posted by BigSweetie
18th March 2018ce

Craig y Castell North (Hillfort)

It is - I would assume - one of the lesser debated imponderables of relatively recent Welsh history to contemplate whether or not, when faced with a barrage of questions from inquisitive Ordnance Surveyors, the rural peasant simply 'made stuff up'. And, if so, was there mischievous intent? Consider a theoretical example: OS man (pointing fervently): 'I say, you, peasant. What is the name of that big, round hill over there?' Exasperated Peasant: 'Oh, that'll be 'The Big Round Hill', sir'. OS Man (scribbling into his notebook): 'Jolly good. Carry on, doing whatever it is you peasants do'. Smirking Peasant (tugging his cap, then muttering under his breath): 'Heh, heh. You muppet.'

OK, a fanciful scenario, perhaps... but it would certainly explain why here, in the quiet, green foothills between the summit peaks of Cadair Idris and the wondrous Aber Mawddach, we have two Craig y Castells depicted upon the current 1:25K map within a mile of each other. Surely some mistake? For what it's worth I don't buy the alternative to local wind up... that a people steeped in the lore of giants and fairies would apply such rigidly pragmatic, localised nomenclature. Not when hoodwinking gullible officials can be so much fun, methinks. Incidentally Coflein namechecks the northern of the pair as Craig-y-Waun. Yeah, you do the maths.

But enough of such facetious, unsubstantiated conjecture! Like Thomas Dolby, way back in 1982, it's time to defer to a more, er, scientific approach, in my case that of logical deliberation (hopefully) informed by personal observation. Or, to put it another way, time to blunder up another Welsh hillside in the teeming rain and 'see what happens'. Hey, whether such action is more demonstrative of lunacy than the wildly exaggerated antics of the former synth boffin's eccentric associate, Magnus Pike, is perhaps a moot point. But there you are. Anyway.... travellers approaching from Dolgellau (Love Lane, as I recall. Nice touch) should keep their eyes peeled for an obscure right turn servicing the farms of Gellilwyd Fach and Fawr. Continue beyond the latter and park up at Tal y Waen, whereupon a track heads north through the farm yard of Tyn-y-llwyn. This, now a green 'path', of sorts, crosses a stream and sweeps to the left under the inquisitive gaze of grazing ponies seemingly oblivious to the downpour. Or perhaps scornful of the approaching creature so woefully adapted for such conditions? Surely not?

After a short while Craig y Castell/Craig-y-Waun (tack your pick) looms above to the left. The towering profile of the ancient fortress is somewhat disconcerting viewed from below, it has to be said, the steepness of attack putting a noticeable damper upon the previous alacrity of my approach. Hmm. Nevertheless, I follow the left flank of a rather splendid dry stone wall and - eventually - arrive upon the small, craggy summit. As one might have expected from the vernacular. The 'front door' is approached by looping around from the south and is defended by a quite substantial drystone wall... or at least the remains of one... this continuing along the eastern flank in the ubiquitous 'fill in the gaps' style of such upland defensive enclosures. The western flank falls sheer to the cwm below and, together with the northern aspect (supporting a modern wall) would appear to have required little artificial protection back in the day.

The position is wild and inspiring, particularly when the low cloud base, which has been prevalent all week, caresses the hillside with swirling, grey tendrils of opaque moisture. Once again I'm a little overawed until, having ensured I know my way back down again by compass should the clammy embrace becomes more than temporary, I can afford to relax and, basically, do bugger all. As it is the conditions remain in a state of flux, glimpses of the exquisite Mawddach to the north periodically rescinded, only for views toward mighty Cadair Idris to open to the north. To be fair to locals past it is easy to imagine such a landscape being the haunt of otherworldly creatures at times such as this. Woaah! Mind where you're placing those big feet, Mr Idris.

As I ponder 'stuff' (e.g. are giants all in the mind, to be feared, or merely misunderstood gigantic.. sorry, 'size challenged'... creatures possibly taking The Human League a little too seriously?) I decide a visit to the trio of cairns shown on the map below to the south is in order. However I duly abort a direct approach - too many walls - in lieu of returning to the car and heading west at Gellilwyd Fawr. But that's another story.

As for my observations of Craig y Castell? Well... guess it's fair to relate that I was not so much blinded with science as seduced, held in thrall, if you will, by the stark, ethereal beauty of this landscape under such inclement conditions. Poetry? Well, yes, but the more brutal King Lear as opposed to wandering lonely as a cloud, perhaps? Although wandering lonely in a cloud might be more apt, come to think of it. But none the worse for that. And should a nameless rural peasant have, perchance, taken the piss out of a wandering map maker once upon a time.. thanks for the prompt, my friend.
GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
17th March 2018ce
Edited 18th March 2018ce

Blacktop Wood (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

I parked at a space opposite Countesswells House and walked west until the first track heading north. From here I walked about 50 metres before climbing a wee hill to a small path. A short distance to the east and the hut circle can be found.

Like its colleague at Clear Hill near Bucksburn this site would be in remarkable condition given some gentle restoration. Maybe its best just to let nature look after it. Who knows?

Stretching to almost 9m in diameter the walls of the hut circle are almost 2m wide and in some parts well over a meter high. The front door, still clearly defined, is facing south east.

Beautiful area this, well worth having a walk round the nearby woods. Quite a few massive consumption dykes.

Visited 11/1/2018.
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
17th March 2018ce

The Shields (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

This hut circle has taken a fair beating in its time but it still retains a sense of shape being over 12m wide. Sadly this wall has in some parts gone but some of it remains at almost two metres wide and 0.5m tall. As can be seen from the photos some of the building material is still in place.

From the RSC at Auchlee head further west past the cottage of the same name then almost double on the farm track walking next to the Shields Burn through a narrow strip of trees. At some point about 300m down track climb the fence, jump the burn and head south through the boggy field. Climb over the next fence and the hut circle shouldn't be to hard to find. Sadly nearby small cairns seem to have vanished.

A fine way to spend a spare hour near Portlethen, at least this time I didn't land in the burn.

Visited 4/1/2018.
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
17th March 2018ce

Glenton North (Cairn(s))

Glenton North is about a mile north from it's southern neighbour. Luckily a lot of the heather and trees have been taken down or burnt making walking conditions, apart from the boggy start, much easier. Sadly a lot of small cairns and probably a hut circle or two have been trashed beyond recognition. I went into the wood at the top of Glenton Hill (calling it forest might be an exaggeration) and like Tara didn't see very much. However keeping heading north and on the downslope a cairn overlooking the very small village of Rickarton will be found.

It has also survived a bit better than its southern neighbour with possibly two kerbs still in place and the remains in of cist in it's houked centre. It stands at over 6m wide and is about 0.6m high. To the north is the wonderful view of Cairn Mon Earn.

A nice way to spend a sunny afternoon near Stonehaven.

Visited 3/1/2018.
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
16th March 2018ce

Glenton South (Cairn(s))

Sadly there are not much visible remains of the Glenton South cairn. All that can now be seen is a green circular patch amongst the gorse sitting at over 6m wide and 0.5m tall. Underneath the grass cairn material can be felt. What it does have are tremendous views over to Findlayston and Raedykes, homes to several cairns. A lot of the nearby smaller cairns have been gobbled up by the large amounts of gorse.

Heading west from the Cowton Bridge on the Slug Road aka the A957 Banchory Road. Take the first road heading south, almost doubling back, to North Glenton farm. I asked permission to park, which was granted, at the farm. From here I jumped the fence into a field and headed south and uphill. The cairn is located on the edge of a bog amongst jabby stuff just over the next fence/gate.

Visited 3/1/2018.
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
16th March 2018ce

Tigh-na-gaoith (Cairn(s))

From Creag Bheag we headed back down into the valley and climbed up the other side. Nearby there is a deer fence gate. Go through this until a steep descent (which is full of various animal holes). There is a small bridge crossing the Caoachan a Mhananaich burn. Cross this and climb up the other side. On top there is another track which heads north east then, after a large turn, heads west. By this time the cairn can be seen below.

It is unusually positioned being surrounded on three sides by three slopes. The only clear view is east towards the Cairngorms and River Spey. Being over 12m wide and 1m tall I think this cairn must have been considerably larger. Large stones which might have possibly stood lay prone on the other side of the track. Kerbs survive on the east side but sadly a massive amount of houking has taken place. Still the site remains circular, defiantly looking east.

Just below is the A86 which leads to Kingussie and eventually the road home. An excellent second day in an excellent area.

Visited 30/12/2017.
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
16th March 2018ce

Creag Bheag (Cairn(s))

From Caochan A' Mhanaich head north east past the huge natural mound. This might look an easy walk on the map but with loads of small streams, bogs, ruined dykes and the occasional fence keeping an eye on your feet is a good idea.

Eventually a new deer fence with a fairly new track behind is reached. Climb over this and go over the road to look down into a small valley. Just to the north there is a small hillock in front of the, by now, very impressive Creag Bheag from which the site earns it name. Indeed the small hill looks like a guard standing on duty.

Go down into the valley, cross the bog (and a couple of hidden streams) and climb the wee hill. The cairn is on the southern most point.

At 8m wide and almost 0.6m high the cairn stands watch over the Pitmain Burn. The slab mentioned by Canmore, now almost entirely covered in turf, might be the remains of a cist cover. Other cairn material poke their heads through the heather and turf covered site. It is a site of fantastic beauty despite the ever increasing darkness and dampness. These simply add to the atmosphere.

Still the hills aren't the safest place to be with darkness fast approaching so away we marched/stumbled to the last site of a wonderful day.

Visited 30/12/2017.
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
16th March 2018ce

Caochan A' Mhanaich (Cairn(s))

With Creag Bheag standing majestically to the north we continued from Newtonmore along the A86 until we reached the farm track to the ruined farm of Ballachroan. From here follow the dry stane dyke north west until it ends. Go through the gate and keep heading north west. By this time a large natural mound will be seen. Jump the burn, go through the bog and climb a wee hill. If still heading north west the cairn will be clearly seen in the short heather.

The site sits at just over 8m wide and is about 0.8m tall. Some displaced kerbs remain almost in place. Making it easier to the spot, turf covers the cairn. Even as the weather became dreicher (more damp and rainy) the scenery is magnificent. Creag Bheag looks down on top of us, the River Spey/Cairngorms are to the east and to the south the Banchor valley, one of my favourite areas.

With that it was over to look at the natural mound and on to continue splashing through the various bogs. Great fun!

Visited 30/12/2017.
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
16th March 2018ce

Crugyn-Llwyd (Round Cairn)

Approaching from Domen-ddu, a mile (ish) to the approx south, I find the large, grassy cairn crowning the 1,873ft summit of Crugyn-Llwyd to be far less obvious - topographically speaking - than I had envisaged. Indeed, upon arrival, I'm not at all convinced that Coflein haven't got this one badly wrong (the shame if it - oh me of little faith]. Yeah, all hill and no cairn. Please move along. Nothing to see here. However.... persevere, since, as it happens, this is very far from the case. For although Crugyn-Llwyd has reclaimed its eponymous Bronze Age monument as if clutching it close to its evergreen breast (so to speak) for safe keeping, it is nevertheless very much still here. As it has been for millennia. Hidden in plain sight, one might say. Without doubt the most effective camouflage.

So, following my own advice (for once) I go walkabout around the summit and, upon viewing the apparent monument from various angles, find that the artificial intent underscoring what we have here soon becomes all too obvious, the grass mantle no longer sufficient to deny the insight of a somewhat wonky prehistoric antennae now tuned to more-or-less the correct band width. Hey, just needed warming up a bit. Furthermore, albeit with some not inconsiderable effort, I manage to identify some stone subsumed beneath the turf and thus satisfy any lingering doubts. This one is a 'grower', as they might say. If 'they' were ever to venture up here, of course.

Note that not everything is rosy here. The cairn is unfortunately bisected by a boundary fence. Furthermore, the summit area to the east isn't exactly the most aesthetically pleasing in all Wales. Nevertheless this is a memorable place to be, even when lashed by periodic weather fronts, alternating with washes of golden light. A wild, uncompromising location seemingly divorced from everyday life 'down there' by some currently unquantifiable, additional dimension yet to trouble the scientists. Although to be fair Mr Hawking has probably already considered it. Whatever it is. As if to emphasise this sense of apparent 'other worldliness' a fox comes ambling by... sees the intruder.... tarries a while to check him out... then duly buggers off on his way again with a carefree 'skip' worthy of Father Dougal McGuire. Ha! Nothing to fear from that muppet, methinks...

As with neighbouring Domen-ddu, the west facing vista is quite superb; haunting, even, when perused at length under an ethereal September sky. A suitably expansive panorama for contemplating the sheer nebulosity of any notions of the passing of time, even those within scope of human comprehension. Or something like that. Maybe, on a much baser level, it's just damn beautiful. Inspiring, even?

Pegwn Bach rises to the approx north-north-west surmounted by an obvious - therefore presumably significant - 'Tumulus'. Further 'Cairns', not to mention serried ranks of wind turbines, are visible upon Pegwn Mawr beyond to the north. What with the Fowler's Arm Chair monuments located about a mile to the east it is clear quite a few homo sapiens called hereabouts 'home' back in the day. Yeah, word on the hill is a lot was goin' down back a few mill. Consequently strong walkers, or perhaps those content to spend less time sitting about than I, might consider expanding their itinerary to include the whole lot in one fell swoop?

But then again, in my opinion at least, there is a lot to be said for 'sitting about' upon hill/mountain tops.
GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
11th March 2018ce
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