The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Mynydd Carnguwch

Round Barrow(s)


I've wanted to come here for ages... but then I always find it difficult to prise myself away from the psychological embrace of the high mountains whenever I'm up north, you know? However dawn ushers in a thick carapace of low cloud to envelope the peaks of central Snowdonia in opaque, clammy vapour.... the mountain gods' equivalent of sticking a 'Do not disturb' sign on the outside door knob. So why not take the opportunity to head for the Lleyn Peninsular today? Why not, indeed? The bwlch at Drws-y-Coed affords this motorist access to Dyffryn Nantlle, and hence the A499 coastal road. There are worse. Heading south-west(ish) I take the B4417 toward Llanaelhaearn beneath the towering triumvirate of Yr Eifl.... the innermost summit of which is, incidentally, crowned by arguably - no, probably - Wales' finest hillfort.... Tre'r Ceiri.... the 'Town of Giants'. But then you get superlatives like that around here. Such as the truly massive cairn upon the hill opposite.... Mynydd Carnguwch. Yeah, tell me about it. I continue uphill before taking a minor left opposite a public house (the name of which unfortunately now escapes me), carrying on across a crossroads in a vaguely south-easterly direction prior to swinging to the left around the base of Mynydd Carnguwch itself. The road is a 'dead end' in the strictly technical sense only, boasting excellent views to the coast before terminating - in its tarmac guise at least - at Carnguwch Fawr farm. A little beforehand, just past the buildings at Ty'n-y-Mynydd and cattle grid, it is currently possible to park upon 'waste ground' partly occupied by piles of assorted aggregate, should you so wish. I do, as it happens.

A dry stone wall, seemingly defying Newton's law in that inimitable Welsh style, acts as my guide upon the very steep ascent of Mynydd Carnguwch, the mini-mountain rising behind me to the north all the way to 1,179ft (359m). It seems much more. Needless to say there is a 'false crest' half way up - just to take the piss, you understand - but nevertheless it is not that long before the great cairn rears up on the horizon... although not before time! And 'great' it surely is, certainly amongst the most substantial of Snowdonia's upland cairns I have had the privilege of meeting to date... possibly numero uno, in fact? According to Coflein the monument is:

'A ruined, dressed rubble-revetted oval cairn, 17.7m NE-SW by 11.6m and 3.2m high, set within a c.40m by 30m area loose rubble, thought to derive from its colossal wreck (source Os495card; SH34SE8) RCAHMW AP965031/68 J.Wiles 14.03.03'

However, as is more than often the case with these Bronze Age stone piles, it's where they put this one that really matters, the sheer bulk 'merely' the 'cherry on the top', if you pardon the analogy. As mentioned, the bulk of Yr Eifl dominates the northern view, Tre'r Ceiri to the fore. Yeah, it seems inconceivable that people actually lived up there... but there you are. Just because there doesn't seem to be a logical answer, doesn't mean it didn't happen. The evidence speaks for itself. The central Snowdonian mountains, still blanketed in the morning cloud, rise to the east(ish), and no doubt would furnish a mesmeric skyline under clearer skies? However today I guess the finest vista is that of the Lleyn Peninsular itself stretching away to the south-west, filled as it is with wondrous portal tombs, hillforts (such as Carn Fadryn) and, oh, much else.

But what of the cairn fabric? How do you describe a whopping great pile of rocks other than eponymously? Well, as Postie mentions, the erectors of this monument made canny use of an existing rocky summit - hey, cheated! - in order to achieve an even greater effect than would have otherwise been possible with the same volume of the hard stuff... Foel Grach style. That said, the sheer volume of stone here is astounding. As usual the effort required is mind bogglingly incomprehensible. Consequently I sit, stare out to sea, watch light play upon the landscape.... and come to the conclusion that.... assuming 'they' were trying to achieve some sort of meaningful 'statement' to posterity upon Mynydd Carnguwch back then.... attempting to communicate a sense of who they were, how their community saw the landscape they inhabited, how they came to terms with existing at that moment... I think they were successful.
26th December 2012ce
Edited 10th November 2018ce

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