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

Twr Pen-cyrn cairns



The very top of the hill slopes more steeply in a little crest. Once onto this, the wind increases dramatically and the chill becomes noticeable, even after the heat generated by the steady climb. Views open to the west, to Waun Rydd and the cloud-shrouded central Brecon Beacons.

Of more immediate interest is the collection of cairns on the hilltop, hidden from view until now. The name of the top, Twr Pen-cyrn (pronounced too-er pen keern) defies my translation efforts, settling on either “Tower [of the] head of the peak”, or “Peak-head Tower”, which seems too clumsy to be right. I have a little hand-drawn plan and notes taken from Coflein, but the numbering (and indeed the number) of cairns on Coflein doesn’t readily associate itself with what I’m seeing.

The entire summit area is liberally scattered with limestone blocks, making for plentiful cairn-building material. The first cairn I reach is small and to the southwest of the main summit group. I think, if it follows the Coflein numbering and descriptions, that it’s Cairn VII. Beyond it, framed by an impressive backdrop of the Sugarloaf, Ysgyryd Fawr and Blorenge, is the southeastern cairn in the group. This is a monster, about 15 metres across and a couple of metres high. It has been messed about, inevitably, but remains a truly impressive monument. The ground falls away from the cairn to the east, leaving a fine, unobstructed view across Monmouthshire. To the north, the Black Mountains ridges, centred on Pen Cerrig-calch from here, glower darkly. I wonder whether the geographical and geological divide between the limestone plateau of this hill and the sandstone ridges of the mountains across the river were reflected in tribal divisions when these monuments and the comparable cairns of Pen Cerrig-calch were constructed?

The other big cairn of the group is right on the summit, next to the trig pillar that itself surmounts a further, smaller, cairn. The summit cairn is a match for the southeastern neighbour. The be-trigged smaller cairn rejoices in the name of “Hen Dy-aderyn” (Old House of the Birds), which Coflein suggests might be linked to use as a shooting hide. The group certainly make for a great – if windy – spot for a cup of tea and contemplation. The clouds to the west briefly part to reveal the sawn-off tops of Corn Du and Pen y Fan, 15 miles or so distant.

These four cairns are the only apparent cairns here, so I can only conclude that the Coflein records include a degree of duplication.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
30th December 2012ce

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