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

Carn Owen

Round Cairn


It would be tempting to speculate that this deceptively well sited monument was so named in honour of Pumlumon's greatest (known) son, Owain Glyndwr. Well, seeing as we are obviously ignorant of the identities of the numerous other great persons once interned in the iconic 'Mother of Rivers' myriad upland cairns, surely no one could argue with the selection of Shakespeare's 'worthy gentleman exceedingly well read'? Then again this could all be spurious conjecture on my part... the name-checked celebrity the late, much lamented Bill Owen from Last of the Summer Wine? Hey, I'd go with either.

'Compo's Cairn' certainly has a bit of a 'ring' about it and, to be fair, appears appropriate to my (admittedly idiosyncratic) mind as I struggle up the steep, southern flank of Cerrig yr Hafan in driving rain, not at all impressed by the accumulation of household rubbish within the abandoned quarry at its foot. Yeah, sadly the old mine/quarry tracks to be found here offer easy access to those in possession of a 4x4... and beyond all help. And to think this is my third attempt to see the cairn. Er, come again? Well, I first noticed Carn Owen last year across the Nant-y-Moch, basking under a peerless blue sky during the ascent of Drosgol. Needless to relate the 'morrow dawned in appalling fashion.... and an attempt last month was curtailed by the closure of the trans-Pumlumon road at both ends. Bastards! Isn't it strange... and primitive... how the desire to 'have' increases with every successive denial, seemingly inversely proportional to the potential prize? Hence, despite having endured a typically turbulent night upon Pumlumon, I'm resolutely determined to be most probably distinctly underwhelmed this morning.... even if it kills me. Happily neither scenario occurs, although I did wonder about the latter for a second during the ascent. OK, a bit longer than that.

Struggling to the top I immediately encounter what looks like a reasonably large, grassed-over cairn. No bad at all. However the map shows Carn Owen to occupy the very summit of the ridge, to the approx south-west. In retrospect this grassy monument is perhaps related to what Coflein cite as 'small satellite cairns... noted to the north-east'? Perhaps. What is certain is the substantial size and excellent siting of Carn Owen itself, the monument located, as promised, at the summit of Cerrig yr Hafan ('Haven Stone'?). The stone pile is a superb viewpoint, worthy of Glyndwr himself in my opinion, particularly looking down upon the Afon Cyneiniog to the approx west, not to mention south toward Llyn Craigypistyll and Disgwylfa Fawr, hill of Bronze Age 'canoe' fame, no less. The vista of Pumlumon across the Nant-y-Moch reservoir upon the northern arc is pretty good, too.... would be even better in clear weather with the main ridge standing proud of cloud. Yeah. But then you would wake up...

There is a wee problem, however. It is far, far too windy to stand anywhere but in the cairn's lee. Consequently I'm obliged to sit. Well, better than involuntarily prostrating myself, head first, in homage to past heroes. As you might expect the centre of Carn Owen has been badly disturbed over time, a notable volume of material subject to slippage. However there is a welcome, unexpected detail in the form of a small stone setting (a cist perhaps?) to the immediate north-west. Nice. What's more, the sun sees fit to break through for a while and make doubly sure I'm truly glad I persevered with Carn Owen. It may well be upon Pumlumon's periphery - and not rise much above 1,500ft - but this is surely a final resting place for heroes.

If you fancy it the easiest approach - although, as mentioned, not necessarily the most salubrious - entails parking above the northern extremity of the Nant-y-Moch Reservoir (same place as for Drosgol), that is a little before the cattle grid and track leading down (eastward) through woodland toward the water, assuming arrival from Ponterwyd. A prominent track heads diagonally uphill here (approx south-ish). Follow this and, upon reaching an abandoned quarry, veer very steeply uphill to the right. Worth the effort. Incidentally it would also appear possible to combine a visit to Disgwylfa Fawr if you fancy making a full day of it?
3rd December 2013ce
Edited 5th December 2013ce

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