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

Capel Garmon

Chambered Cairn


Dawn arrives at Fferm y'Rynys - a little under a mile below and to the south of the great chambered long barrow standing mute testimony to millennia of humankind's ultimately forlorn attempts to tame this wild, uncompromising landscape - to witness my tent.. somehow.. still clinging to this North Walian hillside, like a particularly stubborn limpet upon the foreshore beneath Penmaenmawr, having defied the unwelcome attentions of Hurricane Gonzalo's swirling extremities during the night. Well, at least the meteorologists named this latest manifestation of Nature's destructive power after a male, albeit (presumably) one from Shakespeare's 'Tempest'. How poetic. Anyway, having just about managed to avoid dashing out what brains I do possess upon Tal-y-Fan's summit crags the previous day, I wisely resist the siren call of the high peaks, as exemplified by the soaring profile of Moel Siabod to the west. Must be getting old. So Capel Garmon it is.

Ironically, despite having patronised Gareth and Carol Williams wondrous campsite more-or-less every year since 1989, this is but my third visit to the superb neolithic monument which overlooks the fertile Conwy Valley at its juncture with that of the Machno. As noted by previous members parking/access is not ideal if approaching from the village of Capel Garmon. Hence I decide to finally take Carol's advice and walk from my tent. Hey, why hadn't I thought of that before? Standing at the campsite entrance the access road continues uphill beyond a gate, the negotiation of a couple more such barriers bringing me to a public footpath veering left where a large corrugated iron barn looms above. From here marker posts direct the would-be visitor across a couple of fields until the great funerary monument is seen slumbering below, beyond a kissing date. Yeah, this is a much better way to arrive, blown in on the wind.

Immediately it is obvious that Gonzalo hasn't finished yet, not by a long chalk. Violent gusts of wind propel towering cathedrals of cumulonimbus across the sky, unleashing shafts of golden sunlight interacting with lashing rain squalls to send rainbows arcing into the apparent stratosphere, tripping the light fantastic to the symphony in my head. The scene, the vibe is so 'Turner-esque' that, upon glancing toward the natural gorsedd to the north, I almost expect to see Timothy Spall sitting there, paintbrush in hand. Nature's invigoratingly full-on theatrics would be more than enough today, to be fair. However Capel Garmon happens to be an absolutely first rate monument....

Substantial, too, a central 'chamber', flanked by another large example either side upon an approx east-west axis entered - at least originally - by a narrow passage to the south, this seemingly aligned upon the aforementioned gorsedd (as noted by Mr Cope in his day-glo tome). Seems a reasonable assumption to me. However for me the most impressive component of this great chambered long barrow is the massive capstone which still rests, albeit with a bit of help from a surprisingly unobtrusive concrete support, upon the western chamber. This is open to the west giving the impression of being the entrance. But apparently, in true Cotswold-Severn tradition, this was actually a falsie. More to the point though is why we have a Cotswold-Severn influenced monument up here upon a raging Snowdonian hillside at all? How very odd.

Pondering such imponderables I sit inside and let a couple of hours drift by in relative shelter. 'Relative' since even the overwhelming mass of a 14ft capstone isn't sufficient to keep out the weather in these parts today. Particularly tail ends of hurricanes. In some ways Capel Garmon's great tomb sticks out like a sore thumb here in the uplands of Northern Snowdonia, the preserve of the great Bronze Age round cairn. But I, for one, am not complaining.
18th November 2014ce
Edited 19th November 2014ce

Comments (3)

Great notes (again) Mr G. Very enjoyable read. Posted by CARL
19th November 2014ce
Thanks Carl. Appreciate that. GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
20th November 2014ce
We popped into Capel Garmon a couple of years ago when camping down in the river valley. Lovely tomb in a very lovely bit of the uk... juamei Posted by juamei
20th November 2014ce
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