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

Mynydd Graig Goch



It might be argued that the intentions of human beings erecting a cairn upon a mountain plateau with such a chaotic topography as Mynydd Graig Goch - a brutal landscape suggesting Mother Nature took a permanent hiatus mid-way through the act of creation, like the child walking away from an upturned box of lego - were always going to be infused with meaning of extreme profundity, incorporating sufficient incendivity to inflame the group consciousness and so define who they were as a people, how they viewed and related to their surroundings on the most fundamental level. Or else why undertake such a seemingly pointless, thankless task? A rhetorical question, of course. But one that plants that seed of curiosity in my brain.

At barely 2,000 ft Mynydd Graig Goch is not a substantial mountain, even when viewed within the context of the moderate summits of the sublime Nantlle Ridge, of which it is the south-western outlier. However, like the short man attempting to compensate for lack of vertical stature with abnormally powerful upper body strength and inflated aggression, it sure makes every one of those feet above ordnance datum count with a surfeit of naked rock, most impressively to the north where a powerful cliff-line towers above Llyn Cwm Dulyn. A reservoir since the 1880's, this glacial lake is apparently still home to the enigmatic arctic char. Unfortunately none of these wondrous fish break the not quite placid surface of the llyn as I begin what is a straightforward, albeit very steep ascent from water's edge. A bit too steep when wearing thermal underwear to (theoretically, anyway) cope with the anticipated inclement summit conditions. But there you are.

The summit crags, the Graig Goch, are an awful long time a'coming, eventually materialising beneath a leaden sky which thankfully appears content to interact with this mountain top from a distance, finally dispensing a light drizzle which has threatened all morning. Outcrops of shattered rock bar further progress like the merlons and embrasures forming the parapet of the defences of a giant's castle.... albeit a very badly built one, soon breached. A massive dry stone cross-wall is a much more difficult barrier to circumvent since I can not locate the break which must surely exist? And there, finally, sits the cairn a'top a section of lower crags a little below to the approx south-east. Once again the actual highest point was not considered appropriate. To be honest the monument is hard to make out initially, a massive cairn of stones set upon a massive natural base of rock, the latter slowly, inexorably disintegrating, engaged in a battle with the elements it can not win. A cairn upon a cairn, just about the optimum camouflage. Surely this was not designed to impress?

As I make my final approach that leaden sky - inevitably - decides to come and say 'hello', my world suddenly contracting to a surreal, claustrophobic, apparent dream state of ethereal, swirling shapes lacking any definition, apparitions devoid of any coherent form and without any real notion of substance... colour perhaps fifty shades of muted grey. Although rational thought reassures me that, having taken a compass bearing for just such an eventuality, this is really no big deal.... primitive responses nevertheless surface from deep within and battle for supremacy. Those far reaching vistas toward the Lleyn Peninsular I was hoping to enjoy suddenly curtailed as if a giant, unseen hand had placed a cover over my bird cage. Yeah, the conditions deteriorate further and it is tempting to accede to the wishes of the primeval psyche which has been released and run for home. But I will not. The cairn is deceptively massive, a serious construction for such a brutal spot, yet seems - to me - to have been placed not to assert ownership of this landscape, to effect some sort of subjection of Nature, but rather to function as an integral part of this mountain top, to work in harmony with it? Perhaps the all enveloping mantle of hill fog has some bearing on this view? Perhaps that was why these monuments were placed at such locations?

Two hours pass before the cloud is just as suddenly whisked away and I am finally able to revel in the panoramas I came to see. Another large Bronze Age cairn crowns Garnedd Goch rising across Bwlch Cwmdulyn to the north-east, yet another upon Craig Cwm-Silyn, summit peak of The Nantlle Ridge. The wondrous Moel Hebog, possessing a little Bronze Age cemetery of its own, sits beyond Cwm Pennant to the east. Then there's the aforementioned Lleyn, chock-a-block with hillforts, portal tombs, cairns; prehistoric treasures such as Tre'r Ceiri and Garn Boduan. Hey, the thought occurs that perhaps the point of this cairn, as with the massive Carn Ban overlooking Kilmartin far to the north, for that matter.... as well as numerous others... was to act as a place to observe, not to be seen?

Finally I must leave this desolate, yet nevertheless beguiling spot to ensure I get back down before dark, the former chill seeping into my very being as a result of the waiting, the riding out of the storm, now superceded by the warm glow of well... to be honest I don't really comprehend the source. Perhaps it emanates from a recognition, incoherent and blurred at the edges, that I am actually a part of this landscape, a participant in this ongoing relationship humankind has with these brutal, inhospitable high places, however minimal my role. Like playing 'the third sheep' in a school nativity play. Whatever, it feels good to be here. Maybe it always has, and that's why we continue to come? To connect with some facet of ourselves buried so deeply within the subconscious that it can only be teased to the surface when experiencing the sensory overload inherent in pilgrimages to primeval places such as Mynydd Graig Goch.
24th November 2014ce
Edited 3rd December 2014ce

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