|Carreg Samson has a wonderful epic sense of place, a total must-visit.
The cromlech has three uprights of tough granitey stone, with three of another stone that, like the monstrous capstone, captivatingly glitter with quartz. The dumped stones that lie recumbent in the field also have quartz in them, which you can see once you move the indolent cudding cows and mellow sheep out of the way.
Like many of the cromlechs hereabouts, Carreg Samson's stones are fat and rounded, so it looks squat and almost cuddly until you realise that because the stones are fatter they are also heavier, and this means a greater weight and corresponding effort in moving them into place.
Carreg Samson stands at the head of a small valley several hundred metres long leading down to the sea and straight over to a small island called Ynys Castell ('Castle Island'). The Modern Antiquarian recounts a legend that the capstone of the cromlech was flicked into place from the island may be a garbled clue that the island was a focus for the siting of the stones. To get here we came through the village of Abercastle ('River mouth by the castle'), which runs out to a harbour protected Ynys Castell, again suggesting the island as a focal point (there is no castle here).
From up here at the stones, as well as facing north to the sea, the view extends east to the cromlech-sited outcrops of Pen Caer peninsula, and beyond to the rich megalithic zone of Mynydd Preseli. There's a clear sightline to Ffyst Samson cromlech.
Carreg Samson's chamber contains a sheep that seems unfazed by anything and lets you come in there with it, although this is thought to be a recent feature.
Children & Nash (1997) say excavation found there to have originally been a 2 metre long passage entrance, and there were three pits, two inside the chamber and one a metre outside. If there was a covering mound, it means the pits predate the cromlech, as the mound would have covered the area of the outside pit.
The stones are used as rubbing posts by livestock and as a shelter, causing the chamber ground to be continually churned up. It amazes me how many megaliths continue to be damaged by farming. At St Elvis Farm the landowner is the National Trust, so there's a small fenced to protect the monument from livestock. But at so many others, even here at the showcase, postcard model, book-cover adorning Carreg Samson, the problem continues. We bemoan the appalling losses to agriculture of the 18th-20th centuries, but the lesson hasn't been learned and the damage – so easily, quickly, simply and cheaply averted – continues. Frankly, after 50 years of the tractor it's amazing there's any megaliths left at all.
If you choose to ignore Lotty's sound advice to approach from the coast path from Abercastle and instead approach from the farm, be sure to walk on past the stones to see the amazing dramatic view from the headland overlooking the sea.
Posted by Merrick
7th September 2004ce