|The Gower is a rather beautiful sandy, limestoney peninsula sticking out westwards from South Wales right on Swansea's doorstep.
We were very lucky with the weather. It was incredibly cold, but there was no breeze at all, the sky was cloudless and blue and the sun's weak rays poured out lemon light. There are some really rather lovely sites down here and lots of variety, too. We easily did this lot on a short winter's day!
This is a well tended and large restored Severn-Cotswold type cairn. We got there early and the light was streaming through the frosty trees. The cairn has a central passage with two pairs of transepted chambers. The cairn is now roofless so the internal structures are all exposed. It was fabulous just lying there surrounded by woodland in a bright yellow crisp winter valley. We loved it.
You can park very close by and the approach to it is flat so it'd be great for those using wheelchairs or buggies to visit.
Just 200ms away from Parc le Breos
hidden in the wooded cliffs on the right as you approach is this lovely cave which is certainly worth a shufti. It has two entrances, one closed up with railings. The larger entrance, of a tall triangular shape, leads to a huge interior. It goes back a long way into the rock and has a number of chambers within it. I was thrilled and delighted at how cosy and warm it was at the back of the cave away from the frosty winter morning. When it was excavated in the 1960s very ancient human remains were found.
Lurking in the dunes on a promontory close to Penmaen village is a small burial chamber.
We parked at SS527885 by the bus stop and post box and walk down the path marked 'Tor Bay 0.8kms'.
Once on the promontory be prepared for a stomp about! We scoured the hillside on the left of the path where the dunes dip down sharply to the dramatic beach below. It wasn't there. We searched the tip of the promontory, but no cigar. Finally as we were about to give up, I spotted it 20 metres from the end of main path as it breaks up into many tracks through the dunes, on the right of the 'mainest' path.
It has a good sized solid capstone, now fallen on one side, and a few stones making up a short passageway. Surrounded by dead bracken, half buried in a dune, it's not a burial chamber to write home about, but I loved it anyway. The views down to Threecliff Bay are breathtaking!
Up here on top of the dunes reminded me of Porth Hellick Downs on Scilly's St Mary's.
The site is found up on high open moorland with amazing views back over to Llanelli to the north. The moor was crawling with shaggy frozen ponies. As you approach it you can see it's big but then - woooo!!! This is so much bigger and more impressive than I had ever imagined up close. The capstone is less of a cap and more of a mighty concrete helmet – perhaps weighing 40 or 50 tons (I kid you not!) - supported by really small uprights which look as if they have been driven into the earth under the vast weight of the elephantine lump above. The whole construction sits in a concave rubble cairn, so it's easy to imagine the original size of this place.
As we drove around, we kept getting sights of the monument perched up there on that chilly heath from miles away.
Cefn Bryn Great Cairn is just 25ms away from Maen Cetty
and is little more than a huge mound of large stones. But it all adds to the atmosphere up there on that amazing ridge of moorland with those staggering views.
Sampson's Jack is a pointy menhir of white stone which soars out of its hedgerow setting! It is the texture and colour of rice pudding. What a shame you can't see the whole stone – it must be 12 feet tall, but the bottom six feet are hidden in the hawthorn. Without modern buildings it is only maybe 300 metres away from the standing stone at Ty'r Coed farm and certainly on a sight line.
Note for pedants: On the map, the spelling of Sampson has a 'p' in it.
Park at the top of the lane by the farm entrance and ask at the farm to see it, because this is on private land.
The farm building is only inches away from this menhir which is made of the same rice pudding stone of Sampson's Jack. Because it stands in a rise of land its size is deceptive. It must be at least seven feet tall. From here you get a very clear view of Maen Cetty
on the ridge to the south about a mile and half away.
The stone is kept in a small enclosure with three dogs so mind where you tread - it's very shitty!
We drove along to Llanrhidian village where a number of standing stones were marked on the map. We had a look for the one at Oldwall at SS484919, but it wasn't there. Perhaps it has been removed?
We drove into the village of Llanrhidian.
Two menhirs stand guarding each side of the path up to the tiny old church. At the far western end of the Gower peninsula is the most lovely beach – four miles long backed by extensive hummocky dunes. Rising sharply to 185 feet above sea level immediately behind this is Rhossili Down, a great dramatic hill facing directly west. Right on the top of this are some cairns, burnt mounds and the Sweyne Howes chambered tombs.
The stones are curious. The 'lower' one is undoubtedly ancient. The size, weathering patterns and position all felt genuine. The 'upper' one was highly suspicious. It looked as if it were a more recent stone – which for sure had once been used as a gatepost – which had been plonked on top of a larger stone. The larger stone now lies down on the slope, but the size, type and weathering all matched the standing stone still up.
I wondered if they had once been part of an alignment as they followed the dip in the road which looked as if it had once been an old trackway down to the marsh just half a mile or so to the north
I can't resist a chambered tomb, so I foolishly persuaded myself that shuffling up the near vertical (OK, I'm exaggerating, but it was really steep) hillside would be worth it. Grumbling with displeasure, I made it to the very top, but when I couldn't immediately see the tombs I turned back, knowing it would take me a long time and a great deal of pain in my knees to get off this particular Everest. The view from the top was lovely, but certainly not worth pain. Moth made it up to the tombs and took lots of lovely photos for me to see later. I returned to the beach to sit in the dunes and watch the crazy surfers – one of who I observed scraping ice from his board before waxing it down. Nutter! I hope he had a thermal vest on underneath his drysuit!
The Gower really is very beautiful. For megalithomaniacs needing to take a holiday with their family, I can highly recommend it. Amazing beaches, lovely walks (I imagine, for those who like walking), delightful hostries, views, surfing, horseriding, pottering about and for the stone-huggers lots of different kinds of monument to seek out.