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

Moel Hebog

Barrow / Cairn Cemetery


A virtually cloudless dawn - tent and car once again caked in ice and Moel Siabod sitting pretty in pink on the skyline - prompts a snap decision to reacquaint myself with the Bronze Age funerary cairns that crown the 2,565ft summit of Moel Hebog... here we go again......

The 'Hill of the Hawk' is a fine mountain presenting a distinctive wedge shaped profile when viewed towering above and to the south west of the tourism orientated, yet nonetheless attractive village of Beddgelert. The legend pertaining to Prince Llewelyn's dog, Gelert, needn't detain us further, the settlement almost certainly name-checking an early christian linked to the local ruined priory. Hey, but that was only yesterday! For immediately to the north the town is overlooked by Dinas, a flat-topped hillfort, whilst the iconic Dinas Emrys rises above Llyn Dinas a little way to the north-east. You've no doubt guessed that the word 'Dinas' refers to a fort or stronghold....

The usual route taken by those who wish to ascend Moel Hebog begins in town, where there is a large, albeit expensive, pay and display car park (limited roadside parking is available for those on a budget if you arrive early enough - ha!). After crossing the railway line - incidentally running recently restored steam engines - via a bridge, I follow the public footpath, through woodland glistening with frost, to veer right along a track to the isolated farmsteads within Cwm Cloch. Here the mountain rises in an awesome, majestic display of raw power to the south-west, its profile accentuated by a sky of unprecedented blue. Although the onward path is obvious, the angle is very steep, so it's just as well the retrospective view grows progressively more magnificent in scope with every step... just for starters check out the prehistoric monuments on display - the two aforementioned hillforts, a distant Carnedd Moel Siabod and, just across the valley, Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) herself... Nice. Sure, it's a struggle, particularly the last section of unstable scree [please bear this in mind if you are not familiar with such potentially dangerous features] until a pair of modern (I think) marker cairns signify the final stretch, the be-cairned Nantlle Ridge announcing it's presence beyond a similarly blessed Moel-yr-Ogof, a ferociously biting wind doing likewise.

And there they are. Four, possibly five, small Bronze age cairns crowning the summit plateau before the rather dilapidated OS triangulation pillar. Two are reasonably sized, but by no means large .... and certainly nothing to trouble my Citizen Cairn'd stock of construction eulogies. The others are even smaller, so it's not really surprising they didn't really register from my last visit here in the mid-90's. Sit a-while, however, and it soon becomes apparent that here we have a small Bronze Age cemetery commanding one of the most awesome all-round panoramas you could possibly wish for! Yeah, these people sure knew what they were doing. If you're looking for eternity, here 'tis. The multiple-cairned Nantlle Ridge completely dominates proceedings to north-west, Criccieth Castle upon it rock, Tre'r Ceiri and the glistening Lleyn to the west, Southern Snowdonia to the... er... south, not forgetting the mountains of Central Snowdonia to the north-east. Hillforts, dolmens, chambered cairns, Bronze Age cairns.... hell, prehistory wherever you look, all set amongst a landscape of the highest quality.

OK, the Moel Hebog cemetery is a modest one in terms of construction. Perhaps that's being somewhat generous, even? But make the not inconsiderable effort to come here and I think you'll leave more emotionally enriched than when you arrived. Which, when you think about it, is not a bad return in this modern world full of bland 'experiences' and computer generated fantasy. Give me the real deal any day. Even if it did all but freeze the wotsits off me!
23rd November 2010ce
Edited 12th January 2011ce

Comments (2)

Really enjoyed your piece on Hebog, been up there a few times myself, the last was through beddgelert forest to moel ogof, then I followed the wall up.
I never really looked at the cairns, but you've rekindled my interest - so I'll have to go again! Great pictures too, you had a good day there.
skins Posted by skins
12th January 2011ce
Glad it caught your interest, Skins. Can't ask for more than that since these locations are a bit of an acquired taste, I guess. Particularly enjoyed a similar return to Mynydd Mawr a year back, too.

Moel Hebog's such a wonderful viewpoint it's not surprising we don't notice what's literally under our feet - it took a chance glance at Coflein to make the connection. Look forward to your take on what's up there... or on any other high cairn in Snowdonia, come to mention it.
12th January 2011ce
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