|Tyrrau Mawr, presenting an almost unfeasibly beautiful facade (Craig Las) to visitors to the Llynnau Cregennen situated above Arthog, stands towards the western end of the great mountain ridge that is Cadair Idris. Reaching 2,168ft, it is significantly lower than Pen-y-Gadair, Cadair Idris's summit peak at 2,928ft; nevertheless it is arguably a better all round viewpoint - strange as that may sound - and very possibly one of the finest in all Wales, in my humble opinion.
There's something else, too. Something which has haunted me (in a 'nice' way, you understand) for the past couple of years. Yeah, something in the form of several large, Bronze Age funerary cairns set upon Carnedd Lwyd, a rocky outcrop well placed upon Tyrrau Mawr's eastern shoulder. Dismissed as 'quarrying' during my last visit way back in 1994 - in my defence the cairns aren't all that obvious from the ridge to the north (!!) - a return visit was therefore long overdue. Having said that, you can't just 'book' an appointment to see high mountain sites as you would others, a fact made only too clear by an obscuring mantle of cloud which greets my arrival at Ty Nant today.... I make a judgement call and decide it will (hopefully!) peel away in an hour or so and consequently set off up the Pony Path towards Rhiw Gwredydd [there is an expensive official 'pay and display' carpark here, or some very limited roadside parking options if you're early enough. I am]. The early stages of the walk feature some excellent, cascading streams beneath foliage, well worth the trip in itself, to be honest. However as I gain height the landscape becomes much more open, more brutal... hell, even desolate. Cyfrwy and the main summits of Cadair Idris tower above to my left, my 'holy grail' crowning the ridge crest to my right, with the hillfort of Pared-y-cefn-hir far right. I leave a group of young climbers at the bwlch (pass) with a few words of encouragement for their summit attempt - right on, lads - veering right myself to follow the remnants of a dry stone wall towards Tyrrau Mawr's top at a much more modest altitude.
Although the cairns stand before and below the summit, I can't recommend an extension to the crest of Craig Las highly enough. Really, I can't... if only for excellent views of a number of other prehistoric monuments in the locality... the aforementioned Pared-y-cefn-hir; the two Hafotty-fach cairns below to the west; Craig-y-Llyn and its funerary cairn; the Arthog stones, with the site of Cerrig Arthur across the exquisite Afon Mawddach; The Tarrens to the south; Arans to the east.... and last but not least, the exceptional view of Carnedd Lwyd itself set below the summit peaks of Cadair Idris, surely one of the finest of any prehistoric site in Wales? But then I'm clearly smitten by what's on offer here. And biased. Hey, check it out for yourself.
Anyway, where was I? Ahh, yes. Carnedd Lwyd. Approaching from Craig Las, following a sudden, violent hammering by a fast moving weather front, with returning cloud engulfing all - which, I have to admit, catches me napping - I ascend the crags to find the two northern-most cairns are far more substantial than appeared to be the case from above. The eastern - although somewhat 'hollowed out' - is a fine monument, completely dominated by the bulk of the rise to Cyfrwy and Pen-y-Gadair, mist still swirling around the summit peak. There seems (to my eyes) to be a definite correlation between mountain summit and cairn, the latter in awe of the former and sited in an appropriately subservient manner. The western of the pair is better preservered and supports a wooden pole which... er... accidentally falls down when I touch it. Strange, that. To the south, a wire fence stands before another small crag with - I think - two more, smaller cairns in situ. I check my watch. I'm already at the optimum departing time for a safe descent. But this place is so evocative I decide to push my luck and take it to the wire. Yeah, the relationship between cairns and mountainside is truly compelling. In short, I think I 'get it', understand for once. Hell, it was worth the sixteen year wait. Eventually I simply have to leave, or else see whether the legend of either becoming a poet or madman by spending a night upon Cadair Idris is just legend. Despite another weather front I make the car before dark. Just.
Posted by GLADMAN
4th December 2010ce
Edited 5th February 2011ce