I visited Carreg Samson yesterday on the way home from the Fishguard ferry. Almost declined the suggestion to make the detour as by this time travel weary and a long journey still ahead.
What an uplifting experience - midday yesterday the sky and sea were sparkling blue. My friend drove to Abercastle via Mathry from where we took a short walk along the coast path to a signpost pointing uphill - quite accessible as steps have been laid. Carreg Samson lived up to all my expectations and felt very much in keeping with the sites I had just been visiting in West Cork as again, facing out to sea. This visit somehow made light of the long drive back to Wiltshire which lay ahead.
WOW,WOW,WOW – what a great site!!!!!!!!!!
I have been to many dolmens but for views this has to be the best – stunning.
Easy to access, parking next to Longhouse Farm. Luckily it hadn't rained for several weeks so the mud/much from the ever present cows was not a problem – although I am sure it would be in wet weather. There was a group of artists present when I visited who were painting the dolmen for ever possible angle! The dolmen was a lot bigger than I expected and it was no problem walking underneath. I would put this burial site in my top 3, alongside Pentre Ifan and West Kennett. Did I mention the views???
It's not ideal and not for most people but sleeping in the car makes for a good day out, this time we parked a couple of miles east of Abercastle, a few hours later and the alarm goes off at first light, then its funny how comfortable a Ford Mondeo can be.
Last time we came there was a campsite here, its gone now and the farm isnt a busy place anymore, nor is it a happy place.
We parked the car in site of Carreg Samson in the farm yard and walked the last hundred metres down to the dolmen, the cows began to stand up as we approached but they kindly vacated the field for us and gave us no bother.
You can stand up under the capstone like at Pentre Ifan but unlike that waif like streamlined structure, this is rough, chubby, and oaf like, but i'm being unkind the stones are bigger to hold up the continent of capstone above.
Of the six orthostats holding up the thick wedge of a capstone only three touch stone and they are of two kinds of rock, three of a smooth sandstoney and three conglomerates, reminded me vaguely of East Aquhorthies where they too intentionally used different kinds of stone.
What does it mean, does it mean anything, could it be part of the builders folklore, traditions or religion.
The stones are far more permanent than the ugly farm, hopefully it wont put up too much of a struggle and do the decent thing and dissappear, leaving the cromlech alone with its view and its visitors.
Carreg Samson is a favourite, wander round the cliff path from the village, the farmhouse route looks pretty boring. Chunky is the best way to describe the dolmen, standing at the head of a small pretty valley that runs down to the
sea, the great capstone perched on three of the seven large uprights forms an oval/polygonal chamber. It dips towards the bay and Strumble Head, dominated by the peaks of Garn Fawr, Garn Gilfach and Garn Wnda, again the siting of the tomb is not on high ground, its reference point seems to be easy accessability to the sea and stream that runs down a few yards away. The chamber being constructed over an irregularly cut pit, stones that may have been found in the chamber could be put down to the fact that it was recently recorded that it was used as sheep shelter and had drystone walling inserted between the stones. There is no direct evidence for a covering mound but Nash suggests that the elongated shape of the stones points to a covering mound, not unlike Pentre Ifan
Three of its stones are of similar material and stand in a small row together, whether these stones are part of an earlier monument I don't know but Figgis says
that there was some mesolithic flintwork found within the tomb, so perhaps it points to a 'returning place' which had special significance.
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.
If you think Cerrig y Gof enjoys a good view, it's only experiencing a reasonable peek compared to Carreg Samson. This big baby stands in a cow field with the most inspiring view over the Pembrokeshire coastal cliffs and the Irish Sea, which was blue and lovely on this particular morning, despite the heat haze.
Carreg Samson is huge, solid and doughty, and appropriately named. Interestingly, it is also constructed from two different types of stone, the best ones being a conglomeration of lumpy stone, huge seams of rose quartz, amber quartzite, and dollops of black flint that look like cow poo, but happily are not. Something about the texture of all this reminds me of my grandmother's suet puddings; but I'm pleased to inform you all she never loaded hers with amber quartzite, preferring instead the tameness of currants.
I spent a considerable time photographing this from every conceivable angle, and also felt very at home when sat under the vast capstone. This is an extraordinarily good place to sit and reflect on life. Sadly, though, I didn't have all day, and all to soon, had to return to the car. But I love you, Carreg Samson!
We approach the site along a farm track, and our first glimpse is through a gateway on our right, when still 200 yards away. Crouching alongside a sparse West Wales hedge the stones hunker down against the scrub and gorse backdrop, as if sheltering from the winds that must tear across this exposed landscape.
Our pace quickens as the tomb slips away from view until we find ourselves in what appears an abandoned farmyard. A faceless farm stares down at us. A sign points to ‘footpath’ but there appears no way ahead without opening tied gates. Are we welcome? A dog crouches beneath a gate and studies us curiously. The atmosphere is oppressive and after studying the map we decide our course lies across a rusted cattle grid and along the left hand hedge. Retying the gate behind us we find ourselves approaching this great chamber, growing in stature as we approach.
The capstone appears finely balanced, a huge slab of raw rock, shot through with the famed rose quartz. Warm to the touch, tactile and smooth, one feels that with just a push of the arm it would rock, being balanced beautifully on 3 stones only. From certain angles is appears almost to be levitating, the point of contact being so difficult to see unless up close. A Naum Gabo sculpture hewn in stone.
The interior is clean, almost swept, and there are none of the usual offerings here. The sheep happily graze in its shadow but there are no droppings within the tomb. The position on the landscape is strong, visible to all who approach along the north east cliffs, the pathways of old. A fallen stone lies some 30 feet distant, and it is on this which I sit and write my notes, gazing back at the squat, powerful hulk that still stands guard. I would not like it, if it were angry…
Access if on the flat. Park at the end of the farm drive, walk along a tarmacaddamed road into the farmyard, then cross an old cattle grid to join a well trodden, wide, dry path to Carreg Samson. Approximately 10 minutes leisurely walking from where you park.
With palettes still tingling from a visit to the nearby cheese making farm, we visited Carreg Samson. Thrilling! The view is awesome, surely one of the finest placings of a dolmen in these parts? It certainly rivals Pentre Ifan for sheer gloriousness. But what of the cromlech itself? Outwardly it appears to be just another typical dolmen. But look more closely and you see a puzzling construction of two kinds of stone. (I’m no geologist, as I’m about to reveal!) One kind is a smooth bluestone type, the other a lumpy-ricepuddingy kind, shot through with stars and splats of quartz, edged with black. The capstone is of the latter and deserves particular observation. I studied it for as long as I could without getting ‘in shot’, as treaclechops was photographing.
Visited 18th April 2003: We parked in the yard in front of Longhouse Farm, and followed the footpath north east to Carreg Samson. There's a concrete track most of the way, but it's a bit muddy from the cattle. I reckon an adventurous wheelchair user could get very close to the site with a little bit of help.
The cattle own Carreg Samson, or that's how it looked as we approached. Luckily they were just inquisitive bullocks, using the chamber as a sun shade and scratching post. They took a shine to William, and we got close up to them under the capstone. It was all very friendly. The fact that cows can fit under the capstone gives an indication of the size of the chamber. It's whopping, and I had no trouble standing at the northern end to admire the lumps of quartz in the rock. What an amazing site. It must be second only to Pentre Ifan amongst the burial chambers of south west Wales.
As well as the cows we met a very friendly and extremely posh couple who had come to visit the chamber. If I recall correctly, her mother lived at the farm as a little girl. Sadly no folklore was forthcoming, but the gent entertained William with some simple magic tricks. Just goes to show, you can meet people at Carreg Samson.
Starting in the morning from the Old Courthouse B&B in Trevin, we hiked south on the Pembrokeshire Coast Trail. We found a fake stone circle assembled by local herdsmen on a lark, albeit a cool one. But we also found a long standing stone that seemed to be a marker for walking or sea-faring pilgrims. After hiking to the slate and bluestone quarry, the latter which could have easily been used as the backdrop for a B-grade Sci-Fi movie. This is where the Ancients got their bluestones for Stonehenge and elsewhere (such as the Marlborough Downs, I reckon). After reaching the once oil-damaged but healing Blue Lagoon, we returned north to our digs. Upon querying our hostess about the stones, she suggested going north on the trail for a mile or two to Carreg Samson, on the Longhouse Farm property.
Just before the rain and sunset we found Carreg Samson. Most planks would make a Spinal Tap joke about its size, but it's still in good shape and a beautiful testament to its builders. It was our first sight of the brilliant quartz patches that ran through it. The cattle were restless as the wind blew off the coast and over the beautiful cliffs.
Being the pseudo-intellectual I am, I thought a hill behind the farm was maybe the "Longhouse Burial Chamber", but their dogs soon ran us out, nipping at our heels. After a few laughs we raced home to beat the rain.
Samson was small in stature but stong in spirit. If you go, you'll probably be the only ones there, and what more could you ask for, to be alone with the Mother?
In the book Saints and Stones (ISBN 1-84323-124-7) Davies and Eastham describe how St. Samson was once credited with the lifting of the capstone:
…the twelve-ton capstone may have been a naturally occurring erratic, already on site, which the enterprising Neolithic engineers dug out and hoisted onto uprights. Legend has it that St Samson performed the operation with his little finger (and severed it in the process): the tomb was once known as the Grave of Samson's Finger.
Mr. E. Owen Phillips, of the Cathedral Close, St. David's, writes thus to the Times:- I have just returned from visiting the celebrated Longhouse cromlech, which, I am glad to say, remains in its integrity, untouched by the rude had of the destroyer, and I am thankful to believe likely to remain so.
Mr. Griffiths, the owner of the farm on which the Cromlech stands, accompanied me to the spot, and I have his authority for stating that he takes the greatest interet in this magnificent monument of prehistoric archaeology and in its preservation. His father-in-law, a former tenant of the farm, spent much time and labour, in clearing away obstructing rubbish, in order to bring the cromlech into bolder relief and afford a better view of it all round - a great improvement, as it certainly presents a more grand and striking appeance at present than it did when I saw it some years since.
On my asking Mr. Griffiths for an explanation of the statement which appeared in a letter to The Times of September 6, that a labourer who was engaged in grubbing up stones near the monument to fill in a gap in a fence, said that he, the owner, "threatened to overthrow and demolish the monument altogether in order to construct a new bank across an adjacent field!" Mr Griffiths replied that "there was not a word of truth in it, nor any foundation for the statement, and that very probably the man was hoaxing the stranger."
Mr. Griffiths complains and feels aggrieved that, assuming the statement to have been made, Mr. Greville Chester did not call on him to ascertain the truth or otherwise of it; the more so as Mr. Chester must have passed within a few yards of his house on returning from the cromlech. The disturbance caused by the stones, which are now to be seen filling up a gap in a fence, does not in the slightest degree interfere with the stability of the cromlech, which the public will be interested to know the present landlord is as anxious to preserve as carefully as it has been in the past.
At the same time, I agree with Mr. Greville Chester that it was an oversight, at least, on the part of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners "not to insert a proviso in the deed of sale for the preservation of so important a monument of prehistoric archaeology;" since the farm might have found a purchaser in one whose conservative interest in this grand old monument was less than that of the present owner.
This really is miscellaneous, but today someone sent me a photograph of a stone circle on the cliff top at Trefin Cove. It is probably a fairly modern one (though it looks real) but there is no literature for it. But some weeks ago, someone mentioned a circle in this area, so if you're on your way to Carreg Samson, stop off at Trefin Cove and look up to the cliffs, some information would be interesting as well.
I always find it easier and more scenic to approach from Abercastle. Take the left hand coastal footpath (When looking out to sea) and walk out with fantastic views through the gap in the cliffs towards Garn Fawr. It is signposted from the coastpath just after the little rocky bay and up the hill. This must be how it was meant to be approached from the water