My last site of the day and what a great place to finish with!
The weather had been glorious and I was eager to watch the sun go down from this stone circle, high in the hills – who wouldn’t?
I took the turning east, off the B4401, just north of Llanrillo, and headed up the lane. Where the lane forked I made the mistake of continuing to drive up hill instead of parking. The lane soon became a narrow rough track but there was nowhere to turn and I was committed to keep on driving. The track was very steep and I had to continue in 1st gear only. At the top of the track I was confronted by a closed metal field gate which I had no choice but to open and drive through. I decided to leave the car parked here (there was no one about this time of day) and continue uphill on foot.
I then came to another closed gate which had a warning notice attached stating that this was a SSI area and that motor vehicles were prohibited beyond this point. This made me feel a bit better about where I had left my car further down hill. The circle was still not visible so I made my way up to the highest point, over to my left. As I approached the top of the hill - there it was, a small but perfectly formed stone circle.
I first walked around the outside of the circle (anti-clockwise as usual) and then walked around the inside, studying each stone in turn. In the centre of the circle was a depression and a couple of large flat stones lying on the grass. They seemed to by overlying the cist – presumably to protect it? Either way, they made for a good place to sit. The circle consists of about 40 stones and is approximately 10m across.
It really was a beautiful evening and I sat and admired the views up and down the valley. The sun was starting to set behind the distant hills, silhouetting them against the reddening sky. All was quiet except for the bleating of the sheep and the chirping of birds. A bird of prey glided silently overhead. Nothing more than the faintest of breezes.
Bliss would be a good word to use to describe how I felt. I couldn’t have wished to have been anywhere else.
This is a fantastic site and has to be a ‘must see’ when in the area. It reminded me very much of a mini Castlerigg – I can give it no higher compliment. Like Castlerigg the distant hills seemed to form a natural amphitheatre. When the ancients chose this site they knew what they were doing. ‘Primitive man’ indeed!!!!!!!!
After the sun had set I made my way back to the car, opened the gate, and carefully drove back to the main road. All was well with the world – my world at least!
If you do get the chance please pay Moel ty Uchaf a visit but best to park at the first fork in the road. There is ample room there but it will require a fairly long and steep walk to reach the circle. You will think it well worth it!
After arriving home I looked at Burl’s book (page 179) to see what he had to say.
Burl mentions an outlying stone to the NNE and the remains of a Cairn 80 yards to the south – neither of which I knew about or spotted. I was too entranced with the stone circle!
We take the bus towards Llandrillo, passing the visible remains of the Tan-y-Coed chambered tomb. The driver very obligingly drops us off at Pont yr Hendwr (“Bridge of the Old Water”), from which a minor road takes us southeast, climbing steadily at first, then with increasing steepness up into the Berwyn foothills. By the time we reach the end of the road to join a rather muddier bridleway, we are both out of breath and overheating under our waterproof coats, while the mist has thickened into a fog that reduces visibility to a hundred yards or so. We hear rather than see some voices ahead, presumably other walkers heading off to the main Berwyns ridge, their voices brought nearer by the weird sonic effects of the fog.
The final approach to the ring cairn is up a steep, grassy slope. The circle doesn’t come into view until we are almost at the top – luckily the fog is thin enough to at least show us where to go. The local sheep look on, bemused by the stupid humans coming into their midst in these conditions. Sadly, the far-reaching views from the ring cairn are entirely absent, but we do at least get plenty of solitude to enjoy the stones themselves.
The name, pronounced “Moil Tee Ickavv”, translates as “house on the highest bare hill”, which certainly seems apt today, when the undoubtedly higher hills normally visible in just about every direction are blanked out.
A rounded boulder lies a little way to the west, described by Burl as an outlier of the circle. The circle itself is made up of chunky stones, some round shouldered, others squared, not graded but nevertheless very aesthetically pleasing. There is a “gap” at the SSW, although the ring continues across it by use of seven or eight much smaller stones. Inside the ring are the remains of a cist or central cairn, on the largest stone of which someone has scratched a crude pentagram. Other than that, the place is devoid of signs of human intrusion, no litter or offerings (tat), just the stones on their grassy hilltop. Perfect.
The fog makes for a strangely intimate visit, not exactly claustrophobic, but there is a sense that the world may not extend much beyond our immediate surroundings. I’m reminded of the Doctor Who story “Warrior’s Gate”, where the TARDIS becomes trapped in a slowly-shrinking, featureless void between universes. A wonderful site this, but a return on a clear day is now assured.
We make our own escape from the void by dropping off the hilltop to the southwest, to investigate the two cairns shown on the map, somewhat unusually placed in the saddle between Moel Ty Uchaf and the rising ground to the east. The two cairns differ greatly in construction, the northeastern being a wide, low platform, kerbed liberally with small blocks of local quartz that stands out brightly against the turf covering much of the contruction. The southwestern cairn is much smaller, covered in several flat slabs of stone and overgrown with reeds. The stones of the circle standing proud on the hill above are visible from the cairns, an obvious relationship between them all.
It's difficult to know where to start... what to attempt to relate .... following a visit to this wondrous place. Truly, this is one of those ancient sites that I would wager not even the linguistic genius of a Shakespeare could adequately describe. To my mind Treaclechops' succinct few lines are the most representative use of 'words' to date; however since this is my third visit over the years guess I need to finally make an attempt in my own gobshite way. I owe it that.
Now there are undoubtedly finer stone circles, from an architectural perspective (Swinside immediately comes to mind); there are those that are arguably better placed in the landscape, too (consider Castlerigg, Uragh, Moel Goedog?). However I reckon none of those other 'circles I've seen (be they open, embanked, circle-henge, RSC, cairn-circle, or any other variant) combines all the necessary 'components' - form, placement, vibe - to such devastating effect, to form such a unified whole, all things considered....as the cairn-circle at Moel ty Uchaf.... like the master perfumer using all his/her expertise to create a classic Chanel fragrance in lieu of Brut 33. Yeah, it all comes together here, regardless of whether or not the 'all' can ever be properly defined. Perhaps the perfect blend of megalithic attributes?
The setting is excellent, nay, exquisite, the ring crowning a well defined rise [the 'high(est), bare hill'] set upon the lower slopes of a great, grassy ridge thrusting approx north-westward from the high Berwyn summit of Cadair Bronwen toward the Afon Dyfrdwy, better known in the non-vernacular as the River Dee. Stark, rounded profiles of mountain and hill top form the skyline to south and east, the more synclastic contours of the river valley to the north. But it is the outlook to the approx west which I reckon makes the situation of Moel ty Uchaf so beguiling, so intoxicating, the view incorporating more or less the whole of Snowdonia, for me perhaps the finest (relatively) low level vista in all Wales? Burl cites forty-one stones within the stone circle's circumference, 'all about 1ft 6 ins (0.5m) tall'.... with a 'probable entrance to SSW'. I assume the learned gentleman is correct, the assertions of Aubrey being some of the few things I am prepared to accept more or less verbatim... on 'faith', if you like. Yeah, he has been right too many times in the past, to be fair. Which makes it all the more odd that, standing at the 'probable entrance to SSW', it appears to me that the landscape is beckoning me toward the high ground.... Cadair Bronwen, rising more or less to the south-east. As I said, odd, my perception, it would seem, somewhat skew-whiff. Autosuggestion, perhaps, some subconscious instinct, some desire to return to the haunts of my youth? Go on, go on.... you know you want to. Obviously it would be far easier not to. No-one would ever know. Except me. And, standing within Moel ty Uchaf, that is enough. Jeez, those ancients knew what they were doing, did they not?....
I return at sunset, perhaps the most evocative, yet difficult time to visit a stone circle.... isn't it human instinct to rush for the sanctuary of 'home' as darkness falls? The 'dying' sun illuminates the stone circle with a light that is beyond my capacity to evoke, to describe. Really, it is. Hey, I am a cynical atheist, opposed to all notions of the 'supernatural' outside those created within our human brains. And sunset at Moel ty Uchaf only re-enforces the awe - I guess that's the right word - I experience witnessing the natural cycles of this home we inhabit, this Planet Earth. To think I am literally a part of all THIS is humbling beyond words.
Is this what the erectors of this cairn-circle wanted to convey? Obviously we will never know for sure, but I have a hunch it was. Why not come and experience, come and feel for yourselves? The vibe is superb, the silence total... hell, there's even a cist in the centre.
On directions to the place I will only add that the phone box that flagged the turn off is now gone, only the post box remains (yaaaaay).
I parked the car at the usual wide area before the houses, got out my bike and started the long walk up the lane, through the gate, then up the footpath with the circle on the hill to my left, then the even harder slog of pushing the bike up the grassy slope, it was worth it in the end because i'd like to suggest that i'm the first to ride their bike round inside this circle, which made me smile widely.
But not as widely as the way back down, every hill top circle or cairn should have a bike there, for the ripping down a hill side is very invigorating, ever overtaken a sheep in full flight ? youve never lived.
Every time I come here the stones seem to have got a little bigger, first it was theyre a bit small, then they were medium but theyre really quite large. Or... ive seen too many diminutive stones.
For the first time I spotted Tyfos circle down in the valley below, well the farm anyway ,the stones are too small to work out.
Take note.... there is another stone circle further along the footpath into the hills, and close to that a small standing stone, theyre both going crazy after some attention specially the circle, if you have an hour to spare they'd really like the company.
I don't think we could have picked a better day for our first visit to this beautiful place. Late February brought snowfall that was in places knee-deep and when we reached the circle itself was drifted right up Eastern-most stones. I've attached a wraparound photo of the snow-covered hill.
The walk up was not too challenging, there is a handy parking area where the road splits in two, quite low down the hill. Best to park here and enjoy the walk up the road through the (open already) gate that's on the right fork, and enjoy all the wildlife scurrying about, from rabbits to birds of prey. When the road ends there's another gate, then head up the nearest highest hill (high up,on your left), the circle comes into tantalizing view just before you reach it.
The cold weather and time of day meant we had the place to ourselves, sharing it only with the sheep, biting wind and dramatic views in between the storm clouds.
This is a stunning site; set in magnificent scenery, relatively diminutive, yet equally as magnificent for its completeness. It is quite easy to believe that the original builders abandoned it a few hundred years ago, let alone 4,000 years ago.
We visited on a classically beautiful late winter afternoon, and were bewitched. The peace of this cosy circle is deeply regenerating; its effect has continued on in me for days. Do visit, and prepare to be transported.
Yesterday we visited Moel ty Uchaf and although we were expecting something much bigger we were not dissapointed this is truly a wonderful place the views from this circle just blow you away what I particulary noticed about this place as opposed to many other circles I have visited is the complete tranquility here, there are no major roads nearby and no motorways buzzing in the background fantastic.
We decided to take the trusty kite out today and fly it from the top of the hill. Whilst flying the kite we noticed some anomolies at the bottom of the hill in the opposite direction to which we'd walked up the hill (see my photos). A jumble of huge stones, more boulders, a peculiar slate arrangement and the remains of a cairn similliar to the size of glassonby in Cumbria, but this one was made up almost entirely of white quartz! The grass is so thick here it must hide so many secrets and all round the circle you can find stones hidden under the turf if you look hard enough theres so much to see here if you just look. Also on the track on the way up, if you look in the field before the first farmhouse, I'm sure there're the remains of another stone circle(?). We also found the chambered cairn on the way up to here but failed to gain access. Our bellies were calling us but its halfway in between Moel ty Uchaf and Cynwyd on your right hand side just next to a farmhouse in a small enclosed field.
This place is quite easy to find once youve got directions! As you don't see it until your right upon it! Anyway take B4401 off the A5. Pass through Cynwyd and about half a mile down you'll see a red telephone box and postbox on the corner of a lane on your left hand side. Go up that lane 'til you come to a gate leading up to a hill. We parked our car just behind this gate in a field. We asked the farmer who said it was fine as it is still a public place. Then follow the path up the hill and on the top you will find the circle and over the other side of the hill the ruined/overgrown cairn (and other structures). Enjoy!
Stayed with friends in Denbigh this weekend and managed to sneak off for a few hours on Sunday morning to find Moel ty Uchaf.. a little haven on the hill! a clear blue day with big white fluffs scudding across the sky.. this place is like sitting in your cosy parlour up in the middle of the mountains.. I was lucky enough to have the place to myself for a couple of hours.. a neat, tidy circle which although low seems to get bigger when you're sat down in it! The light and colours are incredible up here, the lichens on the stones shining irridescent silver, green and grey, brown green forests, purple heathery quilts, creamy lambs,turquoise skies.. the circle is central to all this and so much more.. peaceful, still and warm.. I walked barefoot on the springy grass with the sun on my face.. what more could you ask for?! You won't want to leave this place!
Took the 50 minute or so walk up from Llandrillo on Saturday 13/4/02. Wrapped up well following warnings from other contributers that it was always cold at the top. How wrong could they have been, it was glorious up there, sun was shining and there was virtually no wind.
A breathtaking view over to the mountains, where we could see a huge fire burning on a hillside.
The circle itself is magnificent, more than worth the walk. There was an incredible stillness in the air and we rested (or rather slept) for a good 1/2 hour before making the decent. Killed me knees on the way down.
This is another site so remote that you just wonder how the materials were brought up and what inspired them to built it there ?
Moel Ty Uchaf (highest house on the bare hill? feel free to disagree) sits on the slopes of Cader Berwyn. In 1974 this mountain was the scene of a UFO 'incident'. A unknown light had been seen moving low over the area at night for a number of months. In January white lights were seen up in the mountains; some said they saw streaks of light across the sky, accompanied by a loud explosion (registering 4/5 on the Richter scale). The army cordoned off roads. UFO or army plane?? Or earthlights?
The earnest Paul Devereux reports that a geiger counter used at Moel ty Uchaf gave anomalously high readings. But am I right in thinking that granite might well be in this area - even used for the stones? and granite is naturally radioactive? Mr Devereux also (with his typical manner of relating anecdote as containing deeply significant information) recounts an encounter with a walker at the site who explained the skylarks hovered overhead 'because of the ultrasound'. I didn't even realise skylarks had a particular interest in ultrasound - I thought they just liked hovering :)
There are rectangular cists at the site, which Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust says may be Iron Age or even medieaval.