It’s always exciting to start the day with a stone circle, especially one you’ve not been to before. Composed of diminutive stones, Cerrig Pryfaid is certainly no Avebury in purely megalithic terms. But the setting elevates it to something quite special.
The near-perfect circle sits in an amphitheatre of rock, broken only to the southeast where Pen y Gaer overlooks the wide sweep of the fertile Conwy Valley. Even here the longer view is filled with rank upon rank of high hills. The southwestern prospect is entirely blocked by the towering wall of the Carneddau mountains, crowned by Bronze Age cairns on the summits of Carnedd y Ddelw and Drum. To the north Foel Lwyd, the western buttress of the Tal y Fan ridge, rises in a jagged jumble of boulders and outcrops.
Two small outliers stand to the west of the circle, both with tantalising sunrise alignments (midwinter, autumn equinox). But today it’s getting towards midday, in July. So we make do with the earthlier delights of the landscape and views before heading back towards the Pass and our next site.
My last field notes for Cerrig Pryfaid ended like this "Oh well winter comes round every year, but I don't." But maybe I do. Winter solstice upon us, short of funds and time we headed west for the mountains of Eastern Snowdonia again (as you do) hoping to see the sunrise from this often overlooked but always giving stone circle.
Eric and I arrived still in pitch black and deep mist, we had twenty minutes snooze in the car park and got ready for a walk back down the road. Eric pointed out that we could probably drive back and leave the car blocking the road as no one but us were daft enough to be here at this time and in this crappy weather, I had to concede he was probably right, so we did.
It was still quite dark after climbing over the wall in the appropriate place and the clouds were too low to permit a decent sunrise. Damn and blast !!!
For the first twenty minutes I had to use the flash on my camera, but soon the views began to clear of mist and normal light was resumed.
I remember Tiompan say that the sun rise at the winter solstice rises between the forted hill of Pen y Gaer and its near neighbour Pen y Gadair
The stone I had dubbed the winter solstice stone does point between these two hills, how can one stone point ? its wide at one end and thin at the other, if you wanted to find a stone that points this is the one. But that is not all, the stone I had dubbed the equinox stone forms a line with the winter stone and the gap between hills, the gap between hills is rather a wide one and without the sun I cant say where in the gap the sun would rise. The stones suggest the sunrise would be more closer to Pen y Gadair than Pen y Gaer ( see picture).The winter stone itself is pointing at roughly 132 degrees, that I reckon is good enough for me, for me, I have discovered something I think is new to Cerrig Pryfaid, plenty of people have remarked upon the outliers but no one has put forward a decent explanation, Till now ?
So, another winter goes by, another end of the world averted, (last of the chicken littles I hope, now can we get on with building a future we can look forward to for ourselves) I've said it before and I'll say it again I'll get it one day, the only way I can prove this definitively is to get a bunch of know it alls up there in perfect weather on the winter solstice. One day.
With Eric in tow we arrived suited and booted and on time for the winter solstice sunrise, I know it's tomorrow but i'm off work today so it will have to do.
Unfortunately the weather doesn't give a damn what I want and the sunrise remained stubbornly veiled behind cloud. I bet the sun shone at Stonehenge.
Unable to prove or disprove any solar alignments, which are most likely to be casual and arguable rather than obvious and easily proved.
Oh well winter comes round every year, but I don't.
The fallen stone is still fallen, I wondered whether to re-erect it but I didn't have any strong women with me so I left it. On this my third visit, the area has taken on a new guise, I had often wondered why they didn't use bigger stones there's plenty of them around.
But having just watched the Equinox sun rise from behind the biggest sharpest mountain on the horizon and found it beyond coincidence, I just had to go to this here stone circle and see if that same mountain is visible from there too. The circle has two outliers which may have confused some visitors, but standing behind one stone and looking through the circle to the horizon the mountain (moelfre Uchaf) is in a perfect line. The other outlier bisects the circle centre at an angle of about 120 degrees the mid winter sunrise line .I couldn't believe no one had mentioned it before. I'm off to the lakes for winter sol, but I'm beginning to wish I could be in two places at once.
One of these stones in the wide-spaced ring had fallen – Jane and I resurrected it, appropriately enough, on Easter Saturday. The method we used might not have been the same as that of the ancients, and was definitely not approved by the HSE. Jane lifted the stone from between her legs, as I shoved it from behind, until it was virtually up her fundament. Interesting interpretation of phallic rocks. We packed its base with smaller stones, and left it balancing.
Under the crackle of a very nearby pylon, this tiny, fragile circle has somehow survived in this sacred Tal-Y-Fantastic landscape. The fourteen small stones are all very loose and wobbly, and close investigation revealed that many of them were not set into the earth at all, but placed into rubble sockets. One of the taller stones had fallen over. So treaclechops and I carefully stood it upright again into its rubble socket. No doubt the next time a sheep farts within five metres of it, it'll be over again.
.. after this, a second circle of the same dimension, with only five large stones remaining; but with a circular cytt or house, 5 feet in diameter, inside the circumference. Our guide informed us that according to local tradition these were called cerrig y pryved, "the stones of the flies."
Pryfed does mean flies, or bugs, or generally small creepy crawly things, according to my dictionary. 'Pryfaid' doesn't feature at all? or is it a kind of made up plural?
From some Correspondence from H. Longueville Jones to Archaeologia Cambrensis in vol 1, p76 (1846).