Another site I've been meaning to get to for, oh, ages... but continually baulked at the long drive. Let's face it, it's quite a pilgrimage for most of us. But then I guess that's the whole point... wouldn't be a kosher pilgrimage if the journey was easy, would it?. So no more excuses man! It won't get any easier with time, that's for sure.
Entering St David's upon the A487 is a somewhat odd experience. So this is a city, then? Hang on, Brecon's also got a cathedral... yet remains a town? Good for Brecon, I say. I don't get to see St David's famous building, instead veering up the B4583 to park beside the thundering breakers of Whitesands Bay. Judging by the size of the car park, this is a popular spot in season. And rightly so, numerous 'Johnny Utah' surfer dudes ridin' the crests in lieu of the bucket 'n spade brigade... when they are not 'wiping out', that is. Awesome! Anyway, The Pembrokeshire Coast Path heads north from here, hugging the coastline - as you would probably expect of a coastal path - and consequently providing some excellent views down into rocky coves. Hey, this is worth the parking fee in itself. Except, out of season, there is no parking fee. Nice.
Coetan Arthur - certainly got around a bit, that Arthur, didn't he? - is visible from a long way off, the chamber sited (arguably) somewhat unusually between crags upon St David's Head itself. Incidentally, the map cites a 'fort' to the west. Upon arrival, I'm surprised at the size of the monument... for some reason I expected it to be diminutive. Perhaps because of the 'sub-megalithic' construction of the chamber, that is with one end of the capstone resting upon the ground, the other supported on an orthostat. However any aspersions of insubstantiality are strictly illusory, the chamber able to accommodate me with ease. This is just as well, since a vicious rain front suddenly sweeps in across Carn Llidi to give the landscape a pasting. But not me this time. Cheers Arthur. As I sit - or perhaps more accurately 'slump' - the sight of Carn Llidi looming beyond intrigues. Was there an association here?
The squall passes, the sun vanquishes the cloud and illuminates St David's Head. I check out the capstone, a fine slab of stone with a pronounced 'spine' or ridge which... hang on... appears to point straight towards the site of the tombs upon the aforementioned Carn Llidi. Now, being somewhat the realist - I hesitate to say 'cynical', but perhaps - I'm wary of making the evidence fit a desired outcome. But, hell, it does appear to be a possibility [see image post]. Perhaps. Whatever, I find it difficult to leave this spot. The coastal views are sublime, Ramsey Island probably taking the plaudits in this respect, the chamber seemingly, well, just made for this very corner of Wales. Which, come to think of it, it was! I am glad I came.
Then, all too soon, time has expired. Can I make Carn Llidi before dark? We'll see.
Seen on the horizon when approaching St David's Head Camp along the costal footpath. However, as you get closer it disappears from sight. Before you get to St David's Camp there is a very small 'path' up the steep bank off to the right. This is near the small cove you pass on your left. Up the 'path' to the top and you will see the tomb. An easier but longer way is to walk from St David's Camp along the headland. However, taking this route you only see the tomb when you are pretty much right on top of it. Lovely costal views to be had and the capstone is tall enough to sit under, although the tomb was not as big as it looked from a distance.
I arrived at Whitesands bay carpark at gone 3 am and got a few hours tossing and turning in. (god cars are crap for sleeping in )
I started the walk over to the chamber at about 6.45 am the sun wasn't putting in an appearance today but was seen to the stoneless east of the country.
What a fantastic place for a burial chamber, just imagine if theyd'e built Stonehenge here or even just Carreg Samson, makes me quiver to think it.
The wind that had been blowing hard all night now brought in the mist off the sea, turning it into stingy face rain, Carn llidi disappeared completely which is a neat trick if you know how big it is and nature doesn't use mirrors.
I hid from the elements, no I didnt, I got closer to my ancestors and got in the chamber, using my thick hat as a cusion I sat still for a while, only noise was the wind, I closed my eyes and began to drift off.
This was the first time I ever fell asleep at a place like this, I almost remember a dream sequence, just one as I was only out for five minutes.
From here I can see a big rock just feet away, it has straight lines on it, ha nature abhors straight lines my arse, is it art or more probably fossilised sea slug tracks.
I dont think the capstone has fallen, there is a long stone on the chambers northern side that would have effectively blocked that side and the other stones here would have blocked the other gaps, also if the capstone were to be in any other position the visual impact from the south would be less and the interplay between capstone and mountain would also be lost.
Well worth the drive down and walk up, but you might not want to do it on an empty stomach with no sleep, god knows what the spirits were up to whilst I slept.
Not to be confused with several other monuments in the area of the same type and name, this is absolutely stunning, a dramatic monument in a huge top-of-the-world setting.
Coming round the coast path from Porth Mawr / Whitesands Bay, this cromlech stands boldly silhouetted against the sky for quite some distance.
It's placed in the lea of two outcrops high on the headland, just at the point where you can see the sea both sides.
It's thought by some to be the fallen remains of a conventional dolmen, a view supported (no pun intended) by two possible uprights lying near the edge of the capstone.
However, others believe it to be an 'earth-fast' tomb like Garnwnda, ie that it was built with one end of the capstone touching the ground and never had a covering mound.
This idea gains credence when you bear in mind that most earth-fast tombs are sited on or immediately beside a natural rocky outcrop. Your first thought for Coetan Arthur is that it's the outcrop on which it stands. However, the view is across to the outcrop of Carn Llidi, and the possibly tooled flat side of the capstone faces it in the same way others face their outcrop (eg Ffyst Samson).
Furthermore, the capstone appears obviously shaped to mimic the shape of Carn Llidi. That being so, the capstone is surely in its original position – if it were raised level on uprights, the contour emulation effect would be lost.
The considerable prehistoric remains along this little stretch of coast, from Mesolithic to iron age, show it to have been hugely important for a massive period of time.
But even if none of this were the case, it is still wonderful to climb up here and be buffeted about by the wildness of the elements and made to feel very very alive.
Today the sun shines bright and the wind blows hard, and a horse and her foal stand beside the cromlech, the waves build, smash, drop and build as they have done ceaselessly since long before the monument was here and it all combines and piles on levels of the birth-death meaning of the place.
Climbing up from Whitesands, Coetan Arthur bursts onto the skyline in perfect silhouette, astonishing one with its dramatic curves and intensity. First espied, when approaching St David’s, and I am amazed. A moment before it was not there. Such is the approach, the pitching, rolling angles of the springy gorse that the tomb, one moment nestling within a circle of bracken and gorse, seemed to spring up from natures grasp and suddenly establish itself proudly on the skyline.
Low and deep, the capstone is strong and immense. Solid, with purpose it grips the supporting stones with a vice like grip, unlike the nimble acrobatics of Carreg Samson. Situated roughly one hundred yards out from the defensive walls of the headland hill fort, the site almost challenges the visitor to first pass the warrior or chieftain who surely must have been buried here. “You may battle with the physical, but our ghosts will surely slay you too”, the message is writ, in hunks and slabs of angular stone that graze the earth like the nearby wild ponies.
The position, overlooking the Irish Sea and the multitude of small islands around the head seems a statement about who resided, who still dwells here. Tread carefully, they are not gone.
Access along a coastal path is visiting from Whitesands, well marked but close to cliff edge. Scramble off the path and up to Coetan Arthur through scrub and heather. Difficult but not impossible for anyone with walking disability.
Visited 13th April 2003: It was a howler of a day when we headed out to Coetan Arthur, and the sand from the footpath kept blowing in Williams' eyes. By the time we arrived, nerves were frayed. William wanted to go under the capstone, but this just kicked up more sand, so it wasn't long before he was in tears.
Lou hid round the corner with the boys while I took a close look at the tomb and tried to get some photos despite the wind. Coetan Arthur is in a fantastically exposed situation on the back of the ridge that forms St David's Head. Probably a good site to visit when the weather is a bit better. This was only my second 'earth fast' tomb, and it's certainly a corker.
Another page from this site, focussing mainly on Coetan Arthur. The page contains a selection of photographs, and the important nugget of information that the car park costs £1.50 for the day [visited April 2003, and it's now £2].