I've wanted to come here to Garn Boduan for so long that I cant tell how long I've been waiting, nor do I know how I first learned about it, it seems like we've been waiting for ever to get to meet each other, and when we met (it was murder) the pleasure was all mine, seeing as Garn Boduan is an inanimate object, not alive, or is it. No its not, or is it.
This is the third peak of the day and not the last, and to tell you honestly i'm really quite crackered, things just aint what they used to be. I parked on the B4354 where I presume Gladman did, and started the long walk, hopefully there would be no explosion at the end, unless it's an explosion of enlightenment.
Despite my exhaustion the walk up the switchback path wasn't unpleasant, the trees are nice, the views are nice and the weather is still uncharacteristically nice.
Eventually I reach the fort, my first sight of the forts entrance brought a cry of relief from me, "that's an entrance" I gasped, just as a bloke and his son emerged from god knows where, I presume they didn't hear me and nod sagely as I pass them. I'm in the fort.
Once through the entrance I'm confronted with a superabundance of large hut circles, but I turn my back on them all momentarily and continue up the hill, there's a "Citadel" at the top of the hill and that is where I shall start my exploration of the fort. En route to the citadel a couple with a barking dog barr my way, the dog is barking at me of course, I must ooze postie from every pore by now, but I do what I must and I stride through the heather to confront my noisy assailant, why do some people seem to have no control over their animals, they never told it to shut up once, I still smile at them as I pass, but shoot the dog an unsympathetic glare.
They tell me its windy up there, talk about superfluous information.
When I hear the word citadel, I cant help thinking of The Lord of the rings, Minas Tirith mostly. But here on Garn Boduan a citadel apparently is nowt more than a broken wall on top of a hill, no knights, no ale quaffing, and no needy princess, lots of wind though.
I'm not disappointed though, far from it, sat out of the wind in what I presume is a walkers shelter built into one end of the wall, I've got a good view of the Rivals and my sexy hill, and much more besides. After a good long rest I get my camera out and set to having a good look round the cit, nope I cant do it, it's just the top of the hill, ok, so I'm looking round the top of the hill and it's a bit confusing really. The top of the hill isn't a big place, at either end of the hilltop is a pile of rubble with scooped out interiors and inbetween them a wall, the wall is still very together and good looking in places. The piles of rubble could be cairns, I hear, and that kind of makes sense, but why have a wall join them, confusing.
From on top, I should be able to see lots hut circles all round me, the information board has them all over the place, but the heather is quite high, and though the huts are without doubt there theyre walls are all quite low, unlike those at Tre'r Ceiri.
So I start the walk back to the south west corner of the fort where all the visible hut circles are. On route another dog starts barking at me, I shall call him Barky, Barky the stupid dog, his mistress to be fair told him to stop it and shut up but he refused and barked at me constantly, I sat and watched and waited for them to go, here theres a cliff type thing where you can stand above the hut circles and take them all in, they do look really good, one of them has walls five times higher than the rest, Im guessing, but I think this one is the one folk sit and eat butties out of the wind in or someone likes to do a spot of wild camping in, i'll just build that wall up a little bit.
Even here though on the lowest terraces only those huts in the south end of the fort are visible, why cant we see more? has there been some clearing or restoration work done.
Passing by several well defined but low circles I get to the wall, but it's too overgrown to have the prescribed circuit of the fort,
so I concentrate on the houses.
They're walls are not as tall as those at Tre'r Ceiri, but better than those at Carn Fadryn, so the middle fort has the middle best hut circles, if that makes any sense at all, I congratulate you.
Then lastly it's back to the entrance, there is now nobody round to bark at me or overhear me talking to myself, so I have a good look round, I try and follow the wall through the trees round the corner, but it's all too dense, so I sit for a while on the entrance, it's all very well defined and the stonework is good, and that's about it, how much can one say about a long big pile of stones with a gap in it, it's old and it looks good, and i'm betting much much more, if you reeeally try.
That's it for round here now, it's time for a long drive down near Barmouth for the last fort of the day, I'm not sure I have the energy or the time but I'm going for it anyway.
The British, I think it's fair to say, are fond of lists. Consider the seemingly limitless supply of cheap (funny that) TV shows featuring an inexorable count down to the 'Most Embarrassing Celebrity Moment Ever', albeit mostly monopolised by Justin Bieber nowadays... or the annual Christmas opportunity to marvel at 'Bing and Bowie's' sheer festive joie de vivre at being in each other's company.... and pretty much everything else in between. Including the categorisation of the prehistoric monuments of these Isles according to relative merit. Well, apparently some weirdos do it. Clearly a 'niche' activity, one never likely to scale the heights of intellectual discourse inherent in debates about Shaky's awesome jumper, or Agnetha Fältskog's equally magnificent backside. Nevertheless experience has shown it can generate heated discussion, controversy even. Steady now. To illustrate the point, where would you place Garn Boduan within the rich canon of North Walian hill forts? Exactly. What's the name again?
To be fair I had noted Garn Boduan quite a number of years back, sandwiched between the exquisite profile of Carn Fadryn to the south-west and the impossibly enigmatic 'Town of Giants' to north-east. No wonder it assumed the 'middle ground' within both my consciousness and visit list alike. Consequently it required an extended sojourn upon the great Bronze Age stone pile upon Mynydd Carnguwch in 2012 to prompt a subsequent search of Coflein's database, whereby a reference to 'titanic enclosure' raised the ante somewhat. Having said that it's still a drag to leave the embrace of the high mountains - even if Eryri's bosom is clammy and somewhat claustrophobic today - and venture to the coast through the narrow defile of Drws-y-Coed, the upland cairns of Eifionydd lost to the seemingly metaphysical world within the cloud mantle. And so to Nefyn, a small town trading upon the allure of the nearby sandy beaches, the latter sheltered by the fortified headland of Trwyn Porth Dinllaen to the west. For me, as with all such gregarious seaside settlements, an air of apparent melancholy is prevalent out of season. Although of course I could just be a miserable muppet. Whatever the truth, the sight of the great rocky lump that is Garn Boduan rising to the south is a memorable one for an antiquarian. No doubt it can be ascended from town.... however, forever contrary, I decide to approach from the south-east, taking the A497 and hence B4354 to park up near Gorphwysfa.
Here a public footpath (a precious commodity as it turns out) follows the line of the road to the east, before doubling back to ascend the afforested hillside rising above. Sadly it would appear that the woods are managed by a private company for the morally debatable pleasure of 'hunters', signs warning of the deployment of apparently legal 'vermin' traps in the area. So please watch the kids if you decide to come. My assumption is these traps are designed for creatures looking for a meal of grouse the natural way... and not those armed with guns. Guess the latter option wouldn't make good business sense. Anyway, with Carn Fadryn gracing the left hand horizon, the track makes its serpentine way eventually up to the enclosure. A massive, collapsed dry stone rampart is immediately apparent girdling the summit crags, although the eastern flank is so sheer the natural defences would've probably sufficed. Clambering up to the north, past the ethereal remains of several skeletal trees, the true nature of the site slowly begins to sink in. Yeah, this is a very, very substantial hill fort indeed.
The highest (eastern) sector is occupied by the remains of a powerful, thick walled 'citadel', for want of a better term. One might also be tempted to call it a dry stone proto-'keep', although maybe that's an exercise in interpreting archaeology to fit an existing presumption. Nevertheless I wouldn't be at all surprised if Garn Boduan was re-occupied and 'adjusted a bit' during the Anglo-Norman campaigns in Wales. The substantial nature of this upper enclosure's defences is more than matched by the superb views afforded the visitor, particularly toward the coast to north-east (Yr Eifl sweeping to the sea with Tre'r Ceiri perched upon the landward summit) and east (Mynydd Carnguwch crowned by its gigantic cairn). Carn Fadryn holds sway to the south-west, whilst Y Rhinogydd provide the horizon beyond Tremadog Bay to south-east. Hey, I even reckon I can make out Criccieth Castle, as well as the shapely crag of Moel y Gest overlooking Portmadog. Needless to say the inclement Welsh weather stakes a considerable bid for attention in the form of a brutal, freezing wind which sends numerous poorly clad punters, arriving from the north-east, back whence they came in very short order indeed. Also striving for attention, to judge by some graffiti daubed in Welsh, are the local pseudo-political activists. Images of Wolfie Smith flash into my mind. Well, guess everyone has to start somewhere.
Moving on after a rather cold lunch, I descend northwards to follow the line of what appear bi-vallate defences. These are impressive, too, albeit becoming progressively more overgrown until the north-western arc is found to be more or less completely reclaimed by Nature. Great views across Nefyn out to sea are adequate compensation for the unforeseen effort demanded from me. Veering south to check out the western flank - after what seems an age, such is the size of the enclosure - I slowly become aware of the remains of numerous hut circles occupying the interior of the south-western corner, overlooked by the 'citadel' above to my left. In time these become more well defined, then substantial. It's difficult to make sense of the overall layout, however, so I withdraw to higher ground for an overview. From here, with Carn Fadryn resplendent upon the far horizon, the impression of ancient upland defended settlement is arguably as good as any I've seen to date.
A weather front appears from the direction of Abersoch - or thereabouts - making rapid progress inland. Very rapid progress. In a few minutes it falls upon Garn Boduan, fiendishly strong winds lashing rain against hillside with an unbridled ferocity that makes completion of the circuit back to the summit a matter of some perseverance. Worth the effort though since, as seen upon first arrival, this south-eastern arc of ramparts is perhaps the finest of what has been revealed to be surely one of the finest hill forts in all Wales. Why it isn't generally regarded as such - well, in my experience anyway - may, as suggested earlier, be simply a matter of geography, of Garn Boduan being located between two sites employing the landscape equivalent of Max Clifford as publicist. Nevertheless, although Garn Boduan may not grab the attention from afar, I'd suggest it is a 'slow burner'. Yeah, if we were in Aberdeenshire it would be 'Barmekin Hill' to Tre'r Ceiri's 'Mither Tap'. Pretty good, then.
Coflein has this to say about this overwhelmingly massive Lleyn hill fort:
"Garn Boduan is a titanic hill-top enclosure, about 512m from north to south by 384m, defined by two successive and somewhat divergent stone-walled rampart circuits. Within are about 170 circular stone walled structures, generally in the region of 5.2-7.3m in diameter. Upon the highest, eastern edge, of the site is a small stone-ramparted enclosure, about 70m from north to south by 30m. Both the greater and smaller enclosures have two gates, one of each being anciently blocked. A single sherd of pottery indicates second century AD occupation." [RCAHMW, August 2011].
The siting is not as enigmatic as that enjoyed by Tre'r Ceiri across the way, despite proving a magnificent viewpoint for the whole of Lleyn; nevertheless the defences - and in situ hut circles - stand comparison with ease.
The northern environs of Garn Boduan's upper fort - the equivalent of a medieval keep, if you like - are occupied by a large stone pile which Heneb interpret as a massive, disturbed Bronze Age cairn. Probably unopened, thanks to the protective Iron Age works superimposed.
Once again we have clear evidence of Iron Age peoples incorporating an earlier funerary monument within their planning regardless of the obvious spacial impact. The assumption must be that they viewed these monuments as being highly important.