Just returned from Pembrokeshire; this was the first ancient burial site I encountered and I went back to Manorbier twice. King's Quoit is built from red sandstone and sits in a sheltered spot just before the brow of the cliff. Directly behind it there were five or six large sandstones set into the bracken covered cliff. The other interesting thing is that apart from the path up from the beach there is a second cliff path that runs from the quoit directly to the village's Norman Church of St James - the leaflet about the church says "The foundation date of the church is unknown. However, the oval shape of the churchyard suggests a religious site of great antiquity".
It is not hard to imagine that in times when people believed we are spirit as well as flesh, this was a place to set the spirit free - into the wind, sky and sea.
Sometimes it's strange when life's eddies and currents conspire to bring you back to somewhere you last visited as a kid. Such a place is Manorbier, a stunningly attractive little town on the SW Pembrokeshire coast, one complete with castle and a most picturesque sandy cove. I was last here during the red-hot summer of 1983 to visit the virtually unaltered Norman fortress - yep, it's really that long ago.... . Didn't even notice the presence of a far older structure perched upon the headland overlooking the bay at the time. Why should I, seeing as I was in thrall to the brutal military architecture of the Normans? (still am to some extent, I suppose). Ancient stones don't have a portcullis, arrow slits or murder holes, do they? Boring.
So, 26 years later I arrive with the Mam Cymru to remedy the oversight, (arguably) wiser, certainly older and a little more obsessed with these islands of ours. Damn, that castle still looks as broodingly magnificent as ever, although in the interim the village has developed into one of those 'chocolate box' locations American tourists describe as 'quaint' in scribbled postcards to the 'folks back home'.
The chamber's name is apt. If there's a more fitting location for the final resting place of an important individual on the Pemrokeshire coastline, I've not yet seen it. But bring it on! Needless to say I don't clock the fantastic positioning at first, some clambering over rocks between the punters on the beach being required before we gain the headland path. Don't worry, the Mam's used to this by now. And there it is........ perched overlooking a frankly awe inspiring cove, the sea the colour of azure.
A simple structure, the tomb is, I believe, of sub-megalithic type, whereby the rear of the capstone rests directly on the ground without orthostat. We perch upon the impressive capstone and simply watch the world go by... there's a lot of it, too, walkers marching past in single file, none of whom even pause to glance at this ancient structure. Hell, at least I was only a kid! As is my wont I take a look inside the chamber, not the experience it should be due to the frankly disgusting habits of some of the walkers. And with a position like this the only real place to be is upon the top....
What a really ace place for a burial chamber !
In the Pembrokeshire coast national park right amongst almost vertical cliffs above the crashing waves
in a small inlet with a pristene beach near a castle, amazing, only the fact that it took four hours of solid driving to get here stopped me coming before now.
The path up to the kings quoit starts on the beach itself, as the tomb can be seen easily just follow the path, which in places is quite thin with a long fall into the cold water. I didnt know it was as big as it is,
the capstone is huge the stones it rests on are large, and there is that all important big get inable chamber. The setting is almost too ideal and I wonder whether the sea was this close all those years ago or was this bay and the others seen from the chamber all dry land.
Something was amiss though, there was a shallow excavation at the rear of the chamber 6inches deep or so and on the capstone there was a spread of what looked like finely crushed shell. nothing much I know but it seems there is still some madness left in megalithia.
Made of the same rich burgundy sandstone as the Devil's Quit cromlech, the similarities continue with a collapsed upright giving it a great protruding from the earth feeling.
The vertical red stones behind the cromlech are very striking – was this originally considered part of the tomb?
The big capstone has three flat sides, with the pointy end aiming inland at the bay. There are views over a stretch of sea and bays several miles to the west.
It's a fine and beautiful place to be.
Directions: King's Quoit lies on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path at the junction with another footpath. It is clearly visible halfway up the cliff on your left as you stand on the beach at Maenorbyr / Manorbier.
Wow - you can see why they built this little beauty here. The stones are perched on the hillside overlooking the quaint Manorbier bay and on a sunny summer day this is an excellent place to lay back on top of the cap-stone, chill out and take in the views. If you need directions, ask the chap who takes the cash at the car-park.
The cromlech could be responsible for the name of the village. 'Maenorbyr' may well take its name from the same root as Ynys Byr (Caldey Island) just around the coast. It's thought this could be 'pure island' (used in the same sense as many islands are called Holy Island). Ynys Byr has a long history of sacred use, from the Neolithic through Bronze Age up to the monks who live there to the present day. In the same way, Maenorbyr replaces Ynys ('island') with 'maen' ('stone'); holy or sacred stone.