The biggest hill fort in South East Wales, and probably the best fort in South Wales, this one is a stunner.
Circlemaster said he couldn't believe how few posts there were of this place, and neither can I.
It's been on my list for a few years now, so, if I throw together a few separated but easy to get to sites I can have my two most wanted Welsh sites in one day, brilliant !
There is a large car park, purpose made for the site, I cant remember the last time I saw a car park for a hill fort, there cant be many, with an information board too.
There are many many good points about this ancient site, the first is, that there are two forts here, it's a two for the price of none, it's all free, as free as the air and the rain. The two forts, Y Gaer Fach and Y Gaer Fawr, are separated by a small gully and are no more than 180 meters apart, one could shout over to your mate in the other fort.
The walk up to the first and smaller of the two forts starts at a large modern standing stone, the Gwynfor Evans (Politician) memorial stone. Y Gaer Fawr is a hundred yards up the hill.
Oval in shape, we pass over two lines of old fort walls, they tend to fade out a bit as you move away from the south west corner, but in the north east corner a well defined entrance is found, it just happens to not only face gentler sloping ground but also faces the larger higher fort Y Gaer Fach. We proceed on up to the high.
The first thing we come to is the frankly massive, nay, titanic, front wall, from the outside it looks to be at least twelve feet high, on the inside half that. At the southern end of the wall is the main entrance but we don't see that until were on our way out. We enter the fort at the south west corner and head north east along the wall. Until it forks, the left wall goes down hill the right fork carries on in the same direction, we go that way.
Nearly half way along this higher wall inside the fort on the highest ground is Y Gaer Fawr's party piece, a giant cairn.
The giant cairn is 3m high 55m long and 20m wide, it's a monster cairn. Cairns this size usually have chambers in them, but then cairns like this, ie; a long cairn, aren't usually in this kind of position.
Coflein freely admits it's an anomaly, it could be neolithic, either way it's huge, and a perfect example of a later culture living along side monuments from a bygone age.
We cross from the giant cairn over to the east side of the fort, missing in the process a possible low standing stone and posterns, small entrances to the fort, a good picture of one is found on the coflein site. Oh well, i'll have to go back now wont I, perhaps on a sunnier day. From the east wall you can see annexes below, and if you look up to the hill to your east, Tricrug, then turn round and look at the giant cairn in profile, the two are a perfect match, it looks very much like the cairn builders were imitating the long bump on the hill, which has subsequently accrued some time in the bronze age it's own cairn.
The match is quite uncanny.
We then head south and to the front wall, which has a very good looking entrance in it, but coflein assure us it is not an original feature the entrance actual is buried under slippage amid the massive front wall somewhere. And then we walk away, well, Eric's been gone for some time now, some king of huff apparently, at my taking to many pictures. Me?
It's hard not to, there's so many features, I could stay here all afternoon, but we're a long way from home, and the car aint gonna drive itself.
I can't believe there aren't more posts for this. I went to see this last year, it's an absolutely huge hill fort and an amazing site. It's unusual because all the ramparts and fortifications are still there and stone built, rather like Grimspound in Dartmoor on a massive scale. The huge cairn on the other side is called the red cairn I think and is a huge pile of stones that could be mistaken for a quarry.
Drive through the village of Bethleham, up the hill, over the cattle grid and there is a parking place on the left. It is then an easy walk up the hillfort. Be careful though as the collapsed stone walls are very loose underfoot. The countryside here is beautiful. When I visited there wasn't a cloud in the sky and red kites were gliding silently overhead - bliss.
One day, [Sawyl] and his party broke in [to the monastery of S. Cadoc], and carried off meat and drink, but did no further damage. Cadoc was absent at the moment, but on his return learnt what had been done, and was further informed that the marauders were at a little distance, eating and drinking what they had ravished from his larder and cellars.
After they had gorged themselves with meat and ale, Sawyl and his rogues lay down to sleep. Cadoc seized the opportunity to inflict on them a stinging insult. He set his monks to shave half the heads of the drunken men, and then with the razors to slash off the ears and lips of their horses.
We are informed that Sawyl and his men had retreated to a hill-top for their carouse, and if our identification of the localities be accepted, this can have been none other than the Garn Goch. When the barbers had done their work, Cadoc and fifty of his clerics assumed their ecclesiastical vestments, and marched in procession to the hill to meet, and if possible, to mitigate the resentment of the freebooter.
What happened is veiled in fable. The earth opened and swallowed up Sawyl and his men, "and the ditch where they were engulfed is known unto this day to all the passers-by". That nothing of the sort took place we may be pretty sure. What probably occurred was that the settlers in the neighbourhood assembled and assumed a threatening attitude, and the bully was fain to decamp.
[..] After this, Cadoc sang Te Deum, and blessed the men who had made his adversaries ridiculous, and had so barbarously mutilated the dumb beasts.
That last sentence sounds like S B-G disapproves of animal cruelty, which is pleasing. Surely saints shouldn't be asking people to do such things. He supposes Sawyl might have been based at Pen-y-Ddinas (although that seems rather a long way to walk to go pilfering from monasteries). From The Lives of the British Saints, volume 2, by Sabine Baring-Gould (1908).
Carn Goch (red cairn) is one of the largest stone-built hillforts in south Wales, and the finest example of one with stone ramparts, which are a little worse for wear now. There are two forts Y Gaer Fach (the small fort) and Y Gaer Fawr (the large fort!). The views over this remote part of the Brecon Beacons sound fantastic.