There are two forts here right next to each other, this the western one is much larger than it's counterpart.
Starting from the car park once more, it is not far to the main entrances, three ramparts there are on it's east side, each growing in size as the higher ground is gained. The path passes through the first rampart which is very slight and grass/fern/gorse covered, the second bank the path passes through is more discernible, to the left of the path some stones protrude in sparse patches, but on the right the stone spread is considerable and reaches off into the distance wrapping itself around the contour of the hill.
The top most rampart is very impressive, again it is more grass covered on the left side of the path than on the right.
Once in the fort proper I naturally head straight for the trig point at the top, it is still raining, mist comes and goes, as does the outside world, the wind is the thing though, it is so strong I have to cling onto the trig point for safety, without it I would surely have fallen to a head crunching finale, it was like an actual malevolent force definitely trying to pull me off.
This is my third outing in crap weather in a row and I'm seriously beginning to question the validity of supernatural beings.
I scramble down spiderlike from the top and hide for a while in a WW2 gun privy, from here I can see the western wall, the wind is most absolutely wailing now, there is one spot upon me that is no longer waterproof, a chink in my impervious armour has appeared, I found out while sitting down.
The western rampart is similarly as impressive as the eastern, and again it runs from outcrop to outcrop. Back towards the entrance I decide to climb another outcrop, ostensibly to view the entrance ramparts, but from up there I can see the southern wall, once more running from outcrop to outcrop, if it is a law of fort building amongst rocks they followed it fastidiously, even the banks below the inner entrance ramparts do it, had it been a clear day I may have also been able to see Ysgubor Gaer another fortlet thingy far below, so close as to be part of the same place.
A fantastic fort in what I have been reliably informed is a pretty area. Three times ive been to Strumble and not seen the sun at all.
According to Coflein, Royal Commission surveyors saw fit to describe Garn Fawr as '…one of the most striking of the stone forts of the United Kingdom…' upon concluding a field visit here in 1921. Quite an assertion, this... for it must be noted that competition in the category is fierce, to say the least. However, following a visit of my own, I reckon it's justified. Yeah, a classic site, this.
The sharp, bitingly cold wind - which has served all day to remind me it's still technically Winter - decides to up the ante as the day moves into late afternoon, thus making the visit to this coastal fortress a decidedly hostile affair. Walking poles are of great benefit if one wishes to avoid being blown from the collapsed drystone ramparts of this great enclosure in such conditions... that much is true. But there is something indescribably invigorating - primeval, even - about accepting the challenge and placing the body on the line. Perhaps that's it. Perhaps we actually do activate subconscious survival sub-routines we no longer need in the course of urban living. I believe so, and this is the primary reason I will continue to do this while I still can.
Having said the above, access to the site is easy, a large car park suggesting popularity with punters during the summer season. A prominent, rocky crag veers up to the west with another - Garn Fach, bearing a smaller companion hillfort - to the east. Follow the path to the right of the former and the substantial, inner rampart is soon reached. This connects a number of other crags, incorporated within the defences like numerous proto-mural wall towers, to form a powerful main enclosure... although a drystone field wall does confuse matters a little. The summit of the site is crowned by both an OS trig pillar and the remains of a WWII gun position. It seems appropriate. There is more to Garn Fawr than this, however, a walk - or more accurately, 'stagger' - revealing several, additional lines of rampart encircling the hillside below. Not to mention two satellite enclosures (Dinas Mawr to the west and Ysgubor Gaer to the south) and exquisite views of Pwll Deri and associated cliff-lines. In short Garn Fawr (the 'Fawr' must relate to the size of the hillfort in relation to the surrounding enclosures, since the crag upon which it sits is not of significant altitude) is well worth a visit, even if archaeology isn't your thang.... it's a fabulous viewpoint.
Brambles impede progress and I get the distinct impression I've gatecrashed Nature's private party. But it is worth the not inconsiderable effort, the discomfort, even. If sites can retain echoes of the past, perhaps I hear something rebounding from the crags of Garn Fawr. Or is that just the wind?
O/S map is a good idea in order to navigate the labyrinth of unsignposted lanes. Once you arrive at the small car park the path up to the hillfort is easy to follow and only took me about 10 minutes to get to the top. There are great views to be had along the coastline. The collapsed remains of the stone ramparts circle the site and there is a long farmer's field stone wall which cuts right through the hilfort - no prizes for guessing where the stone cam from!! With an O/S map this site was a lot easier to visit than I expected. Well worth a visit for the remaining stonework and the views.
So you can see Ireland and the Llyn.. but what else can you see from up here? Chapter 2 of John Rhys's 'Celtic Folklore, Welsh and Manx' suggests the following:
Mr. E. Perkins, of Penysgwarne, near Fishguard, wrote on Nov. 2, 1896, as follows, of a changing view to be had from the top of the Garn, which means the Garn Fawr, one of the most interesting prehistoric sites in the county, and one I have had the pleasure of visiting more than once in the company of Henry Owen and Edward Laws, the historians of Pembrokeshire:--
'May not the fairy islands referred to by Professor Rhys have originated from mirages? During the glorious weather we enjoyed last summer, I went up one particularly fine evening to the top of the Garn behind Penysgwarne to view the sunset. It would have been worth a thousand miles' travel to go to see such a scene as I saw that evening. It was about half an hour before sunset--the bay was calm and smooth as the finest mirror. The rays of the sun made a golden path across the sea, and a picture indescribable. As the sun neared the horizon the rays broadened until the sheen resembled a gigantic golden plate prepared to hold the brighter sun.
No sooner had the sun set than I saw a striking mirage. To the right I saw a stretch of country similar to a landscape in this country. A farmhouse and outbuildings were seen, I will not say quite as distinct as I can see the upper part of St. David's parish from this Garn, but much more detailed. We could see fences, roads, and gateways leading to the farmyard, but in the haze it looked more like a panoramic view than a veritable landscape. Similar mirages may possibly have caused our old to think these were the abode of the fairies.'
Yes you can see both Ireland and the Llyn as well as Snowdonia and Cadair Idris, on some days all are visible. Garn Fawr dominates the area and surounding it are ancient possibly Iron age field systems. At it's base on the Pwll deri side opposite the Youth hostel in the farm yard there is an ancient corbelled hut some have suggested medieval but it seems much older reminiscent of similar structures on the West coast of Ireland, although probably utilised in the Medeival period.
I've not yet visited this site, but apparantly it's one of the best preserved stone hillforts forts in Britain. Access to the fort is good (there's a small car park) and on a clear day you can (allegedly) see Ireland and the Llyn.
My sources are Chris Barber's More Mysterious Wales, the NMRW and the Ordnance Survey Landranger.