Sunday 21st October 2012
The day started overcast but quickly turned into an amazing day full of blue sky and sea. Rhossili soon became very busy because of the lovely weather (surfers out in droves). Fortunately we had made an early start so avoided the crowds until later in the day. The plan was to walk to Hillend from Rhossili along the top of Rhossili Down and return along the beach (which I believe is the largest in the UK). Sweyne Howes burial chambers came into view at about the half way point of the walk - one is ruined with the stones scattered. The larger and more intact chamber is reminiscent of some of the wedge tombs I saw in Ireland. Unlike the wedge tombs, however, these two are hidden from the sea view being well below the high ridge of the Down.
Instead I turn my attentions northwards, to the sibling monument. This one is much more intact, the chamber almost complete but for the slipped capstone, recalling Mulfra Quoit (I get a very similar feeling here to being on the West Penwith moors). Its general shape and proximity to the wrecked southern chamber also brings to mind Dyffryn Adudwy in North Wales, although I’ve never been there. The capstone, in its semi-fallen state, is a heart-shaped block. The stony spread stretches away down the slope, so it appears that the chamber was at the end of an oval mound, rather than in its centre. There’s no indication of a kerb. A tranquil spot, no-one comes to disturb me here as I sit for a while, although now there are walkers about on the ridge above. No-one comes looking for the geocache in the chamber, either. Someone else’s hobby, that. I don’t need a geocache to get me here, the stones speak loudly enough to draw my attention.
Park in the car park at Rhossili point (near the National Trust shop) and it's an obvious but long and very steep walk up to the top of Rhossili headland. Once at the top keep following the path along the ridge, past the small cairns and eventually you will spot Sweyne Howes lower down the headland on your right hand side (sea to your left). When I visited it was extremely windy - so much so I got blown into a dreaded gorse bush on the way back down. Those spike not only go through clothing but trainers as well. I hate gorse!!!
It's suggested that the rather Scandinavian name of these burial chambers is after the supposed founder of Swansea, Sweyne Forkbeard, (Svend Tveskæg) King of Denmark and sometime king of England 1013-14. Swansea is first mentioned as "Sweynesse" in a 12th century charter. The Welsh name for the city is quite different and sensibly refers to the mouth of the river (Abertawe).
"We all know" the chambers are really prehistoric and not Viking at all - but the mounds might well have been recognised and even reused for a burial in later years: many others across the country were. The story is that Sweyne himself is buried here, but you'd like to think he made it back to Denmark really.