Even the track feels ancient, a deep green channel between collapsing drystone walls enlivened by vibrant purple foxgloves at this time of year. We pass Ffon-y-cawr, leaning crazily on the other side of the wall. Another one to save for a proper visit, because from here we can see the main objective for today.
Maen-y-Bardd is at once bigger and smaller than I expected it to be. It’s perfectly proportioned and looks out over the wide valley of Afon Conwy, the river itself winding lazily through the centre. And there are mountains, and hills, and little fields, and a huge cloud-filled sky. What a place.
“Stone out of song” goes a poem I hold very close to my heart. But did the song come first, or the stone? Was a bard buried here, or did the place make poets of its visitors?
We stop for a good while. Even the dogs seem content to sit here.
At length an interruption comes in the form of a farmer in his tractor, cutting the bracken in the field next door. The spell is broken. We head uphill.
Glorious sunny weather today, and after the recent downpours and grim weather I felt I really needed to get out and about.
I've been meaning to visit the Tal-y-fan monuments for ages, but never got around to it so today seemed as good a day as any! Maen-y-Bardd is a site I'd wanted to visit for ages, having seen some lovely photographs of it in the past, which made it look as if it was in an area of splendid mountainous isolation.
After a maddeningly slow meander up the A5, with roadworks and tractors reducing progress to a crawl at times, I turned off the B5106 just south of Conwy and headed into the pretty village of Rowen. I'd decided to approach via the Youth Hostel at Rhiw, so taking a right turn in the village after the hotel, and folowing the ominously dead end signed road, the lane started to climb the hill. Soon the road became extremely steep, (quite possibly one of the steepest I've ever driven up!) but the car did sterling work and soon I reached the end of the road. At first I thought I'd missed the Youth Hostel, before realising it was in fact the white building to my left where the metalled road ends, so I pulled into their drive, and with a distinct lack of anyone around to ask whether I'd be OK to park there, I made sure I wasn't blocking any entrances and left the car there hoping for the best.
A short walk along the lane and the first thing I notice is a small standing stone, (one of the Caerhun stones, although I didn't realise it as such at the time) behind which the unmistakable silhouette of the dolman is visible.
As others have said this is the absolute epitome of a perfectly presented dolman, perched with amazing views over the Afon Tafalog and down the Conwy valley, and currently being used a shelter by a group of shaggy sheep, eager to escape the midday suns heat.
The sheep soon move as I squeeze myself inside, and just let the cares of the world fall away. The poet stone itself is said to grant the gift of inspiration or madness to those who spend the night here, a legend also told in relation to Cadair Idris, where I once spent a cold and windswept night camping near the summit one February. The jury's still out on whether that expedition inproved my poetic skills, (and I'm sure those who know me don't reckon that I could get much madder than I already am!) so maybe I should spend a night in Maen-y-Bardd sometime?
Certainly sitting here in the chamber with this view is inspiring, and it's cool sheltered and peaceful in here, it's really quite comfortable complete with a 'pondering stone' you can sit on to keep you off the earthen floor.
A great start to the Tal-y-Fan explore, if the other sites that line the old Roman road are even half as good I'm in for a great day!
A lovely little dolmen in a lovely place with yes youve guessed it lovely views. I thought it time to witness the sunrise from here and coincidentally it was two days from the equinox so I payed special attention. On the horizon the mountain known as moelfre uchaf sticks out most, and it was here that the sun rose from, Coincidence ? maybe, but the even more persuasive alignments at cerrig pryfaid stone circle was ready to dispel any doubts. This could be the reason why Tal y fan has so many monuments.
Despite the dense cloud promising rain at any time, I was relieved when Jane agreed to meander down the Roman road which cuts through the Rowen complex of megalithic structures. Moth walked along the raised field bank, and it was delightful to hear them both cry out in unison as they spotted Maen-y-Bardd. It has that effect; I challenge anyone not to say "Oh wow!" or just "Oh!" upon seeing it for the first time. Tired, and totally fed up with walking, Jane immediately nested inside it, and was promptly re-energised. Not surprising. The Iced Gem of Dolmens looked just as gorgeous and magical, irrespective of the rapidly lowering skies. Moth and I took lots of photos, before seeking out Rhiw Burial Chamber
What an exquisite place, and an exquisite structure. A definite one to visit, a megarak's must-see.
I said to the arresting Kate that it was a little gem, and then was put in mind of small iced biscuits. Now, I'll never be able to eat a purple-topped Iced Gem without thinking of this most divine example of dolmen building.
It is perfectly constructed in every way, and enjoys terrific views over the Conwy Valley. (See weblog for further details).
Go on. Treat yourself this summer. You won't be disappointed.
This is where the dog was snoozing when his giant master chucked Ffon-Y-Cawr at him to wake him up - he was supposed to be guarding the sheep. Maen y Bardd is also known as Cwt Y Bugail - the shepherd's hut.
(Grinsell - folklore of prehistoric sites in Britain)