According to my old map I first had the 'presence of mind' to ascend this rocky, southern outlier of Y Mynydd Du way back in July 2003. The reason is now lost in the mists of time. Or rather more prosaically, perhaps, the low cloud base that it seems covered the hill that day. However a likely supposition is that I was looking to return to the excellent Saith Maen stone row.... and, er, sort of got a little bit lost. That, as they say, was that until the craggy height happened to catch my roving eye whilst hanging out at the wondrous, if reclusive Llorfa stone circle a couple of years back, duly noting the profile could be said to resemble a recumbent figure from some angles. Why, I'd say it's a near certainty after several pints of Reverend James. Not that I'd infer participation in any such behaviour upon any of a number of South Walians subsequently confirming that Cribarth is indeed known locally as the 'Sleeping Giant'. Nice.
In retrospect Cribarth has been on the periphery of my South Walian wanderings for a while now.... too long... without ever taking centre stage. I guess the surfeit of quarrying upon its southern flank had a lot to do with that. Nevertheless prevailing circumstances see me finally parking once again outside Craig-y-Nos country park (there is a large, free layby) and following a signed, gated public footpath leading to a 'Heritage Walk'. A little way in there is an exhibit of a modern standing stone, but naturally that needn't detain a TMA-er, there being a number of kosher examples in the area worthy of attention. Follow the path as it forks to the right - as I recall it is signed 'to the open hill' or something similar. Yeah, I'd recommend prospective visitors (for once) 'do as I say, not as I do' since I carry on ahead and have to cross a wall, prior to ascending, very steeply, to the crest of the ridge above to the right. Too late, I conclude that this is not a good idea, seeing as I'm badly out of sorts today, consequently making very heavy weather of the climb. But there you are. Getting old, I guess.
Cribarth, as would befit a giant, recumbent landscape figure, consists of an undulating, elongated - OK, somewhat 'industrial' - ridge aligned roughly south-west. As mentioned above, its southern face will not win any beauty contest - but then no self respecting giant would wish to, surely? - having been ravaged by quarrying over the years. Not my pint of James, to be honest, particularly since the leaden sky suddenly erupts in one of those 'I'll soak you in 30 seconds' downpours. Hey, these damn cairns better be good. Suffice to say, they are. Initially I head for what I take to be the summit at the southern extremity of the ridge, not an unreasonable assumption, bearing in mind the location of the OS trig pillar. This is crowned by a perfectly respectable upland cairn, albeit one subject to the usual 'hollowing out' in order to create an internal muppet shelter. At least it does not have to suffer the additional indignity of supporting the trig point, this standing nearby and, incidentally, being perhaps the most pristine I've ever come across. I'm almost expecting Danny Baker (it was him, wasn't it?) to appear with a box of Daz. Almost. The views are pretty good, too, looking north to the obscured mass of Y Mynydd Du, west toward the site of what I believe to be a ritual complex upon Llorfa, south-west(ish) along the Tawe valley to Ystradgynlais.... and, most interestingly, approx north-east, whereby another cairn can be seen perched across the way....
As I approach, it is actually quite difficult to distinguish the northern cairn from the rocky chaos constituting what the map actually cites as being Cribarth's summit (this certainly does not seem to be the case to me, but I won't argue with the OS... optical illusion). In fact it is only upon moving beyond - and looking back - that the monument is revealed, in all its definition, as a truly substantial cairn indeed. What's more, the southern arc is retained by a section of very impressive kerbing. Now that is unusual for South Wales. As TSC's miscellaneous post states, the cairn is actually not so much a cairn as a large mass of stone blocks arranged in 'dry-stone configuration', if that makes sense. And to think I neglected to come here all these years? As I sit and have lunch the weather begins to deteriorate.... further and further. Paradoxically, this only serves to elevate the somewhat surreal vibe to a level whereby I abandon plans to revisit the nearby Saith Maen stone row. Yeah, so much time has elapsed I decide Cribarth should take all the plaudits this time around.
Two cairns on the rocky ridge of Cribarth. Coflein descriptions:
Northern cairn (SN82901443)
A cairn of limestone boulders is located at the north-east end of a ridge. It measures about 19.8m in diameter though its precise size is hard to determine because it merges with scree on the west and south west. Its height is about 1.8m on the north and east, and 3m on the south-west. A length of massive kerbing is visible on the south side of the cairn. It is composed of limestone blocks set drystone fashion (rather than earthfast) and is visible for 5.5m.
The mound has been generally disturbed.
Southern cairn (SN82831420)
A cairn of limestone boulders is located at the SW end of a ridge. It measures roughly 13.7m in diameter though its precise dimensions are hard to determine because much of the cairn mass has collapsed down the sides of the ridge, especially on the W. Much of the centre of the mound has been modified into a shelter. The overall height of the cairn is now c.2m on the NE, 1.2m elsewhere.
A trig pillar lies to the immediate S.
Amazing what you can pick up from local knowledge, isn't it? OK, I had surmised - whilst hanging out at the Llorfa stone circle back in September - that the profile of Cribarth looked a little like a recumbent figure from that direction. However I wasn't aware the 1,387ft mini-mountain was known locally as the 'Sleeping Giant'..... my thanks to Rob, The Mam C's daughter's fiance, for that snippet of information.
Apparently the best viewpoint to appreciate the likeness is near Cae'r-Lan, north-east of Ystradgynlais (at approx SN804120). Too cloudy to test this out personally this Christmas, but on-line photos seem very convincing. Sacred Hill, indeed. I wandered up it a number of years back in mist. Need to return some time for a proper look, methinks.