It was a very beautiful day at the end of May, about four in the afternoon, Eric and his best mate Luke stoically riding their bikes in front of me and my two Jack Russells taking me for a walk. It had been a long drive, getting away from home late, but we were here now, and it was good.
About a hundred yards up the path to the hill fort is Ffynnon Gybi, Saint Cybi's well, it is a place of extreme beauty. The spring first empties into a square pool behind the main building, channeled in under the wall into the main chamber. This chamber is the oldest part, (no date)it is angled inwards all around suggesting a sort of beehive hut shape. The later building attached to it is Victorian. The path carries on behind the Well and up through thickly bluebelled woods, the air thick with birdsong and myriad flying insects. The path sadly ejects one from this earthly paradise and up into the next one. In front the fort stands out well on its hill top, in the first field is a long rectangular cairn, is it a cairn ? field clearance or something to do with the nearby fort.
At the top the fort is very impressive, high banks and deep ditches,obvious entrances and all that stone from the later walls. But the view from the top is a belter. The view north and east are the best , because it contains lots of big lovely mountains. Eric's mate Luke said it was the first time he'd seen the sea, and that this was only his second time out of England and the furthest from home he'd ever been. Poor child, we'll go the beach in a month or two.
With in the fort is a strange little hut circle affair, for people no bigger than a few inches, what exactly it is I haven't a clue, something modern ? a Fullact fiadh, don't know.
We sat up here for ages, talking about the kind of things that one does in these high places, Alien invasions, Volcanic eruptions, immortality, over population, and of course where and when are we having Tea.
Usually, having to leave such a well proportioned vantage point as this would make me a bit annoyed for not having longer to linger, but those bluebelled woods in early evening light back down the hill and the slow trickle of water at the well are a welcome addition to the walk/pulled run back to the car.
Unfortunately I don't have a great deal of time to spare upon finally coming down from the warm - did I say warm?! - seductive bosom of Mynydd Carnguwch.... seeing as it appears both my car headlights have blown, bulbs 'shorted out' by some electrical surge. Yeah, although sadly I reckon the alternator's the culprit, as opposed to bombardment by magical cosmic rays. So no need for Mulder this time around .... always a need for Scully, however. Whatever, I'll still need to get back to camp before it gets too dark. Or risk the very unwelcome attentions of the black-clad, 'machine gun wielding' heddlu.
Garn Bentyrch appears on the map to be but a minor deviation from my quickly improvised route 'home' - via Porthmadog and Beddgelert.... hey, probably not much there anyway, but worth a look nonetheless. The craggy hilltop rises to the north(ish) of the small village of Llangybi, so named after a certain St. Cybi, apparently rather fond of holy wells.... funnily enough I'm getting an image of TMA's Goff here, although no doubt lacking the self-effacing humour. Ffynnon Gybi, the 'holy' water in question, is signposted from the main road and reached by way of an attractive public footpath beside a rushing river... aren't they all around here? I ascend the hillside to the right of the ancient buildings harbouring the spring which, needless to say, is incorrect.... the path actually climbs through woodland to the left, as I duly ascertain on the way down. Nevertheless it's but a short pull to the summit of Garn Bentyrch and the subsequent realisation - albeit a very welcome one - that, not for the first time, there is much more here than anticipated by the weary traveller.
In summary, the ancient fortress appears to consist of a small, very powerful, bivallate enclosure supplemented by a larger, less well fortified enclosure to the approx north-west.... the latter for general living and the protection of animals, perhaps? To be honest the innermost defence line looks out of context, a massive, collapsed dry stone wall which, judging by the 'dry stone field boundary to end all dry stone field boundaries' which bisects the site in the eastern quadrant, was once much more substantial still. Coflein quotes Frances Lynch (1995. CADW: A Guide to Ancient and Historic Wales Gwynedd p197) as stating that 'The triple defences are probably of different dates. The innermost ring with its thick, high stone wall may be early medieval; the other two lines consist of walls and banks and are probably prehistoric with later alterations and additions'. I'd concur with that. Frances will no doubt be pleased....
The outer ring of the inner defences is, to my mind, worth the price of admission alone - not that there is any monetary toll to be paid in this instance - consisting of a fine, grassy bank standing favourable comparison with many an ancient enclosure feasted upon by these eyes over the past decade or so. As noted the 'fort extends its eastern arc beyond the aforementioned massive field wall, the latter no doubt plundered from its very fabric. Bearing that in mind... perhaps the dedicated may want to take a look? I couldn't possibly comment.
So, Garn Bentyrch remains a very impressive ancient fortress, possibly adapted, South Cadbury style, to serve as home for some early medieval Authurian-style warlord? And of course the views are simply stunning.... from the jaw-droppingly feminine profile of Mynydd Carnguwch (with Yr Eifl and Tre'r Ceiri as close consorts to the right) to the approx north-west.... to the isolated, fortified crag of Moel-y-Gest rising above Pothmadog to the (approx) east... the Rhinogydd standing serried across Tremadog Bay.... the Eifionydd taking it easy under the not unusual cloak of vapour...
A couple of hours here are not enough. But they are all I have and it is time well spent.
If you want to walk to the top of Garn Bentyrch, the footpath will take you straight past Ffynnon Gybi, a holy well, which emerges on the south east side of the hill.
Ffynnon Gybi, or St. Cybi's Well, in the parish of Llangybi [..] there the girls who wished to know their lover's intentions would spread their pocket-handkerchiefs on the water of the well, and, if the water pushed the handkerchiefs to the south - in Welsh i'r de - they knew that everything was right - in Welsh o dde - and that their lovers were honest and honourable in their intentions; but, if the water shifted the handkerchiefs northwards, they concluded the contrary. A reference to this is made in severe terms by a modern Welsh poet, as follows:-
Ambell ddyn, gwaelddyn, a gyrch
I bant goris Moel Bentyrch,
Mewn gobaith mai hen Gybi
Glodfawr sydd yn llwyddaw'r lli.
Some folks, worthless folks, visit
A hollow below Moel Bentyrch,
In hopes that ancient Kybi
Of noble fame blesses the flood.
From 'Sacred Wells in Wales' by John Rhys and T. E. Morris, in
Folklore, Vol. 4, No. 1 (Mar., 1893), pp. 55-79.
T E Morris added: "I was [..] at Llangybi, in Carnarvonshire, about two years ago, and saw Ffynnon Gybi (St. Cybi's Well), which lies in a small dale near the parish church, and had been walled in and flagged. It is a large square well, and was formerly very much resorted to by persons suffering from rheumatism and other complaints. To effect a cure it was necessary to bathe in the well; and the building adjoining, the ruins of which remain, was possibly used by the suffers."
A folktale in 'Welsh Fairy Stories' by W. Jenkyn Thomas (1907) relates to the stones on top of Garn Bentyrch (or Pentyrch, as he calls it) - online at V Wales http://www.red4.co.uk/Folklore/fairytales/gutobach.htm
It's about a boy who goes to play with the fairies on the hills above Llangybi. His parents warn him against it but he will keep going back, and one day doesn't return for two years (though he looks the same age on his return). There are rumours about a hoard of gold hidden under a big rock on the mountain but even the strongest men in the village shoving together can't shift it. His parents are down to their last can of beans due to an ill-advised investment, but Guto knows the fairies will help them out. He goes to ask nicely if they can have the gold, and when he tries to move the rock (sword-in-the-stone style) it bounces off down the hill with no effort at all. Pays to be civil to the fairies, see.
When I was staying at Pwlltheli the same summer, I went out to the neighbouring village of Four Crosses, and found a native of the place, who had heard a great many curious things from his mother. His name was Lewis Jones: he was at the time over eighty, and he had formerly been a saddler. Among other things, his mother often told him that her grandmother had frequently been with the fairies, when the latter was a child. She lived at Plas Du, and once she happened to be up near Carn Bentyrch when she saw them. She found them resembling little children, and playing in a brook that she had to cross. She was so delighted with them, and stayed so long with them, that a search was made for her, when she was found in the company of the fairies.