Ah, the Crugiau Merched upon Mynydd Mallaen.... these great prehistoric burial cairns have been on 'the list' for a while now, it has to be said. But the approach from the south always seemed a tad long for Gladman tastes and I'd heard of access issues when approaching from the north. However I'm on my way to Pumlumon, so... well, it'd be rude not to have a look in passing, I guess.
The landscape in the vicinity of Rhandirmwyn is first rate, it really is, although surface water from yesterday's 'severe weather warning' does warrant a little extra care on the very minor local roads. Eventually I manage to locate the farm of Bwlch-y-rhiw and note just how steep the approach from the north will be. My poor knees... The Postie arrives - no, not THAT one, unfortunately - and I take the opportunity to ask the occupier of the farmhouse about access across his field as he emerges for a chat. This is not a problem, as it transpires. The cairns are situated upon the 459m Creigiau Landis and are, typically, not visible from down below. The climb is as steep as I anticipate, very boggy, but mercifully short in duration.
As I finally emerge upon the summit plateau the eastern cairn is the first encountered and appears to be a tall, well preserved example of a Bronze Age funerary cairn. Appearances can be deceptive, however, for further investigation reveals it to have a very deep, hollow core reminiscent of the crater of an extinct volcano. Nevertheless an impressive monument. The western cairn is much better preserved, despite the observation channel cut through it for the nearby OS trig point. The views are fantastic to the north and west, the vista to the south gradually clearing to reveal the entire east-west escarpment of South Wales from The Black Mountains in the east to Tair Carn Uchaf upon Mynydd Du to the west. I note the numerous burial cairns crowning these peaks through my field glasses and suddenly feel part of a very big picture indeed. What's more, a couple of standing stones are prominent upon the main body of Mynydd Mallaen nearer to hand. Nice. More energy would be good, but in lieu of that I must be content to view these monoliths from a considerable distance.
Although substantial monuments, the sight of a great, towering cloudscape above the eastern cairn to the, er, east (surprisingly enough) puts the works of humankind very firmly in perspective. All of a sudden a very heavy, sharp shower sweeps in from the west requiring frantic donning of waterproofs - frantic, but not quite quick enough, it has to be said. Then it is gone, motoring up the valley and I have only circling red kites for company. Yeah, the vibe up here is superb and it is only the thought of spending the night upon Pumlumon that drags me away many hours later....
Two large cairns set 100m part sited on natural rises on a ridge at the highest point of Mynydd Mallaen (459m). Both are highly visible from the south. Cairn A (the western) is mainly intact apart from channel cut through it for observation by the OS. Cairn B (the eastern) was excavated 'without profit' in 1930 and is now occassionally used as a sheep shelter.
These are two strange sisters indeed. Perched spookily above a natural ampitheatre, with Maen Bach and Maen Hir, they form a mysterious prehistoric complex high on this lonely plateau.
Note: The cairns are further than they seem if you are walking from the standing stones. Follow the faint track - the direct route is boggy with hidden dips.
A 25m(diameter), 3.0m(h)
B 25m(diameter), 4.0m(h)