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A couple of miles south of Aberglaslyn on the A498 there is a house set back from the road, it has a nice garden, just past it is the parking place, a little layby with room for three or four cars. We the occupants of third car exited said vehicle and walked back up the road following the now wide and slow moving river Glaslyn, but only for a hundred yards then we turn left and up hill on a farm track passing a rusty shack on the corner(you can see it on streetview).
This is the very much up hill section of the walk, it's steep and slippy and because of the thick wooded slopes there is no view. But on the upside I love walking in the woods of Snowdonia, because of the abundant rainfall these woods are as lush and verdant as the proverbial garden, a river runs along side the path plunging over a hundred falls. Moss covers just about everything, ferns, falls and forts, who could ask for more.
The easy to follow path zigzags it's way up until it comes out of the woods and onto the open hill side, there would have been good views, particularly of Cnicht east across the valley, but the mist and grey skies that had bothered us this whole summer solstice morning, was still bothering us, all in a days stone hunting these days.
This path runs right next to the fort, so it was with relative ease that we reached this minor league player in the game of stones.
We leave the path and ascend the rock, passing some very unusual looking rocks we enter through what surely must be the original entrance, now walled up. This modern wall encloses the hill top and is built from the old fort wall, in places it has used all the stone from the fort, and in places there is still much stone spread still beneath the wall.
It lightly but persistently rained nearly the whole time we were there, Eric hunkered down whilst I explored and photographed.
Farmer has not only built a new wall out of the fort but there are three annexes inside it too, and lots of ferns, soaking wet ferns.
It came all too soon to be the time to go, so we climbed back over the new wall and exited the fort via the correct exit, just in time to note that the low clouds had moved on somewhat revealing a decent section of the best place in Wales and England, not a green field in sight, and more trees than I thought were in the whole national park. I asked Eric to sit tight whilst I went for a little walk up there and there, points at rocky vantage points, from up there the view was stunning, I could now see Cnicht, across the valley and far above us and a touch round the corner Moel Hebog and it's cairn cemetery, but not Snowdon, the mists still clung on tightly over there. I'll have to come back on an even nicer day, there are hut circles and hut circles that might be ring cairns and two kilometers west a stone row, so until then, we'll continue to avoid dying horribly so we can keep on with a game of stones.
Nine years ago I had trouble finding this site and I couldn't really work out why, I think I know why now. The 1:50,000 map has the burial chamber as being south east of a footpath, or so I thought, closer inspection has the footpath turning into a Bridle path. I was on the wrong footpath. So here's the definitive directions.
I will presume you have found the east west minor road that runs from the B5108 to the A5025 south of Benllech, look for an off road called Maes Llydan it should be opposite a Bridle path, park on Maes Llydan and walk off down the Bridle path.
keep an eye out left through the thin line of trees lining the path, when you've walked past one field on the left it's there in the next field right up against the hedge, it is visible and can be spotted by the observant.
It really did take ages to find it, I nearly gave up, but a trio of helpful horses helped me out, they buoyed my spirits and had I known at the time where the chamber was I might have thought they were shepherding me in the right direction, they were.
Trees often help me out too, it sounds incredibly stupid, even to me, but the number of times I've been close to quitting only to make for a nearby tree and have the problem immediately resolved, so if trees know lots then horses will no all, logic see.
In the end we more or less stumbled across the site, it's still free of the close by hedge, but the brambles behind it are quite thick and I had to clear the entrance of the tomb to get a good look inside. One thing I hadn't noted last time was the sea view, perhaps the hedge was even higher before, it's always best to have a sea view isn't it ? unless it costs us a mountain view.
Speaking of which it's time for a Snowdonian hill fort, I hope the crappy weather behaves.
This great stone is a stone of two names Carreg Lefn, and Maen Pres the smooth or brass stone, this is another instance of the Welsh flexing their humorous muscles again, the stone is not smooth, by a long way, and it really aint made of brass, it just makes me shake my head in wonder the names they've given to some sites, or am I missing some now lost snippet of information that makes it all click into place. Parys mountain copper mine is a mile or two away east you need copper to make brass, that's all I've got.
It's such a good stone this one, tall, gnarly, covered in lichen and moss and standing proud but lonely in the middle of an empty field. I tried to pick out a stone I hadn't yet been to on Angelsey, but I failed, I'm not sure there are any left that I haven't had the pleasure of, there must be at least one.
With Carls notes twinned with my own negative views and telling photo I can only suggest there isn't much need for anyone else to waste there time looking for this barrow, there are many more engaging stoney sites to go to, I only stopped because I was passing by.
I've passed this site by almost a dozen times, it's collapsed and ruined and the current occupiers of this once sacred land demand that we ask to see it.
So I will reiterate the great Stubobs words "Get yourself over the gate", and like he I went dead early, earlier still. I thought for a minute of knocking on the door the way that postmen do, but reckoned this wasn't really what they had in mind, I've seen too many just got up grumpy faces, just doing my job.
So I parked some way away and walked back up the road and tip toed up the track to the farm buildings. No signs of life (well it is Wales) alerted me to farmers presence so I quietly climbed over the gate, if you go over by the hinges it makes less noise. Then a bee line to the stones, if all bees are a bit drunk. Stubobs analysis of the chamber is spot on, they are indeed a funny old jumble of stones, I think only the capstone is readily identifiable. I cant even tell if all the stones here are from the chamber, one big stone is earthfast outcrop, are they even in the same place, I doubted it.
Closer to the stones than the farm is the terminus of wires and pylons, it is without doubt a monstrosity, I can almost feel the mind control waves bashing around in my head, lucky for me i'm immune, probably the aneurysms.
Five minutes and I'm done, I think I got away with it.
As the great red orb rose above the horizon the heat shimmered across the arid expanse, my calculations were correct, perfectly in line with the large gnarled stones, I made notes in my battered brown notebook.
Meanwhile back in Anglesey thick grey cloud covered the horizon, no sun this morning, great or otherwise, the early morning dew has soaked me from the knees down, voodoo priestess has left the show, it has to be said that it was only slightly better than miserable.
And yet just because the sun don't do it's thing it's never a wasted trip, i'm going to give the fallen cromelch 500 meters north west a crack, it can be mildly problematic but I'm feeling particularly driven today so I'm still hopeful.
The stones field is not unoccupied this morning a flock of sheep are keeping an eye on me, one of their number is black but to his credit it's not let it become an obstacle.
Even the stones aren't mine all mine, two delightfully slimey snails are squirming about on top of the bent stone, right at the top they are, i'm quite taken with them, on tip toes I get closer and enter their world watching them closely, before I know it seven hours have passed so I bid them and my stoney friends a fond farewell and swear that I'll get a sunrise out of them, one day.
The stones mumbled among themselves but I didn't quite catch it.
What a thoroughly and absolutely beautiful place.
Llandudno is, as you can guess quite a large town mainly because of the tourist trade, but it hasn't suffered like Rhyl or Blackpool, it's still a very nice place. But if even if the nicest town in Wales is too much town for you then the Great Ormes head cairn is as far away from the town as possible whilst still being technically in Llandudno. You can walk, drive, tram or fly through the air with the greatest of ease to within about half a mile from this wonderfully situated cairn.
It was so nice that when we were there a couple were doing Tai Chi, or perhaps it was the modern Klingon equivalent either way they looked a bit daft, but not as daft as thirty of them at a retreat on the edge of town.
No? I guess you had to be there.
The cairn can be found at a ninety degree turn of the wall right by the footpath, the mound is twice as large than the spread of stone upon it, I may have spotted the arc of kerb stones, it might not be though. I wondered what the large scoop was next to the cairn, it's not in the cairn, it's next to it, material taken for the cairn possibly, if the cairn was supposed to be viewed from across the estuary around Tal y Fan where there were many things going on in the Bronze age, then the little quarry would be hidden behind the cairn. I dunno i'm just ruminating, perhaps its the grave of the guy who had the stone rows built. Who knows.
Back to that amazing view, north is the open sea, left is Puffin Island and Angelsey, the Straits, then a lot of mountains, which then sink into the river Conway where nestles one of the best castles in Britain. It was so nice that one could go for a bit of Mok'bara.
Well this is a mysterious place isn't it, who gave it the name? did he think he was being funny? who knows? looking at the Welsh language I don't think they do funny. Which leads me to wonder why it hasn't got a Welsh name, did an Englishman give it the name?
Why hasn't the site page got a more exact grid ref SH7684 isn't as precise as some TMA'ers would appreciate, though all that's missing is zeroes so perhaps that's it, SH76008400 is what coflein would perhaps give, but that's actually the grid reference for a supposed standing stone, which is wrong anyway that stone is several hundred meters away and not visible from the bloomer, sorry free trade loaf.....really?
On a more surer ground, the site is a superb location, high and dry with short grass, there are many rocks upon the plateau one of which is Coflein'd to the level of standing stone, and the Irish sea fades off into the distance, it's very nice in the sun reminding me of Scilly or some such lands endy type place. On top of the Orme it isn't as pretty as it once was, i'm guessing though cause it's not changed for about thirty years, apart from the Copper mine that is.
Last time on The stone hunters guide to Wales.....
Snow and ice coupled with miles of difficult walking meant the stone hunters missed the freaky settlement site of Maes y Caerau, and it meant they didn't have a really good look at the pair of cairns nestling under the rocks of Y Gyrn, so after three years of tripping elsewhere our intrepid explorers are back in the hills above Harlech for a more in depth look around.
21st May 2016.....
From the A496 a mile north of Talsarnau turn east up hill towards the little but lovely Llyn Tecwyn Isaf pass it by and take the next right, we parked just across the river and walked from there. The map is a bit confusing after here, you could try following the footpaths or just strike out on your own heading for the right side of big and obvious rocky Y Gyrn.
The leaves are back on the trees, the streams are all full of dark water, birds are singing and the weather is trying it's best not to rain on us, as per our request, likable, to say the least.
After much map reading, some serious leg work, spotting the freaky settlement site across a falling stream and a lot of staring at the views we arrive at the two cairns. Map still says there are three cairns, but we can still see only two, the third is either buried or it's some kind of mistake.
I head straight for the higher of the two, it's a nice little kerb cairn with an opened cist at it's centre. One of the two side slabs has fallen inwards obscuring a proper scootch about in there, I cant even tell if the two end slabs are in attendance,
the kerb stones now free of snow stand out much more. Y Gyrn looks like a really good play ground from here, no swings and slides, but rock and boulders, nooks and crannies, distant views and in your face nature.
Over a little stream about a hundred yards is the other cairn, we knew it was a ring cairn but in the snow three years ago that was not very evident but now the ring is naked and brazen and she is showing it all and we can see it all. She is definitely a ring cairn, and one with a view through a gap in the hills to the sea. Why are they always female ?
After butties under a rock shelter with a view of both cairns, and a walk over to Bryn Cader Faner we climb up to the top of Y Gyrn, where a long eye full reveals all three sites, looking down to the ring cairn is as always especially rewarding.
A revisit to these cairns and the freaky settlement site has been high on the list for over three years, now we've done it I can cross them off, it's not a physical list, but excising them from thought should make the whole thing run smoother, just like my lovely car.
We were here a few years ago, but we had to pass it by due to deep snow and the approach of the dark of the night, for those three years it was on my North Walean wish list. On the map, coflein and google earth it looks very good, three stony rings one inside the other, I was very much looking forward to seeing it from above on the rocky prominence named Y Gyrn, and closer up too of course.
We first caught sight of its rubble rings on the way to the Y Gyrn cairns, waterfalls barred the way so we decided to see it on the way back down. So, after many stony treats we found ourselves stood upon the rocky towers of a mini mount, the views, even on this murky kind of day are expansive, many different things can be seen, collectively they are known as North Wales. But closer to and below us is one of the oddest settlements I've seen for while, I can make out the three stone banks but its half grassed over and as the ground is falling away from us, and the rings are on the hill, they are kind of pointing away from us, spoiling the birds eye view I had envisaged. The voodoo priestess laughed and gave me a slap across the face, I had to agree, we had uncannily missed any and all rain, staying dry and happy, and not to mention you get what you get, not what you wish for.
Three concentric rings of dry stone walling one and a half to two meters thick, the innermost ring is thought to be a round house. The entrance to the two outer walls is at the south west, in places the walls are still half a dozen courses high. I thought it strange that the Iron age homesteaders hadn't leveled the ground before building, maybe I've seen too many stone circles, either way I quite liked the way the whole place is draped over the contours of the land and apparently early cultivation terraces.
I liked this place, the green valleys, the mountains, the ancient places, but I reckon a bit of de-turfing would really benefit the site, if it is left to itself it will disappear, just like it's apparent twin 600 yards south west Bryn-Melyn, twin? did I not say.
After dropping the kids off at school and collage I decided that it has been too long since I last went out, it's payday and there are blue skies and fluffy white clouds overhead so I grab me stuff, jump in the car and head out west.
The weather in Wales and me don't get on all the time, in fact we argue constantly, I want sunshine and rainbows but Wales doesn't care what I want so it tries it's level best to deter me from coming at all, today was no different. The head sized hailstones half way there almost made me turn round but i'm more persistent than that.
By the time I parked in the car park the weather had settled into murky low cloud, the fort is visible on the euphemistically named Conway mountain, but there is no direct route, so a half mile walk east down the road to a crossroads turn left on to a wide footpath follow that up hill till you get to a T junction of footpaths, left again, when a right turn going uphill presents itself take it for a now direct route to the "citadel".
Upon my return home and looking it up on Coflein I can see that the hill fort proper is much bigger than I thought so all I had a look at was the citadel, don't make this mistake.
The citadel, I will continue to call it this, just for a laugh, takes up only a quarter of the entire fort, but it is the best preserved part, actually it has been partially restored if the pictures on Coflein are anything to go by.
I've been trying to find the time to come here for a couple of years and so far the weather is kind of cooperating, the wind is very strong but the rain passed by just a couple hundred meters away. I only spotted two definite round house platforms, there are more.
The battery in my camera now chooses it's moment to let me down, so I swear loudly at it, it doesn't seem to have any effect. I take it as a sign that it is time to go home and pick the kids up, but I stroll side ways over to a vantage point across from the fort and whisper sweetly to the camera, it allows me a few more photos, that's why we anthropomorphise.
I don't fancy retracing my steps laboriously back to the car so I try and head back in a straight line, it didn't go well, two barbed wire fences, a wall and a small stream have to be crossed whilst keeping out of view of the two nearby houses, it was more fun but it probably took longer than the right way.
I parked in front of the gate into the next field, it is just big enough, and it is close enough to the stone to be able to run back to the car and move it if necessary.
A very good stone is this one, tall, slim and definitely taken from Orkney, this is the third stolen Stenness stone ive relocated, the other two are in North and South Wales.
After seeing quite a few stones this shape one has to wonder if it has any meaning, after some wondering I've decided that it just looked good to the stones erectors, as it does to me, unless the top was really broken off to help make a road, sounds unlikely.
One side of the stone has been splattered with manure, if I was farmer I'd cover it in a tarpaulin before muck spreading, but then I would 'cause i'm not a twat, or at least not a big one.
There are other stones here, but seeing as they are all far too random to make any sense of them I ignore them return to the car and drive the long drive home, all stoned out.
To the west, and northwest of the fabulously rocky Rough Tor is one of the biggest prehistoric settlements I've ever seen. It runs in a north/south strip well over a thousand meters long, and about two hundred and fifty meters wide at it's widest. There are bronze age cairns to the north, east, south and west, three stone circles to the south and south west, and Time Team dug here proving the settlement to be bronze age too.
I've seen hut circle groups before, many times, but not as well preserved as all these, and not even half as many as here. It is a town, or at least a big village.
It is big.
As you walk north west from Louden stone circle to Stannon stone circle the obvious and natural place to aim for and stop off at on the way is this nice little kerb cairn. The four remaining upright kerb stones are easily spotted coming out of the short grass, they sort of wave at the walker, "Cooee i'm over here, here I am, please do'nt go over to the stone circle, come and look at me, d'oh, they never come to see me, it's not fair." Maybe i'm putting words into the cairns mouth, or maybe i'm just anthropomorhising again, but I imagine most folk on this bit of the moor are after stone circles, and that makes me feel sorry for the underdog, I always do.
It's a nice little kerb cairn too, the four upright stones are the shape of shark fins, circling hungrily round a large flat stone, perhaps an old turtle. There are other fins but they are sinking below the grass, and that turtle, surely that's an intact cist. The more you look at it the more it all looks intact, it isn't, but there's more there to see than you can in a quick past to the stone circle.
Of the three stone circles in the area, Stannon, Fernacre and here at Louden hill, this one is in the poorest condition, and yet, even if the other circles were not here I would still have come just for these stones, perhaps not for six hours, and perhaps not all this way for just one stone circle, but with as many as 36 stones still left you have to come and see it at some time, don't you?
Despite the high number of stones left in the circle most of them are having a lie down, which proves what I've always heard about the Cornish. From the south end of the circle away across the moors to the south I can just make out where King Arthurs hall is, I zoom in on it with my camera and i'm surprised I picked it out of the wilderness so easily. I'm also surprised to see the Hall framed from behind by a low hill, they do that don't they? Frame a site by a hill when seen from another site, and surprise me.
If you've got a list of sites that need to be seen and Louden Hill is on it then you'll have no choice but to come here, but you should come anyway, list or not.
Walking the farm track from Fernacre stone circle east to Louden hill stone circle there are four cairns in two pairs, the first pair are south of and close to the track.
The two cairns are about twenty feet apart and quite different looking, one is just your average stony mostly grass covered cairn, but the other has three sides of a large cist with a few kerb stones still standing, inserted into the north side of the remaining cairn material a small cist has been inserted outside of the kerb stones. I liked it a lot, if a cairn can look cute then this one would be on an internet based show called cairns make you Lol, or something.
Back to the track and about a hundred yards west the other two cairns are about twenty yards north of the track. Again there are two different looking cairns here, the furthest north is another stony grassy mound, whist the other has a big cist in it, the fourth apparently missing side slab is I think broken and half of it is in the cist. I like big cists me.
Onward to another stone circle.
I went to Stannon stone circle just over five years ago and was a bit disappointed that I didn't have time to come here, that disappointment was well founded, I missed a good one here.
The best way to approach this stone circle is from high on Rough Tor, sitting out of the wind in some rocky cranny with a great view of the stone circle and the nearby settlement belonging to those that built and used the circle, Brown Willy is over to the left and just out of view to the right two more stone circles. This is the place, and this is the best way to approach a stone circle, from above, descending upon it like a Vimana, or a watcher from the mountains, or a middle aged man with a bad back, take your pick.
After picking my way down off the mountain and through the ghost town I stood next to the circle, right next to it, I couldn't believe my luck, just two days ago I was limping round work with a suspected broken buttock, now, after showing my car to the problem, I am here in the circle, and even touching the stones if I want, the juxta position of these two experiences separated by just two days always blows my mind.
I didn't count the stones, there are many, or feel the need to touch every one, they are cold and rough, except where they're smooth, I just looked, I gave it my Star Wars face, reserved for only the first viewing of such a film, if your still wondering what face, it's a look of disbelief mixed with one of astonished amazement.
A wandered over to the outlier, wafting gracefully like a tripped out ballet dancer, after picking myself up, it's not a big stone but it's obvious as an outlier, what a place, this would be high on my list of favorite Cornish places, should I ever have one.
Best of all, nearly, I'm leaving here not for the dull and depressing drive home but to another stone circle I've never been to. Nirvana.
If you had a time machine and wanted to bring a bronze age man to the present, you could do a lot worse than coming here, there was loads of them, women and children too. It's hard to tell where one settlement starts and another begins, nearly a mile separates one from another but not much seems to separate the two, it's all as big as a small modern town, are they even separate places at all ?
The ground is covered in lines of stones, long boundaries, big pounds with round houses in them, houses here and there and every where with the odd cairn thrown in just to confuse us, no wonder there's so many stone circles round here, this was a seething pot of humanity or as Obi Wan would call " a wretched hive of scum and villainy."
If these are all bronze age houses and there isnt much reason not to believe so, then it's a small logical step to presume that Fernacre stone circle barely a hundred yards away was the special place of those who lived here.
The past doesn't come to life here, it's all in the mind, but it does.
I've known about a few stone circles in the area for ages, ive known about the king of ring cairns on Showery Tor for a smaller age. But it took a TV show to really peak my interest, strangely there are no monsters, aliens or spaceships in this TV show, a common theme for most of my viewing, it's an archaeology program, I doubt you've heard of it, it's finished now, Time team it was called. This one episode has the team on Bodmin Moor below Rough Tor, investigating what they hope is a Bronze age settlement, and a very weird long curving cairn like thing.
I watch time team a lot, i'm very sad to say that ive even seen the digging up a plane one three times, so you can imagine how many times ive seen the prehistoric ones, it's comfort watching in it's purest form, during the many many hours of watching these characters reveal the past I have in my mind elevated them to the high position of gods. Seeing as no one can definitively say what a god is then it's up to me to satisfy for myself what a god is or isn't.
So to stand in the very place that the highest god of them all stood in whilst performing his miracles is a blessed thing to be doing, goose bumped and giddy I nearly exploded.
Sadly I couldn't really tell which round house Goddess Raksha was in, I really would've exploded if I had.
In the Time team episode Phil only dug in one place, but he was able to detect the method of construction, the turf was stripped, large kerb stones on the outside, rubble infill with paving at the side and the turfs probably replaced on top, it would have looked very striking. But they didn't really address the curve to it, they said it was aligned on Rough Tor, how can a curved anything be aligned, if so then only the east end is aligned on Rough Tor the western section is very much aligned on Showery Tor and it's massive ring cairn, is it multi phase ?
North of the long cairn there are only a few cairns, and a standing stone or two, but on it's south side it just explodes into a frenzy of things, things? there are more round houses than ive ever seen anywhere, they are everywhere, curving lines of stone cover the hill side, if they were all occupied at the same time there would have been hundreds if not thousands of people here. Bonkers.
It's not really a long cairn though is it, it's in an indeterminate class of it's own, if you know of anything vaguely similar let us know.
Me and Phil Harding occupied the same physical space on earth, and to a lesser extent with Francis Prior.
I tried to come here one evening last summer whilst we were down in Cornwall, tried and failed, no map, no idea, no clue, failed.
I tucked it away into a mental back pocket, not always a good thing, it's taken a decade to get back to some places, but I really wanted to get up Showery Tor, I really really wanted to see what I have dubbed the king of ring cairns, It would be on the front cover of a book that would be called something like Ring cairns of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, probably written by a man with a beard, anyway he would choose this ring cairn to adorn his cherished accumulation of years of travelling, above all others, it is the king of ring cairns.
From the car park the way is clear and obvious, you might want to follow the long silly cairn up the hill, try to pick out the spot where Phil Harding and Francis Prior stood excavating, selfie opportunity. (Shoot me)
I should probably mention that today is the spring equinox and that after a five hour drive under grey skies it was clear that the sun would not be recognising my dedication to duties, but would instead be ignoring my efforts utterly. As expected really.
Anyway, I am on site at the appointed hour, but I have to look at my compass to see which way the sun is coming from, I reckon a sunset would be better, the best vantage viewing points are on the east side.
So, there's no sun, but everything else is just superb, the ring cairn is massive, more like a henge in size, the rock stack in the middle works on me in more ways than one, on it's own it's an impressive little rock stack, made of pretty stones, the broken rock second from bottom....... was it broken when the ring cairn went up?
Why was it chosen for a cairn to go round it, is it just a cool place or did it have some deep meaning for them, bah, pesky mysteries.
Three ponies are sharing the hill top with me, but unlike most that ive come across they are totally unafraid of me, even pausing and posing for photos.
I've been here for a while now and it seems that nothing more can be gained from sitting in the wind, of which there is plenty, so after returning to the car for my lighter, I re climb the hill and sit out of the wind on little Rough Tor, a perfect point from which to zoom in a good picture of the south half of the ring cairn, until some dick on a motorbike screams round the hill top, there's no justice, if there were he would have exploded.
Climbing higher up the side of Rough Tor itself the ring cairn is perhaps now too far away to be seen, but Showery Tor is a Minninglow of Cornwall, an unmistakable shape on the horizon, not as unmistakable as Rough Tor or Brown Willy, but you hopefully get my drift.
But now I must get off for the long legs of my walk, three stone stone circles, a dozen cairns and a hundred round houses beckon me on.
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After visiting over a thousand ancient places and driving between fifteen to twenty thousand miles every year I can only conclude that I'm obsessed with these places, and finding this website ten years ago only compounded that obsession, at least I'm not alone anymore.
My favourite places are:
Ring of Brodgar
Balnauran of Clava
Nine stones close
Bryn Celli Ddu
The Druids circle (penmaenmawr)
Gwal y Filiast
La Roche au Fees
Talati De Dalt
and these are only the ones that immediatly spring to mind, so many stones and not enough lifetimes.