The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Get the TMA Images feed
GLADMAN's Latest Posts

Latest Posts
Showing 1-50 of 11,144 posts. Most recent first | Next 50

Foel Frech (Round Cairn) — Fieldnotes

About half a mile south of Cerrigydrudion - yes, the village immortalized (in certain antiquarian circles, anyway) by Mr Cope back in 2007 - the B4501 leaves Thomas Telford's A5 to immediately cross the Afon Ceirw at Pont Moelfre, prior to cutting across the hills to Frongoch. Now, should the latter also sound familiar.... well, to be fair, it should. Since it was here that Michael Collins, among others, was interned in the aftermath of the farcically inept Easter Rising of 1916, no doubt busy laying the foundations of his public - albeit ultimately personally tragic - triumph of the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921. The landscape here certainly echoes such lofty ideals and I'm verily captivated by the vivid colour contrast as the low early morning light periodically illuminates the flanks of the valley. Suffice to say the words to further elucidate such natural beauty will not come to me.

So, there's serious history in them thar hills. However, as momentous as that may be, today I'm wearing my 'prehistoric hat'; and boy, does it need a wash. Speaking of which.... more later. Anyway, eventually a single track road at Nant-y-crytiau ventures northward across Cadair Benllyn, subsequently veering westward upon encountering a multi-gated cross roads beside an old chapel yo eventually terminate at the isolated farm of Blaen-y-cwm. As I negotiate the final livestock barrier I have the pleasure of making the acquaintance of, by all accounts, the smallholder, his initial countenance one of bemused bafflement at my very presence. He enquires whether I speak Welsh, presumably since, clearly, no tourist would venture here in a million years? Or so. As it happens I do not. Although, in mitigation, most Welsh people I know do not speak Welsh either. Including members of my family. Nevertheless my explanation, to the effect of planning to go for a walk in the teeming rain to find an ancient burial cairn, strikes him as perfectly rational behaviour for an English gentleman. As long as I fasten the gate behind me, mind. Well, after all, one doesn't get much opportunity to venture forth in the midday sun. In North Wales.

At Blaen-y-cwm a green track-cum-bridleway makes it way in a south-westerly direction, ascending across the eastern flanks of Foel Frech to a gated bwlch (col). The track veers approx north-west to (eventually) meet a metalled road accessing the former Medieval pilgrimage hub of Ysbyty Ifan astride the Afon Conwy; however, not requiring sanctuary at this time, I instead cut across the western aspect of Foel Frech to (eventually) locate the Bronze Age cairn marked upon the map. Sited overlooking the Nant Llan-gwrach a quite considerable distance below and to to the north-west of the summit, the monument occupies - or at least did at the time of the visit - a position that may be plausibly described as, er, 'rather wet indeed'. To be honest this was always going to be the case given both the topography... and fast moving fronts of vicious, driving hail.

Now there are occasions when venturing out in seriously inclement weather - particularly upon the hills - can result in a veritable working over by Mother Nature for no real correspondingly tangible reward. Tell me about it. However it soon becomes apparent that here, set within the not insubstantial remnants of this cairn, we have the clear and rather copious remains of a large cist still extant. Furthermore, the intervals between hail fronts are denoted by the sweeping washes of golden light so prevalent earlier in the day. In such conditions, despite leaky boots overwhelmed by the sheer deluge of frozen precipitation ejected by the looming, at times overwhelming, cumulonimbus, this wild hill side is the place to be right here, right now. Well, for a Citizen Cairn'd, anyway.

Those interested in the technical detail should note that Coflein reckons the monument is:

"...circular in plan and measures approximately 6.5m in diameter by up to 0.4m high. It is well constructed with densely-packed stones and has a cist in the centre. The cist measures 1.4m long by 1m wide and 0.4m deep. It has a long vertical cist slab running along the southern side and a shorter slab on the eastern side. There is a further shorter slab that has been displaced and is sat on the northern edge of the cairn... " [P.J. Schofield, OA North, 16/9/2009].

As is usually the case, however, it is the landscape context which makes a visit here so worthwhile, the cairn's obscurity assuring a great, windswept upland vibe. However it is as a viewpoint that the site really excels since, arranged in serried rank to the west, sit the mountains of Northern Snowdonia in all their expansive glory, Moel Siabod standing vanguard to the fore. Well, at least in the welcome, brilliantly lit intermissions between hail storms, that is.

Now should there be, due to some currently unfathomable breech of the laws of physics and everything science holds dear, mountain gods inhabiting these regions, suffice to say they are a bunch of mischievous, nebulous rogues, so they are. Well, put it this way: I've lost count of the number of times when, a mere few hundred yards from reaching the sanctuary of the car nice n'dry... the heavens duly open. Hey, it's almost as if....

Bryn Cau (Cairn(s)) — Miscellaneous

This arguably rather incongruous monument stands just above the minor, gated road traversing the Lliw valley... yet is, as far as I could tell, not visible from it. Not mentioned on the current OS maps, it is, nonetheless, subject to CADW scheduling. According to Coflein:

"Remains of a small cairn situated on a saddle between two local promontories on a NW-SE aligned ridge. The cairn is circular in shape and measures c. 4.2m in diameter. It is shallow in profile and measures c. 0.65m tall". (F.Foster/RCAHMW 02.10.2006)

Worth checking out in conjunction with the larger monument about a half mile to the NW below Foel Ystrodur Fawr.

Foel Ystrodur Fawr (Round Cairn) — Fieldnotes

Motorists travelling south upon the A470 between Trawsfynydd and Dolgellau may well find their gaze irrevocably drawn to the undulating, albeit somewhat serrated, skyline of Y Rhinogydd… prior to Cadair Idris, Snowdonia's last, emphatic hurrah before Pumlumon, seizing centre stage upon the wide screen. As a result none but the most inquisitive - or possibly pedantic? - tourists will consider heading east to penetrate the wild hinterland of the Afon Lliw sandwiched between the near 3,000ft heights of Arenig Fawr and Aran Fawddwy. Only traversed by a gated, single track mountain road, the paucity of traffic here is perhaps understandable, a cursory glance at the map highlighting many apparently more tasty fillings elsewhere. However there is much to be said for adopting a minimalistic approach once in a while, grasping the opportunity to cleanse the landscape palate, so to speak; to get off the beaten track.

Having said that, the start is not overly auspicious: the mock ski-chalet complex of Rhiw Goch suggestive of muppets in shiny new 4x4s enduring 'outdoor experiences' (the former ski centre having apparently now closed down). However all is forgiven when noting this is actually a recycled army training camp. Furthermore the nearby, excellent monolith of Llech Idris (him again) and Sarn Helen/Tomen y Mur stand (if a track can be said to 'stand', that is) mute testimony to the fact that folk have been passing this-a-way for millennia. Anyway... beyond the wooden cabins the minor road follows the course of the Afon Gain to a rather fine little stone bridge before climbing to the summit of Pen y Feidiog, subsequently descending to cross the fledgling Afon Lliw at the farming hamlet of Blaen Lliw.

I feel a sense of everything having a pragmatic reason to exist here... of there being nothing superfluous, nothing but sine qua non. Although, of course, that may well be just middle class fantasy on my part. What is (once again) beyond doubt, however, is the continuity of the human story here, the evidence for which lies above and beyond in the form of two obscure prehistoric cairns. Obscure? Well, neither are indicated upon either the latest 1:50k or 1:25k OS map, so thanks are due to the wondrous people at Coflein. The larger of the pair sits below and to the south east of the summit crags of Foel Ystrodur Fawr and according to CADW "is circular in shape and measures c. 5.5m in diameter. The cairn is shallow and rounded in profile, measuring c. 0.4m tall". [F.Foster/RCAHMW 04.10.2006]. A little to the east of Blaenlliw Isaf farm a livestock gate allows access beyond a drystone wall and proves the key to locating the monument upon its little terrace: once through it is possible to park within an old quarry(?) a short(ish) distance on the left.

Having donned boots and scrambled a little to the north the aforementioned wall will be discerned heading approx north, then, in plain wiry mode, north-east beneath the slightly higher of the rocky Foel Ystrodur twins to the Afon Erwent. Yeah, potential visitors should note that the official bridleway is not much use here, heading eastward. Contrary to my expectations the cairn sits to the north of the fence line; however a helpful stile eases progress in this respect, so no matter the slight faux pas.

OK, the cairn isn't that large, doesn't show signs of a former cist (that I could determine, anyway), nor kerb. In fact not much at all… yet it is immediately apparent that this monument occupies a special place in the landscape. The mighty Arenig Fawr rises, unseen within a mass of opaque vapour, to the immediate north-east, the shapely Moel Llyfnant - to approx north-west - proving a little more obliging by periodically slipping its clammy raiment from the shoulder to reveal a prominent summit (the peak is incidentally well worth an ascent from Blaen Lliw). To the south Dduallt is visible (head for Pont Aber-Geirw and Cwm yr Allt Lwyd for this one), although no doubt The Arans would dominate the horizon in better weather? The silence is absolute, the vibe consequently superb .... so much so that a Citizen Cairn'd can readily absolve the map makers of the oversight, appreciate why the OS passed this one by. Well, c'mon - the local farmer(s) aside - who but a loon 'off-piste' hill bagger would have reason to venture forth upon this wild hillside? Who indeed?

I decide to return to the car in a circuitous manner, via the second of the cairns (at SH81943306) a little to the south-east of the rocky outcrop Bryn Cau. This is a smaller, more ragged affair set upon a saddle just above the road. In other circumstances I might have been inclined to cite it as 'clearance'.... but here, upon this lonely moor devoid of any loose surface stone? I think not! With a superb vista of the Lliw Valley there for the taking just a little to the east, it is abundantly clear that this cairn was specifically sited NOT to overlook the course of the Afon Lliw now flowing toward Llanuwchllyn.

To be fair I have noted other instances of such apparent constructional pedantry elsewhere in the Welsh uplands - e.g the pair of cairns upon the Nantlle Ridge's Y Garn immediately spring to mind - where the act of negating a field of vision has appeared (to me) a conscious decision requiring not a little effort. Perhaps suggestive of local inclusion at the expense of peripheral passers by? Conjecture, of course. But it is a worthwhile exercise to have ventured here to contemplate such things.

Capel Garmon (Chambered Cairn) — Images (click to view fullsize)

<b>Capel Garmon</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Carnedd Moel Siabod (Round Cairn) — Images

<b>Carnedd Moel Siabod</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Gelli Ffrydiau (Hillfort) — Fieldnotes

In my opinion this is an exquisitely sited little hill fort overlooked - nay, completely dominated - by the wondrously sinuous Nantlle Ridge to the south... and the much more elephantine bulk of Mynydd Mawr to the north-east. Needless to say both the latter heights feature their share of formerly interred Bronze Age VIPs, although, as one versed in such matters may suspect, no inkling of cairns can be determined from down here. Indeed, there is more than a hint of Cadair Idris's wondrous Pared-y-Cefn-Hir enclosure in the overwhelming mountain vibe to be experienced at this obscure spot, if not the defensive archaeology, which here is much more compact, more coherent in nature.

The all important water feature, arguably a prerequisite in any classic landscape, is to be found in the Llyn Nantlle Uchaf to approx south-west, the lake perhaps best eulogised - in paint at least - by Richard Wilson in 1765, his focus naturally being upon the grandeur of Snowdon and her cohorts framed by, and rising beyond, the jaws of 'Drws-y-Coed' to the east. One can almost hear the faint reverberations of a mighty 'I don't believe it!' still echoing down across the centuries. Likewise Mr Turner also came here to have a gander. Well, the brusque gentleman did get around a bit, to be fair. And it would've been rude not to pay a visit to such an iconic location in passing.

As it happens, contrary as ever (albeit due to the topography), my eyes are drawn in the opposite direction to those esteemed artists of yore, away from the magnetic pull of Yr Wyddfa-Fawr to gaze across the alternately shimmering/glowering tarn to the 'Three Brothers' perched overlooking the distant Lleyn coastline. Ah, Tre'r Ceiri! The titanic 'Town of Giants' occupying the inner of the far triumvirate. Perhaps Wales' finest hillfort, no less! The small enclosure where I perch riding out a sudden, violent hail storm is no such thing, existing upon a much more unassuming scale; perhaps a temporary citadel for folks living their daily lives below in Dyffryn Nantlle; or maybe just home to an extended family unit not necessarily on their neighbours' Christmas Card list? However I would suggest - recommend, even - that there is 'something' here that warrants a little of your time. Indefinable, perhaps, but none the worse for that. Previously cited as a 'Settlement' upon older OS maps, the substantial nature of the defences for a relatively small site soon convinces this traveller that the current OS denotation of 'Fort' is much more representative. As for Coflein, they have this to say:

"A sub-circular defended hill-top enclosure that measures approximately 30m in diameter. It is defined by drystone walls/banks that comprise of medium to large unworked stones that have been built into irregular courses that measure 2m wide and 0.50m high." [P.J. Schofield, Oxford Archaeology North, 3/2/2006.]

So... motorists venturing through Drws-y-Coed and traversing Dyffryn Nantlle, perhaps intent upon visiting the seaside, will be none the wiser regarding what lies above, such is the obscurity of the 'fort. I eventually parked up opposite the eponymous farm buildings and made my way to the defended crag via a walled track a little to the east. Very steeply. Presumably the former inhabitants actually knew what they were doing and there exists a better way?

Pen yr Orsedd (Cairn(s)) — Miscellaneous

Situated upon the lower south-western slopes of Pen yr Orsedd, the remains of this pretty substantial cairn offers a pretty good vibe for travellers willing to search it out, the only disturbance likely to be the occasional 4x4 muppet upon the nearby track. According to CPAT it represents a:

"Sub-circular cairn, 10.0m N/S x 11.0m E/W x 0.6m high. Appears to show signs of robbing. Situated on terrace above moderate N facing slope. (Hankinson 1994)"

Again according to CPAT, there is what might be a 'possible cist' at SH89155519. Not too sure, myself. Having said that, I located another 'cisty' looking stone arrangement... so who knows? Why not go and have a look?

I approached from the approx south-east where parking is available upon the verge of the A543 at Bwlch Gwyn. A little soggy, but there you are.

Craig ty-glas (Cairn(s)) — Miscellaneous

This enigmatically placed cairn first came to my attention only two years ago, perusing the map whilst gazing across the valley from the excellent Craig Rhiwarth hill fort. As it transpired a slog to the curious (ancient?) summit cairn of Glan-hafon last year accorded a further opportunity to ponder a visit. Simple things....

So... upon traversing the wild heather moor from Y Bala, the B4391 descends, in an appropriately dramatic fashion, to the village of Llangynog. Crossing the Afon Eirth a right turn accesses a dead-end minor road heading toward Cwm Rhiweirth. Easy parking is to be had just before the house at Glan-yr-Afon whereupon a short walk northward brings the traveller to the Nant Buarth Glas, a field gate on the left between houses accessing a public footpath (the gate secured with string in such a farcical manner as to require me to climb the thing). It is then a case of utilising said path, following the arrows, so to speak, to the point where it meets the main bridleway heading south. Now since the somewhat overbearing crags of Craig Ty-glas are those towering above to the west, it is necessary to ignore the bridleway and look for a copse of (larch?) trees, within which you'll locate a track - well, sort of - heading steeply uphill to the left of the tumbling stream.

The cairn, bearing obvious elements of a former cist, not to mention kerbing, enjoys panoramic views across to the mighty Craig Rhiwarth. Worth the effort.

Craig ty-glas (Cairn(s)) — Images

<b>Craig ty-glas</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Gelli Ffrydiau (Hillfort) — Images

<b>Gelli Ffrydiau</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Yr Eifl (Round Cairn) — Images

<b>Yr Eifl</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Yr Eifl</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Mynydd Carnguwch (Round Barrow(s)) — Images

<b>Mynydd Carnguwch</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Tre'r Ceiri (Hillfort) — Images

<b>Tre'r Ceiri</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Yr Eifl (Round Cairn) — Images

<b>Yr Eifl</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Yr Eifl</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Yr Eifl</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Yr Eifl</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Yr Eifl</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Yr Eifl</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Yr Eifl</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Tre'r Ceiri (Hillfort) — Images

<b>Tre'r Ceiri</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Tre'r Ceiri</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Tre'r Ceiri</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Tre'r Ceiri</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Tre'r Ceiri</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Tre'r Ceiri</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Tre'r Ceiri</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Tre'r Ceiri</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Tre'r Ceiri</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Tre'r Ceiri</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Tre'r Ceiri</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Gelli Ffrydiau (Hillfort) — Images

<b>Gelli Ffrydiau</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Gelli Ffrydiau</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Gelli Ffrydiau</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Gelli Ffrydiau</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Gelli Ffrydiau</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Gelli Ffrydiau</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Gelli Ffrydiau</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Nant Heilyn (Kerbed Cairn) — Images

<b>Nant Heilyn</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Nant Heilyn</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Nant Heilyn</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Nant Heilyn</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Nant Heilyn</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Nant Heilyn</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Nant Heilyn</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Foel Frech (Round Cairn) — Images

<b>Foel Frech</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Foel Frech</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Foel Frech</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Foel Frech</b>Posted by GLADMAN
Showing 1-50 of 11,144 posts. Most recent first | Next 50
Hi, I'm Robert ... aka Citizen Cairn'd. I've a passion for attempting to understand the lives of the pioneering prehistoric inhabitants of these British Isles, seeking out the remains they left behind in order to ask myself "why here ... why did it matter so... why such commitment?". Needless to say I'm still pondering such intangibles. Just as an empty house appears to retain echoes of past humanity... so does the stone circle, the chambered cairn, the long barrow and the mountain top funerary cairn. Visiting them, I think, helps engender a certain 'connection' with this land of ours, with ourselves - our past, our present and our future; a reference point for those of us perhaps struggling to make sense of this so-called 'computer world' Kraftwerk warned us was a'coming in 1981.... danke, mein herren.

George Orwell - '...during times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act'....

Martin Gore - 'Like a pawn
On the eternal board
Who’s never quite sure
What he’s moved towards
I walk blindly on'...

Truman Capote - 'Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavour.'

Oscar Wilde - 'The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.'

John Lydon - 'It is a reward to be chastised by the ignorant.'

Winston Churchill - 'The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.'

Ultravox - 'Taking shelter by the standing stones
Miles from all that moves
Breathing solitude, seeking confidence
A gift to me
Feeling spirits never far removed
Passing over me
And I greet them with open arms'

My TMA Content: