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

Rhossili Down



Back in the village, a path leads round the back of the church, past a modern standing stone and upwards to the gorse-clad Down. It’s a pretty stiff pull upwards, but thankfully quite short. Worth pausing to look back at the excellent views of the peninsula’s south coast as well, where a number of small cliff forts cluster above the waves.

The main group of cairns clusters around the trig-topped Beacon. Some are difficult to make out under the prevailing heather, but this is nevertheless a terrific group with wonderful views.

The first cairn encountered (Cairn IV) lies to the right (east) of the path. Apart from a few stones protruding from the heather, it’s not obvious. Some of the stones in the centre are substantial, but it’s probably the least impressive of the group.

The next cairn however, you can’t miss. The Beacon is a large stony mound with a trig pillar mounted onto its top. It has a possible/probable kerb of large blocks, particularly apparent on the northern side. It sits on the highest point of the Down and in fact of the whole Gower peninsula, so inevitably it has terrific views. The sea lies below to the west, while to the north and east the other main hills of the peninsula are all laid out, Llanmadoc Hill to the NNE, the hillforted Hardings Down closer at hand, then across the centre of the peninsula to the Cefn Bryn ridge. But the views stretch much further, even on this overcast day. To the northwest the round tops of the Preseli Mountains can be made out across the bay, while to the northeast the familiar shapes of Y Mynydd Du are visible, from Garreg Lywd to Fan Foel, then the view stretches further to Fforest Fawr and the highest central Beacons, Corn Du and Pen y Fan. Wow. Another bit of the Wales jigsaw falls into place.

The path heads northwards, downhill. The next cairn – Cairn III - sits on the right-hand side of the path and is a fairly prominent mound, buried in heather. There is an obvious central crater to help ease any doubts of identification.

To find Cairn VII, I have to head off the path, eastwards across the thankfully low heather. This one is less impressive, not much more than a slight pile of stones. The blocks do have an attractive pink tinge though and are liberally studded with quartz pebbles. The Beacon and Cairn III are silhouetted prominently against the skyline from here.

Back up to the path and onwards to the most impressive cairn of the group. Much lower than the Beacon, what it lacks in views Cairn II makes up for in stony glory. An almost contiguous ring of stones, stood up on edge, marks the extent of the cairn. You can’t miss this one! It’s a bit battered and disturbed, but a fine example of a ring cairn nonetheless.

The path continues on to Cairn I, covered in heather and quite low. Underneath a wide spread of stones shows that this one would have been massive. On the north side there are the remains of a clear kerb, again using fairly substantial stones. The material of the mound itself has been spread outwards, some spilling over the kerb into the surrounding heather.

The OS map shows one last cairn in the group, the “Ring Cairn”. This one lies further down the slope than the others, off the ridge. It is still fairly easy to locate though, due to the light colour of the stones against the dark sea of heather. A number of orthostatic blocks protrude from a clear ring, reminding me very much of the embanked circles of the Peak District. I could almost be on Stanton Moor! From here, Sweyne’s Howes is clearly visible to the north and it’s in this direction that I head next.

As I continue down the slopes towards the burial chamber, I notice a suspiciously round shape in the heather to my right. There’s nothing shown on the OS map, but it’s definitely a manmade something or other. Closer inspection reveals what appears to be the low remains of a very large cairn. There’s not much of a mound and in fact it could easily be a platform cairn, or a larger embanked ring cairn, with a raised rim around a shallower interior. Post-visit investigation of Coflein reveals this to be Cairn V.

From here it’s an easy cut across the slopes to Sweyne’s Howes.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
25th March 2012ce
Edited 25th March 2012ce

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