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

Moel Offrwm



Now I've often stood upon the shattered dry stone ramparts of upland hill forts and wondered whether their original inhabitants might have similarly enjoyed the natural aesthetics of their home, albeit an appreciation infused with inherent spiritual connotations now lost to us? Or did familiarity breed contempt, as perhaps suggested by conversations with a number of farmers down the years? Rhetorical questions, I guess. Whatever the truth of the matter, there can be little doubt that the numerous Iron Age settlements located in the outlying hills of Cadair Idris, overlooking the beautiful Afon Mawddach, occupy sublime locations indeed. Foel Faner and Foel Offrwm, rising to the approx north of Dolgellau, are cases in point...

My intention was actually to re-visit Foel Faner (a return's been on the list for years); however, I encounter a huge outing of schoolchildren apparently en-route to the 'Precipice Walk' (their teachers seemingly in dire need of some of the local collies to help keep the little horrors in check) and recall Foel Offrwm is not exactly lacking in prehistory. Hey, why not do both? Why not indeed, assuming the legs - and everything else - oblige me. The aforementioned 'Precipice Walk' (incidentally well worth undertaking when visiting Foel Faner) is served by a large, free car park featuring public toilets for your convenience, signposted from the eastern environs of Dolgellau. From here follow the road toward Llanfachreth for a short distance before veering right upon a well made track beside a well built dry stone wall. The wall soon cedes to open hillside towering above..... a very steep hillside. This is Foel Offrwm, the main hill fort site crowning the top as you might expect. To be honest 'very steep' might well be a bit of an understatement! Nevertheless I'd suggest the prize is well worth the considerable effort it demands from me. Excellent retrospective views toward the craggy summits of Y Rhinogydd bolster flagging resolve as I gain height until the initial tell tale masonry courses signify an end to the ordeal. Not before time.

The defences are much more significant than I (for some reason or other) had supposed, the main dry stone rampart supplemented to the south/south-east(ish) by an additional line covering the less extreme landscape topography there.... clearly the presumed focus of any assault. The entrance is a nicely 'in-turned' example facing east, no doubt so placed to prolong the exposure of an attacking force to defensive missiles. So it would appear this was a serious, top-of-the-line upland fort back in the day, constructed by people who very much knew what they were doing. However there is one feature I can't make head nor tail of.... a large, solid cuboid block of dry stone masonry at the summit of the enclosure. Yeah, what is that all about? I assume it dates from relatively recent times, but was there once a Bronze Age cairn here? I'd like to think so.

Substantial defences notwithstanding, the location of this hill fort is surely its primary attribute, offering outstanding vistas in all directions, albeit views aided by the sun breaking through the morning's overcast sky. Always a good thing. The pick is probably looking south-west toward Cadair Idris and Abermawddach, although Y Rhinogydd are ruggedly splendid to the west, The Arans rear up to the east, to the left of the aptly named Bwlch Oerddrws (Pass of the Cold Doors).... and northern Snowdonia completes the picture. Oh, and Rhobell Fawr certainly looks its best from here. I gaze across the valley to Foel Faner and debate with myself (a sure sign of madness) whether I've the time to visit Foel Offrwm's 'lower settlement' just visible to the south. Dunno... probably not much good. Wrong!
24th December 2013ce
Edited 2nd February 2020ce

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