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

Craig y Castell North



It is - I would assume - one of the lesser debated imponderables of relatively recent Welsh history to contemplate whether or not, when faced with a barrage of questions from inquisitive Ordnance Surveyors, the rural peasant simply 'made stuff up'. And, if so, was there mischievous intent? Consider a theoretical example: OS man (pointing fervently): 'I say, you, peasant. What is the name of that big, round hill over there?' Exasperated Peasant: 'Oh, that'll be 'The Big Round Hill', sir'. OS Man (scribbling into his notebook): 'Jolly good. Carry on, doing whatever it is you peasants do'. Smirking Peasant (tugging his cap, then muttering under his breath): 'Heh, heh. You muppet.'

OK, a fanciful scenario, perhaps... but it would certainly explain why here, in the quiet, green foothills between the summit peaks of Cadair Idris and the wondrous Aber Mawddach, we have two Craig y Castells depicted upon the current 1:25K map within a mile of each other. Surely some mistake? For what it's worth I don't buy the alternative to local wind up... that a people steeped in the lore of giants and fairies would apply such rigidly pragmatic, localised nomenclature. Not when hoodwinking gullible officials can be so much fun, methinks. Incidentally Coflein namechecks the northern of the pair as Craig-y-Waun. Yeah, you do the maths.

But enough of such facetious, unsubstantiated conjecture! Like Thomas Dolby, way back in 1982, it's time to defer to a more, er, scientific approach, in my case that of logical deliberation (hopefully) informed by personal observation. Or, to put it another way, time to blunder up another Welsh hillside in the teeming rain and 'see what happens'. Hey, whether such action is more demonstrative of lunacy than the wildly exaggerated antics of the former synth boffin's eccentric associate, Magnus Pike, is perhaps a moot point. But there you are. Anyway.... travellers approaching from Dolgellau (Love Lane, as I recall. Nice touch) should keep their eyes peeled for an obscure right turn servicing the farms of Gellilwyd Fach and Fawr. Continue beyond the latter and park up at Tal y Waen, whereupon a track heads north through the farm yard of Tyn-y-llwyn. This, now a green 'path', of sorts, crosses a stream and sweeps to the left under the inquisitive gaze of grazing ponies seemingly oblivious to the downpour. Or perhaps scornful of the approaching creature so woefully adapted for such conditions? Surely not?

After a short while Craig y Castell/Craig-y-Waun (tack your pick) looms above to the left. The towering profile of the ancient fortress is somewhat disconcerting viewed from below, it has to be said, the steepness of attack putting a noticeable damper upon the previous alacrity of my approach. Hmm. Nevertheless, I follow the left flank of a rather splendid dry stone wall and - eventually - arrive upon the small, craggy summit. As one might have expected from the vernacular. The 'front door' is approached by looping around from the south and is defended by a quite substantial drystone wall... or at least the remains of one... this continuing along the eastern flank in the ubiquitous 'fill in the gaps' style of such upland defensive enclosures. The western flank falls sheer to the cwm below and, together with the northern aspect (supporting a modern wall) would appear to have required little artificial protection back in the day.

The position is wild and inspiring, particularly when the low cloud base, which has been prevalent all week, caresses the hillside with swirling, grey tendrils of opaque moisture. Once again I'm a little overawed until, having ensured I know my way back down again by compass should the clammy embrace becomes more than temporary, I can afford to relax and, basically, do bugger all. As it is the conditions remain in a state of flux, glimpses of the exquisite Mawddach to the north periodically rescinded, only for views toward mighty Cadair Idris to open to the north. To be fair to locals past it is easy to imagine such a landscape being the haunt of otherworldly creatures at times such as this. Woaah! Mind where you're placing those big feet, Mr Idris.

As I ponder 'stuff' (e.g. are giants all in the mind, to be feared, or merely misunderstood gigantic.. sorry, 'size challenged'... creatures possibly taking The Human League a little too seriously?) I decide a visit to the trio of cairns shown on the map below to the south is in order. However I duly abort a direct approach - too many walls - in lieu of returning to the car and heading west at Gellilwyd Fawr. But that's another story.

As for my observations of Craig y Castell? Well... guess it's fair to relate that I was not so much blinded with science as seduced, held in thrall, if you will, by the stark, ethereal beauty of this landscape under such inclement conditions. Poetry? Well, yes, but the more brutal King Lear as opposed to wandering lonely as a cloud, perhaps? Although wandering lonely in a cloud might be more apt, come to think of it. But none the worse for that. And should a nameless rural peasant have, perchance, taken the piss out of a wandering map maker once upon a time.. thanks for the prompt, my friend.
17th March 2018ce
Edited 18th March 2018ce

Comments (3)

Funnily I'm sure I added this to TMA as Craig-y-Waun, my label on the initial photo suggests that anyway. Anyway, whatever it's called it looks like a great site. thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
18th March 2018ce
You added it twice as it happens.... once as Craig-y-Waun.... hence the musings GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
18th March 2018ce
Really? Whoops! Someone's on the ball as it's only there once now. I do normally check when I add a site, honest :) thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
18th March 2018ce
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