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

Garth Hill

Round Barrow(s)


Firstly, great fieldnotes from Craig inspired this visit, so thanks.

Junction 32 of the M4 is not the most inspiring place in the world - despite the proximity of the fairytale Victorian 'reconstruction' of Castell Coch above Tongwynlais - its significance for me being access to the A470 and the North. The Afon Taf snakes its way towards Merthyr alongside the aforementioned route, the motorist no doubt barely affording a glance at the wooded hillside to his/her left, if my own experiences are anything to go by. This is Garth Hill and, contrary to appearances, it is really rather special.

Perhaps the easiest way of discovering Garth Hill's secrets is to head for the small town of Pentyrch, from where a minor road climbs northwards to intersect with another skirting the southern flank of the hill. The Fford y Bryniau (Ridgeway Walk) can be ascended here directly to the summit if time is short. However I followed the road to a 'pic-nic' area and climbed the eastern end of the hill overlooking the Taff Vale, meeting a very friendly, knowledgeable local en-route. From here the principle attraction, an enormous summit round barrow crowned by OS trig point, is visible to the approx SW. There is certainly a sense of pilgrimage coming along the back of this mini-mountain which would probably be lost by taking the diirect route. And wasn't a sense of the dramatic, that is an understanding of theatrics, an important element of Bronze Age ritual? It certainly appears that way to me.

RedBrickDream's descriptions of the actual barrows are pretty much spot on, the summit barrow being the largest example I can recall in Wales - the most easterly is also pretty large, it has to be said - and very unexpected in these parts. Well worth a visit for these alone. However the views are also superb, with a grandstand vista of Cardiff and its bay, not to mention the Brecon Beacons on a clear day. Unfortunately I couldn't verify the latter.

The only 'downer', I guess, is that you are unlikely to have Garth Hill to yourself for long. And American students doing star-jumps for some muppet to capture on camera for 'the folks back home' doesn't do a great deal for that 'special relationship', in my opinion. However Garth Hill did an awful lot for my personal relationship with Cardiff....
10th April 2010ce
Edited 2nd December 2017ce

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