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Moelfre, Y Rhinogydd

Round Cairn

<b>Moelfre, Y Rhinogydd</b>Posted by GLADMANImage © Robert Gladstone
Nearest Town:Barmouth (9km S)
OS Ref (GB):   SH62612458 / Sheet: 124
Latitude:52° 48' 3.05" N
Longitude:   4° 2' 17.42" W

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Somewhat oddly, bearing in mind the substantial nature of the surviving monument, it appears that the usual archaeological sources are somewhat reticent to assign even a tentative prehistoric origin to the massive cairn upon Moelfre, south-western outlier of Y Rhinogydd. Equally strange, perhaps, is the fact that I've never taken the opportunity to find out why this may be the case before today. Hey, in fact a convincing case could be made for a trilogy of related bizarrerie since the decision to pay a visit before heading back to the car before dark was arguably not the most rational of choices available to me. But there you are. Stupid is as stupid does, Forrest. Or is that being unfair?

The cairn is well seen by the prospective visitor hanging out contentedly upon the ancient ramparts of Craig y Dinas, far below to the south, the door to another, more sensual, perhaps spiritual world seemingly momentarily ajar. Or at least it is in the temporary absence of the ubiquitous cloud mantle which, having obscured the mountain's 1,932ft top for much of the day, has seen fit to move on to annoy other people somewhere else instead. The southern flank of the mini (although not that mini) mountain is sharply graded to the point of being a tad off-putting. However the way is clear, a fenceline visible clinging to the steeply rising contours to the left of a prominent copse of trees, the boundary promising reassurance should visibility suddenly go all pea souper.

Half way up I'm beginning to form the opinion that this undeniably committed Citizen Cairn'd should instead be committed to some institution in the event of ever getting down again, a vicious weather front duly sweeping in from Tremadog Bay with the implied malediction of that cloudscape above Sigourney Weaver's building in Ghostbusters. You know the one. However a distant stile perched upon a dry stone wall ('dry' as in no mortar, not water!) stiffens the backbone and beckons me on. Nearly there. Nothing to it, really. Once across I follow said wall to the right and soon spy the cairn beyond. Jeez, it's hard to miss, certainly as big as it appeared from below, albeit utilising the crags upon which it stands to maximise visual impact in the manner of Foel Grach (upon Y Carneddau further north). Yeah, I prefer to call it 'crafty, intelligent planning and use of natural resources', as opposed to 'cheating'. Also of note is the fact that the cairn does not sit at the summit of the mountain, rather being located some distance to the south-east. So, way, way too large to be a marker cairn. Ditto not a walker's cairn. Hey, it doesn't even crown the summit.... and furthermore its construction is suggestive of careful planning, the use of a technique I've seen employed elsewhere upon the Welsh uplands. Consequently I'm pretty convinced of its antiquity, to be fair. Located as it is upon a gigantic, natural mound of its own.

I move in to settle the matter with the fine detail and promptly discover that the vagaries of Nature have placed me under serious interrogation instead. Ha! Prepare for a veritable kicking, my boy. Beyond the shelter of the lee of the wall it is more or less impossible to stand, such is the unforeseen extreme strength of the wind, rain - in the horizontal plane - hammering upon my hood with such staccato force as to surely shred the fabric? So why do I feel so utterly elated, so privileged to be here at this moment? So alive? Erm. Anyone got the number of a neurologist? Standing upon the cairn, bracing myself with both trekking poles to stop being summarily despatched head first into the stone pile, it occurs to me that a supine posture would be more respectful. Not to mention safer. Puny Homo sapiens venturing to such places in such hostile conditions, albeit unwittingly, perhaps can not fail to be overawed by the sheer magnitude of the forces inherent in the natural world. To my mind that would offer a coherent explanation as to why these cairns were erected where they were back then. To offer a quasi-shamanic experience for those not deemed suitable - or able - to go the whole distance. In fact it is only the modern technology inherent in my waterproofs which allows me to focus at all. To have stood here in Bronze Age garb and be subjected to such ferocity would no doubt have sent me running - nay, careering - downhill for my very life... faster than Franz Klammer. Either that or stepping through the portal to the spirit world.....

[P.S - In retrospect an approach from the Cwm Nantcol road to the north, subsequently ascending the less steep eastern flank, looks to be the best bet in lieu of the brutal southern slog. But there you are. Hindsight is a wondrous thing, is it not?]
13th January 2014ce
Edited 19th January 2014ce