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

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Bryn-Poeth-Uchaf North (Ring Cairn)

A pretty substantial ring cairn, this, with a well-preserved bank upon the southern arc and sweeping, extensive views to the apex of the South Walian uplands. A classic location, to be fair.

Coflein notes the following:

"Remains of a ring cairn on the SW-facing slopes of Mynydd Trawsnant, above Cerrig Cynnant. Circular on plan, measuring about 9m in diameter within a grass covered stony ring bank about 1.5m in thickness and up to 0.2m in height. The interior is level and largely stone free. [Source: Cadw scheduling description. F.Foster 05/04/2005]"

Cerrig Cynant (Stone Circle)

Although not in the same league as the other obscure stone circles in the extended locale of Llyn Brianne (Bryn y Gorlan, Crug Siarls) this is still well worth the not-inconsiderable effort of visiting, if only for the excellent vibe - the nearby pair of ring cairns make it a no-brainer, should you be able.

Located a little north of the southern ring cairn, beyond an earthen field boundary, copious industrial strength upland grass and other sundry vegetation currently obscure what remains - above ground, at least - of this stone ring. I couldn't discern anything still upstanding in the northern arc...

Although Coflein, in this instance, has nothing to add, the site is Scheduled, the CADW report (CM225) noting:

"The monument comprises the remains of a stone circle, which probably dates to the Bronze Age (c. 2300 - 800 BC). The stone circle measures approximately 20m in diameter and consists of eight stones set in a semicircle, with two further stones to the north completing the circle. The northern half of the circle, with only these two stones remaining, is presumably ruined, as the stones are only c. 20cm in height, some in the northern sector could be buried beneath the turf."

Bryn Poeth Uchaf South (Ring Cairn)

Assuming you've the correct OS coordinates to relate to (preferably) your 1:25K map - the 1:50k will probably do, at a push - correctly identifying the location of this pleasing trio of sites is clearly not an issue. Getting there, however, isn't exactly straightforward: I eschewed the long approach via the great cairn of Garn Fawr (with its little associated quartzite stone) in favour of a low-level stroll above the Cynnant Fawr, followed by a steep scramble to the west. As it transpired, choosing the hottest day of 2023 wasn't ideal for such exertion, but hey. Stupid is as stupid does.

If you've only a day to spare, probably best to choose the former option and check in at the former Youth Hostel of Bryn-poeth Uchaf for a chat in passing - a neighbour I met the following day related how the current owner is very friendly to us outsiders. As it was, I instead met the (presumed) owner of Cynnant Farm who, while remaining silent, gave me a wry smile I took to signify a tolerance of my parking arrangements at the entrance to the public track traversing the cwm.

Carn Twrch (Round Cairn)

At almost 50ft in diameter, this summit cairn is well worth a shufti when checking out the nearby Cerrig Cewri....

Coflein reckons the monument is:

"An apparently undisturbed cairn, 15m in diameter and 1.6m high, having an Os triangulation pillar set upon its summit. A standing stone, Carreg craig-y-moch, 2m by 0.6m by 0.5m, once stood c.550m SSW of the cairn, reported as erect in 1967, it was prostrate by 1968 and had been removed in afforestation by 1976. [J.Wiles 04.04.02]"

Garn Dwad (Cairn(s))

A pair of cairns located someway below - and to the south - of the 1,463ft summit of Garn Dwad... the southern of which is actually pretty substantial, bearing the clear remains of a cist. To be fair, the northern monument is quite upstanding, too, albeit with a grassy mantle rendering it far less conspicuous in the landscape; so much so, that I actually walked straight by upon arrival. As you do.

The location is excellent, with a sublime panorama of the South Walian uplands given great support by that of the Irfon nearer to hand. With a vibe to match. The easiest approach is probably that which I took, via the bridleway starting from the access track to Pen-y-Banc farm, looping around from the north.

Coflein reckons:

"The two cairns set below the summit of Carn Dwad are I - measuring 6.0m in diameter and 0.4m high; II - oval, measuring 11m by 9.0m and 0.5m high. Both cairns bear the signs of central mutilation and exhibit what may be the remains of cists.... [J.Wiles 04.04.02]"

Talcen Yr Esgair (Esgair Elan) (Cairn(s))

The remains of this cairn, set upon the, it has to be said, somewhat inhospitable eastern slopes of Esgair Elan - itself forming the southern flank of the wondrous upper Cwm Ystwyth - have a good shout for being amongst the most obscure you might wish to find in these Isles. Yeah, having walked the ridge a number of times in the past - not to mention camping below on innumerable occasions - the monument doesn't exactly advertise its presence, so to speak.

Luckily, the people at Coflein know where it's at. Quite literally:

"A small stone cairn, thought likely to be a funerary cairn. It measures 2.5 metres north to south, by 2.25 metres wide and is no more than 0.2 metres high. It is partially obscured by grass and moss." [P.Sambrook, Trysor, 13 September 2011]

Better late than never.

Mynydd Pen-y-Fal (Sugar Loaf) (Hillfort)

Not to be confused with the shapely hill overlooking Abergavenny, this 'Sugar Loaf' - presumably so named on account of its profile... although exactly what a sugar loaf is I could not tell... can't be very healthy? - is actually crowned by the remains of an Iron Age hill fort... a fact that 99.9% of visitors to this rather fine 'picnic spot' upon the A483 between Llandovery and Llanwrtyd Wells are probably oblivious to.

To be fair, there are mitigating factors, not least that the ancient providence was apparently only ascertained from the air in 2001! OK, the defences are far from obvious on the ground; however, I can confirm they are there alright. A wonderful spot, indeed.

The archaeological experts reckon:

"The Iron age hillfort occupying the summit of 'Sugar Loaf' knoll, is aligned SW/NE. The fort is elongated, oval in shape, with an entrance at the north east end. A single earthwork rampart defines the north side of the fort, with apparently no artificial defences on the south side due to the precipitous natural slopes. The rampart narrows along the spine of the ridge at the north east end, and ends in a cross bank defending the simple ?passage entrance. Discovered during RCAHMW aerial reconnaissance in 2001
(AP ref: 2001/3528 26-28). Not inspected on ground. TGD"

Crug (Round Cairn)

Facing off to the fabulously be-cairned Bryn Rhudd and Banc-y-Gwyngoed across Cwm Brefi, Crug, not to be outdone, is also crowned by the remains of a pretty substantial Bronze Age monument. However, this - despite still measuring some 35 feet across - possesses a more subtle allure for the passing antiquarian than the mighty stone piles to the north. Indeed, topped as it is by a crude, circular 'hat' enclosing the OS trig pillar, the uninitiated muppet searching for shelter might well not discern the ancient, grassy footprint underfoot.

I approached via the forestry track east of Pant-yr-esgair, eventually gaining the treeline to the north via a steep ride (in retrospect one should approach the fence sooner rather than later). Following said fence across Esgair Goch to the southwest, prior to veering northwest, a stile eventually allows access to the summit of Crug at a junction. A fine place to be, with some pretty fine panoramic views.

The people at Coflein reckon:

"This stone cairn sits on the southern side of the highest point of Crug.... The cairn is almost completely covered with grass with its stone make-up showing most clearly on the southeast. It is roughly 10.5 metres in diameter and up to 0.7 metres high on its southeast side. On top of it is a circular drystone structure... in the centre of which is a concrete Ordnance Survey triangulation pillar." [J.J. Hall, Trysor, 14 July 2012]

Gurnos (Round Cairn)

Now The Elenydd, that wild 'Green Desert of Wales', has perhaps more than its fair share of wondrously obscure prehistoric sites... however, this is arguably as obscure as they come: not only is it not indicated upon OS mapping... not even Coflein have been able to locate it, to date:

"Place name 'Gurnos' mutated from Gyrnos. Translates as 'place of cairns'. At time of field visit no cairns found in immediate area, however area of rocky outcrop on E slope & top of Gurnos has numerable possible iron age features.(RSJ 2000)"

To be fair, it IS rather difficult to locate, being exactly where one would not expect it to be, about a half mile SW of the Rhos-y-Gelynnen stone row. The effort - extreme effort if, like me, one foolishly decides the direct approach from below to the south 'won't be that bad' - is worth it, however: the cairn is pretty substantial, well preserved... and appears to feature the remains of an internal cist. Furthermore, the vibe is sensational.

Esgair Crawnllwyn, Cwmdeuddwr (Round Barrow(s))

Not indicated upon OS mapping, I, therefore, neglected to visit this pleasing monument when checking out the large Lluest Aber Caethon 'mound' and cairns upon Esgair Beddau a few years back now. Still, better late than never...

OK, the conditions were not ideal, but the ethereal ambience overlooking the abandoned farm below was nevertheless just what the doctor ordered. Quite a lot of internal structure is still evident for such an obscure site...

Coflein reckons:

"7m outer diam, Disturbed. Central area robbed, Mudstone & quartz stones thrown aside. Central cist intact but exposed. Uprights in position. Alignment N-S. Central hollow approx 3-4m diam(RSJ 2000)"

Domen Milwyn (Cairn(s))

The highest point of the narrow summit ridge of Domen Milwyn (1,821ft) is annotated upon current OS mapping with 'Cairn', albeit sans antiquarian typeface, this no doubt a reference to the substantial marker cairn seen from afar. Nevertheless, a closer look by those willing and able to make the rather taxing trek from Cwmystwyth will reveal a small, embedded footprint underlying the modern construct... to these (now rather experienced) eyes, pretty conclusive evidence of prehistoric ancestry.

Indeed, The Dyfed Archaeological Trust note: "Possible Bronze Age round barrow. Status unconfirmed." Bear in mind that, since the neighbouring peaks also possess their own Bronze Age monuments, the context is also right on the money. Clearly, what we have here crowning these unfashionably obscure hills is a pretty extensive Bronze Age cemetery. Who would have thought it?

In the Citizen Cairn's view, this unassuming remnant of our ancient heritage makes as fine a focal point as one could wish for when out and about in the hills of Mid Wales. Seekers of space and solitude will find it here. Yeah, despite being (quite literally) crossed by 'The Cambrian Way' long-distance path, I saw no one all day... notwithstanding it being a very hot June.

I did, however, receive a veritable lashing from a rather 'extended' summer shower during the ascent... not to mention one or two whilst enjoying a likewise extended sojourn on-site, lost within the melodrama of the all-pervading silence. The views to be had are first-rate, although those to the south penetrating the vastness of 'Wild Elenydd' may be too uncompromising for some tastes? If you do choose to come - and I believe the rewards are immense - please don't take this landscape lightly.

The swirling hill fog which paid a visit at one point eventually moved on to leave a fine afternoon. Nevertheless, I kept my compass bearing at the ready, just in case. These are NOT hills to be caught out in mist.

Crug-y-Bwdran (Round Cairn)

First stop of what turns out to be a seriously FULL day exploring the many sites in the immediate locale.... and quite a good, upstanding hors d'oeuvres, if the truth be told. So much so that in any other situation I no doubt would have stayed for several hours. Quality vibe and substantial, if overgrown, cairn. Yeah, I do discern evidence of stonework within the thick, grassy mantle... so let's go with that.

Coflein reckons:

"Reported both as a round barrow and a cairn. Excavated in 1924, uncovering a stone kerb and yielding 16 fragments of urn". [J.Wiles 12.02.02]

Access is easy since the (very) minor road passes close by.

Crugiau Edryd, Mynydd Llanybyther (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

Almost - but not quite - visited when I last ventured this-a-way in April 2019, one of those peculiar event associations with a particular tune (in this case Ladytron's 'Figurine') ensures the quartet of cairns said to reside here niggle away at the back of the mind.... until, well, here I finally am.

First things first, it has to be conceded that the location is not (now, at any rate) classic, the cairns standing beside a transmitter station featuring, as these places tend to do, a couple of large antennae. Furthermore, the terrain surrounding/separating the monuments is churned to buggery, with sundry farm detritus adding to the sense of 'couldn't give a shit land'. Shame on all those responsible, should they have the brains to appreciate anything at all.

It, therefore, comes as a welcome surprise to find the cairns themselves are in relatively good nick, the pick of the bunch that bearing an OS trig pillar at SN5348039490. This, Coflein notes, represents:

"One of a group of four cairns, aligned NNE-SSE, at c.35m intervals across formerly open, high moorland, 22m in diameter & 1.9m high, having a flat top set with an OS trig. pillar: formerly marked the meeting point of three parishes (Llanybyther, Llanllwni & Llanfihangel Rhos-y-Corn)." [J.Wiles 03.09.04]

OK, the most northerly monument is pretty ravaged, having been extensively' hollowed-out at some point in the past, but the accompanying pair to the south of the main monument are still pretty upstanding. Factor in the sweeping views to the north-west across the Teifi and, dodgy surroundings notwithstanding, this remains a good place to be

Crug Penheol, Mynydd Llanfihangel Rhos-y-corn (Cairn(s))

Easily accessed from the nearby single-track road, I wasn't sure what to make of this, to be honest. 'Ring cairn', heavily denuded round cairn... or even an 'enclosure' of some description? In my defence, Coflein would appear to be in a similar dilemma:

"A rough circular bank of stones, c.17.5m in diameter, having an OS triangulation pillar at its centre." [RCAHMW AP965050/66. J. Wiles 30.09.03]

Whatever the truth, the 360-degree views are extensive, the skies massive. However, given the abundance of other sites in the locale, this is (arguably) not somewhere to linger for that long... but nevertheless worth checking out.

Crug-y-Bedw (Round Cairn)

A little under a mile to the approx northeast of the wondrous Crugyn Amlwg, this equally impressive (and overgrown) round cairn is much easier to visit, being but a short distance from the road and serviced by a 'parking area'. Hey, it's even signposted from said facility - although that's not to say we're talking 'honey pot' site here... far, far from it.

High summer, naturally, is not the optimum time to come if one wishes to avoid industrial-strength bramble and other troublesome vegetation. However, given the sheer volume of obscure sites waiting to be seen within Mid Wales, such advice is no doubt superfluous. Take your opportunities when you can, I say...

Coflein reckons: "A centrally disturbed, circular mound, 12m in diameter & 1.5m high". [RCAHMW AP965050/65 J.Wiles 01.10.03]

So, c5ft high? Seemed more to me, to be fair

Crugyn Amlwg, Mynydd Tre-beddau (Round Barrow(s))

Possibly the (quite literally) hidden jewel in the area's crown, this large round cairn slumbers - out of sight, out of mind - within forestry now the location of a wind farm. Coflein, to be fair, doesn't give much to go on:

"A circular mound, c.32m in diameter, showing traces of disturbance" RCAHMW AP965050/64 - [J.Wiles 01.10.03]

Indeed, for me, it is the height of this substantial monument that is the salient factor here. One is left imagining what the scene would've been like, sans the trees? No doubt sweeping views etc. As it is, however, the 'forestry clearing' vibe is pretty intense, the surrounding foliage obscuring the nearby wind turbines towering overhead.

I approached heading south from the minor road allowing access to Blaen Gwyddgny... good idea to bring along a 1:25k map since the forestry ride is pretty overgrown and obscure. But then it would be, wouldn't it?

Crug Siarls (Stone Circle)

Out of range when gazing across from Carn Wen a couple of years back now, last year's visit to the wondrous 'circle upon Bryn y Gorlan made this a must-see this time around. Well, I ain't getting any younger - and these Mid Walian sites really do take some attitude to reach for the not-so-young. Tell me about it.

OK, the initial ascent from the road head at Allt Ty-Llwyd to the south may be upon a firm-then-grassy track... but then the map depicts Cors y Crug between said track and Crug Siarls itself. Yeah, consider: when the OS see fit to name a bog it is usually with bloody good reason! As it is, a lack of recent rainfall, corresponding to perceived conditions underfoot, tempts me to cut the corner of my intended wide swing around to the north. Sure enough, the bog isn't much in evidence... but the industrial strength Mid Walian 'tufty' grass very, very much is. Floundering in the heat compounded by extreme exertion, I'm cursing my poor judgement at being suckered in like a muppet tourist, when I suddenly strike a quad bike track doubling back to cross the hill's south-western flank. That'll do. My intention all along, naturally.

Ascending to the summit, I'm still none the wiser regarding the position of this elusive stone circle even when accorded the aerial viewpoint. Suffice to say, the ring sits upon the lower western flank alongside an associated small(ish) cairn. Look for a wooden post immediately to the left (south-ish) for your cue. Should you choose to come, of course.

Coflein reckons the monument is definitely a stone circle:

"A small stone circle, consisting of 14 stones, the largest of which is 0.50 metres square, and positioned on its southern side. All the stones are set upright into the ground. Much of the site is obscured by reed growth." [R.P. Sambrook, Trysor, 20 March 2012]

The eastern arc is heavily overgrown with the aforementioned reeds, but, crucially, remains in situ. The orthostats are also pretty large for a Mid Walian 'circle. Yeah, so here we have a relatively intact stone circle with a vibe so intense as to sink a thousand punters within its protective bog. Truly, a classic location. Just refrain from cutting any corners if it has been raining, you hear?

High Rocks (Cave / Rock Shelter)

Now, The Citizen Cairn must declare upfront that this is not the sort of site I would normally seek out... set within the grounds of an idyllic hotel and considered a 'romantic' venue for wedding parties to pose for snaps after 'the event'. Yeah, "Oh, this one's me and Britney about to fall to our deaths... doesn't she, like, look, like lush, innit?" Yeah, OK, one has to pay an entrance fee and enter through a locked gate as - to judge by the not-so-modern graffiti carved into the sandstone - have many, many before me.... but I have to say this is actually a rather fabulous place.

Consider: not only are the sandstone crags (the 'High Rocks') impressive in stature; they are also the site of a number of later Mesolithic shelters which one can explore, albeit a bit boggy underfoot in places. Furthermore, the crags, themselves, form the northwestern flank of a multi-phase Iron Age hillfort perched above. As it was, I couldn't make out a great deal of the 'landward' defences of the promontory, but nevertheless, this is a thought-provoking, aesthetically appealing place.

The sandstone crags are interconnected by a high-level 'aerial walkway', a rather unique feature... although if you're bringing children along ensure you enforce the same restrictions as for hill walks: needless to say, a slip could have potentially fatal consequences. Just like for our Gaz and Britney.

Barrow Hill, Higham Marshes (Sacred Hill)

Well, I was a bit at a loss as to what 'designation' to apply to this one - isn't it curious how we humans always have the need to define things? - seeing as that shameful qualifier 'Destroyed' seems most inappropriate here.

To attempt to clarify/explain: it would seem - or at least appear highly likely to me - that once upon a time, the natural feature that is Barrow Hill was crowned by an earthen barrow covering a cist. Kent's HER informs us that: "As the result of denudation of a burial mound of marsh turf, the outline of a collapsed oblong cist of Kentish ragstone was visible on Higham Marshes. It was excavated in 1880 by Mr E.L.Arnold and found to contain a crouched skeleton (very crushed) accompanied by 79 beads which lay as if they had originally been around the neck. the beads were Porosphaera globularis (a fossil sponge common in the Upper Chalk and taking a globular form), ranging from 7 to 26 mm. in diameter and naturally perforated. The mound stood on a gravelly hillock which probably stood out of the water when all the surrounding district was swamp".

Now, although there appears to be no conclusive proof that Barrow Hill was the location of said cist, the fact that: 1) Barrow Hill is the only such feature (as described) in the locality; 2) The locals saw fit to name the place 'Barrow Hill'... suggests it is a pretty good bet.

So, should one focus upon the destroyed round barrow that once was... or the natural feature that simply HAD to be the site for it back then? Sacred Hill seems fair enough, don't you think?

The HER record is here:

Stumblebury (Round Barrow(s))

Historic England reckons Stumblebury is a:

"... bowl barrow situated on the crest of a ridge facing south-west in an area of undulating chalk downland. The barrow has a mound 20m in diameter and 1m high surrounded by a ditch from which material was quarried during the construction of the monument. Having become partially infilled over the years, the ditch is now only visible as a slight depression to the south-west of the mound; the remainder survives as a buried feature c.3m wide. The barrow was recorded as 'Stumleburgh' in a land grant of 1289"

However... upon visiting said hilltop 28/5/23, I reluctantly came away without any definite identification, such is the disturbed, overgrown nature of the (apparently 'private'...yawn) woodland to the south of The North Downs Way. Hence no image. Incidentally, I have to say the almost psychotic surfeit of Private/Keep Out etc etc signs in the locale of Otford does the locals no credit whatsoever.... couldn't wait to get away.
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Hi, I'm Robert ... with a passion for attempting to understand the lives of the pioneering prehistoric inhabitants of these British Isles, seeking out the remains they left behind in order to ask myself "why here ... why did it matter so... why such commitment?".. Needless to say, I'm still pondering such intangibles. Just as an empty house appears to retain echoes of past humanity... so does the stone circle, the chambered cairn, the long barrow and the mountain top funerary cairn. Visiting them, I think, helps engender a certain 'connection' with this land of ours, with ourselves - our past, our present and our future; a reference point for those of us perhaps struggling to make sense of this so-called 'computer world' Kraftwerk warned us was a'coming in 1981.... danke, mein herren.

In the unlikely event my posts provide inspiration for others to venture into the Great Outdoors, please bear in mind the hills and mountains of these Isles are unpredictable, potentially dangerous places. You are a fool if you do not suss out what you are letting yourself in for and ensure you have map/compass/waterproofs... and learn how to use them. Weather conditions can change bewilderingly quickly - even in high summer - so don't get caught out. Please engage with landowners wherever possible... being a cartoon 'class warrior' might be jolly good fun for the ignorant communist 'rebel'... but not for those who follow in their footsteps.

George Orwell - 'The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection.'

Martin Gore - 'Like a pawn
On the eternal board
Who’s never quite sure
What he’s moved towards
I walk blindly on'...

Truman Capote - 'Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavour.'

Oscar Wilde - 'The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.'

John Lydon - 'It is a reward to be chastised by the ignorant.'

Winston Churchill - '“The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.”

Ultravox - 'Taking shelter by the standing stones
Miles from all that moves....'

Catch site videos from the Citizen Cairn at:

My TMA Content: