This hut group on Holyhead Mountain is one of the best places to see Iron-Age hut circles in Wales. The hut remains are situated on the most westerly point of Anglesey near the dramatic South Stack cliffs and are reached from the road up to South Stack lighthouse and the RSPB reserve. There are plenty of footpaths for walkers and birdwatchers, including the Anglesey Coastal Path, all with magnificent views out sea as well as across Anglesey. A small sign across the road from the RSPB car park points the way to the hut circles.
Ty Mawr means ‘big house’ but on the OS map the site is called Cytiau’r Gwyddelod, Welsh for Irishmens Huts. Hut circles on Holy Island were traditionally given this name because they were thought to have been built by Irishmen.
Unlike Din Lligwy (Lligwy, Anglesey ) which was a single farmstead with numerous buildings within its walls, the Ty Mawr site consists of about 20, mainly individual, structures spread out across the lower slopes of Holyhead Mountain. When the site was first excavated in 1860 about 50 huts were recorded and it was thought that previously there had been more. Of that 50, many have since been lost due to agriculture but the remaining huts were excavated again in the 20th century and the site taken into the care of Cadw, the Welsh organisation for the care of ancient and historic monuments.
Walking across the road from the car park the first roundhouse soon comes into view as it isn’t far from the road.
The thick circular walls would have supported rafters pointing upwards to form a high conical shape and this would have been covered with thatch.
Carrying on from the first roundhouse the path leads up to more roundhouses and the remains of other structures which would have been used for a variety of purposes, such as workshops or storage.
The huts are of various sizes and at least one is an oval shape with an internal dividing wall. There are passages of various lengths leading to the doorways (to protect them from the wind?).
The remains of some internal features can still be seen in some of the huts, including hearths, an alcove and a circular stone trough.
The site is well maintained by Cadw and it’s an easy walk from one hut to another. There are so many huts that just when you think you must have seen them all, the path carries on to yet more. It was a long time since I’d been here and I’d forgotten just how many there were! As I followed the grassy paths from one hut to another, going further across the hillside, the grass eventually turned into narrow pathways cut through the bracken and the last but one site came into view. This was more of a farmstead than a single hut, comprising a large hut, the remains of some smaller structures and a large grassy area enclosed by a wall.
Back in Iron-Age times a massive hillfort sat on the summit of the hill and many people must have lived in the huts and farmsteads scattered across its lower slopes.
One of the Ty Mawr hut circles with Holyhead Mountain behind
Further inland on Anglesey, at Llynnon Mill, 2 roundhouses have been reconstructed, using information gathered from excavations of roundhouse sites on the island.
I’m always amazed at how much bigger they are inside than the impression you get from just looking at the remains of walls. Looking at a hut circle on the ground it is easy to imagine people living in a rather small, crude hut but when when they’ve been reconstructed you can see how much room there was inside, and the extremely high roof gives a sense of spaciousness as well as allowing the smoke to rise up and dissipate through the thatch. Excavations here and in other parts of Britain show that there was an open central area with a hearth. Round the walls, areas were sectioned off for different activities such as sleeping, cooking, weaving etc. These were often divided by wattle screens.
South Stack cliffs and lighthouse