Caer Dyni Burial Chamber, Criccieth

A small, fairly inconspicuous cromlech but worth a visit for its setting above Criccieth and the added interest of some cupmarks.

Criccieth is an attractive coastal town on the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales and it is best known for its imposing Welsh castle, perched on a rocky headland between the towns two beaches. At the opposite end of the beach from the castle a short walk eastwards takes you towards the cromlech.

The cairn is in a ruinous state and the relatively slim capstone has slipped and is embedded in the ground.

A slight mound stretches out from the western end of the chamber, presumably the remains of material from the long cairn that would have covered it.

The mound on the west side of the chamber

There are cupmarks on two faces of the upright stone supporting the capstone.  Four of them are just visible here but they didn’t come out well in the photo. The rest are on the inside of the chamber and although it was easy to feel them when I ran my hand across the stone it was difficult to get a decent photo.

The burial chamber can be accessed from the main road above or from walking along the beach from the seafront.

If walking down to it from the car park on the main road you can see the cromlech from the western end of the carpark. Walk back down the road until you come to a public footpath leading down the hill. The cromlech isn’t far from the footpath.

Stunning views back to the town and castle and R looking across Tremadog Bay and down the coast.

To approach from the seafront, carry on along the beach until you see a public footpath going across the railway line and follow the path up the hill a little way, veering off to the right to reach the burial chamber.

Criccieth beach and the castle

Walking to Caer Dyni across the beach took longer than I expected because I got distracted by geology and beach combing!
The beach is strewn with huge glacial erratics that have broken away from the soft glacial till in the low cliffs beside this section of the beach.

Above R – An erratic boulder coming loose from the soft glacial till. This boulder was about a metre high and many on the beach were even bigger.

Criccieth Castle
Criccieth Beach

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Cors-y-Gedol Dolmen, Gwynedd

Cors-y-Gedol turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. We had planned to spend the day exploring an area south of Harlech, with the main place on our itinerary being the burial cairns at Dyffryn Ardudwy  ( previous post).
This was one of the occasions where the information board at one site mentioned another interesting dolmen in the area (one I hadn’t heard of), so after a look round the burial cairn at Dyffryn Ardudwy we headed south from the village and took the next road left to Cors-y-Gedol.
This was a long straight road lined with oak trees and led up the hill to the Elizabethan manor house of Cors-y-Gedol. At the top of the road was a car park which was the starting point for various footpaths and walking routes up into the hills. We parked here and went through a field gate onto a gated farm road that led across the hillside.

It was a very pleasant walk along the road and the dolmen  was  right beside the road, so no problem finding this one!

The large capstone is supported by an upright at the front but the rear is resting on the cairn material. Like most dolmens, it would have been a long cairn with a cairn of stones covering the chamber and extending some distance to the rear, making it a long trapezoidal shape. This one was about 25m long and some of the cairn material is still clearly visible on the ground.

There isn’t much left of the burial chamber and most of the stones from the cairn would have provided useful building material over the years but it is still a picturesque dolmen in a very attractive setting.

Looking north west to Bardsey Island and the tip of the Llyn Peninsula in the distance

Walking along the road I’d noticed a lot of stones lying around and outlines of stone structures in the grass and undergrowth. Further investigation revealed that the whole area, particularly to the east (on the hill side of the track) was covered in what is probably the remains of hut circles and enclosures. No doubt providing plenty evidence of this area having been inhabited and farmed for thousands of years.

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Further along the road I came to this hut circle, probably dating back to the Iron-age.

The remains of the walls are probably quite well preserved underneath the grass and vegetation that’s grown over them.

Oak trees and gnarled hawthorns growing round the rim of the site emphasis the circular shape and give the interior quite an enclosed and private feel.

From the car park you can do a short walk along the road to the cairn, but for a longer circular walk you can carry on  until you reach the River Ysgethin.  From there you can  follow a footpath up the hillside and back down to the car park. The path skirts round this area which is full of intriguing remains. Definitely requires another visit and more investigation!

 

Dyffryn Ardudwy Burial Chamber, Gwynedd

This really is a lovely setting. Two burial chambers sit on a bed of stones in the shade of the trees and from their elevated position the sea is visible down below.
The village of Dyffryn Ardudwy is on the coast road, half-way between Harlech and Barmouth and the cairn is accessed by a sign-posted path at the southern end of the village.

 

The smaller, portal dolmen was built first. This is a typical dolmen shape with a heavy capstone resting on two portal stones and sloping down towards the rear. A closing slab acted as a door that sealed the entrance and after that, deposits were probably place inside through gaps in the sides and at the southern end of the tomb.

 

I’ve since read that there’s a small cup mark on one of the portal stones but I didn’t see it at the time.

Some time after the first tomb was built, a larger tomb was built to the east of it and then a monumental cairn was built which incorporated both tombs.  There’s plenty of the cairn material left on the ground to give a good idea of the size of the extended cairn.

The larger tomb, looking west with Cardigan Bay visible on the horizon

Fragments of Neolithic pottery were found in the older tomb and both Neolithic and Bronze Age pottery was found in the later one.

Showing the extent of the cairn material and giving an idea of how long the cairn would have been in its day

There are many prehistoric remains in this area. On the slopes leading up from the coastal plain to the higher hills behind you can find  dolmens, standing stones, stone circles and remains of ancient settlements. The Dyffryn Burial Cairn is the best example of the portal tombs in the area but there are others that are also worth seeing, such as Cors-y-Gedol, which we visited next and will probably be in the next post.

Looking from the large cairn to the small dolmen

 

St Tanwg’s – the church in the sand

A tiny medieval church nestled in the sand dunes at Llandanwg, near Harlech in west Wales. The present building dates back to the 13th Century but it has an ancient history, with the site itself dating  back to about 435AD, making it one of the very earliest Christian sites in Britain.  

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There are possible connections with St Patrick’s missionaries to Wales, as Llandanwg, along with Fishguard, was one of the main points of entry for visitors arriving from across the Irish Sea.

Inside the church, a 5th century inscribed stone refers to Ingenvus who is said to be a contemporary of St Patrick and the interesting thing about this stone is that it is not local stone but probably comes from the Wicklow mountains in Ireland.

The INGENVUS STONE, an 8ft high pillar grave stone

The church is dedicated to St Tanwg who was born on Anglesey and probably arrived here not long after a Christian foundation had been established at the site.

The church started to fall into disrepair after a new St Tanwg’s Church was built 2 miles away in Harlech in 1839, although it continued to be used for burials.
At one stage the roof had fallen in and the church became full of sand and briars and there are even reports of fishermen drying their nets on the nave.
Over the years the church has frequently had to be dug out of the sand and work to protect it from the sea and sand is ongoing.
Most of the graveyard lies underneath the sand dunes

However, no one wanted to lose such a special church and renovations were carried out at various times in the 20th Century, with major work in 1987.

Nowadays the church retains it’s simple medieval character and many of it’s original features. Services are held here again, particularly during the summer months and in 2000 it regained it’s licence to hold weddings again – and what a lovely, special place to get married in!

 The renovations in the 20th century  unearthed some fascinating ancient stones which provide proof that there has been a Christian foundation here since the earliest days of the Christian church in Britain. Below are parts of two inscribed gravestones from the 5th and 6th centuries and a cross from around the 9th century. These are of great historical importance.

The early 6th Century GERONTIUS STONE

The original bell had been removed to the new St Tanwg’s in Harlech but it was replaced in 1922 by this one (below left) which came from Doobeg in Co. Sligo, where it was used to summon farm workers to work.


Small Pilgrim Places

St Tanwg’s is on the Small Pilgrim Places Network .
These are special places in England and Wales that are small and peaceful and away from the madding crowds. Places for pondering, meditating, praying or just being, and they can be churches, wells, gardens , ruins or open spaces.
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Bach Wen Dolmen & St Beuno’s Church

A cupmarked dolmen and a pilgrimage church

Bach Wen Dolmen is on the north coast of the Llyn Peninsula in north Wales and the reason I sought out this particular dolmen was because its capstone is literally covered in cupmarks, not something I’ve seen very often on dolmens.

Someone must have counted them because there are reported to be 110 cupmarks and 2 shallow grooves on the top of the capstone, plus 8 more on the eastern edge.

Despite the iron railings around the dolmen, it’s still a lovely location, with the sea on one side and the hills of the Llyn Peninsula on the other. With such views, it’s easy to sea why the dolmen was built here.

We parked in Clynnog Fawr and set off on a well-signposted walk which took us from the village street, down little lanes towards the sea and the dolmen.

Looking back to Clynnog Fawr from near the dolmen

Arriving back in the village, I went to have a look at the church.

St Beuno’s Church, Clynnog Fawr

 I’m so glad I didn’t pass by without stopping to look inside. What struck me on entering was how incredibly light it was. I opened the heavy oak door and walked from the shade of the church yard into a  church bathed in light. The windows are large but I think it was the whitewashed walls that made such a difference.

There was plenty of interest to read about on the information panels and leaflets and I learned that St Beuno’s was one of the stops on a pilgrimage route and long distance footpath.

St Beuno’s was where medieval pilgrims converged to start their pilgrimage down the north coast of the Llyn Peninsula to the holy island of Bardsey. Today it is on the North Wales Pilgrims Way , a 130 mile long distance footpath from Holywell in Flintshire to Bardsey , which takes in little stone churches connected with St Beuno and Saint Winefride and many other holy and ancient places along the way.

The church is said to be on the site of a Celtic monastery founded by St Beuno around 630AD but the present building dates mainly from the late 15th, early 16th century. It used to be an important ecclesiastical centre for this part of Wales, which is why it is such a large church for a little village.

 

A rare example in Wales, of an Irish-style canonical sundial from the 10th-12th century.It was used to mark the time of the canonical hours which centered around the liturgy and don’t bear any relation to civil clock times. 

 

.A set of dog tongs!
These were used to grab hold of unruly dogs at a time when it was common for people to take their dogs into church.

One  thing I was sorry I didn’t see was St Beuno’s Well, which I read about on this information panel at the church.

We set off down the road to look for it but obviously didn’t walk far enough. Afterwards I thought of looking it up on the Well Hopper website, which is the place to find information about holy wells in North Wales and sure enough, there was all the information I needed and some good pictures of it, showing how it has been spruced up in recent years.

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