It was a bitterly cold Saturday in early April- the weather hadn't been told that buds were on the trees and spring was supposed to be coming. We'd travelled to Llandrillo, a pretty little village between Bala and Corwen- and were walking up the steep road that wound up the slopes of Moel ty Uchaf. The plan was to see what most authorities call a ring cairn, a remarkable survivor on the summit of this dinky little hill.
It's a ring of 41 stones, (although there may have once been more) and it's around 12 metres across. The setting is stunning, even on the indifferently gloomy day that we had to work with, and it is well worth the climb. There are a couple of cists and cairns as well, and a standing stone further to the south. Petra found a small and ancient slate quarry on the way up...we were expecting something like that, as the ground had been disturbed in a way that suggested old workings. There were also some massive clearance cairns, evidently made by heavy machinery, so obviously quite modern compared to the ring cairn!
I had also read that there were many stories about the site. Some say that they have felt malevolent vibes, others that the place has a benign feeling. Not surprising, the site is dated from the bronze age and was apparently a place of ritual and sacred significance. Stories will abound in a special place like this. But perhaps there are none so strange as the claim made by locals that UFOs have been seen over the circle.
Stranger things in the Berwyns
Back in 1974 locals reported strange lights across the sky, then a colossal explosion which sent tremors through the village. It all seemed to be centred on the stone circle. One witness wrote: " something came down in the Berwyn mountains on that night, I am certain … we were visited by an object that evening..."
Ministry files show that it was taken seriously by the RAF and the police- a search and rescue sea king was scrambled and deployed. The search continued until 2pm the next day. Locals and ufologists claim that roads were sealed off and men in black were seen taking remains away, prompting claims that this might be the "Welsh Roswell". Who knows? It all seems very far-fetched. The files show that officially, nothing was found...or was it?
We, at least, got a great deal from the walk. The trackway up is lined by some beautiful trees; old oaks and later hawthorns of some age. Giant stones appear at the side of the track, placed no doubt by a glacier, although one group looked a little suspicious- I put them down as a possible bronze age feature. One of the gates below the moor whistled eerily due to the wind blowing across it's tubular steel framework. It was a surprisingly lovely sound, rather like those folk who used to run their fingers around the rims of banks of wine glasses on TV. That dates me, doesn't it? Hey, that was what ordinary folk thought was cool in the 'sixties. Somewhat enchanted by the sound, we sheltered behind the wall and had some lunch before tackling the last half mile to the circle.
The wall itself was interesting, made from small chunks of slatey rock, interspersed with tall stones set on end. Perhaps it was a local style; I am not yet familiar enough with the area around Llandrillo to say. Petra wondered where the slatey stones had come from, as the fields were remarkably bare of any stones, apart from the occasional massive erratic.
Further down from the circle on the hill, there were two cists, greatly eroded by the activities of the farmer- and a pattern of field markings which were quite pronounced on the ground. Coflein considers them to be cultivation marks, so I am glad my intuitive feeling was correct there. Someone on the Megalithic portal site thinks there may be a second circle on a site about 60 metres SE- I didn't see it when I was there, partly because it was so cold that we didn't hang about. But here's a photo on Megalithic Portal which shows that there is a circle, quite clearly.
Parking- It's best to park the car in the (free) car park in the centre of the village. Take a left turn out of the car park and then walk up the road marked as a bridle path to the right, after the war memorial.
A grumpy moment
I thought twice about mentioning this, as I don't want to be intolerant of others enjoying the hills- but again on this visit, there was the malodorous presence of two- stroke motor bikers on the hill. We were forced to the side by a group hurtling downhill without any consideration for anything. Later we had a nosey around the rather lovely village of Llandrillo and were standing at the crossroads when the bikers appeared again and stopped at the junction. The noise was incredible as the eight of them revved their engines and bellowed to each other. We picked our way out of their petrol fumed world of noise without taking them on and they roared off back up the hill to do more mischief. I wonder if making the maximum noise is part of the fun of this activity.
Apart from that smallish irritation, it was a wonderful day; perhaps it might have been more peaceful on a weekday, although apart from the bikers we only saw two other people.
Location of the stone circle: Map Ref: SJ05613717 Landranger Map Number: 125
Guide with map for locating the stone circle.
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