Archive for the ‘Pre-history’ Category

Samhain is a mystical festival rooted in ancient Gaelic tradition. Samhain is a Gaelic word which means (literally) “summers end”. The ancient celts divided the year into only two seasons. Samhain is pronounced a little differently in different countries, so it is “sow-in” in ireland, “saveen” in Scotland and “sow-een” in Wales. It is definitely  not pronounced “sam-hane” as it is by many in the USA.

It is an ancient festival with celebrations keyed to the end of the harvest, the shortening days and the coming of winter. Since ancient times in the Celtic culture, October 31st. has also been celebrated as a feast for the dead and also the day that marked the New Year.

This time of year marked the beginning of the cold, lean months to come; the flocks were brought down from the hills to live in sheds until spring. Some animals would be slaughtered and the meat preserved to provide food for the winter. All the harvest was gathered in; barley, oats, wheat turnips, apples etc. From November the Faeries would blast every growing thing with their breath, blighting anything that remained.

In addition to the agricultural significance, the ancient Celts also saw Samhain as a very spiritual time. October 31st. is exactly between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice, and was considered a very potent time for magic and communion with the spirits.

The “veil between the worlds” of the living and the dead was said to be at it’s thinnest on this day; so the dead were invited to return to feast with their loved ones; welcomed in from the cold, much the same as the animals were brought inside.

The name Hallowe’en is derived from “all hallows eve”. When Christianity arrived in Celtic countries the church discouraged the fortune-telling, magic and communing with the dead as “evil”. A day of celebration of all the Saints of the Church, on November 1st. was created in the hope of displacing the old “pagan” customs. The celebration was called All Saints day, and the night before it came to be called All Hallows Eve, or Hallowe’en.

Many ancient festivals included bonfires, and Samhain was no exception. At Samhain a “new” fire was kindled for the New Year and brought into the house for good luck. The flickering candles inside hollowed out Turnips (or Pumpkins) were also thought to help the spirits who were abroad that night to find their way.

“Trick or Treat” ….. going from door to door for money, sweets or food has evolved in the USA. It is a more recent development and may have evolved from a number of traditions.

Because this was the beginning of the New Year, divination, or foretelling the future, and looking toward the coming year became part of the practice. Many of our hallowe’en traditions, such as bobbing for Apples, were originally part of the foretelling of the future. baking cakes containing “lucky tokens” also originated at this time, and is now used in some areas at the new year on January 1st.

Some of the things that were done to foretell the future included:-

Girls would place Hazel nuts along the fire-grate, each one to signify one of her suitors. She would then divine her future husband by chanting, “If you love me pop and fly, if you hate me burn and die”.

Several divinations used the Apple, the most popular Samhain fruit. “The Apple and the mirror”. Before midnight sit in front of a mirror in a room lit onlt by one candle or the moon. Go into the silence and ask your question. Cut the Apple into nine pieces. With your back to the mirror eat eight pieces then throw the ninth over your left shoulder. Turn your head to look over the same shoulder. You will see an image or symbol in the mirror that will give you your answer. (When you look in the mirror let your focus go “soft” and allow the patterns made by the candlelight, moonlight and shadows to suggest forms , symbols and other dreamlike images that speak to your intuition).



Read Full Post »

Most of my posts about North wales have been around Snowdonia, mainly I suppose because I love being in the hills.

I have, however, paid three visits to Anglesey this year, and it has so much to offer. It’s relatively flat, with lots of rolling farmland. Anglesey Beef and Lamb is wonderful! 

But there are lots of great sights, wonderful cliffs, great beaches, good bird-watching and history. Obviously having made three visits I still have much more to see, but I thought it was time I made a start, so here is my first post on Anglesey.

The Menai suspension bridge

The Menai suspension bridge

The Menai Suspension bridge was the first crossing of the Menai Strait, which seperates Anglesey from the rest of North Wales.                                                                  Before the bridge was built anyone wanting to cross had to walk across soft sand to the ferry, and then do the same at the other side! There were also many ferry accidents, the worst being in 1785 when 55 people were swept away.                                                                      Thomas Telford designed the bridge. It had to have 100 feet of clear space under the main span, to allow the tall sailing ships to pass underneath.                                     The 16 massive chains hold up 579 feet of roadway between the two towers. The bridge was opened on 30th January 1826.                                                     




Moelfre is a small sleepy village with a pebbled beach and white-washed cottages huddled around the bay. It is well known around the the world for having one of the finest and renowned life boat stations in the world.

Many of the lifeboatmen stationed there have won medals for bravery.







Cliffs near Moelfre

Cliffs near Moelfre








The Royal Charter monument.

The Royal Charter monument.





On the night of 26th October 1859 a British cutter, The Royal Charter, was on the last leg of it’s long journey from Melbourne to Liverpool.                                            Sailing up the Irish Sea there had been no wind at all, but suddenly a savage storm blew up. The captain tried to get a pilot, but none would go out in such weather. he dropped anchor, but at 1.30am the chain parted, and it was dawn when two locals saw the ship being dashed against the rocks.                                                              The brave men of Moelfre made a human chain out into the breakers, and saved 18 passengers, 5 riggers and 18 crew, but on that day 452 people, including all of the officers lost their lives.                                       This is the monument, paid for by the people of Moelfre in remembrance of that night.

The beach at Lligwy Bay

The beach at Lligwy Bay



A short walk along the top of the cliffs leads to the sweeping bay of Lligwy, with it’s beautiful beach and sand dunes.

Lligwy Bay

Lligwy Bay








The Great Orme from Moelfre

The Great Orme from Moelfre





This is the view of the Great Orme from just above the village of Moelfre.


Neolithic burial chamber, near Lligwy

Neolithic burial chamber, near Lligwy




A short walk from the beach at Lligwy is this neolithic burial chamber.                                                                 It was probably constructed before 3000BC, and when it was excavated in 1908 it was found to contain the bones of up to 30 men, women and children.                   The people who constructed this tomb had no tools and the wheel had not been invented, but the managed to manoevre this huge capstone, weighing over 25 tons, onto pre-arranged stone slabs around the edge.

Ruined 12th century chapel, Lligwy

Ruined 12th century chapel, Lligwy




Close by is this ruined chapel, built in the 12th century.


Part of the ruined 4th century village, Din Lligwy

Part of the ruined 4th century village, Din Lligwy



Just a few hundred yards away is Din Lligwy, an ancient village hidden in woodland. This is a Celtic settlement dating back to the last years of the Roman Empire in the 4th century AD.

Part of the ruined 4th century village, Din Lligwy

Part of the ruined 4th century village, Din Lligwy






All of the photos of Moelfre and Lligwy were taken in May 2008.



The beach at Porth Dafarch

The beach at Porth Dafarch


On the opposite side of the island is the lovely little beach at Porth Dafarch.

Sandy coves near Porth Dafarch

Sandy coves near Porth Dafarch







Cliffs around Porth Dafarch

Cliffs around Porth Dafarch











South Stack lighthouse

South Stack lighthouse



A little further around the coast is South Stack and it’s lighthouse.                                                                        The cliffs around here are the breeding grounds for many seabirds, including Guillemots, Razorbills and Puffins. Also on these cliffs can be found the wonderful Choughs, members of the Crow family with bright red beaks.

An air-sea rescue helicopter at South Stack

An air-sea rescue helicopter at South Stack










All of these photos of Porth Dafarch and South Stack were taken in June 2008.

Guillemots and Razorbills

Guillemots and Razorbills









Malltraeth Cob Pool

Malltraeth Cob Pool



Malltraeth Cob Pool is south of South Stack and Porth Dafarch. This is a wonderful place for bird watchers, but there are some lovely walks in the area too.

I spent a couple of hours here and saw lots of ducks and waders, including Pintails, Teal and Little Egrets.



The Cefni estuary at low tide

The Cefni estuary at low tide




As you walk along the path you have the cob on one side and the cefni estuary on the other, with more ducks, waders and seabirds to see.




Teal roosting

Teal roosting

A flock of Lapwings at Malltraeth

A flock of Lapwings at Malltraeth









Autumn colour at Malltraeth

Autumn colour at Malltraeth









The carneddau hills from across the Menai Staits

The carneddau hills from across the Men



And so I headed back to the bridge.

The photos around Malltraeth were taken on the 6th November 2008.




I’m sure it won’t be too long before I’m back on Anglesey again, there is so much to see and do.

Read Full Post »

The Great Orme, or Pen-y-Gogarth in Welsh, rises up out of the sea and reaches a height of 679 feet. The name Orme originates from the Viking and means serpent; it is thought that to the Vikings it looked like a serpent rising from the sea.

It is a wonderful place to visit, for great views, history or wildlife, and is designates as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Heritage coast. There is far to much to cover on one blog, so this is an introduction to the fantastic Great Orme


  This is the Great Orme seen from Anglesey. It’s easy to see    why the Vikings may have thought it was a serpent.

 The Victorian sea-side resort of Llandudno lies mainly in the  low land to the right of the Great Orme.






The Great Orme with Llandudno nestling beneath it. 





  There are a number of ways up to the summit of the   Great Orme. You can walk (if you’re fit), drive, take a   cable car or the tramway.


  The trams run from town, at the side of the road for   most of the way.







The cable car is about a mile long and is the longest in Britain.


More details on both the cable car and tramway on the next Great Orme post.






  There are wonderful views (on clear days)    from high on the Great Orme. This is the  view across the Conwy estuary and down the  Menai Strait.








At the other end you get a view of Llandudno, it’s bay and pier. In the foreground is part of the dry ski slope and toboggan run.








  A view of the cliffs from near St. Tudnos church.    Marine Drive can be seen running around the cliffs.  This is a scenic drive which runs all the way around.





The tiny church of Saint Tudno nestles in a hollow on the Northern side of the Great Orme. The church was built in the 12th. century, on a 6th. century christian site.















The Bronze-age Copper mines are not far from the road from the town to the summit. There is a visitor centre and tours of the mines can be taken.






 A standing stone near to the copper mines, another reminder  of early occupation.








The remains of medieval settlemets and field patterns can still be seen.







 The summit complex has served as a hotel,  golf club and as a radar station during WW2.  It was bought by boxing champion Randolph  Turpin in the 1950’s. he ran it as a pub and  held exhibhition bouts in the grounds.

 It is now a welcome stop for visitors, with  it’s bar, cafe and souvenir shop. Nearby is  the Great Orme visitor centre, tramway  station and cable car station.




A pair of Kashmir goats were introduced in Victorian times. There are now about 150 of the goats roaming wild around the headland.



I hope to be adding further posts about the Great Orme in the near future, it’s such a fascinating place to visit.

Read Full Post »

Yesterday was a housework day! Washing, hoovering, dusting and all the usual stuff. This is the most dusty house I’ve ever known! Dust, cobwebs and spiders webs seem to appear in minutes. Anyway, for now it’s reasonably clean.

I woke up in the middle of the night bathed in moonlight. Although the moon is waning it was really bright, and the stars were also bright. it seems so long since we had a clear night and I had to get up and look out of the window for a while.

Before I forget, you must see these wonderful cloud formations. I’ve never seen anything like these.      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7574684.stm          


This walk started in the Nant y Coed valley, near the coast and only about 10 miles from home. When I left home at about 10am it was quite a pleasant morning, but as I arrived in the valley the mist was swirling in from the sea.


As I walked up the valley through the woodland, I could hardly see. The hill to my left rises to about 1000ft but it was only just visible through the mist.





As I got higher and looked across the valley the mist was swirling around.

I sat here and had a drink and heard a Buzzard “meowing” above me somewhere. I couldn’t see it but it was a haunting sound in the quiet and mist.




As I climbed the Fridd it seemed as though I wasn’t going to see much, the mist was still swirling around.

The Fridd is what I would normally call moorland, but around here Fridd means “above the fields”.



Amazingly though, as I climbed higher the sun began to burn off the mist and I could see the Carneddau hills. The Carneddau range has more peaks over 3000ft than any other range in Wales, as well as some of the best ridge walking.


And now the sun came out and I was up in the hills with some wonderful views.




I love being up here, it’s great scenery and it’s peaceful. My only company was the occasional Stonechat but then i saw a Buzzard, just gliding above me on the thermals. I had seen one a few days ago, soaring up from woodland on the thermals, and suddenly 2 Crows came up from the woods and started to chase it. Buzzards can be quite playful, and having Crows chase them is a game, but when they tire of it they will just turn on their back and show the Crows their talons…..game over!


I carried on climbing over the rough Fridd, now there is just Heather, Cotton grass and Gorse bushes and the path is quite rough. Away to my right an old Roman road runs towards the coast, but over over a stile and another few hundred yards takes me to todays destination.


This is Bwlch y Ddeufaen – the pass of the two stones. The pass is about 1200ft above sea level and the two standing stones which are on either side of the path date from around 2000BC.

There are a number of smaller stones in the area too, and not far away is a stone circle (which I have visited in another post).




The air up here is clean and crisp, and lichens thrive in it. This is the lichen on one of the standing stones.


The scenery up here in the Carneddau is breathtaking, and the hills are popular with walkers and climbers. The weather though can change rapidly and you always need warm clothing and waterproofs, just in case!

I made my way back down the Fridd to the Nant y Coed valley. Now the solitary wind-blown tree on the hill top, which I could barely see on the way up, stood out clearly against the blue sky.

Another wonderful day up in the hills. Its worth going whatever the weather, as long as you take care.

Read Full Post »

Thursday 14th August 2008, and it was a bright but breezy day. My walk today was going to be along the lower slopes of the Carneddau, to look at some of the ancient sites.

I started at the Stychnant Pass, outside of Conwy, and from there climbed up and around Craigfenwend.

As I climbed I turned to look back at the imposing castle down below.

Conwy castle is one of the most imposing of Edward 1st’s ring of castles. It would have been even more imposing when the walls were rendered and white.

All though it was hazy it was still a wonderful view. The town in the background is Llandudno Junction. The Irish sea can just be seen between the two hills.

I walked around the sides of Maen Esgob and Waen Gyrach, two of the lower slopes (rising to about 1000ft), and then down into a valley.

This is where the Afon Gyrach tumbles down the hillside from it’s source up in the hills.




Up the other side of the valley and then around the slopes of Cefn Coch and I came to the ancient stone circle known as the Druids circle.

As it dates from around 1400BC it actually pre-dates the Druids so I’m not sure how it got the name.

Only about 30 stones remain now, but it must have been impressive. It’s about 80ft in diameter. In the centre was a cavity which was covered with a capstone. This contained the cremated remains of an infant, in a large urn.

The hill in the background is the impressive, craggy ridge of Tal y Fan, the most northerly 2000 footer in Wales.

Some of the remaining stones are still very impressive, and you do wonder how they were erected in this wild place. There are the remains of many ancient sites in this area, such as the burial cairn and smaller stone circle below. The ponies are wild and roam the hillsides in this area.



As I carried on walking I came to Clip yr Orsedd with a view down to Lavan sands across the Menai strait and across to the Isle of Anglesey. It’s a wonderful view so it’s a shame it was so hazy.



There are wonderful views in all directions from up here.

As I looked away from Anglesey and to my left I could see some of the lower Carneddau rising up from the narrow coastal plain.

As I started to retrace my steps I got yet another sea view. This is the Great Orme rising straight up to about 600 ft out of the sea, with the Victorian resort of Llandudno beneath it.





Instead of returning exactly the same way I skirted Waen Gyrach and then dropped down a steep wooded valley and into Fairy Glen, near the small village of Capelulo. It’s a magical place with heavy woodland and the small river rushing through it.


This had been one of the few dry days we’ve had recently, so it was good to get out and see some of the wonderful sights and sites that this area has to offer.

Read Full Post »

SUNDAY 3 August 2008, and like many other days this summer it was cool and breezy as I left home. Within 10 minutes it had started to rain, and when I arrived at Llyn Brenig it was pouring down.

I sat in the car for 30 or 40 minutes before the rain started to ease, and I set off for the first ancient site.

The Ring cairn dates from about 1600BC. Originally it was a low, well built stone ring surrounded by a circle of posts. The posts may have been carved but there is no surviving evidence.

When excavations were carried out two cremation urns were found, containing the cremated remains of three individuals. One of the urns also contained a few personal possessions.

Boncyn Arian – “Money Hillock”, is a bronze-age burial mound close to the ring cairn. The earth mound covers a complex series of stake circles and a dry-stone wall which surrounded a central grave.

Later six cremation burials were inserted into the mound, two of them in urns. One of the urns contained only the burnt ear-bones of an infant

Other mounds are visible from Boncyn Arian. Also near by is a large stone marking the site of a Mesolithic camp. When excavators investigated they found scoops in the ground containing the ashes of fires and surrounded by flint tools and waste. The charcoal can be dated to about 5,700BC.

The makers of these tools would have been stone-age hunters and food-gatherers and they were probably the first men to enter this valley after the ice-age.

Now I headed up the side of the valley towards the conifer woods.

Just below the tree line, and beside a small stream are the remains of the relatively recent Hafotai settlement. This probably dates from about the 16th century AD.

A number of huts here were probably built of local stone and probably thatched with heather and rushes. They were probably used in the summer (Hafotai = summer houses) as their occupants brought their sheep and cattle to graze on the moors.   


Now I walked along the hillside, passing on my right another bronze-age cairn. Unfortunately this one had been badly damaged before it could be excavated.

Further along the hillside I came to the Platform cairn. here has been found evidence of bronze-age man living before the cairn was built.

This massive cairn was built to cover the burial of an adult and child, the cremated bones placed in an urn beneath a large stone. The cairn was originally built as a wide ring with an open centre. Later the centre was used for another cremation-burial and later still the centre was filled in to produce a low, flat platform.

Now I headed down a slope, across banks and ditches marking medieval field. Hen Ddinbych contains evidence of Medieval stone buildings which may have been a large farm or small village. Some say that this was the original site of old Denbigh, but that seems unlikely.

Now I cross a wide valley bottom and a little further up the valley is a small bronze-age cairn. It was built

the site of what may have been a prehistoric hut, it’s post holes now marked by wooden posts.


Near to the cairn is Maen Cleddau – the Swords’ stone. This is a large boulder, probably left by a glacier at the end of the ice-age, with a broken fragment.

Legend has it that the fragment was sliced off by a giants sword.


 Now I return along the valley, back to Hen Ddinbych and on up the slope. This leads me to another Bronze-age cairn. Originally, because of it’s massive boulders it was mis-identified as a stone circle. It is now know

 that these are part of the kerb of a heavily robbed cairn. It covered a large rock-cut grave-pit with cremation-burial.

Looking to the south west is another small bronze-age cairn.


My path now leads down the slope, back towards Llyn Brenig.

Before reaching the lake I see the deserted Hafotty Sion Llwyd nestling in a hollow.

This old farm was rebuilt in 1881-the date is carved over a window-using stone taken from Hen Ddinbych and some of the other ancient sites. It was occupied by shepherds and had been the home of the Pierce family for over 100 years.

Legends tell of fairy music and gold, and it is easy to see why legends start when you see the romantic, isolated farm.

 As I walk back along Llyn Brenig other cairns, like this one can be seen on the other side.

Llyn Brenig is a huge dam, constructed between 1973 and 1976 and used to regulate the River Dee.

Before the valley was flooded over 50 sites were investigated by archeologists.

The lake is 1.25Km long and covers an area of 1,000acres. It is 45 metres deep at its deepest and holds 13,200 million gallons of water. It took four years to fill.

My walk was probably only about 4 miles, but takes in so much ancient history. I’m thankful that the rain held off, and I returned a little windswept, but dry. 

This view is looking to the south west towards Snowdonia, and thats the way I headed back home.

Read Full Post »