Well I finished my Alphabet Challenge, granted it took much longer than the single month which most other people did it in, but between completing various essays and exams I just couldn’t keep up with posting every day and sometimes I couldn’t even find the time to post for a whole week.
In addition my second year at Bangor University is now over, its certainly been a lot harder this time around and I didn’t get to do as much walking and exploring as I’d intended. Fortunately I did have a few days break following the end of my exams which allowed me to head out to a place I’d really wanted to visit all year long, Yr Eifl.
Yr Eifl is actually a collection of three separate peaks, Garn Ganol, Garn For and Tre’r Ceiri, collectively they are known as Yr Eifl or The Rivals. Though not quiet mountains they are the highest points in the Llyn Peninsula and I’d been wanting to climb them for a long time. The three peaks stand near the Welsh coast, rising over Nant Gwrtheyrn, which I visited earlier in the year. However on the day of the climb it was incredibly hot and humid, so I decided to leave the walk until later in the evening when it was a bit cooler, a big advantage of having lighter evenings.
My walk started at the Porth-Y-Nant car park, it was about five in the afternoon and annoyingly the clear skies from earlier had been replaced with a low, hazy cloud. However I was committed to this walk and hoped that the weather would turn better as the hours went by. I skirted around the bottom of the highest peak, Garn Ganol, which rose up imposingly to my right side. At its highest point Garn Ganol is only 1,841ft and the car park placed me over 1000 ft above sea level, so it really didn’t look like this climb would be any sort of a challenge, which was prehaps a good thing as I hadn’t done any serious hiking for months.
Following the path, and despite the cloud, I still had some great views of Nant Gwrtheyrn and the coast of Llyn and this view soon came to encompass the village of Trefor as I arrived at the pass between Garn Ganol and Garn For.
In the past Garn For was the site of extensive slate mining operations and most of the mine works and outbuildings remain abandoned on the hill-side. Its also home to a radio relay station and I wasn’t sure exactly on the legal accessibility of the site, so I decided to give it a miss and I instead headed directly up Garn Ganol. Still, it must be impressive to walk among the abandoned mines.
The walk up Garn Ganol was a bit strenuous but it was the only part of the walk that required much effort. Fortunately at this time, the sun also made a reappearance and I was promptly basked in the evening glow.
By the time I reached the summit the cloud had been burnt away and I could see all away along the Llyn Peninsula, including the the other hills of Llyn as well as both sides of the coast, the Irish Sea and Cardigan Bay. It certainly was very pleasant but I couldn’t stay for long as my presence was attracting a number of biting bugs, so instead I decided to follow the path that led towards the final summit and my true target for the day, Tre’r Ceiri.
Tre’r Ceiri means Town of the Giants in Welsh, and it is a particularly apt name. Here, some 1500ft above sea level, is one of Europe’s largest and most well preserved Iron Age hillforts. It was certainly one of the most well-preserved hillforts that I’d ever seen, most sites that I’ve seen before were little more than ditches and indentations in the earth, or a smattering of stones; but here, in some places the stone walls reached 4 metres. I guess the site’s height and isolation deterred people from removing the stones.
I came down from Garn Ganol on to a pleasant little col, inhabited only by some grazing sheep and overrun with pretty wildflowers. Walking up to the walls of Tre’r Ceiri, I felt like an intrepid explorer, like Indiana Jones discovering some lost city. The fort was protected by two separate stone walls which stretched around the fort’s north side, and while entering through the gap that served as a gateway, I was amazed to find that the top of this 2000 year old wall still stood above my head.
The earliest parts of the hillfort have been dated to around 200BC, however most finds are from the period between 150-400AD, suggesting the fort was continuously inhabited throughout the Roman occupation, at this time the land of Llyn was ruled by the Deceangli tribe, who were originally migrants from Ireland, though its possible the inhabitants of the fortress were forced to leave following the retreat of the Romans in 383AD and subsequent the arrival of Irish raiders.
Inside the ancient town, I was once again struck by its sheer scale, over 150 stone houses lie within the confines of the fort, once providing living space for over 300 people. Historian John Davids has suggested that, due to distance from the sea, the site may have served as summer habitations for shepherds and their families who also had holdings in the lowlands. I’m inclined to agree with this theory however the extensive walls and placement of the site, which garners to natural defense, suggests to me that the site was also a holdout, a safe place where inhabitants from the surrounding area would come too when threatened, furthermore it could have become a permanent large village during the later years of the Roman occupation.
After some phone calls to my family, just to tell them I was standing in the remains of Iron Age hillfort and yes, there was great reception there, I headed to the summit of Tre’r Ceiri. Walking over to the south side of the fort I was amazed to find that the ground simply fell away beyond the fortress’s wall. Obviously the hill was near impossible to scale from this side, insuring greater protection for Tre’r Ceiri’s inhabitants.
Again I didn’t stay long on the summit of the hill as there just too many insects around, one of the disadvantages of the summer weather, and I reluctantly left Tre’r Ceiri as the evening light was fading now.
Heading back to the col, I circled back around Garn Ganol to the car park, in all it had been a really fascinating day, Tre’r Ceiri had been more than worth the walk and I’d definitely consider it to be one of the most spectacular ancient monuments in the British Isles. I’ll leave you readers with the words of Thomas Pennant, a Welsh naturalist from the 1700s who first brought Tre’r Ceiri to public light with his book A Tour in Wales. In the book Pennanr describes Tre’r Ceiri as ‘the most perfect and magnificent, as well as the most artfully constructed British post I ever beheld’.
If you enjoyed this tale feel free to write in the comments, or leave like and thanks for reading.