Thursday, 12 August 2010 23:00

Gower's 'Secret' Standing Stones

Written by forestelf
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Tucked away, many would say hidden, in Gower's quiet countryside stand nine mysterious Standing Stones (Menhirs). Standing Stones pose difficult questions for archaeologists and historians alike. Despite often exhaustive research and excavations, very little is still known about these enigmatic megaliths. An assorted number of reasons have been suggested for their existence - funerary sites, way markers, boundary posts and ley line signifiers all number amongst present day theories for the stone's existence. All that can really be stated, with any real authority, is that these monuments were the work of Bronze Age Man. But whatever theory the present reader ascribes to these stones, their visual magnificence and historic importance can never be denied.

No-one knows exactly how many standing stones were once scattered around the Gower Peninsula. Recent theories have even suggested that one stood as far east as Penclawdd. Today, only nine remain to be visited. A word of caution, however, must be noted to those intrepid individuals willing to pass an afternoon following the succeeding route that visits all of these memorials. Some of these stones have become shy creatures and have hidden themselves amongst the tangled undergrowth of hedge boundaries and overgrown fields. None announce themselves to visitors in the manner of other megalithic Gower monuments such as Arthur's Stone (Cefn Bryn) and Giant's Grave (Parkmill). Many visitors to Gower must have tried to find these stones with the aid of a pair of walking boots and an ordnance survey pathfinder map. Of these, an unaccountable number must have failed. The stones' locations, even on the most detailed Ordnance Survey map, are vague to say the least and it took me several visits to accurately pinpoint some of the more retiring of the menhirs. That said, the present reader can now forego the hit and miss treks over Gower's farmland that may have hitherto dissuaded all but the most fervent against such visits. For the first time, a complete guide to reaching all of Gower's Standing Stones can now direct even the most uninitiated country walker to the splendour and brooding magnificence of Gower's mysterious menhirs.

This trek around the Gower Peninsula’s mysterious Standing Stones commences on the green of the sloping village of Llanrhidian. Here stands the first two of Gower's magnificent menhirs. They are the most easily reached and also the most historically documented of Gower‘s Standing Stones.


1. Llanrhidian's Lowalter Stone is a very large slab of limestone. Of unknown origin but undoubted antiquity, the monolith was raised to its current position in 1844. The event was recorded in two entries in the Parish register:

"...8th day of April 1844, a very large stone weighing nearly 2 tons raised on its end a short distance from 'The Welcome to Town' Public house. 10 - 12 men volunteered to do it - one pint of beer each." & "...The Church wardens and the minister - with the assistance of some twenty strong hands and double the number of shouting boys - erected the large limestone on end with no little difficulty." 


2. Llanrhidian's Upper Stone is a slim but wide sheet of conglomerate believed to have originated from Cefn Bryn. Mounted in a base of limestone, the stone - believed by many to have been fashioned from an original ancient menhir - waslater used as the village Celtic Cross. The top of the stone has now been shatteredand lost but the design of a once popular Celtic wheel cross can easily be determined in the remaining structure. Curious fragments of iron can also be distinguished protruding from both the height and base of the stone. The nature of these is not fully understood but their presence has led some to hypothesise that the stone was also once used as a kind of village pillory.

Other historic points of interest in the area include the Norman Church and the two stone plaques laid into its right hand gate post. These originated from the now ruined nearby village of Llanelen. The village was destroyed when the survivors of a local shipwreck took refuse amongst its population. Unfortunately, the sailors carried the plague and, for their welcome and aid, the villagers of Llanelen were rewarded by being entirely wiped out. The two stone plaques are said to curse anyone who touches them. You have been warned! 

From the two stones at Llanrhidian Green, there are various approaches that can followed to the seven remaining megaliths. This guide will follow the easiest.

Taking the steep climbing road up to the B4295 crossroads, take a right turn and follow the road to Oldwalls. The next stop is at the easily identified Greyhound Inn.

alt3. Oldwall's Standing Stone (a) stands at a height of 1.5 metres but is hidden from view to all who are not actively seeking it. To find the stone, cross the road from the Greyhound Inn and carefully climb the field gate that is set at right angles to the public house. With one's back to The Greyhound , track the hedge to the left of the field. The Standing Stone will soon make itself manifest from the tangle of bramble and hedgerow. Perhaps not the most awe-inspiring of monuments, Oldwall's Standing Stone (a) is still worth a visit despite being arguably the least impressive of Gower's menhirs . 

Rejoining the B4295, continue along the road, taking the right hand fork that is signposted Weobley Castle. Before reaching the magnificent ruin of this 14th Century Manor house, two more Standing Stones should have been encountered. 

alt4. Oldwall's Standing Stone (b) is a bulging spread of rock 2.2 metres high. This stone is again swathed amongst a covering hedgerow but its mighty bulk is sufficient to stand proud of its invasive cover. Though this stone is unfortunately not visible from the road, it is fairly easy to reach once its exact position is known. 

Stopping at the lane that turns right to Leason, climb the gate to the field that lays directly after the small home to your left. This is a fairly narrow elongated field and the Standing Stone is situated about half way along the left hand hedge. 



5. Samson's Jack is the next Standing Stone and is Gower's largest, standing at 3.2 metres. Variously known as Mansell's Jack or Sam(p)son's Jack, the megalith is a bulky beast indeed and legend holds that the stone holds such power as to equip its visitors with an answer to their most pressing question. 

Parking at Weobley Castle, it seems only polite to pay this ruined castle a visit. A small fee is payable for entry to the castle but this is a small price considering all that can be explored here. Worth the price alone is the amazing views gained over the Burry Estuary and the whole of the North Gower Peninsula from the castle's grounds. The castle is quite a substantive ruin of a medieval fortified manor and contains a good exhibition of panels detailing the history of some of Gower's other fine monuments. 

Opposite the Weobley Castle car park (and a little to the left), a farmhouse will be easily discernable. Taking the footpath that leads directly past this farmhouse, climb the left hand field gate that presents itself after passing the building. Now follow the right hand hedgerow until you reach another gate. Here, easily standing proud of the hedge that was so disrespectfully planted around it, you will find Samson's Jack. 

alt6. Ty'r Coed Standing Stone can now be reached via two routes, dependant on your means of transport. For those on pushbike, continue along the footpath, past the farmhouse on your left until you reach the road. From here, turn left and continue along the road until you reach the entrance to Ty'r Coed Farm. For those travelling by car, return to Weobley Castle, and take the left hand turn to to Oldwalls. At the first fork, turn right and continue down the lane to Ty'r Coed Farm. 

A long straight track leads down from the road to the farm. As this stone is situated on private land, a polite request at the farm house to gain permission to visit this megalith must be made before continuing on to the stone itself. Ty'r Coed Standing Stone is located to the right and a little beyond the Ty'r Coed farmhouse. Standing at 2.5 metres, this is a really marvellous megalith that is best viewed by climbing the steep slope on which it is planted and standing with your back against the large metal farm building that otherwise blinds the stone of its ancient majesty. 

Gower's cluster of 6 standing Stones have now been visited. To reach its remaining megaliths, a short distance must now be travelled. Returning to the lane from Ty'r Coed farm, take a left and continue down the road, taking the second right, turn off towards the village of Burry Green. Passing the small chapel on your right, take the first left turn and continue down until you reach a T-Junction on the lane. You should easily find a place to park up here.

7. Burry Standing Stonalte (1) is now recumbent but still worth a visit, especially as it can be found in the same field as Burry Standing Stone (2). To reach the stones, you should cross the gate at the side of the large farmhouse here. This leads you directly past the farm via a public footpath. After the farm, the path veers left and you should follow this with the hedgerow directly to  your left. This leads to a junction of fields. Climb the gate to your immediate right and you will find yourself in the Burry Standing Stones field. Track the left hand hedgerow to find the recumbent megalith. This stone really is a monster of a stone and it a shame that its erection cannot be organised in some way.


8. Burry Standing Stone (2) is the smaller of the two Burry Stones but has a distinct charm of its own. Easily discernible across t

he field from Burry Standing Stone (1), the menhir is best viewed from behind with the field patterned hill providing the perfect agricultural backdrop.



alt9. Knelston Standing Stone is the last menhir left to view. To locate this, return via the footpath that brought you to the Burry Stones and take a left (towards the hamlet of Burry). Follow this road round, taking the left turn onto the A4118 to the village of Knelston. Parking in the village, take the track that lays opposite the house named Forge Acre. Follow this wide track through the farm as it takes a right turn. Climb the field gate at the end of the track and make an immediate left turn through into the next field. Here, the Standing Stone will greet you with its considerable bulk. Beautifully located and unspoilt, save for a skirt of nettles, this is a fine place to end your journey via some of the finest ancient monuments on the Gower Peninsula. 



Useful O.S. Co-Ordinates to aid your visits:

1. Llanrhidian Lower Stone SS 497 922

2. Llanrhidian Upper Stone SS 497 922

3. Oldwalls Standing Stone (a) SS 487 920

4. Oldwalls Standing Stone (b) SS 484 919

5. Samson's Jack SS 476 921

6. Ty'r Coed Standing Stone SS 475 916

7. Burry Standing Stone (1) SS 463 901

8. Burry Standing Stone (2) SS 462 901

9. Knelston Standing Stone SS 468 892

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