They say that mountains make their own weather... well, I'm no meteorologist, but I can certainly see the logic in that following a wonderfully changeable afternoon upon Tair Carn Uchaf, extreme variations in light, shadow, colour contrast and visibility all helping to accentuate the visitor's appreciation of the three great Bronze Age cairns which surmount this obscure minor mountain at the western fringes of Y Mynydd Du.
These monuments first came to my attention last Easter whilst braving the elements - with the Mam Cymru - upon the great Carn Pen-y-Clogau to the north east. Perhaps this is not so surprising, since the more I see of these upland burial cairns, the more it is apparent to me that, unlike their Neolithic predecessors, these Bronze Age funerary cairns were designed to be 'seen' from upon high. To be honest, unless you were specifically looking - a suicidal tendency when driving upon Welsh mountain roads, it has to be said - you wouldn't be any the wiser from valley bottom in most cases. Such is the case here, the map essential to pinpoint the start of the walk from the minor road to the north-west of the peak.
We start off up a gated, quarry track, this soon degenerating into the barest of grassy paths, the bulk of the mountain rising above and beyond whilst the sky threatens, but never actually delivers, anything more than brief scatterings of raindrops. Briefly two large cairns crown the skyline... then they are gone. Having negotiated a short stretch of bog, tracks made by the farmer's quad bike ease the heathery ascent to the crest of the ridge above. As we approach, a large cairn is visble away to our left... heh, heh, this looks worthwhile. Then the two massive examples suddenly rear up on the skyline and I'm gobsmacked. Suffice to say that although I manage to keep my balance under the sudden onslaught of the wind, metaphorically speaking I'm lying there thinking of England.... er, I mean... Wales. As you do.
The miscellaneous Coflein post has the technical details, but can't begin to convey the sense of place here. Sure, the easternmost of the trio has been 'hollowed out'...by muppets unknown... in the standard fashion... but the two others are massive and virtually intact. To sit upon them within the maelstrom and view the sunlight racing across the mountainside is to perhaps grasp some insight, however small and fleeting, into what inspired - nay, drove - people millennia ago to labour to construct these gigantic piles of rock to honour their dead up here. Yeah, exactly. Where else is suitable once you experience it? Think of a Turner painting... ha! You wouldn't picture Valhalla in the car park of the local B&Q, would you? Unless you read the Daily Mail, that is.
Smaller cairns are visible upon Tair Carn Isaf to the southwest, but we decide to save these for another day, such is the pull of this place... the aforementioned Carn Pen-y-Clogau leads the eye northwestwards towards the great, be-cairned central summits of Y Mynydd Du and the feeling that all fits together in one grand scheme is overwhelming. We must donne full waterproofs and seek the lee to keep out a vicious weather front which reduces visibility to virtually zero in a matter of seconds, the other cairns looming through the swirling cloud as if struggling to tell their stories from beyond the mists of time. Then, sunshine bursts through and light cirrus clouds are suddenly floating in a pristine blue sky, Carreg Cennen looking sensational to the north west, all the while the wind powerful enough to batter the living daylights out of us. What an invigorating, primeval experience! Four hours is not enough... but sadly we must leave. A rabbit, I think, bolts into its hole, not unlike our own ragged psyches, I guess. Until the next time.
1) Tair Carn Uchaf Cairn A (SN69491756) - is one of three Bronze Age Round Barrows situated on local high points upon a ridge near Blaenpedol. The cairn measures 18m in diameter and 2.3m high. A central excavation crater is 7.5m wide and 1.8m deep.
2) Tair Carn Uchaf Cairn B (SN69351737) - the cairn is the most impressive in the group, measuring 22m in diameter and with a height of 3.2m. The centre is slightly disturbed by the construction of a wind break.
3) Tair Carn Uchaf Cairn C (SN69241736) - it measures 17m in diameter and 2.6m in height and there is a slight central disturbance.