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Romancing the Stones in the Preseli Hills

Easy walking to a spectacular hill around some of the most mystical rocks on the planet.

Distance 5.5 miles (8.8km)

Minimum time 2hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient 560ft (170m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Mainly clear paths across open moorland, no stiles

Landscape Rolling hills topped with rocky outcrops

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer OL35 North Pembrokeshire

Start/finish SO 165331

Dog friendliness Care needed near livestock

Parking Small lay-by on lane beneath Foeldrygarn

Public toilets None on route but plenty of sheltered nooks and crannies

Notes Navigation very difficult in poor visibility


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1 Walk to the right out of the lay-by on the lane from Crymych, then turn right up a stony track. When you reach the gate, keep going straight ahead for another 100yds (91m) or so, and then fork left on to a grassy track, which soon becomes clearer as it winds its way up the hillside. Follow this all the way to the rocky cairns and trig point on Foeldrygarn.

2 Bear left at the summit and locate a grassy track that drops to the south. Cross the heather-clad plateau beneath, aiming for the left-hand corner of a wood. When you meet the main track, turn right to walk with the edge of the wood on your left.

3 Leaving the wood, the path climbs slightly to some rocky tors. The second of these, the one that's closest to the track, has a sheepfold at its base. Shortly after this, the path forks and you follow the left-hand track down to the nearest of the group of outcrops to your left.

4 This is Carn Gyfrwy. Continue on faint paths to the larger outcrops ahead, then curve right and drop slightly to Carn Menyn, the lowest of the bunch, perched precariously on the edge of the escarpment. The path becomes clearer here and drops slightly into a marshy saddle that can be seen ahead.

5 In the saddle you'll meet the main track. Turn left and follow it steadily up towards Carn Bica, which is visible on the hillside ahead of you. Just before this, you'll cross the circle made by the stones of Beddarthur.

6 Turn around and retrace your steps back to the saddle. Climb slightly to pass the tor with the sheepfold and stay on this main path to walk beside the plantation once more, now on your right. At the end of this, drop, on a grassy track, down to the gate. Turn right on to the lane and continue back to the car park.

A circular walk around the most interesting sites of the Preseli Hills is almost impossible. The uplands form an isolated east-west ridge that would at best form one side of a circuit linked with a lengthy road section. Instead of taking this less-than-ideal option, this walk forms a contorted and narrow figure-of-eight that scales the most spectacular hill on the ridge, traces the line of the famous dolerite outcrops, or carns, and then makes an out-and-back sortie to an impressive stone circle. Convoluted it may be, but it's packed with interest and easy going enough for most people to complete comfortably.

The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is best known for its stunning coastline. Britain's smallest National Park is in no single place further than 10 miles (16.1km) from the sea. This furthest point was a deliberate extension of the boundaries to incorporate one of the most important historic sites in the United Kingdom, the Preseli Hills.

It was from Carn Menyn, one of the rocky tors that crown the marshy and often windswept hills, that the bluestones forming the inner circle of Stonehenge were taken. These bluestones, or spotted dolerite stones to give them their proper name, would have each weighed somewhere in the region of 4 tonnes and must have been transported over 200 miles (320km) in total. To this day we cannot explain how or why.

The Stonehenge story, significant as it may be, is only part of the historic and, at times, mystical feel of this narrow, grassy upland. The track that follows the ridge is an ancient road, perhaps dating back over 5,000 years. It's probable that it was a safe passage between the coast and the settlements inland at a time when wild predators such as bears and wolves roamed the valleys below. Gravestones line the track, most likely those of travellers or traders who were buried where they died, and other standing stones dot the hillsides.

West of Carn Menyn, beneath another impressive outcrop named Carn Bica, there's a stone circle known as Beddarthur. Small by comparison to Stonehenge or Avebury, its oval arrangement of 2ft-3ft (0.6m-1m) high stones is said to be yet another burial place of King Arthur; 'bedd' means grave in Welsh. There are certainly links between the legendary historical superhero and the area; it's suggested that the King and his knights chased Twrch Trywyth, the magical giant boar, across these hills before heading east.

While you're there

Slate quarrying was once big business in the Preseli Hills and the remnants of this activity are still visible in places like Rosebush, to the west. If you'd like to see the kind of thing that can be crafted out of the smooth, flat stones, take a look at the Slate Workshop at Llangolman, where authentic Welsh slate is still put to good effect in a variety of craft items.

What to look for

Foeldrygarn translates to 'the rounded or bare hill of three cairns', and when you reach the summit you'll easily see why. As well as the concrete trig point, the rounded summit is adorned with three huge piles of stones that were at one time giant Bronze-Age burial cairns. The summit is also guarded by the visible remains of the ramparts of an Iron-Age fort.

Where to eat and drink

There's nothing on the route so it's best to head west to Rosebush where the Tafarn Sinc does good food and welcomes children in the eating area before 9pm. There's also decent food to be found at the New Inn (Tafarn Newydd) on the main road on the other side of the village.


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