Before taking the hired car back to Llandudno Junction and moving on to Chester, my sweetheart and I (well, we’re both historians) decided to pay a visit to the famous Neolithic monument of Bryn Celli Ddu in South Anglesey – a 5,000-year old burial chamber that’s remarkably well preserved and can be accessed freely! We had real difficulties finding it, though; there was just a small car park and a sign that pointed to a narrow path lined with hedges and fences. We walked along that path, past meadows with cows, for about a mile; then a turn – and there it was, right before us, one of the oldest monuments in Europe!
It was built around 3,000 BCE, originally as a henge with a stone circle, like a smaller version of Stonehenge. Human remains were burnt and buried in the centre of the circle, which obviously served as a ritual place and maybe even for marking the territory of the tribe. Then, about a thousand years later, the standing stones were demolished and a passage tomb was built instead; as usual in those tombs, the stones were aligned exactly so that the sun’s rays would shine into the burial chamber on summer solstice – our ancestors were very good at astronomy, as the seasons were very important to them!
It really was a fascinating experience – and a bit eerie, too! – to enter the old dark chamber; it’s very narrow and low-ceilinged, and Ian is 6”4’… We were quite glad to get back into the daylight again!
Anyway, visiting Bryn Celli Ddu was one of the greatest sightseeing experiences I’ve ever had; and just to think that it’s hidden there in the meadows, known only to people with an almost abnormal interest in prehistory – but maybe it’s safer that way, far away from pollution, tourism and vandalism…
Next episode: The old Roman British Town of Chester