Sacred Places of Wales

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Pentre Ifan (Pentray Eevan) and Castell Henllys

Castell Henllys
The little seaside resort of Newport, an ancient town on the estuary of the River Nevern, can be reached on the A487 north from Fishguard (Abergwaun: Aber Gwine) or south from Cardigan (Aberteifi: Aber Tie-vey). Overlooking the town on the slopes of Carn Ingli are the remains of an Iron Age fort and pre-Christian hut circles. Going north, less than two miles out of Newport, where a side road leads to Nevern, you will see the sign pointing to Pentre Ifan on the opposite side of the road. A small lane, unsuitable for buses or coaches, leads up to a small lay-bye where you can park for a brief walk across the fields to the burial chamber, situated in isolated splendor on a ridge overlooking the mysterious Preseli Mountains.

The word "Pentre" in Welsh signifies village: translated literally it means "head" or "end of the town." Who was Ifan? That is unknown, but the impressive structure (said to be the finest in Britain) dates back to a time earlier than 2,000 BC. The earth mound has eroded away to expose a massive capstone (over l6ft in length) supported by huge, though spindly-seeming uprights, some of them worn to a point at the top. This leaves the impression that the capstone is precariously balanced (though in Victorian times it was the custom for well-dressed ladies and gentlemen to enjoy picnics seated on the flat top).

Pentre Ifan, WalesIn the vicinity of Pentre Ifan is another historic site worth our attention: just off the A487 to Cardigan and visible from the road is Castell Henllys (Casteth Hen thleese). This Iron Age and Romano-British Hill fort was partly excavated and partly reconstructed to show the kind of huts lived in, the various crafts and animal husbandry practiced and so on. On the A487 heading east just after you leave Newport (which is twinned with Annapolis, Maryland) is the Golden Lion (Llew Aur: Thlew Ire) an attractive pub with full catering and overnight facilities.

Reluctantly, we now leave Southwest Wales, the land of mystery and magic (Gwlad hud a ledrich: Goolad heed a led rick) and the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. We now head eastwards across Wales in the direction of Brecon. On our way, we detour to a very sacred spot: for on the banks of the Teifi (Tie-vee), a few miles outside Tregaron (Tray Garron) in Cardiganshire, we find the ruins of the abbey at Strata Florida.

Next Stop: Strata Florida
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