Anglesey And North Wales

It would seem to be a natural assumption that Ireland, and in particular the east coast, should have similarities with the west coast of Wales. Several of the mouments certainly seem to bare a strong resemblances to Irish examples, especially portal tombs. I had this very much in my mind during this visit and my main intent became to see if the parallels existed. There are so many monuments along the west coast of Wales that one trip (even a three day one) was not going to get the job done. Most of the sites in the area I had aready seen photos of, read about or visited myself, but now I was going equipped with something new: an Irish perspective.

fig. 1 : Penhros Feilw framing Holyhead Mountain

As you approach Anglesey by ferry you cannot help taking notice of the rocky heights of Holyhead Mountain. The same is true as you move around the west side of the island. It simply dominates. From the standing stones at Penhros Feilw (SH 227 809) you can really get an idea of the mountain's power and presence (see fig. 1).

Over shadowed somewhat by the mountain and with views interupted by powerlines this pair of 4m tall standing stones is easily accessible. If you visit take the time to look around beyond the stones themselves. I was particularly struck by the fact that they seem to stand in a natural ampitheatre, which is open to the south. In this direction the dark shadowy forms of the mountains in Snowdonia really do take control of your focus. Not even Holyhead Mountain can steal their glory.

fig. 2 : Holyhead Mountain - A hut foundation

From Penhros Feilw it seemed only natural to take a trip up to the Holyhead Mountain Hut Sites (SH 212 820). Here, on the southern slopes of Holyhead Mountain is a collection of excavated Iron Age hut foundations. It may not sound too exciting, but this is an amazing place (see fig. 2). The views alone make a visit worth while, especially in fine weather. The finest examples of the huts are at the top of the slope so keep on walking.

However, I was very keen to get here for something other than the huts and the spectacular views: in several photographs I had seen what was usually refered to as a basin.

fig. 3 : Basin or bullaun?

I had different thoughts, i.e. that it was a bullaun stone , and I was correct (see fig. 3). For whatever purpose this was made it was made using the same techniques that were employed to make many of the Irish bullauns. This revelation opened up whole new areas of research that is still in progress. Until this moment I, like many others, had considered bullauns to be an Irish thing.

From here, the most north-westerly part of the island, it was time to head inland and to get stuck into some tombs. From here the journey heads on a clockwise loop around the island and then down into mainland Wales.

The original purpose of bullan stones is not really known, but they have an undisputable association with water and Brigid worship. A 'bullaun' is a deep hemispherical cup hollowed out of a rock. Bullaun Stone refers to the rock itself, which can have many bullauns in it, although many are single.

It is generally thought that they date from the Bronze Age, but I personally believe there is a much old provenance to them and that there is a relationship to prehistoric rock art, for a good example of this see Glassamucky Mountain (County Dublin).

Ritual use of some bullaun stones has continued well into the Christian period and many are found in association with early churches (The Deer Stone (Glendalough D) (County Wicklow) is just one of many at Glendalough (County Wicklow)) and holy wells. Their presence at so many early Christian sites, to me, places them as being of massive importance to the pre-Christian inhabitants of Ireland and something the church was very eager to assimilate.

The beautiful example at St Brigit's Stone (County Cavan) still has its 'cure' or 'curse' stones. These would be used to by a visitor turning them whilst praying for (or cursing) someboby.

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