Starting mileage: 18397 km
Day started: 11:30
Day ended: 22:00
THE QUEST FOR THE GIANTESSES’ APRON
The druids of Rhosneigr have given you a quest: you must deliver the rune stone hidden in the Giantesses’ Apron. Your only clue is: look for the key in the Home of the Princes.
You know they mean Aberffraw – once the capital and birthplace of the Princes of Gwynedd; on the outskirts of the town there is an old inn – “Ye Centre of Heritage”. You enter the inn and ask inside.
“The Giantesses’ Apron?” answers the landlady. “Ooh, dat’ll be the old tomb by the sea. But ye’ll need a key, ye’ll need.”
You ask where you can get the key.
“Ooh, I don’t know naught abou’dat. I’m just runnin’ the inn.”
“What about the dwarves?” you ask. “The dwarves know about the graves, caves and treasure.”
“I have a dwarf girl in the kitchen,” says the landlady, shrugging. “You may ask her.”
You catch a glimpse of red hair in the kitchen door. It’s Thuggi, a young dwarven lass.
“Aye, I know all about the Apron. Barclodiad y Gawres we call it in the Old Tongue. But you’ll no get the key here. You need to go to Llanfaelog,” she adds mysteriously. “In Llanfaelog they will know.”
“It’s the next village,” adds the landlady later. “Not sure why you would find anything there. All they have is a few houses and a general store.”
You get to Llanfaelog, and it matches the description. The only major building is the general store. An old dwarven lady holds the counter. You lower your voice and ask about the Barclodiad key.
She eyes you suspiciousy, then nods and yells towards the back of the store: “Jack! Jack, come here! He’s finally come!”
“Jack” appears in the doorway, a grim, big hobgoblin, holding a great bronze circle full of old keys. He grunts at you.
“Be ye the one they’ve sent about the Apron?” he asks hoarsely. You nod, swallowing. “Jack” chooses one of the keys and raises it into the air. It’s made of stone.
“You will need to give me all the gold in your purse,” he laughs and licks his lips. You step back, grasping your sword.
“Not for ever, mind,” Jack adds hastily. “You’ll get it all back if you return with the key – and the stone…”
You look back to the dwarven lady. She shrugs. It seems you have no choice but to part with your hard earned gold pieces in exchange for the stone key.
“I will see you… shortly,” Jack chuckles as you leave the store.
The above is a rather fanciful version of what we had to go through to get the key to Barclodiad y Gawres, a large barrow mound on the cliff overlooking the sea near Aberffraw.
And man, was it worth the effort! The site is by far the best of everything we’ve seen so far; the location alone is stunning, a green round mound right at the roaring seashore. Inside the great chamber underneath the concrete ceiling of the mound stand the carved stones: great boulders decorated with spirals, chevrons and other geometric patterns. Similar patterns and mounds are found across the sea in Ireland’s world famous Newgrange.
It’s tempting to think that these geometric patterns, spirals and knots, have somehow later inspired the Iron Age inhabitants of the Celtic lands to create their own designs when decorating their stone crosses and parchments; there’s probably nothing more to this theory than whimsy and coincidence, but it makes Wales and Ireland ever so slightly more mysterious and romantic…
There was one more curious thing at Barclodiad: small bouquets of wild flowers and feathers scattered on the stones, both inside and outside of the barrow. Who laid these here, and what this custom means, we do not know; one website refers to these as “solstice flowers”, but I could find little else.
From the barrow we went north, to the last bit of Wales: the Holy Island, which is in effect a small island off a larger island (Anglesey) off a larger island (Britain) … there is one more level to this fractal structure, and that’s the South Stack, the tiny rock outcrop off the Holy Island north-west coast, with a large white lighthouse you can get to coming down a very long staircase (you can tour the lighthouse if you purchase tickets in the RSPB centre).
On the cliffs over the South Stack nest thousands of sea birds, which made the place suitable for a large RSPB reserve. The guillemots and razorbills (always together like Laurel and Hardy or Hengist and Horsa) are the majority of the wildfowl here, but there are also quite a few puffins, kitty hawks and fulmars – the usual coastal set. The reserve is free for all, there is cafe and two free car parks nearby and in the tower overlooking the cliffs there are free spotting scopes for the public, which is a great way to encourage people new to birdwatching.
The Holyhead Mountain rises over the Holy Island like a great pile of rubble; at this time of year, it’s overgrown with blooming heather, so it’s painted bright pink and purple with the multitude of tiny flowers, with spots of yellow gorse and green fern scattered throughout.
The heather hides a secret; just a few steps from the RSPB car park, following the nature trail, you stumble upon a circular wall of stone, covered with turf. Then another, and another, until you discover the entire ancient village, foundations of a dozen great roundhouses hidden in the undergrowth; the Ty Mawr hut circles, an entire village inhabited throughout the Roman era and until the beginning of the Dark Ages, preserved in great condition under the turf.
If you fancy to follow the trail further on, all the way to the top of the mountain, you’ll be rewarded with another fancy pile of stones: the hill fort and Roman watchtower of Caer y Twr, which was built to protect the coast from Irish raiders. We didn’t get that far, though; it was getting late and we had quite enough of old stones for the day.
Ty Mawr gets full marks for location: on the slopes of Holyhead Mountain, with a sweeping sea panorama below, a short walk away from South Stack reserve or the hut circles – you couldn’t dream of a better place to camp on Anglesey. The views down into the valley or up the hill are unforgettable.
It is very much a basic site, but has all you need; the toilet and shower are in a static caravan which closes when the owners go to sleep. After that, you have to make do with a portaloo in the field next to the camping ground. There are hook-ups, water points and bins, and all that for just £14 per night.