June 14, 2019 7 min read

Preseli Hills

The Preseli Hills, or as many locals believe, the Preseli Mountains are a range of hills in west Wales that are in the western part of the UK and form part of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. The range stretches from Carn Ingli at Newport in Pembrokeshire in the west to Frenni at Crymych in the east, a distance of some 13 miles or 20 km.

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Preseli Hills or Preseli Mountains

The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park was established in 1952, and is the only one in the UK to have been designated primarily because of its spectacular coastline. About 39% of the county of Pembrokeshire is covered by the National Park. Preseli Hills are one of only two inland areas within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, the other being around the upper reaches of the Daugleddau river estuary. The Preseli area of Pembrokeshire contains many small towns, villages and farms and is predominately a rural Welsh speaking part of Wales.

The two main towns within Preseli are Crymych and Newport and the villages include Abercych, Boncath, Blaenffos, Eglwyswrw, Felindre Farchog, Ffynnon Groes, Maenclochog, Mynachlog Ddu, Rhos y Bwlch and Tegryn. The local area schools, Ysgol y Frenni and Ysgol y Preseli are located in Crymych, together with a strong local rugby club, Crymych RFC. Rhos y Bwlch now includes the reopened and famous Tafarn Sinc pub, now a community owned pub since 2017. Castell Henllys is an important archaeological site in north Pembrokeshire between Newport and Cardigan, in the parish of Nevern. 

There are many tracks, walks and other activities on the Preseli Hills. They include foot races such as Ras Beca and the Preseli Beast, both national annual cross country running events 

The Preseli Hills also have a place in the folklore. ‘The Mabinogion’ is a collection of stories that are at least 700 years old and one tells of a battle between a wild boar called Twrch Trwyth and King Arthur at Foel Cwmcerwyn. Arthur’s slain knights turned to stone, while the king himself is said to lie some way off at Beddarthur, or Arthur’s Grave.

Tafarn Sinc Rosebush (Rhos y Bwlch)

Tafarn Sinc is situated in the heart of the Preseli Hills in the inland area of the Pembrokeshire National Coastal Park. It is the highest licensed pub in Pembrokeshire in located in the shadow of Foel Cwm Cerwyn in the rural hamlet of Rosebush. It is generally accepted that the name Rosebush is a corruption of the Welsh name Rhos-y-Bwlch meaning the gap on the moor.

Back in the late 1870s, a Kent entrepreneur named Edward Cropper, beame the new owner of the local quarries and his aim was to establish a spa resort in the area. A poster advertising this aim remains in the pub today. To bring in the visitors but also to transport the quarry slates he set up a railway. He also established the "Precelly Hotel" in 1876 made of corrugated galvanised iron.

Ultimately this venture proved to be a failure as firstly laboratory tests proved that the mountain spring waters possessed no special medicinal qualities, but secondly because of the poor quality of the slates. This led to the closure of the quarries by 1905. With the development of other means of transport in the earlt 20th century, the passenger train that went as far as Fishguard ceased in 1937 and the goods train in 1949.

The upland area remains mainly involved with sheep farming. An shameful attempt to turn this area of outstanding natural beauty into a permanent military training ground was thwarted in the late 1940s following a concerted campaign spearheaded by local ministers of religion and schoolmasters.

Tafarn Sinc is now a community owned pub since 2017 and there are now ‘new shepherds’ running of the pub. However, the names of Edward Cropper, his wife Margaret and step-son Joseph Macaulay are commemorated on a red granite memorial stone erected nearby.

Foel Cwm Cerwyn - Highest Point in Preseli Hills

The highest point in the Preseli Hills at 1758 feet above sea level is Foel Cwmcerwyn. Whilst many will debate whether a hill is a mountain, or not, the standard UK definition is that to be a mountain it has to be over 600 metres or 2000 feet. Using this definition, the Preseli are a range of hills and not mountains with highest point being 1,758 feet above seal level. This highest point provides exceptional panoramic views to the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland, Eryri (Snowdonia) and the Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) in Wales and the Bristol Channel and West Country in England.

The Preseli Hills have a long history of human habitation and activity. There is much evidence of this past, including prehistoric remains created in earth or stone. The Preseli Hills were an important source of slate for a very long time and were extensively quarried. Whilst slate quarrying is no longer a major commercial activity in the Preseli Hills but there are present day reminders of these historical activities, for example at Rhos y Bwlch where the remnants of the quarries can still be seen.

Preseli Hills - Preseli Mountains

King Arthur and the Preseli Bluestones

There are many notable ancient features, for example, Bedd Arthur, or Arthur's Grave, Carreg Coetan and Pentre Ifan in the area. Bedd Arthur is an ancient earthworks site sitting on top of the Preseli ridge overlooking the rocky outcrop of Carn Menyn and this area has often been suggested as a possible source for some of the Preseli Bluestones found at Stonehenge. The name Carn Menyn means 'Butter Rock'. The Preseli Hills are often associated with associated with the legendary King Arthur Arthur and Bedd Arthur is one of them. There are many others such as Carreg Coetan Arthur, a neolithic dolmen found near Newport in the west of the Preseli Hills. The hill fort, and the ongoing excavations there has been used as the location for an exercise in reconstruction archaeology, including experiments in prehistoric farming. Four roundhouses and a granary have been built back onto their original Iron Age foundations. Judging by the huge abundance of relics that remain - Neolithic burial chambers, Bronze Age cairns, stone circles, standing stones and Iron Age forts - these hills were well populated by Prehistoric man.

Preseli Bluestones Wales

In 1922, a geologist was exploring the slopes of Carnmenyn and discovered the source of the massive Preseli bluestones that make Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England.The Preseli Bluestones Wales that make up much of the inner circle of Stonehenge are made from spotted dolerite. The only known place in Britain where this rock can be found is in the Preseli Hills. If the Preseli Bluestones really came from Pembrokeshire, how were they transported 180 miles from to Salisbury Plain? In 1995, a bluestone, already fully cut, was found at the bottom of the river near to Milford Haven. This gave credence to the theory that the bluestones were floated down the river Cleddau to Milford Haven, sailed around the south Wales coast and then up the Severn and Avon rivers towards Stonehenge may have some credibility. The last part of this journey would require the bluestones to have been dragged in some way from these rivers to WIltshire. To date these questions remain unanswered.

Pentre Ifan Burial Chamber

Maybe the most well-known Neolithic burial chamber in the Preseli Hills is Pentre Ifan, which stands on a hill overlooking Newport and outward towards the Irish sea beyond. Pentre Ifan is the name of an ancient manor in the community and parish of Nevern, Pembrokeshire, Wales.

Pentre Ifan - Preseli Hills - Neolithic Burial Chamber

Pentre Ifan contains and gives its name to the largest and best preserved neolithic dolmen in Wales. It is a Neolithic burial chamber consisting of a massive capstone resting on the points of three tall pillars made of the same bluestone as those at Stonehenge.

Cwm Gwaun - Gwaun Valley

The river Gwaun runs from its source in the Preseli Hills to the sea at Abergwaun (Fishguard), a length of 10 miles. As it runs through  Cwm Gwaun (Gwaun Valley) and the village of Pontfaen, a unique part of Pembrokeshire celebrates each New Year, not on 1st January but the 13th January, known as Hen Galan.

Whilst the rest of the UK switched to the Gregorian calendar in 1752 to celebrate New Year’s Eve on December 31, over 200 years later, the residents of Cwm Gwaun still hold their own New Year’s Eve celebrations in line with the Julian calendar, on the 13th of January each year!!!

Rebecca Riots

The Rebecca Riots of the period 1839 to 1843 in the counties of Cardiganshire, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire had strong links with the Preseli Hills. The farmers and peasants of the area were enraged when in 1839 a tollgate was built in Efail Wen. Following a meeting in a local farm in the Preseli Hills, Glynsaithmaen, it was decided to attack and destroy the tollgate. It is not known who called the meeting at Glynsaithmaen farm, and nobody knows who attended. A man called Thomas Rees, generally known as Twm Carnabwth, was a leader of the first "Rebecca Riots" in 1839. These Rebecca Riots continued sporadically under the leadership of other men for a number of years to 1843.

Thomas Rees (Twm Carnabwth) died aged 70 and his grave-stone stands in  Bethel Chapel at Mynachlog-ddu, a small village on the south side of the Preseli Hills.

Newport in Pembrokeshire Wales

Newport is a coastal town in North Pembrokeshire and lies at the foot of Carn Ingli, the western most hill of the Preseli Hills range. It is also within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and is one of the most beautiful parts of west Wales.

Looking down to Newport town, the beach and the river Nevern estuary from Carn Ingli, the western most hill within the Preseli Hills range

It has a very large beach, a beautiful harbour at Newport Parrog, a famous golf club at Newport Links Golf Club and is the location of the river Nevern estuary - a popular destination for bird watchers. It also has as an active boat club, the Newport Boat Club. 

About FelinFach

Our company, FelinFach Natural Textiles is located in the heart of the Preseli area of Pembrokeshire near to Boncath. We design Welsh blankets, Welsh woollen blankets and throws which are traditionally woven at Welsh mills. We also design and make natural hand dyed yarn, cotton, silk and wool scarves and other handmade products. We are a proud supporter of the Campaign for Wool, Global Welsh and Wales International.

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