The Gower peninsula is officially one of Britain’s most attractive places. In 1956 it became the country’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Poking from the south Wales coastline like an extra finger, its land area of 70 square miles is half that of nearby Swansea or Bristol. Yet the Gower’s diverse scenery includes sandy beaches, rugged cliffs, rolling moors and ancient forest. These varied landscapes tempt many visitors but overall the Gower still feels remote and other-worldly.
The Gower is famous for its spectacular limestone coast. The spine of the peninsula though is a long, sandstone ridge called Cefn Bryn. Near its summit, around 200 metres above sea level, is a giant boulder known as Maen Ceti or Arthur’s Stone. Despite being four metres tall and weighing 25 tonnes, the stone can be hard to find. It’s invisible from the nearest road and missing from many maps.
Just over half a mile from the village of Reynoldston a windswept moorland road leads to a small parking area. Unsigned and unsurfaced, the ground is so bumpy it’s reassuring to check your car hasn’t lost any wheels. From the car park, Arthur’s Stone is a ten-minute walk across the grass. The immense rock stands delicately balanced upon on a group of smaller boulders. A large section has broken off and lies on the ground like an altar. Legends claim that St David split the stone so druids couldn’t use it for worship.
The Gower is sprinkled with the remains of prehistoric religious sites. Around 2,500 years ago the ground below Arthur’s Stone was dug out to create a Neolithic burial chamber. The stone was one of the first protected by the 1882 Ancient Monuments Act. Other examples survive in the surrounding area, including several cairns and barrows.
Nearby, a group of wild Gower ponies nuzzle the grass. These four-legged locals aren’t the only equine encounters here. King Arthur’s ghost is said to gallop by on a white horse. Another tale claims that Arthur emerges from under the stone at each full moon. The stone’s name apparently derives from Arthur finding a pebble in his shoe and flinging it away, Where it landed, the pebble grew into a huge boulder.
The truth is less romantic but equally dramatic. Arthur’s Stone was probably deposited on Cefn Bryn during the last Ice Age. From around 2.6 million years ago, much of Britain was covered by ice sheets up to a mile thick. As the ice eventually thawed, glacial meltwater carried large rocks such as this to new locations. Now perched like a sentry on top of the ridge, Arthur’s Stone has inspired myths and legends. This guardian of the Gower is also a reminder of the stories behind nature’s beauty.
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