Pentre Ifan

Pentre IfanDifferent rules apply in some of the remoter parts of Britain.  Allegedly, fairies – described as “resembling little children in clothes like soldiers’ clothes and with red caps” – have been seen around the old Neolithic burial chamber at Pentre Ifan* in Pembrokeshire.

Pentre IfanPentre Ifan – the name means “Ivan’s village” – is all that remains of a communal tomb constructed maybe around 3,500 BC.  The stones you see now form a doorway with a capstone on top some 17 feet (5.1 metres) long and weighing an estimated 16 tonnes.  Originally, the whole thing would have been covered with other, smaller, stones forming an enormous cairn extending back over the narrower part of the capstone to the right of the above picture.  It is reckoned that the entire structure was about 120 feet (36 metres) long, but most of the stones are long gone now.  The doorway has been blocked with another stone – presumably to close the tomb.  Bits of pottery and worked flint were discovered during excavations in the 1930s and 1950s.  No human remains have been found; and fairies are notoriously elusive, I find.

Pentre IfanIt has been claimed that Pentre Ifan is the best-known and most impressive megalithic monument in Wales, as well as the country’s first scheduled ancient monument.  But, let’s face it, most people will never have heard of it.  And it takes a bit of imagination to be impressed by old stones, until you start thinking about how on earth it was built, how astonishing the original structure was, why our ancestors did these things – and what were these people like?  Perhaps, standing there in the Preseli Hills, where some believe the bluestone rocks forming the inner circle at Stonehenge came from, you may be inclined to commune with a rock.  No?  But then will you be tempted to enter the tomb?

Pentre IfanPentre Ifan was once sometimes known as Arthur’s Quoit.  I have no idea why it is named after Ivan’s village – or who Ivan was.  Some things are simply unknowable.  It has been pointed out that the angle of the capstone is similar to the slope of the distant hill, Carn Ingli, framed in the first three pictures.  There’s another little mystery for you; Carn Ingli is itself thought to be a sacred, or mystical, place.

Pentre Ifan is a few miles south east of Newport, on a (very) minor road between the A487 and B4329.  There’s a lay-by on the road by the burial chamber and a very short walk to get to it.  It is cared for by Cadw, the Welsh Government agency.  Entry is free – and, I ask you, what can you get for nothing these days?

Pentre IfanOf course, no one would be so foolish as to rely on a cheap roadmap bought in a supermarket to find Pentre Ifan.  If they did, they’d deserve to get lost, wouldn’t they?  But they could always blame the fairies…

* Quoted on various websites and in ‘A Guide to Ancient Sites in Britain’ by Janet and Colin Bond – so it must be true.

Go to A Bit About Britain’s directory listing for Pentre Ifan.

24 thoughts on “Pentre Ifan

  1. hilarymb

    Hi Mike – I’ve posted about the various Neolithic Menhirs, Dolmen or Quoits … mostly the Cornish ones … but they are quite extraordinary structures – burial grounds … it’s thought that a lot of the stones on Dartmoor may have been moved in winter – when the ground would have been frozen … but our ancient relatives were inventive to say the least.

    Lovely post – cheers Hilary

    1. The History Anorak

      I heard a lecture some years ago (Paul Bahn, if I remember rightly) which suggested the blue stones at Stonehenge are actually glacial erratics. Similar stones can be found all across Salisbury Plain, apparently. It was some years ago, so there might be new evidence pro/con since then.

  2. Blue Sky Scotland

    I wonder if they “walked” the heavier stones, in the manner of the Easter Island statues across country or rolled them. It was interesting to see the modern demonstration of that with a similar sized stone using ropes near the top, albeit a different base, just like moving a heavy wardrobe across a room. Surprisingly effective and a lot less effort across flat ground than wooden rollers from cut trees.

  3. The History Anorak

    I’m not surprised you find them ‘elusive’ if you insist on using the F word to describe them. They are the Little People, the Lords and Ladies, or if you absolutely insist, the Fae. I feel a blog post coming on………….

    1. diane

      When I see these structures I always wonder how on earth they were constructed without machinery. The age of them is staggering too.You always find something interesting to share. Interesting processing too.

  4. Denise at Forest Manor

    Hi Mike, Once you pointed it out, I could definitely see the similarity of the slope on the capstone to the slope of Carn Ingli. Good job of photography! I agree with Judy that you have so many enormous stones, and I think it will always mystify us how those ancient folk were able to move them about as they did.

    Wales has always seemed to me a lonely country, but many of the pictures I see are beautiful. I’m sure it would be interesting to visit. Now about that cheap roadmap…you didn’t happen to make that mistake, did you? ;D If you’re like the man of this house, we refuse to stop and ask for directions when traveling. It’s not the manly thing to do. 😉

    Have a great week, Mike!

    Denise

  5. cranberry morning

    It’s amazing how many enormous vertical stones (with some placed horizontally) there are in your country. Definitely the work of fairies. I may never see those particular ones, but I do hope to see the ones at Avebury at some point.

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