Can you read the 'script of the stones' on the Gower Pensinsula?

Take a closer look at this mighty rock. Perched upon a set of pointed supporting stones, it’s a 25-tonne boulder, measuring 4 metres wide by 2 metres high. It looks like it might topple over at any minute!

Look carefully and you’ll see that the rock is no longer whole - a section has been split off. Over time, legends have told that it was struck by lightning during a violent storm or that St. David, the Patron Saint of Wales, split the stone in defiance of the Druids who worshipped on it.

For others, the stone’s significance dates back to the end of the Neolithic period (around 2500 BC), when it was used as a burial tomb. With very basic hand tools, Neolithic builders excavated beneath the immense rock, inserting the upright stones as they dug to create two burial chambers to inter their chiefs.

Wild horses near Arthur's Stone with the Loughnor Estuary in the background © Flickr CC - Gareth Lovering photography

From our viewpoint by the stone, we also have a stunning view over the saltmarsh coastline of North Gower and across the Loughor Estuary to Carmarthenshire. At almost 200 metres, the elevated land we’re standing on is known as Cefn Bryn. This long, high sandstone ridge runs through the middle of the Gower Peninsula like a backbone.

The ridge was widely used for prehistoric ceremonies and funeral rituals. Look at an Ordinance Survey map and you’ll see it’s dotted with ancient monuments. Just north-west of the stone, three noteworthy cairns (stones piles up as memorials) have been excavated to explore their ancient role.

But whether Neolithic builders or Bronze Age worshippers, they didn’t transport Arthur's rock here themselves. These people took advantage of dramatic, land-sculpting events that still shape the Britain we see today - the Ice Age.

Britain has gone through various Ice Ages over the last 2.6 million years. During these periods, sections of the land lay under a weight of ice up to a mile thick. When the Earth’s temperature warmed up, these ice sheets slowly melted and moved downhill under gravity. Some broke up into large sections, called glaciers.

As the glaciers travelled downhill they scoured out the rocks in their path, plucking them out from the ground and transporting them in the ice. After the ice melted, the rocks were left behind. Known as ‘glacial erratics’, some rocks travelled hundreds of miles across the country in this way. Arthur’s Stone is a good example.

Erratic behaviour

Some glacial erratics have become tourist attractions. In the Victorian era, the Bowder Stone in Cumbria, had a ladder fitted to climb it and a resident hermit installed underneath! 

A stone's throw

The majestic Arthur's Stone © Nicholas Turland, Flickr CC

Arthur's Stone, Gower viewpoint

It’s easy to miss from the road and not marked on many maps, but walk just 10 minutes from the parking area and you’ll come to a giant, balancing boulder, standing watch over the North Gower coastline and across the Loughor estuary to the ‘mainland’.

Known as Arthur’s Stone, or Maen Ceti in Welsh, legend has it that the king found the rock in his shoe and threw it all the way from Carmarthenshire. Touched by the hand of King Arthur, the stone grew in size.

Gower is associated with mystic ley lines, and full of Bronze Age burial and ceremonial sites, so it’s no surprise that myths abound about this landscape.

Can you read the 'script of the stones' on the Gower Pensinsula? Click to reveal the answer


Arthur's Stone, Reynoldston, Gower, SA3 1EL

Grid reference:

SS 49141 90580

Getting there:

The stone is close to Reynoldston village on the B4271 from Cilibion to Reynoldston. Look beside the road for an unmarked craggy car park. From here follow the footpath to the stone.

Keep an eye out for:

The pretty wild horses and foals grazing the common 

Stay local:

For places to stay and things to do in Gower, Mumbles and Swansea see Gower Holidays

Arthur's Stone, Gower viewpoint credits

Thank you to - 

Caroline Millar for writing and photographing the viewpoint

Nicholas Turland for the main photo reproduced under Creative Commons License 

"I have been taught the script of the stones, and I know the tongue of the wave" - Vernon Watkins