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Arthur’s stone

Arthur’s Stone, sometimes referred to as King Arthur’s Stone or Maen Ceti, can be found on Cefn Bryn. This massive stone weighs over 25 tons and marks the site of two Neolithic burial chambers, dating from around 6000 years ago. The stone is one of Gower’s best known landmarks and has long been the subject of local myths and folklore…

One famous legend tells of how Arthur’s stone came to sit where it does today. It is said that King Arthur found a pebble in his shoe and threw it across the Burry Estuary, where it landed on Cefn Bryn. Touched by the hand of the King, it grew and grew and was held up by the other, smaller stones in admiration. Legend also tells us that occasionally the stone travels down to the Burry Estuary to quench its thirst. Not that anyone has seen this happen… yet!

The presence of this lone, gigantic stone has been a source of wonder and puzzlement for local people for thousands of years. There is a Gower tradition that says a young women can use the stone to check if the man she loves will be faithful. She should make a cake of barley meal, honey and milk and under a full moon offer it to the stone. She must then circle the stone on her hands and knees three times. If the man she loves appears before her on the third circuit it is proof he will be faithful! Or perhaps just curious about what his girlfriend is doing crawling around a rock in the middle of the night…

For a long time, people believed that Arthur’s Stone was a feat of engineering similar to Stonehenge, where Neolithic people used very basic equipment to move the heavy stones into position. Today, we now understand that the stone is likely to have been carried by a glacier during the last Ice Age and was left stranded on Cefn Bryn when the ice melted (such stones are known as ‘glacial erratics’, because they appear out of place in the landscape). The Neolithic people later excavated beneath the rock to create the burial chambers and used the smaller upright stones as support.

Arthur’s Stone measures 4 x 2 x 2 metres, but it was once much larger than this. A big piece of it, weighing 10 tons, broke off sometime around 1690 and can still be seen lying next to Arthur’s Stone today. It is not clear how this happened. Some believe a miller tried to break a piece off to make a new millstone (used to ground wheat into flour), but it was too heavy to move. Others think it was struck by lightning. How do you think the piece of stone might have broken off?

 The site of Arthur’s Stone was one of the first places to be protected under the Ancient Monuments Act of 1882. Today, it is a popular attraction for many tourists coming to Gower. If you do visit, you will be following in the footsteps of King Henry VII’s troops. After landing at Milford Haven en route to give battle at Bosworth Field in the 15th century, Henry’s army made a 128km detour to visit the stone… perhaps hoping it would bring them good luck.