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Maen hirs (long stones)

Gower has nine standing stones, known as maen hirs. These megalithic structures (from Ancient Greek, meaning “great stones”) are mysterious in that nobody knows much about them. Their purpose and meaning have never been properly understood, although many theories abound.

Maen hirs are most commonly associated with the Bronze Age and their size suggests that they must have meant something important to people at that time – why else would they have gone to the trouble of moving several tons of rock with no mechanical equipment!? Some believe that they are ancient markers for special locations, boundaries, ley lines or routes. Others believe they may be gravestones or symbols of fertility and seasonal rituals.

The largest standing stone on Gower lies west of Llhanrhidian. It is 3.2 metres long and known by a number of names – Samson’s Jack, Sampson’s Jack or Mansel Jack. It has been suggested that this stone is a phallic tribute to the prowess of Samson/Sampson or Mansel. Local legend also suggests that it has the power to answer your most pressing questions (how the stones goes about answering is unclear!).

Two other stones can be found around Llhanrhidian Green. The lower stone has a more recent history record, having been placed here in 1844 by a group of local men. The upper stone used to have a Celtic cross on top of it, which has since shattered off. It features ironwork embedded in the stone, which leads some to believe that it was once the village pillory – a place where offenders were imprisoned and exposed to public abuse (much like wooden stocks).

Two more standing stones can be found at Oldwalls. One lies in a field adjacent to the Greyhound Inn. It is only 1.5 metres tall and is easily missed by passers-by. The other stone is much taller at 2.2 metres but is swathed by a hedgerow and again, can be difficult to spot.

Other standing stones can be discovered close to Ty’r Coed Farm, at Knelston and in a field close to Burry village.