Trefignath Neolithic chambered tomb

Trefignath is the better preserved of two megalithic monuments known from Holy Island and well worth a visit.

The Trefignath chambered tomb with fabulous windswept tree, heritage signs and entrance stile.

First, about getting to Trefignath. I confess I went to this site semi-blind: without my Landranger map and without consulting the location on the Megalithic Portal, I relied on memory of a former visit, Lynch’s guidebook for Gwynedd and faith that such an important ancient monument might merit a few signposts. How naive I was!

Bilingual signs

The Cadw website is a useless waste of space in giving directions to this tomb, so checking that was as helpful as sucking on a cowpat-flavoured ice cream. My problem was that I visited years ago but since then a new road layout and massive retail estate has been built on the outskirts of Holyhead which has blocked the road by which one used to gain access to the monument as advised in Lynch’s 1995 guidebook.

Bronze Age standing stone and windmill tower, en route to Trefignath

This wouldn’t have been a problem had their been at least one or two signposts to the monument. Given all this money and investment in Holyhead and its environs, you would have thought that Cadw or the council would have bothered to advertise the location. After visiting, we drove around the entire vicinity to double-check that we hadn’t missed signposts. No we hadn’t. Whoever is responsible for this new development should be ashamed of themselves.

The Standing Stones

To add insult to injury, on the other side of the A55 and adjacent to a Morrison’s supermarket, is a blatantly pseudo-historical pub-restaurant with faux-prehistoric pretensions. Of course the ‘Standing Stones’ referred to is actually a single monolith and it is inaccessible and invisible from the restaurant itself: blocked by the A55. What a megalithic joke!

And let’s be clear, this isn’t simply a heritage destination for archaeo-freaks and neo-Pagans, this is on major tourist maps of the island, as seen below depicted on the map on the wall of the Angelsey Sea Zoo.

Trefignath appears as the trilithon symbol south of Caergybi/Holyhead and above Trearddur.


Trefignath from the north

I wish I had consulted the Megalithic Portal for this one. The Modern Antiquarian site reveals other recent visitors had the same problem as me and I have a pretty good geographical memory and sense of landscape, so I bet many visitors simply give up on this one.

The western entrance to Trefignath chambered tomb, seemingly a later addition to an earlier, simpler chambered tomb

As it happens, we ended up parking by a school (the closest we could get from Lynch’s directions) and walked along the now-closed lane for 1 km to reach the monument. This was a fine walk, despite the overwhelming fecal mess left by dogwalkers (presumed their dogs, not them). In taking this stroll rather than finding the site and parking at it, we did benefit from gaining a sense of the wider landscape setting of the monument. Also, we passed by a (?Bronze Age) standing stone en route with a windmill tower behind it.

Trefignath from the north-west

Anyway, about the monument… Despite the heritage balls up that is the ‘landscape’ around the monument, the megalithic monument itself is striking.  From Lynch’s fieldwork and account, this is a multi-phased Neolithic chambered tomb, with the earlier chamber to the west with a northern entrance and enclosed originally in a circular cairn.

Later, the monument was reworked into a rectangular chamber with two stones marking teh entrance from a very narrow forecourt, enclosed within a long cairn (extending the earlier round cairn).

The third and final phase of activity was marked by an eastern chamber, making the central chamber inaccessible.

Sadly it seems that it was as recent as the 19th century when most of the cairn was removed for walling. In this regard, the appearance of this and many other western British chambered tombs are very much the product of the modern age.

Tobias explores Trefignath

The stone is a striking ‘wavy’ form leading to interesting arguments in print about the significance of stone texture and shape at this monument by Vicki Cummings and Chris Fowler. While I may have once semi-jokingly dismissed such arguments as Neolithic ‘mind-wanking’, I have long accepted that selection of stones for their shape, colour and texture does merit close archaeological scrutiny. For me, the key dimension of the site was its orientation along a natural stone outcrop on its own distinctive ridge and the striking uprights of the eastern end of the monument.

Looking from the western capstone over the monument


Distinctively textured stones