NGR: SN 92416 19188. On the windswept moorland of Fforest Fawr above the Llia Valley in the Brecon Beacons National Park, Powys, Mid Wales, is a very large standing stone called Maen Llia or The Stone of Llia. The diamond-shaped monolith that resembles a very tall cloaked figure, probably dates from the Bronze Age, and, is a landmark for many miles around in this remote area as it stands to a height of 12 feet and no doubt weighs quite a lot too. It probably marked ancient trackways over the high ground and was a sort of marker stone for directional use for ancient people traversing the moorland, and its shadow used as a sundial! It points in a N-S direction. There is recent graffiti on the stone though this is not easy to make out in certain light. Local legends say the stone goes down the hill to drink in the river, or that it had been picked up and thrown by a giant, but, you tend to get those legends with some of the larger standing stones. The menhir is made of Old Red Sandstone; and is situated near a country road crossing over the moorland towards Ystradfellte, 2 miles south of Heol Senni. You can’t really miss seeing this standing stone! There is another standing stone, Maen Madoc, 1½ miles to the south and close to Sarn Helen Roman road at (SN 918157). This stone has a carved inscription in memory of Dervacus.
Wendy Hughes, writing about the Bronze Age in Brecknock, in 1995, says: “Perhaps another feature of their religious rituals were the solitary standing stones, or Maenhir (long stones), found throughout Wales. In Brecknock we can see a number. One of the three largest in the area is Maen Llia between Sennybridge and Ystradfellte. It is 12 ft tall and 9 ft wide, and must leave many a visitor puzzling at the physical strength of these people to raise a stone of that size. Why did they spend so much time erecting such magnificent stones? Were they placed as some sort of marker, like a pilgrims way to a long-forgotten religious centre? Were they huge sacrificial tables to some pagan god? Sadly the questions remain unanswered.”
Barber & Williams (1989) tell us: “Maen Llia, a large standing stone above the Afon Lia (SN 924193). It is marked as Maen Llia on the Ordnance Survey maps of 1831, 1920, 1925, 1947, 1952, 1953 and 1967. The History of the Vale of Neath, by D. Rhys Phillips (Swansea, 1925), p.29, states that Maen Llia is 11 feet 2 inches high and 8 feet 4 inches in breadth. On p.743 it says that legend avers that Maen Llia loves fresh water and goes to drink in the River Nedd whenever it hears the crowing of a cock.”
Sources / References & Related Websites:-
Barber, Chris & Williams, John Godfrey, The Ancient Stones of Wales, Blorenge Books, Abergavenny, Gwent, 1989.
Hughes, Wendy, The Story of Brecknock, Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, Llanrwst, Gwynedd, Wales, 1995.
Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2021.
October 2, 2021 at 9:48 am
Great post. I imagine this and many other similar stones are indeed way stones. The presence of a Roman road further south could indicate a well traveled path.
October 2, 2021 at 9:22 am
These standing stones were, and still are, regarded as ‘signposts’ indicating the route to follow. There’s no need to invent unnecessary religious significance where none exists. Pilgrims is one of many words meaning ‘foreigner’, or people who come from elsewhere, generally from long distances.