Circle 278 - Not!

Stone Setting - Gwynedd

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SH 72202 74630 (GPS 29min) Diameter ? (see text).
Visited August 2001 No magnetic anomalies

Our apologies for the title name for this site, but it has the merits of being concise and, we feel, of instantly expressing the confusion commonly existing over the identification of this monument.

The stone setting shown above is featured on many internet sites as being "Circle 278", it is not. The real Circle 278 is a low ring cairn which lies unobtrusively a little way to the south. The "real" Circle 278 has an open central space which was walled with contiguous standing stones, surrounded by a low stony bank up to 2.5m thick, which was in turn ringed with kerbs (1). The cairn was excavated in 1959, when an urn containing a cremation was found lying against the inner stones at the NW. At the other side of the inner space at the SE, a scatter of cremated bones, probably those of a female, was found. Charcoal from the site has been carbon dated to about 1780BC, giving a Bronze Age date for its ritual usage.  The Druid's Circle and Circle 275 both stand nearby, but as Barnatt (3) points out, "neither are visible because circle 278 is built within a natural hollow", which probably explains why so many people fail to find it. A plan diagram of the Circle 278 ring cairn was published in 2000 (2).

The stone setting covered here is a puzzle, stones stand at the periphery of the site at the north and south, approximately 12m apart and probably mark the outer edges of the structure. A roughly circular jumble of stones lies between the outer stones. From the stones in the jumble that appear to be embedded and erect, there may have been an internal space about 5m in diameter. The site has sometimes been described as a stone row or alignment with a N-S axis, but so many of the stones have been disturbed it is difficult to tell if this fortuitous.
There are two sites listed on the CARN database as being within 30m of our GPS co-ordinates (3m accuracy), for the stone setting, both are described as "Enclosures", one prehistoric, and one of unknown age. With such large erect stones, which are easily visible from the nearby Druid's Circle, it is easy to see why so many people have mistaken this site for Circle 278.  

If we ever make a return visit to the Penmaenmawr headland, you can be sure that we will be featuring images of the "real" Circle 278 on this website very soon thereafter.

1. Burl A. A Guide to the Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany. Site 245d,1995, Yale University Press
2. Lynch F., Aldhouse-Green S. & Davies J.L. Prehistoric Wales, p134, 2000, Sutton Publishing
3. Barnatt J. Stone Circles of Britain, B.A.R. 215(ii) Site 13:13, 1989, Oxford

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