I hoped that the pillar would be marked on the road signs as I got closer for, although it was marked on my map, it was not entirely clear which of the dots close to the name represented the actual pillar. I was soon travelling along a pass through the mountains, and began to wonder if the pillar might be mounted at the top of one of the cliffs. If it were, I resolved to climb again, for these cliffs looked no more formidable than the climb to Castell Dinas Bran.
I was beginning to wonder if I had somehow passed the pillar when I came to a picturesque ruined abbey, clearly a tourist attraction. A sign told me that this was Valle Crucis Abbey, and that it had once been the second richest of all the monasteries in Wales. Even today it is the best preserved mediaeval monastery in Northern Wales. It was originally built in 1201 and many of its walls and pillars still stand, though the roof is entirely gone.
The name Valle Crucis, "Valley of the Cross", made me think that I might be near Eliseg's Pillar, so I went to the gates of the abbey and spoke to the bored-looking attendant there. I told him that I had not actually come to see the abbey, but was looking for Eliseg's Pillar. Immediately, his mood changed, and he brightened visibly at my request. He told me that too many visitors came here only to visit the ruins of the abbey, when Eliseg's Pillar was far more important to the Celtic people. Clearly not a Walding, since he was more interested in local history than in persuading me to part with some money and visit the abbey, he pointed me happily in the direction of the pillar.
Unlike the abbey, which has been turned into a camping site and money-making tourist attraction, Eliseg's Pillar sits alone and unmarked in the middle of a farmer's field. The farmer has kindly provided a gate in the fence and a path by which visitors can reach the pillar.
The pillar is surrounded by a small iron fence. There is no longer a cross, and the pillar itself was broken long ago. A few hundred years past, a local lord repaired it, claiming credit by carving it on the stone.
I walked around the pillar, examining, though not understanding, the carvings on each side. I felt the importance of the place, and was sure that the ancient victory must have been a significant one.
By the time I headed back to the road, I was hungry, and was glad to see a friendly-looking inn only a few hundred yards away, with a stable for my horses. The place had a beautiful rock garden and extensive grounds. It was clearly the edge of a much larger farm.
One of the family who runs the inn introduced me to their big shire horses, brown and black, with hairy feet and friendly noses that they shoved into my hand. They had hero-names, Napoleon and Wellington and Alexander and others.
After I had been introduced to the shire horses and had heard about their personalities, and my own horses had been cared for, I was invited inside for lunch. I had a relaxed and pleasant meal, and lingered over my coffee to talk more about the area and the wonderful horses.
Before I left I noticed a display case at the front of the inn, where they provided souvenirs for travellers. They had several plush copies of their shire horses, and they talked me into getting one to bring back to Esmerel. I bought a small black one and named him Cymru, that being the proper name of Wales.
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