Like a lot of people, due to the COVID-19 pandemic it’s been a while since I wandered anywhere very much, but now life is starting to get back to normal I dusted off my walking boots and decided to take a stroll. This morning was bright and sunny (although a bit nippy) so a walk seemed a good option. I headed towards St Lythans (in the Vale of Glamorgan) to take look at the historic burial chamber there….
It is easy to find, just off the Culverhouse cross roundabout to the west of Cardiff, head towards Wenvoe but take the first right(opposite Burger King), towards St Lythans. You go past some lovely houses (and I also spotted a rather attractive llama), and after no more than a handful of minutes driving, there it is on the left, just as you are heading into Duffryn (the next little hamlet).
There is a place to park, but its only a scruffy little lay-by, and I think to get even three cars in would be a squeeze, so I was lucky… there was only me…
Go past the information board (House of the Rising Sun) and through the kissing gate, and there it is… St Lythans Burial Chamber..magnificent, simple, ancient… sat at the top of the small hill. Beautiful, and apparently not yet excavated, so its secrets remain untold.
As you get closer its size becomes more apparent. The capstone is rather large! How our Neolithic forefathers got it there is astounding. Legend has it that on midsummers eve the capstone spins around three times…. crikey that is one big stone frisby to avoid.
St Lythans Burial Chamber
Inside the three sided chamber is warm and sheltered, the grey, scarred, lichen encrusted stone is both pitted and tactile. In one little hollow there were some small bones and coins…. not sure why but seems likely to be an offering of some sort…. I didn’t feel the urge to leave an offering. I did however, feel uplifted. In the green, lush, wildflower filled field, this ancient monument has been allowed to stand unspoilt, for anyone to visit, for free . I am thankful for that. It was clean, peaceful, green and the only noise was the birds…lovely
But being bit greedy of course, I wanted more… So I decided to set off to the burial chamber next door, in Tinkinswood. Leaving my car in the dusty lay-by I headed off on foot in the direction of Duffryn. Heading pasta beautiful old tree, and then took the next right turn, onto Duffryns Lane.
It isn’t far – about a twenty minute easy walk along country lanes surrounded by ancient woodland, babbling brooks and noisy birds. You walk past the National Trust Dyffryn Gardens, first there is the back entrance which is a padlocked and interesting looking old gate, then the front entrance which looks much more modern, and easier to use, but way less intriguing.
Dyffryn Gardens – The interesting but barred back gate and the front entrance
Tinkinswood Burial Chambers is a few more minutes walk, on the left, and clearly signposted. There is once more limited parking space here.
Welcome to Tinkinswood Burial Chambers
Its a lovely walk from the road to the actual burial site, over a little rickety bridge, past blossoming trees which I presume were almond as there was really strong almondy smell there. Walk through a lush greenfield, and then you catch sight of the monument. At the top of this small tump, sprawling underneath a huge pylon.
Approaching from this side I thought the site of the burial chambers was not accessible, as there is a small wire fence surrounding it, but go to the left and you see a kissing gate and entrance. Past the information boards (welcome to The Restless Dead!!) and hey ho… you are on the actual site. The Tinkinswood Burial Chambers are considerably bigger than St Lythan’s, and have been excavated. They are apparently of more archaeological significance, but for me they lacked the simplicity which I had felt much more drawn to in the simpler, solo, St Lythans. There is more to see here though, the whole site is bigger, and you can clamber into it. The capstone is huge, apparently around40 tons. There is also the burial pit that was built in the bronze age and is still clear to see, along with several heaps of really old stones, that I think maybe important but I am not sure what or why…
Archeology is the art of uncovering ancient stories, and I am pretty sure that a modern day archeologist would be much less likely to erect a solid ‘I was ‘ere’ sign and concrete it to an ancient sacred monument than they used to be. But back in 1914 they weren’t so fussy, and that isexactly what it looks like they did. Add to that the apparent need to jazz it up with lots of herringbone brick work, and you have this rather strange mishmash. See past that though, and the actual burial chamber is rather astounding. It is apparently linked to the legend of King Arthur too somehow.
This was considered a sacred ground well after the neolithic gravediggers moved on, and some still consider it sacred, despite the urge that folk had to embellish with fancy brick work. It is said that Tinkinswood still has the power to change you, and that if you are on this ground the nightbefore May Day you will either die, go mad or be a poet! I think option 3sounds far and away the most preferable!!
I decided to walk back to St Lythans via the other path into Tinkinswood, and do a circular walk, so headed over the small hill down through several fields, through a number of brand new galvanised gates, and not seeing another soul. I saw some fat sheep, several pheasant, and lots of noisy little birds, and walked past some fabulous hedgerows and trees, ending up at a pretty little bridge.
St Lythans was to the left but I headed right towards the sign post for Dyffryn Springs as I thought that might be a waterfall, but itt urned out to be wedding venue, which wasn’t really what I was after, so I sat on a bench near a stream and a thatched cottage and drank my flask of coffee while taking in the view.
All rather idyllic to be honest. Then a 20 minute walk back to the car and home.
What a lovely wander I had.
Thanks again to welshwanderwoman for sharing her wandering and wonderings with us. Take a look at her blog site for more inspiring places to visit
Positively prehistoric – welshwanderwoman (wordpress.com)
If this left you inspired, take a look at our Vale Trail 7, Haunted Field Walk, which includes all the sites welshwanerwoman visited here.