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St. Lythans

Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech

<b>St. Lythans</b>Posted by hamishImage © Hamish
Also known as:
  • Gwal-y-Filiast
  • Maesyfelin
  • Maes Y Felin

Nearest Town:Barry (5km SE)
OS Ref (GB):   ST101723 / Sheet: 171
Latitude:51° 26' 31.23" N
Longitude:   3° 17' 37.17" W

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Neolithic evidence at cave near St Lythans

The remains of seven humans have been found in a large pit in the mouth of a cave on the Goldsland Wood site, near Wenvoe, in the Vale of Glamorgan. The pottery and flint blades found with them date the remains to about 3000 BC... continues...
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
26th August 2005ce
Edited 5th September 2005ce

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Visited 19.9.2015

No, it wasn't the equinox but as close as I could get as I am in work tomorrow and the weather forecast for today wasn't great. In fact it was 50/50 for yesterday but for once the weather gods were smiling.

I awoke at 6.00am to a grey morning but with most of the sky clear of any obvious cloud. I had wanted to see if my theory that the burial chamber lined up with the equinox was correct? I jumped into the car whilst everyone else slept and by 6.45am was stood inside the chamber.

It was very atmospheric. Low mist blanketed the surrounding fields while the sky above was becoming increasingly blue. A rabbit scurried across the field, geese noisily flew overhead and in the distance a cockeral was doing its thing. The herd of cows in the same field as the chamber came out of the mist and made their way towards me.

I scanned the horizon hoping that I would be able to see the sun clearly through the mist and any cloud. I wasn't to be disapointed. At 7.10am a bright dark orange orb rose up over the horizon and through the far trees. As it rose it changed to light orange and then a bright light too strong to look at.

I stood inside the chamber and the sun rose perfectly in line with the entrance - I was right! This was the first time I had seen the sunrise from inside a burial chamber - what a feeling!! Magnificent! It was soooooo worth getting up for..........

By now the cows had surrounded the chamber (with me inside) and one was having a good old scratch against one of the side stones. This didn't bother me as I have been in many fields with cows in so I just shooed them away when it became time to leave. Cows are nothing to be afraid of although they are large so you do need to be careful and use common sense.

On the way back to the car I bagged up a good pile of cow manure. That will do may veggie plot a bit of good next year. All in all a highly successful and rewarding morning. Something I intend to repeat at sometime. You should try it too.
Posted by CARL
20th September 2015ce

Visited 20.12.14

Not quite the Solstice but as the weather forecast was better and I take Dafydd to his swimming lessons on Sunday mornings it was to be an eve of Solstice visit. Not unexpectedly I had the place to myself. It was quite warm for the time of year although the wind was rather cutting. I looked around and waited for the sun to rise. Despite a menacing cloud bank on the horizon it was possible to tell where the sun was coming up and it was clear the chamber did not line up with the winter solstice. In fact, my guess is it lines up with the Equinox. A further visit required next year then to confirm my theory!

On the way home I popped into Tinkinswood. Again I had the place to myself although there were quite a few animals about. Sheep and rabbits in the next fields and a grey squirrel which I startled and it fled up the nearest tree. There seemed to be more ribbons tied to the branches of the tree next to the gate than I remember but otherwise things were the same. The inside of the chamber was once again under water.

Much better way to start the day than lying in bed methinks!
Posted by CARL
23rd December 2014ce

A rare event – the solstice falling on the weekend and no cloudless sky forecast!

I got up out of bed at 3.45am and (fallowing a quick cuppa) was out of the house by 4.00am. Driving past Tinkinswood I noticed two cars parked so knew there were people there. Was there anyone at St Lythan’s? In a word – no.

I parked up and took the short walk from the gate towards the dolmen. The grass was heavy with dew and my boots were soon sodden. The weather was beautiful. Not a hint of a breeze, clear blue skies and no sign of the ‘wild dog’ warned about by Evergreen Dazed!

I looked all around the chamber before standing inside to watch the sun come up. The strange thing is how much warmer it felt inside the chamber compared with outside. As the weather has been so hot over the last few days it must have heated the stones up which then radiated the warmth back out when the air cooled. It really was quite noticeable the difference in temperature.

At this point I realised that the sun would be coming up from behind trees, something I hadn’t expected. I was hoping for a clear horizon. Perhaps the people at Tinkinswood knew something I didn’t? I decided to head to there instead.

I squeezed in next to the other cars and quickly made my way across the field. Two people were stood at the entrance of the chamber and a third chap was stood on top of the capstone. It looked like he had been there all night as a tent had been set up. We acknowledged each other and I stood and watched and waited. The sky was starting to brighten and I knew it wouldn’t be long before the sun came up. However, much to my dismay, the sun was going to come up right behind an electricity pylon – nightmare! This certainly wasn’t how I wanted to watch the solstice. I decided the only thing for it was to go back to ‘Plan A’ and rush back to St Lythan’s – I still had time to make it. Also, (no offence chaps) but it felt better watching on my own.

I arrived in time to watch the sun slowly rise behind the trees. The good thing is the trees filtered the brightness of the sun so I could comfortably watch it without hurting my eyes. After about 5 minutes the sun rose above the trees and it became too bright to look at. A short while later, two of the people I had seen at Tinkinswood arrived and we had a quick chat. One of them commented on how he was feeling cold. I suggested he warm up by standing inside the chamber!

Not unexpectedly, the sun did not line up with the entrance of the chamber but I wondered if it lined up with the winter solstice? If it did, there would be an unobstructed view of the sun coming up. Weather permitting, I will return to this lovely little dolmen at the winter solstice to see if it really does line up?

All in all, a good (if early) way to start the day. Now, where to watch the sunset from?
Posted by CARL
23rd June 2014ce

I have visited the site several times this year as it is fairly local and a real hidden gem. Access to the site is excellent, with parking opposite the gate and a very short walk up a slight incline. I love the place! Posted by Supermacintyre
2nd December 2012ce

Another visit 11.11.12

Dafydd came home with his 'homework' rom school which involved having a photo taken reading a book at an 'unusual' place (he is only 4 after all).

Ahah, thought I - I know just the place!
So off to St Lythans we went with Sophie in tow.

It was a lovely morning with a clear blue sky.
Although we passed a few peoplw visiting nearby Tinkinswood we had this site to ourselves.

We parked next to the audio machine which musch to Dafydd's disappointment is already no longer working.

The area around the gate was muddy although it improved a lot the closer we got to the chamber.

A couple of photos later and we had a quick look around the tomb. As expected all was as it should be.

On Monday morning Dafydd proudly showed his photo to his teacher. I don't suppose they had many photos from prehistoric burial chambers?!
Posted by CARL
20th November 2012ce

Visited 28.7.12

A visit to St Lythans when visiting Tinkinswood is pretty much a given.

This time the audio post was in place and working fine.
You turn the dial to the required setting and give the handle a quick crank.
You then have a few minutes talk giving details of the site.
I have to say I thought this was rather good and would be of benefit to most people visiting this site – it certainly gives a better appreciation of the tomb and its surroundings.
The audio post is near the road so well away from the tomb itself.

As with Tinkinswood I had the place to myself.
In fact I have never seen anyone else here which is a shame as it is a good place to visit and easy to access.
Posted by CARL
31st July 2012ce

Visited 27.12.11

Like Tinkinswood, I was keen to re-visit this site following the excavation work carried out in October.

Accompanied by my Niece, Danielle, we parked up and squelched up towards the burial chamber.
There was clear evidence of the trench put right across the site (the turf having been put back on).

The findings of the dig concluded:
'The cairn was originally 30 metres in length and about 12 metres wide, constructed from locally collected limestone slabs and boulders. The cairn material was carefully laid on the ground with the edges of the monument defined by a low revetment. It is clear that this was once a substantial structure. The façade at the front of the chamber would have extended either side and would have formed a striking feature similar to that at Tinkinswood'

Fragments of Neolithic pottery, a fragment of a bone needle, struck flint and human bone and teeth were found. The flint appears to be early Neolithic in date. Pre-monument ground surface charcoal was also found which will be able to accurately date its construction.
Posted by CARL
3rd January 2012ce

From the end of the Tinkinswood permissive path, I take the narrow road southwards. It turns out to be surprisingly busy, on account of the main entrance to the nearby Dyffryn Gardens. But it's not far to the St Lythans long cairn. A gate leads into the field and the chamber is impossible to miss.

What a great site. The original long mound is very much reduced, but this is all about the boxy chamber that remains. It's big, not in the enormous scale of Tinkinswood, but still larger than I expected. The internal space is more than sufficient for me to stand upright and the side slabs must weigh several tons, let alone the enormous (somewhat pirate-hattish) capstone.

Unlike Tinkinswood, there's no rubbish strewn around, which helps. The internal faces of the side slabs are worn smooth, pitted with little holes and pock-marks. And there's one larger hole running straight through the top of the back slab. This must have been there before the stone was selected for use, as it appears to be natural weathering, or perhaps an air pocket in the sedimentary mud that would one day turn to stone.

I like this site a lot and spend almost an hour here. By the end of my visit I am feeling much better than when I arrived, the leg-gouging fence and feisty bullocks of the morning forgotten. I decide that it's time to revisit to Tinkinswood on the return leg.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
20th July 2011ce
Edited 20th July 2011ce

Visited 21.11.10.
After my frustrations yesterday of having my planned day out ruined by fog I was desperate to get my 'fix' today instead. It had been a while since I last visited this (CADW) site and as it is only a 30 minute drive from where I live I thought 'why not?'
(Karen is now only two weeks away from the expected date of the baby arriving so I have promised not to travel too far from home)
Taking Dafydd with me we followed the signposts and parked next to the field gate which gives easy access to the dolmen. A 50 metre walk up a small incline and you are there. Just to the right of the chamber as you approach you will see the largest of the several stones sticking out of the ground. The wind was sharp and cold so we sheltered inside the chamber – easy to do as the roof is way above head height. There is a small hole through the back wall stone which I assume is from weathering? We didn't stay long as Dafydd complained of being cold and wanted to go back to the warmth of the car - I can't say I blame him.
Posted by CARL
22nd November 2010ce

I have visited this site several times over the years as it it not far from where I live and is so easy to access. Oddly enough, although Tinkinswood gets all the 'glory' I actually prefer this site. On a windy day the stones for a sort of 'wind tunnel' when stood inside. Posted by CARL
9th June 2010ce

If you're coming from the direction of Tinkinswood, this place is well signposted, and there's just enough room to park at the side of the road. It's a short uphillish climb to the stones (through a kissing gate at the edge of the rough field) and then you can't help wondering why this place gets all the height and view compared to its neighbour just down the road. The sign at the road said 'burial chambers' so I thought I was supposed to look for something else, so like SwastikaGirl, I got confused by the (ex) ring of trees. It might be nothing old but it's a peculiar sort of thing in any case.

The tomb couldn't be more different from Tinkinswood and yet it's equally impressive. It really is like a giant greyhound's kennel, any giant greyhound would be happy to live here out of the rain chewing on a bone. I had the urge to draw it from all four directions, it's just so sculptural and solid. The drawings didn't come out very well but it was enjoyable at least, I felt like I'd seen it properly. Unlike Kammer it didn't occur to me to leap up onto the capstone - I'm sure you'd feel on top of the world up there - it would have been an undignified failure in any case.

Any sensible person might travel a long way to see either of these places. But here you have two top quality megalithic destinations just down the road from each other. What more do you people want.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
13th March 2010ce
Edited 14th March 2010ce

A mile or so down the road from Tinkinswood stands St. Lythan’s dolmen. I didn’t know quite what to expect from this site, and so after battling through the nettley hedgerow into the field, I was thrilled to be instantly charmed by this exquisitely simple dolmen.

It’s so simple, it almost defies description. Four slabs of rock, sat on a rise in a field. But it’s the way they’ve been balanced, the way they are in total harmony with their bucolic surroundings, that have something to do with their compelling magic. For once, I’m not going to eulogize at great length, but simply say that you should go and visit this place on a summer’s day, with a soft blanket, good company, and a fabulous picnic. Sit by the wonderfully textured stones, feel the sun on your face, listen to the buzzards kew-kewwing overhead, and discover a beautiful inner peace.
treaclechops Posted by treaclechops
31st August 2003ce

Visited 28th April 2003: This was one hell of a detour. We'd spent the weekend in the south east of England, and were supposed to be going home to mid-west Wales. Somehow I persuaded Louise that we should pop in and see St. Lythans and Tinkinswood on the way (adding about two hours to the journey). Armed with a crumby road atlas we eventually found our way to St. Lythans, and after a change of footwear and a stretch, we marched up the field to the chamber.

What a great site this is. From a distance the two largest uprights look flat like walls, meeting the capstone neatly. On closer inspection it's clear that all the stones are peppered with little round holes, presumably caused by weathering. There's a hole right through the smallest of the uprights, which William wanted to stick his hand through (I had to hold him up). The capstone is enormous, and I must admit (like Mr. Cope) I couldn't resist a quick look at the top of it. The top of the stone is deeply rutted with valleys and holes, full of water. I felt no mystical bad vibes while I was perching up there (I think I'm numbed to that sort of thing) but I did feel a bit irresponsible, so I hopped down quick smart. The chamber is extremely photogenic, fitting nicely into the dolmen stereotype.
Kammer Posted by Kammer
10th June 2003ce
Edited 4th August 2003ce

Ooooh! So cute! and standing just 20 metres or so from the kissing gate at the edge of the field its beautiful silhouette on the horizon. I ran up the field excitedly towards this little house of cards but made in stone, its simplicity of construction and symmetry a sheer delight. It provided perfect cover from the appalling weather for a moment until curiosity forced me out from the dolmen's cover in order that I investigate the context of the field in which it stands. The weird low western light, the stairrods-rain and the shimmer of long wet grass revealed the original shape and size of the long barrow of which this dolmen would have once been a part.

Love it! I'd love to return here on a sunshiney day with a flask of Earl Grey and a selection of interesting cheeses. A little Jarlsberg anyone?
Jane Posted by Jane
14th May 2003ce
Edited 14th May 2003ce

There is a spirit hole - not for malt - in the rear slab, stuck my creaking joints through but no luck. Think I'll stick to the malt. hamish Posted by hamish
15th November 2002ce
Edited 15th November 2002ce

Why can you buy postcards of Lanyon Quoit and yet in Wales nobody knows this exists except those in the know.

A classic of it's kind with the fabulous cows looking on at all the strange visitors and their urgent visit to their stone neighbours.

Well worth a visit and much better for the soul than the nearby out of town shopping centres.

Visit relax and enjoy.
Big Al Posted by Big Al
2nd September 2002ce

On one of the few dry sunny days of this Summer, the dolmen was a joy to visit. Once it had been found. There's a signpost at the side of the road but at this time of year the hedgerow and grass verge are so over-grown it's almost impossible to spot.
Up close the stones appear extremely weathered and even have the odd nettle etc. growing out of the various nooks and crannies. Best of all, atop the capstone, there's a very convenient patch of grass which makes for a comfortable seat should visitors wish to meditate there.
The grass surrounding Gwal-y-Filiast seemed to have been cut recently, maybe the farmer can be persuaded to direct his attentions to the hedge and the verge, as a public service.
Lovely place to visit, especially on such a day. The sun shone; insects buzzed; and a tractor hummed in the distance. Idyllic.
Posted by rnowen
5th September 2001ce

A friend and I visited this site on a whim while in the Cardiff area. The only other dolmen I've visited is the Devil's Den near Avebury. St. Lythans struck me by its subtly glorious positioning - atop a gentle rise in a field on a gentle hill - but mostly by the marvellous pockered stones. They're covered in amazing little dips and rounded, shallow holes, that give the monument a kind of Swiss-cheese-from-Mars feel. Posted by gyrus
26th June 2000ce


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The Capstone of St. Lythans Cromlech will spin round three times on Midsummer's Eve. Wishes made at the site on Hallowe'en are guaranteed to come true, apparently. Guess where I'll be in late October...asking for a million pounds. jacksprat Posted by jacksprat
25th April 2006ce

St Lythans is also known as Gwal y Filiast - the greyhound bitch's kennel. Maybe the greyhound comes from stories about Ceridwen:
The cromlech stands in cursed field, where nothing is supposed to be able to grow.

It's also known as 'Maes y felin' - the mill in the meadows. Perhaps this is because the capstone spins round three times on Midsummer's Eve, like a millstone? "Old people in the beginning of the 19th century said that once a year, on Midsummer Eve, the stones in Maes Y Felin field whirled round three times and made curtsies; and if anybody went to them on Hallowe'en, and whispered in good faith, it would be obtained. The field in which these stones stand was unprofitable, and people said the land was under a curse." (Marie Trevelyan, Folk lore and folk stories of Wales, 1909 ).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
16th May 2002ce
Edited 7th September 2016ce


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'Ancient Places' by Prof Glyn Daniel and Dr Paul Bahn (1987, Constable and Company) also mentions the stories and different names that Rhiannon recounts above. They also say that the rectangular chamber stood at the Eastern end of a mound which was about 27m long. Some human remains and coarse potsherds were found here. pure joy Posted by pure joy
8th February 2003ce
Edited 8th February 2003ce


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Tinkinswood Community Archaeology

Final Dig Diary for St.Lythans
moss Posted by moss
7th April 2012ce
Edited 7th April 2012ce

360 degree panorama of St. Lythans - August 2004
Chris Collyer Posted by Chris Collyer
3rd August 2006ce

Megalithic Mysteries - Wales

Big Al Posted by Big Al
11th April 2003ce

Stones of Wales

Big Al Posted by Big Al
11th April 2003ce