Nearest town: Barry
Nearest village: St Nicholas
Map reference: ST 092733
The enormous capstone (7.4m x
4.5m - 24ft x 15ft) of this cairn is believed to be the largest in Britain
Tinkinswood is also known as Castell Carreg, Llech-y-Filiast, Maes-y-Filiast and Gwal-y-Filiast: names possibly connected to King Arthur's saga. Built around 4000 BC in a small valley in the Vale of Glamorgan, this cairn is a fine example of the Cotswold/Severn regional type: a long wedge-shaped cairn, containing a rectangular stone chamber.
Lying a short distance from St Lythans dolmen, Tinkinswood is fronted by a horned forecourt of drystone masonry with a herringbone pattern indicating the parts restored in 1914 after a thorough excavation. The walling was upright, unlike that at Parc le Breos. The enormous capstone measures 7.4m x 4.5m (24ft x 15ft) and weighs about 40 tons; it is believed to be the largest in Britain and it would have required the efforts of some 200 people to lift it into position.
The covering mound is still prominent (40m x 18m - 130ft x 60ft), and inside the chamber were 920 pieces of human bone, nearly all broken, showing that at least 40 people of both sexes and all ages were buried here in Neolithic times. The horned entrance faces north-east and in the mound itself, behind the capstone, lies an enigmatic stone-lined pit, whose purpose in unknown. Corpses were probably left exposed in it before the skeletons were finally interred in the burial chamber. The remains of other bones, soft red Neolithic ware, and Beaker style pottery were also found, showing that the tomb was probably used by a small community over a long time, maybe up to the early Bronze Age.
The tomb has collected a number of folk tales over the years. The best known of these legends is that anyone who spends a night at this site on the evenings preceding May Day, St John's Day (23rd June), or Midwinter Day would either die, go raving mad, or become a poet. The group of boulders to the south of the monument is said to be women turned to stone for dancing on the Sabbath: a common theme in the folklore surrounding megalithic sites, just like the Merry Maidens in Cornwall.