Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Prehistoric Burial Chambers & Megaliths in Wales

Much like the rest of the United Kingdom, Wales has an impressive collection of megalithic sites from the Neolithic and Bronze Age. These range from standing stones to stone circles, as well as burial cairns of various types, from passage tombs to chambered tombs. These structures were almost certainly associated with rituals surrounding the dead. But a number also appear to have had something to do with astronomic observations. Bryn Celli Ddu on the island of Anglesey for example is aligned with the rising sun at midsummer. 

Bryn Celli Ddu Burial Chamber

Bryn Celli Ddu is probably the most famous archaeological site on Anglesey. A Neolithic monument, it underwent several phases of development. Excavation suggests that it originated as an earthen henge containing several stone settings before people in the later part of the Neolithic period transformed it into a passage grave. In this form it represents an earthen tumulus containing a narrow stone-lined passage aligned with the summer solstice. The remains of several deceased people were then placed inside this chamber, perhaps indicating ancestor veneration.

Carreg Coetan Arthur Burial Chamber

Its name a reference to the legendary King Arthur, who plays an important role in traditional Welsh folklore, Carreg Coetan Arthur is part of a Neolithic burial chamber constructed around 3000 BC. Today it survives as a dolmen, although it is likely that the structure was inside a mound made of earth and perhaps also stone. Archaeologists excavated the site during the 1960s and 1970s, revealing cremated human bone as well as fragments of both Grooved Ware and Beaker Ware prehistoric pottery.

Dyffryn Ardudwy Burial Chamber

The double burial chamber at Dyffryn Ardudwy dates from the Neolithic or New Stone Age period. The monument’s builders probably chose the location very deliberately, on a hillside that looks out into Cardigan Bay. Excavation has shown that the first, smaller dolmen was erected here and covered with a cairn of stones, after which a second, larger tomb was built and then encased in a cairn that enveloped its older neighbour. A cup-mark is apparent on one of the tombs, evidence for prehistoric rock art.

Lligwy Burial Chamber

Dating from the Neolithic period, the Lligwy Burial Chamber comprises a circle of smallish upright stones that form a low chamber covered by a very large roof slab, thought to weigh at least 25 tonnes. It is likely that this stone chamber was originally enclosed within an earthen mound or tumulus, long since eroded away. Early excavations of the dolmen in 1909 revealed the bones of 15 to 30 people as well as animal bones, shells, and an array of pottery fragments.

Parc le Breos Burial Chamber

The Early Neolithic burial chamber at Parc le Breos is part of the larger ‘Cotswold-Severn’ tomb tradition found in this area of Britain. The trapezoidal burial mound features a central chamber with four smaller chambers branching off from it. If there were capstones sealing the chamber, as is common at similar monuments, they were never found here. The remains of at least 40 separate individuals were interred inside the tomb. Workers discovered Parc le Breos while digging for road stone in 1869, after which the site was excavated.

Pentre Ifan Burial Chamber

Pentre Ifan is the largest and best preserved of Wales’ Neolithic portal tombs. The dolmen dates to about 3,500 years BC and stands at a height of 2.4 metres above ground. Delicately supported by the narrow tips of three upright megaliths, the large capstone is thought to weight about 16 tonnes. While a number of original megaliths lay scattered about, seven are in their correct position. It is possibly that the dolmen once formed a chamber inside a larger mound or tumulus made from rocks and earth.

St Lythans Burial Chamber

In its current state, the Saint Lythans Burial Chamber represents a stone dolmen standing alone in a field, but when it was built this dolmen would have been covered by a large cairn of rocks, possibly with layers of soil and turf atop that. This mound or tumulus was probably a burial site created by its Neolithic builders to house their dead. Much folklore has built up around the dolmen and it is possible that its name stems from the medieval Welsh tale of Culhwch and Olwen.

Tinkinswood Burial Chamber

Tinkinswood Burial Chamber is a Neolithic burial tomb typical of the Cotswold-Severn type found in this area of Britain. In its original form, the tomb consisted of a stone dolmen covered by a trapezoidal shaped mound. Much of the mound has long since eroded away revealing the stones beneath. The cap stone, estimated to weigh about 40 tons and measuring 7.3 by 4.3 m, is thought to one of the largest in Britain. Various stories have grown up around the site in local folklore.