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Megalith - or Dog Kennel?

A trip into Wales today and just north of Cardiff lie two very impressive monuments close to each other.

Here's St Lythans, a dolmen atop a small hill, what's left of a typical Neolithic long barrow. There's not much more to say history-wise other than the deceased occupants of the chamber are thought by archaeologists to have been left in a nearby cave to decay to bone before their skeletons were placed here.

Folklore is another matter though! The dolmen used to be known as Gwal y Filiast - Cave of the Bitch - which sounds mad until you learn that an 18th century landowner used it as a shelter for his greyhound bitch while she nursed her pups. It was previously believed that it was linked to the tale of Culhwch and Olwen from the Mabinogion. In this saga our Culhwch is cursed to obsess over the daughter of a giant, who agrees to give her hand in marriage if Culhwch can complete a set of bizarre and very difficult tasks. One of them is to successfully hunt the giant boar Ysgithyrwyn and take one of its tusks.

He enlists the help of Arthur - yes, that Arthur - to bring his magical hounds and it was once told that Cavall, chief hound, lived inside St Lythans afterwards.

The field here was known as the "Accursed Field" to imply that no crops would ever grow here, and, in common with just about every other megalithic site in Britain, the stones are said to wobble across the fields to the nearest stream where they take a drink - at midnight.

If you whisper your heart's desire into the chamber on Halloween night then your wishes will apparently come true - worth a trip?

I discuss the tale of Culhwch and Olwen in The Mystery Of Mercia I.

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