If I had to name my favourite Neolithic tomb in Wales, Capel Garmon would probably be the one, due to its state of preservation, its setting in the landscape and the surprise of finding this type of tomb in North Wales.
Most of the tombs in Wales are the dolmen type of structure, containing a single chamber, but Capel Garmon is more akin to the Severn Cotswold type of tombs, such as the famous Wayland’s Smithy and West Kennet Long Barrow. It was very unexpected to find this type of tomb so far away in north Wales.
An artists impression (below) shows the layout of the tomb, with a circular chamber at each end, a small rectangular chamber in the middle and the entrance via a side passage. There’s a forecourt at the eastern end which would have been used for rituals and ceremonies but there’s no entrance to the chamber from it.
Leaving Betws-y-Coed on a Saturday morning we navigated some narrow twisty roads up to the sleepy hamlet of Capel Garmon. I say sleepy because all was quiet in the village and not a soul was to be seen. We stopped to look at the map on the village noticeboard but although it showed footpaths we still weren’t sure which would be the best one to take for reaching the burial chamber and we weren’t very sure about access either, with it being on farmland.
We needn’t have worried. About mile out of the village we came to the farm road, where there was a signpost to the tomb and enough parking beside the road for 2 or 3 cars. From there it was an easy walk down the farm road, following the footpath signs until the burial chamber came into view.
The tomb is remarkably well preserved, partly due to restoration that was done after it was excavated in 1925. The trapezoidal cairn would have been about 30m in length with a forecourt at the eastern end. Stones mark out the original shape.
The entrance is via a side passage on the southern side and leads into a rectangular central chamber with an oval chamber on each side.
The main entrance into the tomb nowadays is through a large gap in the end of the western chamber. This was created when a Victorian farmer turned the tomb into a stable and removed the large orthostat at the end of the chamber.