High above Tre Taliesin, on a small plateau in the shelter of Moel y Garn lies a small chambered tomb from the Bronze Age. At 220m above sea levels this is an isolated area today with only a few farms this high, but with superb views over the Dyfi Estuary, except of course on the day we were there. But before we go any further, let’s set the story straight, Taliesin was not buried here. Taliesin lived in the 6th century, and this tomb was built at the latest during the Bronze Age, though there are some who suggest that it’s design could indicate a Neolithic date (Nash, 2006), as it’s design is similar in some ways to Capel Garmon. First let’s get Taliesin out of the way. Yes he was a historical person, and one of my friends completed her PhD on him. Taliesin was the founder of the Welsh poetic tradition, who like many bards of the time plied their trade by being very complementary to their patrons, and some of his surviving work praises the rulers of Powys and Rheged (modern Northern England and Scotland). Only later did he become a semi-mythical character with the perceived association with Cantre’r Gwaelod.
Did I mention that this was a small tomb? This is no exaggeration, Aunty was a little underwhelmed as I dragged her over to see it. I’ll not quite quote her as exclaiming “Is that it?”, but it’s not far from the truth. In fact you have to know it’s there, otherwise it would be very easy to miss if you happened to be walking past. It’s in a ruinous state today, and has been from some time. In 1781 Thomas Evans wrote:
The spurious sepulchre of the Bard Taliesin, who flourished in the 6th century and one which stood near the highway, has, within these five years, been entirely plundered and broken stones are now covered into gateposts.
The tomb is described as having a central passage or long chamber. Though this is difficult to identify now as the capstone has been displaced, but the mound in which it has been placed is clear, as it stands propped of the surrounding field. There haven’t been any real attempt to serious excavate the tomb, which is a shame as it seems to stand alone in the landscape, though there are plenty of Neolithic and Mesolithic sites lower down in the Dyfi Valley. But there are some Bronze Age cairns and a standing stone about 2km to the west, but nothing very nearby has been identified.
Coflein has only a short description, describing it as a Bronze Age an asymmetrical cairn, 12m NNE-SSW by 13m, with a NNE-SSW orientation. There are elements of an apparent kerb about 6m in diameter, which if you use your imagination can be seen. The burial chamber, or cast is only about 2.0m by 0.5m. There is a local legend (well there always has be a legend with something this old doesn’t there?) that states that if you sleep in the tomb overnight you would either wake up the next morning a poet or a madman. This not a challenge I fancy taking up, the bedroom is far too small, too drafty and there no room service.
Although now seemingly in an isolated area people have been aware of the tomb for sometime, and not just among the local farmers who have used the cairn as a ready source of stone for the walls and gateposts in the past. The capstone is covered in graffiti, though not so easy to see now, as much of it is covered in lichen. But it is there, though not to read. Graffiiiis nothing new, today it’s done mainly by spray paint, but during my travels I seen it on a number on ancient monuments, from isolated welsh hill sides to ancient Egyptian temples. It seems we all want to leave our mark for posterity, perhaps as a recognition that that though our lives are short, stone seemingly lasts for ever.
Coflein. Bedd Taliesin. [https://www.coflein.gov.uk/en/site/303607/details/bedd-taliesin] Accessed 22 Aug 2020.
Nash, G. (2003) The Architecture of Death: Neolithic Chambered Tombs in Wales. Logaston Press.