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Wales 2017 - Year of Legends
A bit about Wales, UK
Wales is the home of legends, landscape and lots of adventure. Located in the United Kingdom (adjoined to England and across the sea from Ireland) it is a special part of the world that has recently garnered much attention as a place to learn about and visit for those lucky enough to do so.
Thanks to its positioning within the world, Wales actually has some of the most wonderful natural landscapes on earth, with mountains, seas, hills, waterfalls, lakes, rivers and quarries all frequently found - of which adventure and activity can always be enjoyed.
Looking back through Wales' history, it has gone through a lot to get to where it is today. There are a number of real stories and myths that make up some of the well known and important Welsh legends, of which the rest of this hub will outline!
Hope you enjoy reading and encourage you to visit Wales!
What is the Year of Legends?
The Year of Legends is a tourism campaign that has been set up by the Welsh Government to help showcase Wales and its rich history of legends.
The ancient landscape in Wales is everywhere you look. When observing the magical natural environment it is almost immediately clear to see that this is a land of legend, myth and folklore.
The language of Wales is linked to the famous legend that is King Arthur, along with our Celtic ancestors. Wales is a land of majestic mountains and mighty skies that are fringed up with a simply spectacular coastline.
The Year of Legends is here to ensure that you know all about the very old places, the new places that were inspired by the old and the magical landscapes.
This is Wales.
King Arthur was a Romano-British chief that had fought time and time again against the invading Anglo-Saxons in the 5th century.
Whilst not strictly Welsh, many Welsh poets and story tellers enlightened folk all about King Arthur and his entourage, who are strongly linked to a number of places around Wales. This ranges from stones and caves, lakes, islands and hill fortresses.
His famous sword, Excalibur is said to be resting somewhere in Wales. There is however, no definite location - though it is thought it was thrown into one of the lakes; Llydaw, Dinas and Ogwen (all of which are in the Snowdonia National Park). Some say that the 'Lady of the Lake' actually gave this magical sword to Arthur, thus throwing it in the lake was his duty to return it.
Owain Glyndŵr (c1359–c1415)
Owain Glyndŵr is remembered today through the special flag, which features four lions upon a gold and red flag. He is famous for being a national hero who was born around 1359 into a Welsh noble family and served the English as a crown soldier.
At one point Glyndŵr had retires into the borderlands living a peaceful life, until a neighbouring baron attempted to kick him out of the lands. This sparked fury in Glyndŵr, and his fight for justice ignited a complete rebellion against Henry IV.
Glyndŵr proved successful as he by 1404 controlled most of North and Mid Wales from Harlech Castle. He held his first parliament in Machynlleth, where he became crowned the Prince of Wales. This was the last time a native Welshman held the title. The rebellion was eventually suppressed a few years later, through Glyndŵr himself was never captured. He did however mysteriously vanish. Nowadays, the first born of the King or Queen is called the Prince of Wales by tradition.
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Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (c1223–1282)
Translating to Llywelyn ‘the Last’, or Llywelyn ‘our last leader’, was the sovereign Prince of Wales who came from noble lineage. His grandfather was Llywelyn the Great, who ruled over Wales for 45 years.
Even though Llywelyn controlled three-quarters of Wales from Snowdonia in 1270, his reign was constantly under attack from the English crown, Marcher Lords, lesser Welsh princes and even his own brothers. It took until 1282 until the English soldiers killed him near Builth Wells as his rallied support in Mid Wales.
He is commemorated in Cilmeri by a stone monument and known as one of the most important figures in Welsh history, even to this day.
Merlin has featured across Welsh legends, especially in early Celtic literature as a mystical man of the woods. He is of course most famous for being King Arthur’s supernatural sidekick, though he does indeed feature in Wales. It was the boy wizard Merlin who found out the reasons why the castle of Dinas Emrys near Beddgelert kept falling down.
He discovered that there was a red dragon and white dragon fighting beneath the castle. As legend grew, Merlin was made Arthur’s wise counsellor and court magician and is most strongly linked to Carmarthen. This is because the Welsh name is Caerfyrddin; Myrddin is the Welsh form of Merlin, hence ‘Merlin’s Fort’.
Llyn y Fan
This is a lovely Welsh glacial lake on the western side of the Brecon Beacons National Park. It is here where the beautiful Lady of the Lake lived, who married a local farmer.
There was however an agreement that is he struck her three times, she would return to the lake with all the farm animals and without him. The marriage did soon end and she returned, however their sons went on to be the start of a line of generations of expert herbalists and healers known as the Physicians of Myddfai – an important family and line of physicians in the world.
‘Brân the Blessed’ was the giant king of Britain, ruling the island from his court in Harlech, North Wales. He married off his sister to the King of Ireland but soon discovered she wasn’t being treated very well and decided to rescue her. Since he was a giant, he was able to wade across the Irish Sea and then lay across the River Shannon, acting as a bridge for his army to pass over.
Unfortunately he was mortally wounded in this adventure but instructed his army to cut off his head and bury it in London, facing towards France to ensure that Britain would never be invaded by sea.
There have neem a number of famed Welsh pirates, with the most successful being Bartholomew Roberts (1862-1722). He was also known as Black Bart – or Barti Ddu. He was drawn into piracy hen his ship was captured by another Welsh prince, Howell Davis. Even though he was the prisoner, he was soon the leader of the ship, following Davis being killed in battle.
His new motto “a merry life and a short one” was then transcended across the ship and crew, which the no fear approach allowed them to capture over 400 ships over the coasts of Americas, Caribbean and West Africa. He was eventually killed off the coast of Gabon, where a grapeshot fired by the Royal Naval warship HMS Swallow took his life.
Twm Siôn Cati
Born in Tregaron around the year 1530, Twm was a famous trickster, thief and scammer who made him something of a Robin Hood in Wales. He had a secret hideaway for both himself and his loots, sitting upon a hillside overlooking the RSPB Gwenffrwd-Dinas nature reserve. In his town of birth, Tregaron, a copy of his will can be seen at the Kite Centre and Museum.
He is known to be an important figure for his locality, though his lessons of trickery have been weeded out.
Recommended further reading
Wales has so much to go at! Some of the popular things to do that celebrate the country's history, heritage and myths include visiting castles, mountains and ancient ruins.
Top 10 Welsh castles in Wales
Where should you visit in beautiful North & Mid Wales?
10 reasons you should visit Wales
A legendary inn for a legendary stay
As you can see, Wales has an abundance of history, tales and landscape to which you can adventure and enjoy. For those that are contemplating their next holiday to be in Wales, we thought we could let you know some of the legendary inns, country houses and holiday resorts that can compliment the beautiful and fascinating country of Wales.
One of the oldest inns in Wales - The Black Boy Inn
The Black Boy Inn is one of the most glorious inns in the whole of Wales. It was established around 1522 and welcomed travellers and locals to their homely base in the medieval town of Caernarfon. It still operates the same way, offering travellers and locals alike a cosy, authentic place to eat, drink and stay. Whether you want to try a locally crafted ale, eat some tender Welsh meat, or get some rest in an authentic and old Welsh inn, Black Boy accommodation in North Wales is awaiting your visit.
One of most beautiful country houses in Wales - Tyn Rhos
Tyn Rhos country house is a 5-star guest accommodation located in the protected National Park of 'Snowdonia'. Many people use this as a hotel in Snowdonia thanks to its proximity to nearby attractions and activities. The interior and exterior of this fantastic country house speak for itself, attracting guests from everywhere, who go on to enjoy lovely garden dining, cosy sleeping arrangements and an idyllic location to wake up in.
One of the most gorgeous beach resorts in Wales - West Point
This is a small, select holiday park in Snowdonia that is a sanctuary for those that are seeking peace and quiet among some of the most spectacular views in Wales. For those that want entrance access to their very own private beach, West Point is the place to go. Located near Caernarfon, there are several legendary places of interest that can be explored from here.