The mountains of Snowdonia provide a majestic backdrop to the coastal scenery – an area that has been shaped by the activity of humans over countless millennia, it is classed as a semi-natural wilderness that over time, has become steeped in legend and myth. The Snowdonia National Park was created in 1951 with the sole aim of identifying ways to preserve and promote the wild beauty of the area and weave the context and the threads of the lives of people who have lived there, with the myths and legends that have been passed down through the ages. Any visit to the area can be enhanced by some knowledge of the myths and legends, tales of mortals and immortals, giants and goblins and other fables passed down through the mists of time. Here we list some places to visit and link them to the myths and legend that are associated with them…
King Arthur is perhaps the best known legendary figure associated with the area. There is a stone on the bank of Lake Barfog near Betws y Coed that is said to bear the footprint of Arthur’s horse Llamaraii that was made during a notable event when Arthur and his horse dragged a monster from the depths of the lake. Other lakes that are linked to the Arthurian legend are those of Llydaw, Dinas and Ogwen. All of them at one time or another have been thought of as prime candidates for the location of the magical sword Excalibur.
If you ever find yourself at the summit of Mount Snowdon you might ponder the fact that King Arthur has been there before you when he fought a battle to the death with the giant Rhitta; a fearsome warrior who used the beards of his enemies to make a giant cape for himself.
Arthur killed the giant at the summit of the mountain and had his men bury the corpse under a cairn of huge stones. A search for Merlin might take you to Bardsey Island off the coast of the Llyn peninsula. A place that many people think could be the mystic land of Avalon. The magician Merlin, a key figure in Arthurian legend is thought to be buried there in a glass coffin.
At the Southern end of Snowdonia stands the iconic mountain of Cadair Idris. It has three peaks; Llyn y Gadair (Head of the Chair), Cyfrwy (the Saddle) and Mynydd Moel (the Bare Mountain). Legend has it that this is the seat of Idris the giant. There are three large stones at the base of the mountain that Idris is supposed to have kicked down the mountain when he got angry.
Legend has it that the lakes surrounding the mountain are bottomless and locals say that it is haunted and that anyone spending the night there will end up going mad or … becoming a poet.
Rhys and Meinir
This is a very sad legend based around Nant Gwyrtheyrn where it is said that cousins Rhys Maredudd and Meinir Maredudd fell in love and were due to be wed at Clynogg Church. During their courtship their favourite meeting place was under an old oak tree in the valley between the farms they were each brought up on.
In those days the bride had to hide from the groom’s friends until once found she gets escorted to church by them. After searching and searching they never found Meinir and so went on to the church expecting her to be there but she was not.
She had obviously found a very good hiding place. In the event, she never did turn up to church and wasn’t found. A distraught Rhys took to walking the countryside with his dog Cidwm. One night a storm broke when he was out looking for Meinir and he took shelter beneath the old oak that used to be their favourite meeting place. A huge bolt of lightning hit the tree and split it in two to reveal the skeleton of Meinir still in her wedding dress. Rhys was so shocked he dropped dead. His faithful dog Cidwym lay down beside his body, went to sleep never to rise again.
If you are considering heading for Snowdonia, these are just a few of the places you might like to visit to get a feel of this amazing area that has inspired not only these legends but many more besides.