Myths, folktales, and legends are woven into the fabric of Wales, from the Welsh Dragon to King Arthur and his legendary sword Excalibur, the myths come alive when you take a short break in North Wales and you explore the stunning landscapes and historical sites of North Wales.
Unravelling the Myth of the Welsh Dragon
The Welsh Dragon, officially adopted as the country’s flag in 1959, carries with it a rich heritage of myth and legend. It is believed that the Welsh kings of Aberffraw on Anglesey first adopted the dragon in the early 5th century as a symbol of their power and authority over the English. Mythical links connect the dragon to the Arthurian legends, with a tale of a long fight between a red dragon and a white dragon at Dinas Emrys in Snowdonia, symbolising the historic struggle between the Welsh and the English. Whether or not this is true, the dragon is one of the oldest national flags still in use, with records dating back to around 820.
King Arthur and His Legends
King Arthur, the legendary figure known for his valour and leadership, has deep roots in Wales. In Ruthin, you can find the Maen Huail, a boulder said to have been used by Arthur as a chopping block to behead a treacherous love rival. Another stone, the Carn March Arthur near Aberdovey, bears a dent believed to be the hoof print of Arthur’s horse, which helped him defeat a monster in the nearby ‘Bearded Lake,’ Llyn Barfog. Two other lakes in Snowdonia, Llyn Llydaw and Llyn Ogwen, have been proposed as the resting place of Arthur’s sword, Excalibur. And for those intrigued by mystical legends, Bardsey Island is said to be the final resting place of Merlin, King Arthur’s wise wizard. These legends come alive in the beautiful landscapes of Snowdonia, where the Guy Ritchie film, “Legend of the Sword,” was shot. You can follow in the footsteps of stars like Jude Law and Charlie Hunnam by visiting Vivian Quarry near Llanberis, Capel Curig, and Nant Gwynant near Beddgelert.
Beddgelert: A Tale of Loyalty and Sacrifice
The legend of Gelert, Llywelyn the Great’s loyal hound, is deeply rooted in the history of Beddgelert. According to the legend, Llywelyn returned home one day to find Gelert covered in blood in his son’s room. Convinced that the dog had harmed his child, Llywelyn killed Gelert with his sword. Only after Gelert’s dying howl did Llywelyn realise that the dog had been protecting his son from a wolf. Devastated by his hasty actions, Llywelyn buried Gelert outside the castle walls, where a stone monument still stands today.
Jörmungandr and the Great Orme
The Great Orme in Llandudno gets its name from Jörmungandr, a sea serpent in Norse mythology. The tale goes that a Viking raiding party mistook the Great Orme’s rock formation for a massive serpent rearing up from the mist, causing them to flee in fear. This myth adds to the magical atmosphere of the Llandudno seafront, where the Imperial Hotel stands as a gateway to a world of legends and wonders.
Legends of Castles and Kings
King Edward I, renowned for his role in constructing many of North Wales’ magnificent castles, is a legend in his own right. Beaumaris, Caernarfon, Chirk, Conwy, Denbigh, Flint, Harlech, and Rhuddlan were all built by the King in the 13th century. Conwy Castle, only ten minutes away from the Imperial Hotel, transports visitors back to the medieval era with its authentic atmosphere. If you visit on the 24th and 25th of June, you’ll have the opportunity to witness a Medieval Tournament within the castle walls, immersing yourself in the world of knights, nobles, archers, Vikings, and jesters.
Giants, Saints, and Artists
The mountains and lakes of Wales are home to their fair share of legends. Cadair Idris, a mountain in Snowdonia National Park, is associated with the legend of Idris, a poet, astronomer, and philosopher who used the mountain as his throne. The huge boulders at the foot of the mountain are said to be stones shaken out of his shoe, and the mountain itself carries the belief that anyone who sleeps on it will either wake as a madman, a poet, or never wake again.
St. Dwynwen, the patron saint of Welsh lovers, is celebrated on the tranquil island of Llanddwyn on Anglesey. Her church ruins and the sacred well, believed to be inhabited by prophetic fish that predict the success of relationships, make for a romantic visit. The island is a place of pilgrimage for young Welsh lovers, honoring Dwynwen’s legacy on the 25th of January each year with the exchange of St Dwynwen’s Day cards.
Art lovers can explore the works of legendary artists in Oriel Ynys Mon in Llangefni. The gallery showcases the renowned artist Kyffin Williams’ famous works of art, from his Snowdonia landscapes to Charles Tunnicliffe’s stunning pieces. These artists found inspiration in the beauty and mystique of Anglesey and its surroundings.
North Wales has also produced its fair share of modern-day legends in various fields. From Olympians like rowers Chris Bartley, Jade Jones MBE, and Victoria Thornley to footballing legends like Ian Rush, Michael Owen, Mickey Thomas, Neville Southall, and Robbie Savage, this region has seen its athletes succeed on the world stage. Golfing legends Clive Brown and John Roger (JR) Jones have made their mark, as has Sir David Brailsford CBE, the cycling coach behind Team GB’s Olympic successes. Motor racing guru David Richards CBE, rally drivers Gwyndaf Evans and Elfyn Rhys Evans, and acting legends like Dawn French, Joanna Scanlan, Jonathan Pryce, Nerys Hughes, Rhys Ifans, Terry Jones, and Timothy Dalton also hail from North Wales. Singers Aled Jones, Bryn Terfel, Duffy, and Mike Peters, as well as personalities like Carol Vorderman, Peter Drummond, and Paula Yates, have also contributed to the region’s legendary status.
Whether you believe in the ancient myths and legends or not, their stories weave a captivating tale. If you’re looking to create your own legendary experiences and pass them down through generations, why not embark on a holiday to North Wales? With its rich history, stunning landscapes, and proximity to legendary sites, the Imperial Hotel in Llandudno is the perfect base for your own adventure in the land of legends.
So come join us and experience the magic of North Wales, where the tales of old meet the beauty of today.