Discover the legendary lakes of Snowdonia

North Wales is a mystic land of craggy mountains, mist-shrouded peaks and glassy lakes. Its association with myth and legend dates back eons, the stories inextricably intertwined with the landscape. Originally passed down from generation to generation by tribal elders, our stories are – literally – as old as the hills. It’s this heady mix of land and lore that makes our country irresistible to visitors.

With North Wales a backdrop for some of the most famous literature in Welsh history, it’s no wonder some of our landmarks have become synonymous with stories of heroes, villains and monsters. Lakes, in particular, hold a mystic allure for storytellers and Snowdonia has an abundance of lakes with stories to tell.

So take a walk of a different type and explore the lakes of Snowdonia. Stand on the shore and listen – you’re sure to hear a tale or two whispered in the wind.

Llyn Cwellyn – the fairies’ lake

A nineteenth century history book records the story of a man abducted by fairies on the shore of Llyn Cwellyn, a lake at the base of the Snowdon Ranger Path.

On spying the fairies dancing on the shore, he was irresistibly drawn into the circle by their sweet, mesmerising music. Under their spell, the man was magically transported to a beautiful country where everyone lived in perpetual bliss. Seven years passed before the man awoke from his reverie and he returned to the land of the living. Although he felt like only a few moments had passed, life had moved on.

On returning to his village, he was saddened to learn of the death of his parents. He received no welcome either; his brothers and sisters didn’t recognise him and his sweetheart had married another. With a heart broken beyond repair, he died not long after. The man learnt the hard way that there is always a price to pay when dealing with the tylwyth teg or the fairies.

Fancy your chances with the fairies of Llyn Cwellyn? Take a walk around the lake on the accessible Janus Path – a boardwalk route suitable for wheelchairs and buggies. The walk takes you through woodland and rewards with outstanding views of the surrounding mountains. But, remember, if you hear the sound of sweet, sweet music – don’t follow it!

Llyn Cau – what lies beneath?

Llyn Cau is located halfway up the mystical mountain of Cader Idris, south of Dolgellau. This can be a tricky lake to get to, being located within towering natural stone walls over 400m high. However, there could be a good reason for its inaccessibility – the walls were meant to keep something in.

Llyn Cau is reputed to be the home of a water monster, known as an afanc in these parts. Fed up of the creature devouring his subjects, the valiant King Arthur lassoed the monster and dragged it overland from its lair near Aberdyfi, up the steep slopes of Cader Idris to Llyn Cau, where he incarcerated it safely in the lake.

Beware though, the afanc has been known to attack unwary travellers swimming in the lake – it seems he still has a taste for human flesh after all these years. Llyn Cau is a popular wild swimming spot but, knowing what might lurk beneath, we’ll refrain from even dipping our toes in the water!

Llyn Tegid – Snowdonia’s very own Nessie

Another lake monster, this time of the more friendly variety, ‘Teggie’ is Llyn Tegid’s alleged draconian resident. More camera shy than her celebrity Scottish cousin, Teggie is rarely seen, more often felt. In fact, the last time she was actually caught on camera was back in 1976 so she’s not one for the limelight.

Retired lake manager, Dewi Bowen, famously recounted his run in with Teggie: “I was looking out at the lake and saw this thing coming towards the shore. It was at least 8ft long, similar to a crocodile, with its front and rear ends about 4ins above the water.”

More recently, a windsurfer reported being ‘lifted out of the water’ by something while many attribute boating incidents to the mischievous monster.

If there really is a mysterious inhabitant of Llyn Tegid, the reality could be far more fascinating. The lake is home for the rare Gwyniad – a small fish that dates back to prehistoric times. It only lives in Llyn Tegid, having become trapped in the lake after the last Ice Age. However, since this little fish can be cupped in the palm of your hand, it’s unlikely it could be mistaken for a monster!

If you enjoy a spot of monster hunting, jump aboard the Bala Lake Railway and enjoy a ride on one of North Wales’ historic narrow gauge railways while eyeing the horizon lake for Teggie’s tell-tale hump.

Llyn Geirionydd – the bard’s lake

“I being Taliesin, from the borders of the lake of Geirionnydd.”

                                                       The Mabinogion – the Red Book of Hergest

As the lakes of Snowdonia feature so prominently in Welsh literature it’s only right that our final watery abode has links to one of the most famous literary figures in Welsh history – the 6th century poet Taliesin.

The legendary home of the bard (a poet or storyteller), Llyn Geirionydd sits high in the hills above the Conwy Valley. Bards were the guardians of the oral heritage of the Welsh people. As well as preserving the ancient tales, bards composed their own melodic poems to impress and please their all too human patrons – after all, with no income to speak of, this was how a bard earned his living.

Among Taliesin’s fans numbered not one but three Welsh kings. He enjoyed long sojourns at all their courts – literally singing for his supper – and perhaps not realising his epic poems would go down in literary history.

Llyn Geirionydd is a beautiful lake for an afternoon amble and a popular venue for watersports. We wonder what Taliesin would have made of speedboats and windsurfers on his lake – would they have made it into a poem?

Images courtesy of: Llwyn Cwellyn © Copyright Jeff Buck and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence. Swimmers at Llyn Cau by Debjam via Flickr, April 2013. Llyn Tegid © Crown copyright (2010) Visit Wales, all rights reserved. Taliesin Monument © Copyright Alan Walker and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence.

An eggs-travaganza of fun in North Wales this Easter!

With the Easter holidays almost upon us, here’s a round-up of our favourite Easter activities across North Wales. With something for everyone to enjoy, we think this Easter is going to be egg-stra special!

There are Easter eggs hunts and activities taking place right across North Wales this year.

Easter Egg Hunt, Llanberis Lake Railway

Over the easter weekend, the railway is holding an Easter egg hunt with a difference. Jump aboard and search for the eggs, hidden by that cheeky Easter Bunny on the trains and at the stations. Keep your eyes peeled for the sweet rewards and, who knows, you might even get to meet the Easter Bunny too!

Booking is advised as this is one of the most popular events of the year, see website for details.

Easter slate trail, National Slate Museum – Llanberis

A visit to the National Slate Museum, right on our doorstep, is fascinating all year round. This living history museum shows visitors what life was like in Snowdonia during the golden age of slate, when towns and villages like Llanberis were made. This Easter there are two very different trails to enjoy at the museum.

You will be fascinated by the story of the Snowdonia Slate Trail, an 85 mile long walking route due to open this autumn. The route will guide walkers through some of the most iconic North Walian landscapes and local school children have been helping with the project by doing their own research on the trail. See their work around the museum and perhaps be inspired to come back and take a walk along the trail yourself.

If you can tear the youngsters away from the delightful narrow-gauge engines at the museum, visit the workshops and hunt down the hidden eggs. Find them all and claim your sweet reward at the end!

Easter fun at Foel Farm Park, Anglesey

Enjoy spring fever and go gooey over the baby animals at Foel Farm Park, overlooking the Menai Strait on Anglesey.

This family-friendly attraction is a great-value day-out for the whole family. Explore the farm: meet the baby bunnies, feed the lambs, have a tractor ride, take a pony ride, feed the horses and let the little ones run free on the play area, complete with giant bouncy pillow! The farm gets into the Easter spirit with a grand Easter egg hunt to be held at 1pm on Easter Sunday.

Adults will enjoy getting back to nature – but there’s a great onsite cafe and artisan chocolate shop too!

Normal admission fees apply. See the farm’s Facebook page for full details of the event.

Cadbury Easter Egg Hunts and activities, various National Trust properties

Follow the clues left by that cheeky Easter Bunny for a chocolatey reward at any one of a number of National Trust properties across the region. Nearby Plas NewyddPenrhyn Castle and Bodnant Garden are all hosting trails, plus a feast of Easter activities for children.

Fo adults, a riot of spring colour is the main attraction with the opportunity to see some of the finest gardens in the UK wearing their spring best. Daffodils, tulips, bluebells, primroses, rhododendrons and magnolias are just a few of the plants in full bloom. The historic properties at Plas Newydd and Penrhyn Castle will delight and intrigue, giving you an olde-worlde snapshot of how the other half celebrated at this time of year.

Plas Newydd, Anglesey

Take the family to Plas Newydd on Anglesey for a host of wildlife-themed activities and a chance to tick off a few more of their ‘50 Things‘. Join a walking tour to learn about birds and birdsong, enjoy some fun red-squirrel-style over the Bank Holiday, and get to grips with some of Plas Newydd’s creepy crawly residents too.

Adults are well-catered for with a fascinating talk on the world-famous Whistler mural – this is an art lecture like you’ve never seen before!

Penrhyn Castle, Bangor

If the weather’s unkind, why not join the great Penrhyn Bee Hunt? The bees have escaped the walled garden and are hiding in the castle – it’s a great way for adults to enjoy the house, keeping the kids occupied at the same time! Continuing the apian theme, you can meet the Penrhyn bees and beekeepers on Good Friday with the chance to see inside the hive too.

All Easter, Penrhyn’s resident face painter (her creations are out of this world) will be brightening up little faces, plus you can find out about life in the Victorian kitchen and enjoy storytelling and crafts (selected dates).

Bodnant Garden, Conwy Valley

There’s a long list of things to see and do at Bodnant this Easter, with the garden firmly establishing itself as the go-to place for families to enjoy great-value, fun activities in the school holidays.

Kids can check off a few more adventures on their ’50 Things’ list, playing pooh sticks in the stream and walking barefoot among spring flowers in the Great Park. Every day during the holidays there is a busy programme of activities, including Bug Bingo, pond dipping and storytelling.

For adults, the Easter highlight at Bodnant has to be the grand opening of the Furnace Wood & Meadow by Iolo Williams on 11 April. With various guided walks, including Bodnant’s popular twilight bat walk and a walk with the head-gardener (booking essential, small charge applies), you’ll find yourself coming back again and again.

For the most part, activities are free but normal admission fees apply, see the National Trust website for details. The Cadbury Egg Hunt is £2 per child and Tammy’s face painting at Penrhyn Castle is £3.50 per child.

Easter activities, various CADW monuments

Custodians of Welsh heritage, CADW, are also putting on a packed schedule of events for the Easter break. We’re privileged to enjoy great access to some of the best-preserved fortresses of the medieval period, with Caernarfon, BeaumarisHarlech and Conwy castles all within easy reach of the hotel.

This April, knights, kings and dragons will all converge on Edward I’s Ring of Steel to provide some fabulous Easter fun for visitors!

Caernarfon Castle

There’s a dragon on the loose and the residents of Caernarfon need your help to find it. Join the quest to find the dragon; learn how to use a bow and arrow before exploring the passageways of the castle in search of the fiery reptile and a yummy reward.

Beaumaris Castle

The House of the Black Star will be setting up camp at Beaumaris this Easter, to show visitors what life was like in medieval Wales. Visit the camp, talk to the soldiers, meet birds of prey and even try out the arms and armour. Afterwards, join in with Easter crafts and explore the castle on an egg trail.

Harlech Castle

Meet the heroic Ardudwy Knights at Harlech and experience life as a medieval knight. Get to grips with the weapons of the age: bow and arrow, sword, spear, and watch the experts in action on the combat field. Which knight wins your favour?

Of course, no knight is complete without a quest so get one to help you find the yummy treats on Harlech’s Easter egg trail!

Conwy Castle

Edward I had a taste for the finer things in life. So fine, in fact, that chocolate eggs were no good to him. Instead he commissioned a very special Easter treat for himself and his friends – 400 golden eggs, hand painted and decorated in expensive gold-leaf. Visit Conwy Castle this Easter and join the hunt for Edward’s golden eggs – solve the clues then decorate one for the king’s collection.

Activities are free but normal admission fees apply, see the CADW website for details.

Image courtesy of Donar Reiskoffer via Wikimedia Commons.