2017 is just around the corner and to herald the start of the Year of Legends we’re bringing you a whistle-stop tour of ten legendary places in North Wales to visit next year. From the mythic to the modern and the Celtic to the contemporary, the Year of Legends embraces everything epic about our country.
If you’re planning a trip to North Wales, put these places at the top of your must-visit list!
Snowdon is one of the best-known mountains of the British Isles and the tallest in Wales but it’s not just its enviable stature that makes it such a fascinating place. Snowdon is a landmark inextricably intertwined with the mythology of North Wales and, like the endless paths and trails circulating and surmounting it, tales of the mountain are many and diverse.
We’ll tell you much more about Snowdon in one of our upcoming blogs but, for now, satisfy yourself with the knowledge that this, above all the region’s mountains, was King Arthur’s mountain; the scene of some of his most iconic adventures and challenges.
You can follow in the hoofprints of Arthur and his knights and see the national park from a different aspect aboard a trusty steed. Gwydyr Trekking Centre and Snowdonia Riding Stables are located within the park and offer you the opportunity of being transported back to the Arthurian Age for an hour or two.
As you ride, if you know where to look, you will see Arthur’s influence on Snowdonia everywhere: in the deep water of mountain lakes said to harbour the magical sword Excalibur; in the eagle-high caves reputed to house slumbering knights; on the stone cliffs where dragons once, and perhaps still, perched.
2. Pass of Llanberis
No visit to North Wales is complete without an ascent of the Llanberis Pass deep in the heart of the Snowdonia National Park. The climb is dizzying and breathtaking and it’s easy to understand why it’s a mecca for hikers and climbers – some of the most challenging routes up Snowdon start here.
All year round the play of the light – on snow or moorland – presents an ever-changing canvas for photographers and artists alike. For those of a more poetic disposition this part of Snowdon is steeped in the myth of Arthur, he is reputed to have vanquished giants and fought his last battle close by. Whether on foot or by four wheels or two, scaling Pen y Pass and descending into the town of Llanberis is an unforgettable experience.
Caernarfon is one of those places, rare in many parts of the UK, where history and heritage are so prevalent you can almost feel the past. Boasting Celtic and Roman remains, a most perfectly preserved medieval stronghold – home of princes and warriors – and being the historic port capital of our slate industry, Caernarfon is a small town with a big story.
But Caernarfon offers much more than just history: Beacon Climbing Centre and Cartio Dan-Do offer brilliant days out for thrill seekers while for younger children, a visit to magical Gypsy Wood will bring Welsh fairy tales to life.
Suckers for a great story should pay a visit to the pretty alpine town of Beddgelert, resting place of Prince Llewelyn’s trusty hound, Gelert. We won’t spoil it by recounting the tale here but, trust us when we tell you, it’s a tearjerker!
Fans of the paranormal will find much to spook and scare in and around Beddgelert too. A local pub comes complete with resident ghost, a long-dead proprietor with unfinished business in the village! If you’re brave enough, head into the woods but beware the Tlywyth Teg (the Fair People); they are just waiting to lure you away to dance for a year and a day in fairyland!
Outdoor pursuits centre, Plas Gwynant, is said to be haunted by a cheeky, noisy poltergeist but, more sinister still, are sightings of a phantom horseman and huge black dog that frequent the road on the way to our next destination, the Aberglaslyn Pass.
5. Aberglaslyn Pass
An area of outstanding natural beauty, this is home to one of the most beautiful rivers in Snowdonia. But don’t let the idyllic woodland surroundings deceive you, this is a place with a dark history. Like its neighbour, Beddgelert, the valley is awash with supernatural folklore.
The most famous tale concerns Pont Aberglaslyn (Aberglaslyn Bridge), believed to have been built by the devil himself. Lying in wait to claim the first living soul to cross the bridge the devil was tricked by the famous Welsh sorcerer, Robin Ddu (Black Robin), who sent a dog across before himself! It is likely that the story is just a story, but are you brave enough to cross the bridge?
6. The isle of Anglesey
A place steeped in myth and legend, the isle of Anglesey is the fabled home of the druids, the mysterious leaders of the ancient Welsh people. The island is a living, breathing history book, with remains, ruins and relics at every turn. From the haunting Bryn Celli Ddu to the stately Plas Newydd, the imposing Beaumaris to the industrial heartland Holyhead, visitors to Anglesey cannot fail to be impressed by the wealth of heritage here.
If history’s not your bag, a visit to Anglesey can include legendary experiences too. Mon Active and Anglesey Adventures are just two of island’s many outdoor pursuits centres where you can try everything from paddleboarding to coasteering to surfing.
Walkers and bikers can enjoy an epic visit too. Bikers can throw down the gauntlet on the thirty-sixty mile long Lon Las Copr bike trail, while walkers can challenge themselves to conquer the Anglesey Coastal Path, a 125 mile scenic route, taking in the island’s major towns and sights.
7. Ynys Llanddwyn
Staying on Anglesey, visit the diminutive island of Ynys Llandwyn near Newborough, home of Wales’ patron saint of love. St Dwynwen, an ancient princess forced to choose between love and family, is reputed to have spent her final days in seclusion here and Welsh lovers have been making the pilgrimage ever since.
It’s possible to cross to the island at low tide and you can even get married here! We think there’s nowhere more romantic to tell a loved one “Rwyn’n caru ti, cariad” (I love you, sweetheart) on St Dwynwen’s Day, the 25 January.
Aside from the romantic legend surrounding this beautiful promontory (it’s not technically an island at all) the stunning views, nearby picture postcard villages and superb restaurants make a visit to this part of Anglesey well worth the effort indeed.
An Italian abroad, that’s what Portmeirion is to us. Wandering the quaint village on the banks of the River Dwyryd, you could be mistaken for thinking you’ve stepped onto the Italian Riviera.
Brainchild of famous architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, this quirky little slice of Wales may not be well known outside our borders but is worth a visit for the rich history and cultural legacy surrounding it.
Location of cult Seventies TV show, The Prisoner, and home to North Wales’ premier music festival, Festival Number 6, Portmeirion is a delight for the eyes and a feast for the senses.
North Wales is a haven for rare and exotic plants, owing to our wonderful micro-climate, and some of the UK’s best-known and most-visited formal gardens are located here. But there are still hidden gems for plant lovers to discover.
Caerau Uchaf Gardens has been dubbed Wales’ highest private garden, standing at over 1,000ft. The garden is a joy to behold anytime of the year: in high summer it is the epitome of classic garden design and in midwinter crisp, frost-framed views over Bala will take your breath away.
Nearby, a visit to enjoy the scenery of Llyn Tryweryn, is perhaps one of the most serene moments of your action packed trip to North Wales in the Year of Legends. But even here there are secrets. As you gaze, pause for a moment and reflect on the waters… what lies beneath? A drowned village forgotten by time perhaps…
10. Cader Idris
This famous mountain of three peaks overlooking Dolgellau is the supposed home of cultured giant, Idris Gawr. Idris was a giant with the love for the finer things in life, in particular music, poetry and astronomy, and his mountain home became a place of pilgrimage for aspiring bards.
In search of inspiration they would sleep atop the mountain in the hope of awaking bestowed with poetic genius – or madness! Even today, many people avoid camping on its slopes, afraid in case the legend proves true.
Locals believe a nearby lake, Talyllyn, is bottomless owing to its dark waters. There is a picturesque walking trail around the lake that rewards you with some splendid views of Cader Idris, perhaps you will catch a glimpse of the giant through the mists?
More likely, you will you see (or hear) jet fighters on a circuit of the Mach Loop, as Snowdonia is one of the UK’s few Low Flying Areas!
Why not stay?
So, you see, 2017 has all the makings of a legendary year but we’ve only just scratched the surface of our fascinating history. We’ll be sharing many more stories and secrets of North Wales right here on our blog.
If we’ve inspired you, why not make a stay of it? Located right at the heart of this mythical region, the Royal Victoria Hotel is perfectly placed for brave heroes and thrill seekers to explore North Wales and find their epic! Click here to book your visit now.
Image by Les Haines