With Halloween just around the corner and autumn breezes in the air, everything is beginning to feel a bit more… magical.
It’s a great time to be out and about around North Wales, with changing leaves, crisp breezes and – if you know where to look – mystical, charming and mysterious mushroom rings!
You’ve probably seen a mushroom ring (or fairy ring) before, if not on your country walks, in the illustrations of your favourite children’s storybook. Most often popping up in forests or wooded areas, fairy rings do sometimes appear on grassland – when they manifest as dark rings of grass.
According to folklore, the rings were created by dancing fairies or to mark the location of their underground kingdom. As late as the 20th century, people reported encountering dancing fairies in shady forest glades.
Though it’s a cliché that it always rains in Wales, the damp climate does actually have its benefits – namely, it makes for a fantastic environment for mushrooms! The mushroom season usually hits its peak in September, but it can last as late as early-November.
During autumn the Porcini is fairly common, and the classic storybook ‘toadstool’ Fly Agaric mushroom also enjoys the same conditions (best seen around October). There are countless varieties of delicious and edible mushrooms known to grow in Wales – from Chanterelles to the wonderfully-named Chicken of the Woods and Hedgehog species!
Of course, you may also encounter inedible and even dangerous mushrooms, so if you are keen to go foraging it’s essential to be accompanied by an expert; we love the specialist guided tours by Discover the Wild, which take place in Snowdonia National Park.
In Wales, fairies are known as Tylwyth Teg, which means ‘fair folk’. There are countless folk stories and old wives’ tales about them and the term tylwyth teg is believed to date back to the 14th century, when Dafydd ap Gwilym wrote a comic poem about a young man who gets lost in the mist and encounters them.
In Welsh folklore, fairies like to kidnap fair-haired human children, leaving a magical ‘changeling’ child in their place. Usually benevolent, fairies often gave gifts to mortals who did them kindnesses, though they could trick and deceive those who crossed them.
Fantastic Fairies and where to find them…
While we can’t guarantee you’ll spot the Tylwyth Teg while you’re here in North Wales, we can recommend some places best known for their magical inhabitants.
Fairy Glen, Betws-y-Coed
One of the most celebrated natural beauty spots in North Wales, Fairy Glen is rumoured to be the home of mystical fairy beings; though if you don’t see them you’ll still get to enjoy the stunning natural scenery and perhaps spot some of the resident birdlife.
Local Llanberis legends tell of several encounters with the Tylwyth Teg. As in other stories, the fairies around here were notorious for stealing unbaptised babies and leaving fey children in their place!
Our local fairies seem to have a taste for fresh Welsh milk too. There is a well-known tale that tells of Cwmglas Hollow in the Llanberis Pass. A local woman would take a jug of milk to the hollow, and upon returning find it empty jug with money left next to it. These days no one knows exactly where to find Cwmglas Hollow – much like fairies themselves!
Read more about the legends of Llanberis here.
Known as the ‘Bearded Lake’, this is one of several lakes in Wales believed to be a portal to Annwn, the fairy underworld. Folk tales from the area often feature beautiful fairy women – Gwragedd Annwn – who came to shore and hunted for the ‘souls of doomed men’ with a pack of mythical hounds.
Another story tells of a farmer who came into possession of a fairy cow which produced massive of amounts of milk. Unfortunately, the farmer became greedy, forgot the significance of the cow and sent her to slaughter. After raising the knife to kill the cow, the butcher was paralysed. The gathered crowd heard a deafening cry and a fairy maiden appeared on a rocky cliff near the lake. The cow and her offspring galloped to the fairy and the whole ethereal crew disappeared into the depths of the lake.
Pentrefoelas folklore tells that a local woman, upon returning home from church, found a fairy dog who seemed unwell. Remembering a local legend of another woman who found a similar dog, but treated it badly, and subsequently died, the woman took good care of the fairy hound. That evening a group of fairies arrived to collect the dog and finding him in good health gifted the woman with a cow that produced more milk than any in the area.
Celebrated each year, the Llangollen Faery Festival offers music, storytelling and plenty of family-friendly fun. There are even workshops to learn the arts of wand and wingmaking!
To book an enchanted stay in North Wales for yourself, take a look at our selection of beautiful and spacious rooms.
Images courtesy: By Original uploaded by Hour of Angels (Transfered by Gavin.perch) (Original uploaded on en.wikipedia) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. The quarrel of Oberon and Titania by Joseph Noel Paton [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons