Story-soaked holiday

Trips to North Wales are always special for me. My aunt and uncle live in Snowdonia and it’s always been one of my favourite places in the world. In the last few years I’ve also enjoyed walking in the places that some of my favourite stories in the world come from; and having just been there again with my family, I had fun connecting with the stories on a slightly different level:

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Beers named after characters from my favourite tale from the Mabinogion! Made by local brewery Bragdy Lleu – and very tasty they were too.

Not that we didn’t have some wonderful storywalking too: behold…

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Bwlch y Saethau, viewed from a walk up Snowdon with my son Bev and uncle Phil – the name means “Pass of the Arrows”, and no less than King Arthur is said to have fought his last battle against the Saxons here, before he and his warriors went to a cave in the mountain to sleep until they’re needed once more. (My uncle: “It’s a nice story…”; Bev: “What?! He can’t be there too, he’s supposed to be sleeping ALL OVER the place.”) Also intriguing to note that the summit cairn of Snowdon is said to be the grave of an enemy of Arthur: the giant Rhitta, who caused consternation in early mediaeval times by collecting the beards of kings for his cloak…

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St Brothen’s Church, Llanfrothen, where many people’s stories are remembered: from Mary Lewis, a housemaid murdered in 1812 by a labourer known as “Y Hwntw Mawr” (“The Big South Walian”), who was thus the last person to be hanged publicly in the area; to quarryman Robert Roberts, whose burial sparked a controversy which launched local boy Dafydd Lloyd George into a political career. Llanfrothen has also been the site of a tragic marriage between fairy and mortal, and is said to have been home to a shape-changing witch: magic and dreams aplenty among the fields and hillsides.

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The stone that gives Maentwrog its name (“Twrog’s stone”): it’s said that Twrog, a saint, threw it from a nearby peak to crush a pagan altar on the valley. In some versions, though, Twrog is a giant; and some also say that the stone marks the grave of Pryderi, Prince of Dyfed, a hero from the Mabinogion who was killed nearby. Whatever the case, it’s said the stone still bears Twrog’s handprints – my daughter Aela and I think we found them:

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