Feb 12, 2008

North Wales

Even though Scotland has a long and fascinating history, when I was up there what struck me the most was the geography - the beautiful and untameable land that has been there for aeons, indifferent to the events that take place in it.

Not so in North Wales. It's not that the landscape is any less breathtakingly beautiful, but in Wales I felt history all around me - from the unfortunately semi-lost Celtic and Druidic history, to the medieval history that the castles all around won't let us forget ("More castles per square mile than any other place in the world", says the slogan. And it's true).

I stayed in a town named Bala - it's a small town dominated by the beautiful Llyn Tegid, the Bala Lake:

The town is actually inside the Snowdonia National Park, and the landscape surrounding it is gorgeous:

Bala is also one of the places where the percentage of Welsh speakers is highest (80%), so walking down the street I heard Welsh all around me. I thought that was pretty cool.

On the second day we went to Caernarfon, which has one of the largest and most impressive medieval castles I have ever seen; to Bangor; and to Beaumaris on the Isle of Anglesey. The Isle of Anglesey was one of the last strongholds of the Druids before it was attacked by the Romans in 60AD, and its sacred grooves were destroyed. It is a fascinating place.



The mainland seen from the Isle. Unfortunately the day was a very cloudy one, and the light wasn't ideal for pictures, so I couldn't capture just how gorgeous those hills actually look.

On the third day we went to Llangollen. Outside the village there is a hill where the ruins of Castell Dinas BrĂ¢n (which translates into English as "Castle of the City of Crows") stand. The view on the way up is magnificent, and the ruins of the castle look deliciously haunted:

A neat little fact: the hill where the castle once stood is now the realm of wild rabbits. On the way up we only saw their droppings and the entrances to the burrow, but on the way down we actually spotted some! They were probably out for their late afternoon silflay*.

Whenever I travel, be it through the green hills of England, the wild glens of Scotland or the luxurious landscapes of central Brazil, I always find myself thinking that the land really shapes the stories we tell. I can see it - I can see how those particular landscapes sprouted the stories that are told in those parts of the world. I love the fact that travelling helps me understand the stories better, which amounts to saying that it helps me understand people better.

Unfortunately, in Wales I was at a loss. I couldn't decipher the stories that the hills were whispering. My knowledge of Welsh mythology and folklore is very brief, and mostly indirect - through Lloyd Alexander's Prydain, for example. But after this trip, I promised myself that this will change. This year, I am going to read a wonderful book I found, called Wonder Tales from Ancient Wales, and also The Mabinogion at last. I've been trying to compile a reading list for all the Celtic Nations, actually, and I might embark on a little project based on that, but more on that subject at another time.

* I couldn't mention wild rabbits and not include a reference to Watership Down. In the book, silflay is a word in Lapine that means to feed above the ground.


  1. I had to smile at your Watership Down reference :) This sounds like a wonderful trip too...and it's so beautiful! Not at all what I pictured of Northern Wales...I was picturing a little village for some reason, not this. I can't help but think that George R.R. Martin had this place in mind when he started the song of fire and ice series. Those castles are incredible...I want to see ruins!

  2. Lovely photos! There is some truly breathtaking scenery in Wales. Probably why I love my brother's photography so much!

    Loved your reference to Watership Down, that brought a smile to my face!

    Last year I was reading some Welsh folklore in a book on UK folklore that I have, very interesting stuff.

  3. wow.. fantastic photo's!!!.. I love castles!!! (can you see me turning green with envy??) sigh

  4. I haven't been to those places in far too long and I can't wait to visit again later this year. Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos. I hope you enjoy The Mabinogian. I read it a couple of years ago and there is a great series of books by Evangeline Walton which you can get seperately or in one volume that are re-tellings of some of the main stories which I think you would love. The other stuff to immerse yourself in is Arthurian legends as one version if that he was Welsh.

  5. I don't care if the light wasn't ideal for pictures - they are gorgeous! thank you for sharing them and giving us a bit of a tour of northern Wales. Looks like you had a wonderful time.

  6. Oh my! What a wonderful post, Nymeth! I enjoyed reading them all, and the pics are just beautiful! I wish I was there with you!! ;) Perhaps I should start to read some books that featured some history of Walsh from now onwards...

  7. Oops... what was I thinking?! I meant "Wales", LOL!

  8. More castles per square mile than anywhere else in the world

    What a great place to visit! I love castles. It's so much fun to imagine what the people lived like before they were turned into museums.

  9. I love seeing all of your travel posts. Thanks for sharing! :)

  10. *sigh*

    It's not bad enough that you post reviews that make me want to go out and buy whatever book you've just read but now you're doing it with pictures! I wanna go...

    They're incredible pictures. Thanks for sharing.


  11. oh, those photos are gorgeous! i especially like the first one!

    and those castles...!

    i really have to get out and see more of england...

    and the mythology behind it all, isn't that also just so cool...?!

  12. Chris: I have no doubt that that part of the world has inspired many fantasy writers...it's just that kind of place!

    Quixotic: I remember you posting some of your brother's photography...it was beautiful! Welsh folklore does sound fascinating...I can't wait to read more of it.

    Deslily: Glad you liked them! Your pictures with tigers have turned me green with envy too :P

    Rhinoa: I actually saw that series by Evangeline Walton in Wales...they had it at the Bala tourist information centre! I really need to get it sometime, it definitely sounds like something I would love. One of the places we went through in Wales had a hill in which, legend says, Merlin is buried. I thought that was so cool. Unfortunately I can't remember where it was exactly.

    Iliana: We managed to get good lighting for most of them, but I wish I had been able to get a good one of the view from the Isle! I really did have a wonderful time :)

    Melody: I'm glad you enjoyed it :) I really want to revisit Wales again soon through books!

    Kim L: I love castles too. It really is a lot of fun.

    Eva: Glad you like them!

    CJ: Sorry to be adding to the"to be visited" list :P I'm glad you like the pictures!

    JP: I really is cool. You do need to see more places! Go to Cornwall for me one of these days :P

  13. Oh man. I am so jealous of the beautiful places you have been the last few weeks!! Your pictures are so gorgeous. That castle is just breath-taking!

  14. Oh my, what an incredible trip! I hate to admit that in my "dream trip" fantasies of visiting England and Scotland, I hadn't really thought about hitting Wales. What a fool I'd been! It looks so incredibly beautiful! And your photos...WOW! They are all gorgeous, but a few of them particularly blew me away with their misty/haziness...they look as if they could be paintings...so beautiful!

  15. Stephanie: It was a great few weeks. I'm going to miss those places. I'm glad you liked the pictures!

    Debi: I didn't know what to expect from Wales either...I don't think I would have gone if my boyfriend hadn't suggested it...I'm so glad he did! But yeah, you have to include North Wales in your plans when you come to the UK!

  16. Your photos and those landscapes are gorgeous! We never did get to Wales so I'm more than just a tad envious! I'm glad you got to enjoy so much of England while you were there. :)


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