K is for King Arthur

So apparently I forgot K during my Alphabet Challenge, primary school please forgive me. So here it is…

While King Arthur is so often promoted as an English mythological figure, the truth is he’s more Welsh than anything else, well not Welsh…British. After the Roman army left Great Britain around 400AD, the island was left to the mercy of Irish and Scandinavian raiders. Soon groups from Northern Germany and Denmark, such as the Jutes, Angles and Saxons came to settle in Britain. These new settlers integrated with the local Britons and gave birth to the people we now refer to as Anglo-Saxons, only in lands to the west, such as Cornwall and Wales, was this not the case and its from these areas that tales of Arthur arose. Most early texts record Arthur as being a leader of the native Britons (not a king though), fighting against the encroaching Saxons and other tribes, and while his existent is still up for debate, that hasn’t prevented numerous places in both the West Country and Wales claiming association with the legendary man. Years ago I visited Tintagel Castle in Cornwall which claimed to be the place of Arthur’s conceiving, which you can see in this link, however now its time to look at some of the local Welsh Arthurian sites.

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The ruins of Dinas Bran

Dinas Bran is rumored to be one of the locations of the Holy Grail, often found in later Arthurian mythology and Dinas Bran is prehaps one of the best examples of pagan Welsh and Christian mythologies clashing together. Before the introduction of Christianity in Wales, Bran was a hero-God who possessed a magic cauldron that had healing properties, much like the legendary Holy Grail. Throughout hundreds of years of storytelling this cauldron was twisted into the Holy Grail and Bran came to represent the famous Fisher King, who is healed by the contents of the Grail, which is given to him by Arthur’s knights. A 12th century poet, Robert de Boron even names the Fisher King as Bron, pretty close to Bran.

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Does the Holy Grail lie hidden among these ruins?

Further comparisons between Bran and the Fisher King include his mortal wounds, with the Fisher King being reportedly wounded in the thigh, while in the ancient poems Bran is wounded in the foot. However the clincher is the supposed promise the Fisher King makes to Arthur and his knights, wherein he states that he’ll build a strong castle on top of a hill overlooking a fast flowing river in which to house the Grail. This matches the placement of Dinas Bran, which is situated on a high hill above the River Dee, furthermore it is said that once the castle was finished a magic inscription appeared on the gates saying that this castle must be named Corbenic. Interestingly Corbenic means crow in old French and Bran means crow in Welsh. While this does lead to some questions, such as, is the castle suppose to be named after Bran or the crow, or was it just a coincidence. Secondly the ruins standing today on the site of Dinas Bran are much later than Arthurian times, but who knows, prehaps the Holy Grail or magic cauldron really does lie hidden within the hill. If you want to know more about Dinas Bran, check out my post by clicking this link.

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The dragon-back of Tryfan

Tryfan, famously described as the ‘dragon-back’, is said to be the burial place of Sir Bedivere, one of Arthur’s most trusted knights and the king’s marshal. He is also one of the earliest characters to appear in Arthurian mythology and is usually depicted as being the knight to return Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake after Arthur’s mortal wounding/death. For more on Tryfan check out my walk up the mountain by clicking the link.

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Llyn Dinas, where giants roam

Llyn Dinas is apparently the site of a battle between a giant and Sir Ywain, another of Arthur’s knights and the king’s own nephew. Ywain, called Owain in English interpretations, features in many popular Arthurian tales such as ‘Ywain, the Knight of the Lion’. Check out my walk in and around Llyn Dinas by clicking this link.

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Llyn Ogwen

Llyn Ogwen is one of many supposed resting places of Arthur’s sword Excalibur, which was thrown into the lake by Sir Bedivere. The fact that the lake lies at the foot of Tryfan, Bedivere’s grave, might lend some credibility to this myth, however its not the only Excalibur site in Snowdonia, though if you do want to see more of Llyn Ogwen, click the link.

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Looking over Llyn Llydaw and Y Lliwedd

Llyn Llydaw, which lies in the shadow of Mount Snowdon, also claims to have been the legendary sword’s final resting place and some even claim this was the lake Arthur sailed across to reach the magical Isle of Avalon, though there is no actual isle in the lake.

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Looking over Bwlch y Saethau (centre of picture) where Arthur died

Llyn Llydaw is not Snowdon’s only connection to Arthur though. Arthur himself is said to have fought and killed a giant named Ritta on the mountain, after the giant demanded to have Arthur’s facial hair. The pass between Snowdon’s summit and Y Lliwedd is called Bwlch y Saethau (the Pass of Arrows) and it is here Arthur is said to have fallen, killed in hail of arrows by his retreating enemies. Depending on what story you believe he was either killed and buried at the pass or sent to the Isle of Avalon, while his knights sealed themselves under Snowdon, to await Arthur’s return. However there is a wide degree of difference between Arthurian legends based in Wales and those based in Cornwall, with the Cornish and other later sources listing Arthur as being killed at Camblan, somewhere near Somerset, and with his body then being taken to Glastonbury.

If you want to see more of Snowdon then click the…..wait I haven’t done any posts on Snowdon yet?!, so I’ve been writing this walking/history blog for a year and I haven’t done a single post on Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales?! Well then, I guess that is something for the to-do list.

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Bardsey Island, the Island of 20,000 Saints

Finally is Bardsey Island, which in some tales is described as the legendary Isle of Avalon itself, while others state that the island is the burial place of Merlin, Arthur’s adviser and in later tales, court magician. Arthur’s own ship is said to lie somewhere beneath of the waters of the Bardsey Sound, buried under sand and weight of its own mythos prehaps. For more of my photos of Bardsey check out this link.

And that’s it, I hope you’ve enjoyed this little collection of Arthurian sites in North Wales if you want to find out more, please see the Visit Wales Site.

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Do Arthur’s knights lie hidden under the shadow of Snowdon?

If you enjoyed this tale feel free to write in the comments, or leave like and thanks for reading.

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13 Comments

      1. Great stuff! Just found your post. If you’re into Arthuriana, check out my blog, which may be of interest to you.

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    1. I haven’t actually been to any caves in Snowdonia yet, but it depends on what type of caves your looking for. I’d recommend the Llechwedd Slate Caverns, but if your looking for somewhere less touristy and closer to more traditional cave exploration then I’d suggest you take a look at this site https://sites.google.com/site/cavesofnorthwales/home which documents all sorts of good caving sites in North Wales, some of which are in Snowdonia

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