All ancient places across the world have one thing in common - the myths, legends and folklore that tell their story. Snowdonia of course is no exception, with Wales itself being the magical home of dragons, knights, witches and much more. While we’ve previously touched on a sweeping view of Welsh heritage and culture, we thought our guests might like to know a little more about Beddgelert itself, which is the site of several traditional Welsh tales.
To begin with, we’re diving into the iconic legend of Gelert, the faithful hound said to give his name to the village and quite probably the reason that many tourists from all over the world have walked over our stone bridges and through the wooded dells.
The Legend of Gelert
Gelert was the beloved hunting dog, a type of wolfhound, who belonged to the 13th Century Prince of Wales, Llywelyn. One day, Llywelyn and his Princess wife departed for the hunt and left Gelert to watch over their newborn son. While they were away, a wolf got into the baby’s room and was prowling around the cradle, ready to strike. Gelert, being the faithful hound he was, attacked the wolf and after a lengthy battle, managed to kill it.
Upon Llywelyn’s return, Gelert bounded over to his master with blood smeared all over him, exhausted from the fight. Alarmed, Llywelyn looked to his son’s crib, to find a mess of bloody sheets and an overturned cradle. Stricken by panic and convinced that his loyal dog had killed his own child, he took his sword and plunged it into Gelert’s heart, who let out a final yelp in shock. Upon hearing Gelert’s dying yell, the baby began to cry. Finding his son alongside the body of the slain wolf, Prince Llywelyn realised his mistake. Distraught, he cradled his beloved dog before giving him a royal burial ceremony, in a stunning, green spot beside the river. This beautiful burial place is why the village is named how it is, translating quite literally to the ‘Bed of Gelert’, or ‘Gelert’s Grave’.
Legend has it the prince never smiled again.
Visiting Gelert’s Grave
Visiting Gelert’s grave is easily done from Tŷ Afon, it is actually only a short distance from us and sits in the fields opposite. Simply leave the hotel from the main entrance and head back along the drive a short distance, where you will see a well-worn footpath leading to beside the river on the left-hand side. Take this path and cross over the stone bridge in front of the priory. After you’ve crossed, turn left and go through a metal gate. From here, simply follow the well-marked path and look for the National Trust sign pictured below. Once you’ve visited the grave, you can continue on the marked path to complete a small circular walk that crosses the river and brings you back to the front of the hotel.
Is the legend of Gelert true?
While the legend of Gelert is taught in schools across Wales, and any local will be able to reel it off by heart, dog lovers everywhere will be relieved to discover that it is simply an urban legend. Recorded to be a ‘known tale’ as early as 1862, local knowledge tells us that the story became connected with the village around 1793 when a man called David Pritchard became the landlord of the nearby Royal Goat Hotel. Pritchard knew of this tale and its different variants around Europe and so adapted it to fit the village with the aim of attracting tourists to both the village and his establishment.