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Beddgelert, Dinas Emrys, Dragons and the Welsh Princes

Beddgelert is a village steeped in Welsh mythology and legend.

Dinas Emrys (meaning “fortress of Ambrosius”) is a rocky wooded hillock above the Glaslyn river where a castle once stood. Some believe the castle was erected by the Welsh prince Llewelyn the Last.

According to legend the castle was the site of the famous exchange between the warlord Vortigern and a young Merlin. Fleeing Anglo-Saxon invaders Vortigen came to Wales and chose the hillfort as his retreat. However all efforts at building on the site failed, with workers returning daily to find collapsed masonry. Vortigern was counselled to seek the help of a young boy born of a virgin mother; a suitable boy was found named Myrddin Emrys (Merlin Ambrosius). Vortigern’s plan to kill Myrddin to appease the supernatural powers preventing him from building his fortress was scorned by Myrddin who instead explained that the fort could not stand due to a hidden pool containing two dragons. The White Dragon – he explained – of the Saxons would in time be defeated by the British Red Dragon. After Vortigern’s downfall the fort was given to Emrys Wledig (Ambrosius Aurelianus) from which it takes its name.

As for the dragons and how they became confined? The story of Lludd Lleflys in the Mabinogion explains how Lludd captured the dragons in a cauldron filled with beer when they had transformed themselves – as apparently they did – into pigs. The dragons were buried at the place that later became known as Dinas Emrys since it was regarded as the safest place to put them.

A further legend tells of Myrddin hiding treasure in a cave at Dinas Emrys. The legend says that the discoverer of the treasure will be ‘golden-haired and blue-eyed’ and that a bell will ring to invite him or her into the cave. But beware! Local folklore tells of a young man from Beddgelert who once went in search of the treasure and was met with unearthly noises and thunder and lightning as soon as he started to dig. He fled home and never returned; not even to collect his pickaxe!

Nowadays little remains of the castle structures, however excavations from 1910 and 1954-56 reveal several periods of habitation; the earliest dating to perhaps the 1st or 2nd century. Perhaps most intriguingly the pool inside the structure has been identified and is perhaps connected to the take of Vortigern and the dragons.

Why not visit and experience the legends and myths for yourself?

Printed from the Beddgelert Tourism Association web site on 19/07/2024 10:06. Information correct at time of printing.