Sunday, 24 July 2011

Beddgelert, North Wales

Beddgelert is a village in the North Wales countryside that I have passed through on a number of occasions and have never stopped here before. I decided to do a post from here for three reasons ... it is unheard of by many, there are a variety and interesting features here and it shows a typical North west Wales countryside. Unfortunately the sun came out later in the day on my return from the location of the next post (which incidentally will be a major editing headache for me) and I didn't have time to repeat all of them (just two of the last three).

My main reason for stopping here was to visit the Sygun copper mine, something that has been on my "to see" list since the last time I was in the area many years ago. The visitor centre sits on the hillside amongst the surrounding vegetation and rhododendrons that seem to make the place look attractive in a rugged landscape.

Copper transport !!

"we're going in " !!
Although the mine closed back in 1903, extensive internal work was done to turn in into a tourist attraction opening in 1986.

The mine was presented with an award by the Prince of Wales in 1988 for "the sensitive development of facilities" !!! Let's hope that the wheels don't come off it !!

no turning back
For the tour, hard hats were given out in the visitor centre as some of the tunnels were not for the tall and the self directed tour led me to a serious of numbered exhibits .....

... caverns (smaller than what you think)
After climbing many internal steps and ladders, the tour ends about 140 feet higher up the hillside ....

Opposite the copper mine in the centre of the valley is a rounded hill (Dinas Emrys) where the Romans built a fort. Legend suggests that King Arthur and Merlin are supposed to have had a castle here. On digging foundations to such a place, two dragons (one white and one red) were disturbed and fought on this site with the red one claiming victory and the prize of being displayed on the Welsh flag.

Another legend regarding the birth of the village is the tombstone of Gelert under a tree in a nearby field. The tombstone reads....  ( bear with me, it's a long one !!!)

"In the 13th century Llewelyn, prince of North Wales, had a palace at Beddgelert. One day he went hunting without Gelert, "The faithful hound", who was unaccountably absent. On Llewelyn's return the truant, stained and smeared with blood, joyfully sprang to meet his master. The Prince alarmed hastened to find his son, and saw the infant's cot empty, the bedclothes and floor covered with blood. The frantic father plunged his sword into the hound's side, thinking it had killed his heir. The dog's dying yell was answered by a child's cry. Llewelyn searched and discovered his boy unharmed, but near by lay the body of a mighty wolf which Gelert had slain. The prince filled with remorse is said never to have smiled again, He buried Gelert here "

They say that things always come in three's ... stories difficult to believe that is !!! A round trip in 2011 on the Welsh Highland Railway cost's  ... £32 (A price that I would expect to pay to go to London on the train or nearly 2 tickets to Glasgow). Another thing that is difficult to believe is that it is virtually an all day round trip from Caernarfon.

Commuter view ?!
Many of the narrow gauge railways in north & west Wales were originally designed for the transportation of slate from the hills to the coast. These days 7 or 8 of these railways have been transformed into preserved passenger tourist services. The Welsh Highland Railway is one of the most ambitious projects in recent times with the completion of over 20 miles of track in some of the most torturous hill country. I'm not up for giving a long history lesson on the line but more of a brief one ... the original track of 1863 was closed to passengers and goods in 1916 and 1922 respectively. A revived plan in the 1920's failed as the slate industry started to decline, buses were quicker and rolling stock was out of date. During the 1930's a tourist plan was hatched to travel to destinations unheard of (my fears for it today !!) with a second failure to it's name. The final nail in the coffin came in World War II when everything was sold off including the removal of the track.

letting steam off about the WHR !
Restoration was a long process that began in 1961 with difficulties and court cases over operating rights which involves disagreements and legal battles between the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland railway. Just to complicate matters even further, I remember during my 1989/90 Welsh rail rover travels that there was another railway with the same name. This smaller railway has been re-named as the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway.

Amongst other unusual things, Beddgelert has been referred to as Alpine looking area and is the fictional setting for Rupert the Bear !!

Ty Isaf is a 17th century farmhouse now owned by the National Trust as it is the oldest house in the village and stands on the site of Llewelyn the Great, Prince of Wales's hunting lodge.

Lastly with a history confusing to the tourist, it seems ideal to have a shop in the country that looks remarkably like something one would find at the coast ... & not a Rupert Bear in sight ! ....


  1. Fantastic post and great imagery. What a lovely looking place.

  2. You visit the most beautiful of places. A sad tale about the dog.

  3. Thanks for the Arthur lore. The photos of the mine impressed me. I never expected an abandoned mine to be beautiful.

  4. Another superb post. The Garret locos are superb and the copper mine is now on my list. I travelled a section of the line a couple of years ago and the descent into Beddgelert is very impressive.

  5. I like bridges in such old villages!

  6. What a legend with that poor dog...
    Your story made me goose-pimples !!
    Interesting photographs, dear Jay...

  7. I want to live inside that first photo! That's the kind of thing that just draws me irresistibly to the UK! What a fascinating post, including the story of Merlin and Arthur. As for the copper mine, shudder!! I'd stay above ground, thanks. I've read the story of Gelert before and was horrified. Then someone told me that it was untrue, just a great story. I'm going with that, because I really don't want to believe such a sad end came to such a faithful dog! So, J, is Beddgelert pronounced, 'Beth-GEL-ert.' ? I am so glad you gave us so much information about this village. I'm definitely adding it to the list!

  8. Ciao J., your three reasons seem to me very valuable to show this beauty in images and history!
    Have a excellent week!

  9. Another lovely trip that brings memories from time spent in Wales!
    As usually love your post:)

  10. Another excellent post! Every time I look at your gorgeous pictures in your blog, I truly wonder why did you choose that picture for your profile!!!

  11. Thanks for the interesting information and the photos which remind me of my many visits to that area.

    That shop very much reminds me of many childhood visits to Wales, I can just picture what they are selling inside :-)

  12. A lovely town. I think I would have skipped the tour of the mine, however. I don't like tight places. As usual your pictures are outstanding.

  13. I once visited a gold mine in Johannesburg, South Africa - so I know the feeling.
    The tombstone under the tree , picture and story, have captured the best of my imagination. Beautiful and interesting!

  14. Nice photos to go with your narrative of the history of the area. I love the old stone bridge in the first shot. You are making "historians" out of your followers--we are all becoming so knowledgeable through your posts. Thanks. Mickie :)

  15. Oh poor dog, its a shame he couldn't speak to tell his master ;)
    Didn't know Rupert bear was from there, but you wouldn't get me in the mine!
    Have a good week
    Jan and George a dog that can talk lol xxx

  16. The fact is every place in Wales has a legend about the Prince coming home finding a child dead blaming the hound and then killing it and then finding the child safe.
    We Welsh love to think every castle has a legend or ghost or princess who died for love.



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