The Legend of Gelert and his Grave

Wales is an amazing country. It’s full of beautiful scenery, myths, legends, and history. It even has more castles per square mile than any other country.

Whilst I wasn’t born in Wales, I am proud to class myself as Welsh, giving me the best of both worlds. I’ve lived in Wales for 36 years, ever since I was 6. I’m married to a Welsh man and all my children are Welsh. I often describe myself as born in England and raised in Wales and I wouldn’t want to grow up anywhere else.

Of course, living in Wales means you often take this amazing country for granted.

St David’s Day

On the 1st March every year, St David’s Day is celebrated. You will often find children dressed up in traditional Welsh costumes. Our local primary school makes a big deal every year. The children are encouraged to wear red or traditional dress and then they parade through town banging drums and waving Welsh flags. They have their faces painted and a special school dinner.

My talented daughters artwork from a St David’s Day competition last year

This year St David’s Day fell during the half-term holidays so we decided to go somewhere we had never been before.

Why Beddgelert?

When I was 6 we moved to Wales. I knew nothing about the country but I quickly made friends with an elderly neighbour and her dog. I loved dogs and kept asking my parents for one, but we wouldn’t get one until the following year.

The dog was named Gelert and the lady asked me if I had heard the story of Gelert. I hadn’t and settled down to listed as she told me the story.

The Story of Gelert

Back in the 13th century, there lived a Welsh prince, Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, known as Llewelyn the Great. Llewelyn had a faithful dog named Gelert and one day he went hunting without Gelert.

a silver statue of a dog to represent Gelert the faithful dog of Princce Llewelyn the great
Reese meeting the statue of Gelert in Beddgelert

When he came home a terrible sight met him. His house was trashed and there was no sign of his baby son who he had left home. Gelert came to greet his master covered in blood and in a fit of rage, believing Gelert had hurt his son, he ran his sword through Gelert. With a howl, Gelert died and hearing the howl a baby began to cry. Frantically, Llewelyn searched for the baby and found him beneath his blankets under his upturned crib. The baby was unhurt but lying near the baby was the body of a dead wolf.

Llewelyn quickly realised what had happened. A wolf had managed to sneak into the house and Gelert had faught with the wolf to protect the baby. Gelert had won, but he had been injured and covered in his own blood and the blood of the wolf. Gelert had saved the baby but Llewelyn had rewarded him with a sword to the heart.

Llewelyn was filled with remorse and is said to have never smiled again. He buried Gelert in a field near his home and the town was forever known as Beddgelert which means Gelerts Grave.

The story is one of the sadder stories I have heard and it breaks my heart every time I hear it. Yet even though Gelert’s Grave was less than an hour away and despite the fact I had passed through many times. I had never visited his grave

two slates with writing at Gelert's grave in Beddgelert. One English, one Welsh
The plaques at Gelert’s Grave telling the story of Gelert

The village of Beddgelert

St David’s Day was the perfect day to visit. How better to spend a Welsh national holiday than visiting a famous Welsh site. I took our own faithful hound, Gwen with me, along with my three youngest.

Gwen our staffy enjoying a rest by the river in Beddgelert

I was worried that Gelert’s Grave would be hard to find, but despite the fact it wasn’t in the middle of the village. It was easy to find and only a short walk along the river.

three girls by gelerts grave which is a big stone, two slate plaques with Gelerts stoy in welsh and english and a tree inside a fenced area
Ruby, Rhian and Reese at Gelerts Grave

The grave was not what I expected. I had visions of the grave being in the center of a village which had grown around it. However, I liked the fact that the grave was in a quiet area where you could reflect on the bravery of Gelert and how much Llewelyn loved him to create such a lasting memorial.

Ruby, Rhian and Reese with the statue of Gelert in the ruins of his house

You could tell that Beddgelert was also proud of Gelert, with a looked after the memorial and a statue of Gelert in a ruined house nearby. Whether that was Llewelyn’s house or not I didn’t know, but I liked to imagine it was

Snowdonia

After we left Beddgelert we decided to take the long way home, creating a circular route. The longer route took us around Mount Snowdon and Llanberis. The scenery was stunning and I definitely want to go back that way on a nicer day when we can see the summit of Snowdon. I’d love to visit the summit one day but I also know the only way that is going to happen is if I take the Snowdon Mountain Railway!

Have you ever visited Beddgelert? What about other Welsh myths and legends? Which one is your favourite?

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