Beddgelert is rich in stories, some historically accurate and others purely fictional. It’s a beautiful little village of stone-built riverside cottages, and a favourite with visitors and Snowdonia residents alike.
The pretty Snowdonia village of Beddgelert, which means “Gelert’s grave”, takes its name from the legend of Prince Llywelyn’s faithful hound who was slain in a case of mistaken identity. Llywelyn had left Gelert guarding his baby son, and upon his return he found the cradle overturned and the baby nowhere to be seen; Gelert’s face, however, was smeared with blood. Fearing the worst, Llywelyn killed Gelert. But then a baby’s cry was heard, and the child was found unharmed, beside the body of an enormous wolf with its throat ripped out. Llywelyn, it is said, never smiled again.
Whether the story is true or not, nobody knows for sure; but a gravestone was later placed in the village to commemorate Gelert’s bravery, so this ought to be the first item on our list of things to do in and around Beddgelert.
1. Visit Gelert’s grave
Gelert’s grave is in a field by the river, and the gravestone tells the story of what happened that fateful day. Legend has it that Gelert’s body lies beneath, but in fact the plaque is probably Victorian, laid by the landlord of the local inn to attract tourists to the village. Over a hundred years and hundreds of thousands of visits later, we’re inclined to say this wasn’t a bad move!
2. Ride the Welsh Highland Railway
Beddgelert is one of the stops on the Welsh Highland Railway, which runs from Caernarfon to Porthmadog via Waunfawr and Pont Croesor. Hop on at Beddgelert and see some of Snowdonia’s most spectacular scenery; there are several steam trains a day, and return and one-way tickets are available.
3. Cycling in Beddgelert Forest
Taking the family for a bike ride in Beddgelert Forest is a great way to stay active during your visit to Snowdonia, without worrying about traffic. You don’t even need to bring your own bikes; there are over 200 bikes available for hire at Beddgelert Bikes, including trailer bikes and tandems.
4. Sygun Copper Mine
Sygun Copper Mine is a great attraction whatever the weather, but it’s particularly good on rainy days when you need a way to keep the family entertained without getting a soaking. In the vast underground caverns you’ll see threads of ore running through the rock, and some pretty spectacular stalactites and stalagmites – and for a small additional fee, you can try your hand at panning for gold, too.
5. St Mary’s Church
Originally a Celtic ‘clas’, St Mary’s is said to be one of the oldest religious foundations in Wales, and was mentioned by the medieval chronicler Giraldus Cambrensis. St Mary’s was rebuilt by Edward I after his marauding troops burnt the church down during the Anglo-Welsh wars of the 13th century. Although the present day building is mostly Victorian, there are still a few parts of the structure that date back to Edward’s time.
6. Beddgelert Woodcraft
You’re bound to want to take a souvenir with you when you leave Snowdonia, so make sure you pop in and see what’s on offer at Beddgelert Woodcraft. You’ll find the shop near the river, on the way to Gelert’s Grave; it’s usually open 10am to 5pm. At Beddgelert Woodcraft you’ll find all sorts of beautiful carved wooden gifts, including an amazing collection of life-sized painted, carved wooden birds.
7. Ride a Snowdon Sherpa
The Snowdon Sherpa bus service lets you leave the car behind while you explore Snowdonia. There are several circuitous routes, so it’s easy to take a proper look around the region without the hassle of driving. Try taking the Sherpa to Pen-y-Pass, where you can walk up Snowdon (but make sure you’re well equipped for the weather).
8. Ty Isaf
This National Trust property, dating back to the 17th century, is the oldest house in Beddgelert. Standing on the site of Llywelyn the Great’s hunting lodge, Ty Isaf was reopened in 2010 as a shop and exhibition, featuring a 19th century kitchen and information about local wildlife and history.
9. Dinas Emrys
This ancient fort has all sorts of legends surrounding it, including connections with King Arthur. Not much remains now of the castle that once stood there, apart from a few ramparts and the base of the keep, but it’s still worth a visit. It was at Dinas Emrys that the legendary red dragon of Wales slayed the white dragon of the Saxons, as foretold by Merlin.
10. Fill up on ice cream
You can’t visit Beddgelert without trying the delicious award-winning ice creams at Glaslyn Ices – it’s the law! Okay, we made that up. But these ice creams are freshly made early every morning to a secret recipe, and if not exactly criminal, failure to try one before you go home would be a missed opportunity!