Deep in the mountains of southern Snowdonia is Trawsfynydd, a sleepy little lakeside village with a surprisingly interesting history. Here are ten things you should know about Trawsfynydd.
With ancient roots stretching back thousands of years, this little lakeside village is one of the most Welsh-speaking villages in Gwynedd – so it’s the perfect base if you’re planning to polish up your Welsh skills the next time you visit Snowdonia.
Here are ten fascinating facts about Trawsfynydd, to help you on your way.
1. Ancient trade route
Trawsfynydd is close to the Bronze Age trade route that took our ancestors to and from Ireland en route to Wiltshire, which was by all accounts the cultural centre of Britain at the time. There are plenty of cairns, megaliths, roundhouses and hut remains nearby to suggest there were prehistoric settlements in the areas around Trawsfynydd.
2. What’s in a name?
Trawsfynydd means “over the mountain” in Welsh. But some say it was in fact the Romans that named the village: “Trans Mons” in Latin, which also means “over the mountains”. Considering how Trawsfynydd sits in a glacial valley, surrounded by mountains, its name is pretty apt! However, just to mix things up a bit, there have also been suggestions that Trawsfynydd was once called “Llan Eden Owain” or “Llanednowain”.
3. Tomen y Mur
Close to Trawsfynydd is Tomen y Mur, a Roman military settlement that sits on the shoulder of the mountains, overlooking the village. Tomen y Mur was established in the late first century AD, and was occupied until at least the second century. Even after the Romans had finished with it, the site found a new lease of life when Norman armies camped here, possibly refortifying the fort defences, during the late eleventh or early twelfth century. You can still see the ruins of the walls today.
4. Any old iron
It wasn’t just the Romans and the Bronze Age people that settled in and around Trawsfynydd; at Cracwellt you can also see the remains of an Iron Age settlement (this is about two miles to the south of Trawsfynydd). The primary function of Cracwellt was iron production, from about 300BC to the Roman occupation. Very little of Cracwellt has been excavated so far (about 2%), but even this has unearthed some pretty interesting finds. You can see these at Plas Tan y Bwlch.
5. Hedd Wyn
The poet Ellis Humphrey Evans – bardic name Hedd Wyn – was born in Trawsfynydd in 1887. Like so many other young men, tragically Hedd Wyn was killed in the First World War, at the Battle of Passchendaele. At that year’s National Eisteddfod in Birkenhead, the Chair was awarded to Hedd Wyn posthumously, draped with a black cloth.
6. Going for a song
There are two local choirs, with most of the members coming from Trawsfynydd. There’s Côr Meibion Prysor, which was established in the mid-1960s, and Côr Llefaru Bro Hedd Wyn, which was established to compete at the National Eisteddfod in Bala in 1997 and went on to take second prize at the National Eisteddfod in three consecutive years.
7. Llys Ednowain
Trawsfynydd has its own visitor centre, which doubles up as a hostel. Llys Ednowain boasts a brilliant multimedia exhibition about Trawsfynydd’s history and about Hedd Wyn, the poet. At Llys Ednowain you can also find out more about the Bronze and Iron Age settlements, and see a replica of the Trawsfynydd Tankard.
8. St John Roberts
St John Roberts was one of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales to be canonised in 1970. Born at Rhiwgoch, Trawsfynydd, in 1577, St John Roberts was raised a Protestant but converted to Catholicism after travelling the continent, and was the first monk to return to England after the dissolution of the monasteries. Having earned a reputation as one who tended plague sufferers, St John Roberts was eventually hung, drawn and quartered in London for high treason.
9. Lights, camera, action
With its dramatic landscape, Snowdonia lends itself well to the silver screen and has been the backdrop to many a Hollywood movie. Trawsfynydd has had its fair share of movie action, too. The blockbuster film First Knight, starring Richard Gere and Sean Connery, had scenes that were filmed around Llyn Trawsfynydd (Trawsfynydd Lake). The movie Hedd Wyn was also filmed in and around Trawsfynydd.
10. Hook, line and sinker
We can’t leave you without talking about the marvellous fishing at Llyn Trawsfynydd. This lake is the third largest in Wales, and it’s a very popular spot for anglers who love the beautiful surroundings and healthy stock of native brown trout, rainbows, perch and rudd. Fishing at the lake is managed by the Prysor Angling Association, and is permitted from 8am to an hour after sunset.