Welcome to the Year of Legends
Visit Wales has launched a campaign to celebrate our epic past, present and future.
Explore the landscapes which inspired some of Wales’s ancient stories on one of our five walks
We have selected five trails set in woodlands or National Nature Reserves which all have a link with local folklore or a famous legend.
Follow in the footsteps of the Welsh Saint Valentine at Newborough National Nature Reserve on Anglesey or, further south, gaze up at the giant’s seat from the foothills of Cadair Idris National Nature Reserve in Snowdonia National Park.
Listen to the story of Susie the witch who sent an evil local lord’s hunting hounds to their death in Coed y Brenin Forest Park.
Be enchanted by the tale of the underground folk who helped miners find rich seams of lead in the hills of mid Wales, or set off on a walk in South Wales to find the entrance to a fairy kingdom amongst the waterfalls.
We recommend that you download our app and any routes, maps or timetables before leaving home so that you can use them without the need for a mobile signal.
Dwynwen is Wales’s very own Saint Valentine and is the patron saint of lovers.
She was the daughter of a 5th century king and she is said to have retreated to the island of Llanddwyn, on the southwest corner of Anglesey, after falling in love.
Some versions of her story say that her father had arranged for her to marry someone else and she chose the life of a hermit instead. Others say that she became a nun in gratitude to God for granting her wishes, and she set up a convent here.
Over the years, this beautiful island became a popular place of pilgrimage and visitors used to leave offerings at Dwynwen's shrine. The area became very rich during Tudor times and a new chapel was built in the 16th century on the site of Dwynwen's original chapel.
Nowadays, the island is part of the Newborough National Nature Reserve and it is home to an array of plants and animals that have adapted to the challenging environment at the edge of the sea.
The Saint, Sand and Sea Trail sets off on woodland paths and takes you through the magnificent coastal dune system of Newborough Warren and onto the island. You can see the ruins of the chapel and learn more about the story of Dwynwen and the unique landscape which has been shaped by wind and sea.
Audio trail: There is an audio trail which you can listen to as you follow this route. It is divided into sections which correspond to numbered posts along the way. The trail is one of several audio trails and folk stories on our free PlacesToGo app. We recommend that you download the app to your mobile device before your visit so you can listen to it as you follow the trail.
Length: This circular, waymarked walk is 5 miles (7km) long.
Terrain: This is a moderate graded walk. The trail is on woodland tracks, soft sand dunes and uneven grassland. Ynys Llanddwyn can be cut off in high tides so check the tide times before setting off and follow the high tide diversion sign when necessary.
Start and finish: Newborough beach car park, Newborough village, Anglesey
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The dramatic landscape of Cadair Idris, along with the changeable weather, has fuelled the imaginations of generations of story tellers.
As a result, it is an area rich in myth and legend and one of the most famous stories is about Idris the Giant.
Cadair Idris means Idris’s chair in Welsh and the name comes from the giant warrior poet who is said to have created a seat at the top of the mountain to view the heavens.
One day, Idris was sitting in his chair when he felt pieces of grit inside his shoes. He cast the grit down the mountain and the three large stones that rest at the foot of the mountain are said to be those annoying pieces of grit.
Nowadays Cadair Idris is a National Nature Reserve and the mountain’s summit is the destination for thousands of experienced walkers every year.
You can follow in their footsteps part of the way to get a taste of the open mountain on the Nant Cadair Bridge Walk or on the shorter Gorge Climb.
There are also two accessible paths around the lake in the parkland below the mountain. You can find out more about the legend of Idris the giant in the visitor centre and café which also has information about the geology and wildlife of the National Nature Reserve and a film with stunning aerial footage of the mountain.
Watch our film about the legends of Cadair Idris
The film is bi-lingual. The Welsh version plays first and the English version follows after seven minutes.
The Nant Cadair Bridge Walk starts just past the visitor centre at the entrance to the National Nature Reserve. You’ll go through the Celtic Rainforest and enjoy views across the gorge. You’ll then climb steeply onto the lower slopes of the open mountain until you reach Nant Cadair Bridge. From here, you need to retrace your steps to the visitor centre.
The path itself is known as the Minffordd path and it continues to the summit of Cadair Idris. However, it is a very steep and strenuous climb which should only be attempted by experienced walkers with appropriate clothing, footwear, and a map.
Length: This is a linear (there and back) trail which is ½ mile (1km) long one way.
Terrain: The path from the car park to the visitor centre is wide and accessible but the Nant Cadair Bridge Walk takes you onto the open mountain. It is a strenuous and steep walk with a total climb of 620ft (190m).
Start and finish: Cadair Idris Visitor Centre (accessed from the Snowdonia National Park Authority car park off the A487 between Machynlleth and Dolgellau).
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The bridge over a dramatic gorge is the setting for the legend of Susie Dol y Clochyd who was said to be a witch.
A local lord claimed Susie’s beloved cat was hunting on his land, and so he killed it.
Susie was distraught and so she turned herself into a hare and lured the lord’s hunting hounds to chase her over the gorge.
She jumped over at the last minute but the hounds fell to their death into the roaring water below. Every time the lord returned to hunt, Susie turned into a deer and brought his pack of hounds to the same place where she would leap over and rob them of their prey.
Years later, a bridge was built over the gorge. It was called Pont Llam yr Ewig (which means bridge of the deer’s leap in Welsh) and it still goes by that name today.
Pont Llam yr Ewig is tucked away in Coed y Brenin Forest Park, but it is not far from the Coed y Brenin Visitor Centre. The visitor centre has a café, children’s play area and a range of walking and mountain bike trails.
The Discovery Trail is a short walk through a forest garden made up of trees from around the world. Look out for the secret panels hidden in the special posts along the trail to discover some fascinating facts about the different trees. You can use the special wind-up box to hear Susie the witch tell you her story.
Length: This circular, waymarked trail is ¾ mile (1.2km) long.
Terrain: This is an easy graded walk. Part of the trail follows the accessible path and part follows a steeper and uneven track through the woodland but there are no steps or stiles.
Start and finish: Pandy car park, Coed y Brenin Forest Park, near Dolgellau.
The Ewig Accessible Trail sets off from the car park for disabled visitors by the bridge. The trail follows the river through the lower part of the forest garden to a viewpoint overlooking the waterfall. Here you can use the special wind-up box and hear Susie the witch tell you her story.
Length: This is a linear (there and back) waymarked trail which is 160 yards (0.14km) long one way.
Terrain: The trail is built to Countryside for All standards with an easy gradient (maximum 10% / 1 in 10) and it is suitable for wheelchair users.
Start and finish: Pont Llam yr Ewig car park, Coed y Brenin Forest Park, near Dolgellau.
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Lead mining was once a major industry in the hills around Aberystwyth and it provided much-needed jobs for local people.
The miners were helped by fairies who were known as “knockers” thanks to the noises they made to guide people to the lead.
When the miners stopped hearing the knockers and could no longer find the lead, they feared they had upset the fairies and would be out of work.
Deio, one of the miner’s sons, thought a gift of his mother’s homemade blackberry cake may appease the knockers, and he set off into the mine with it. A fairy thanked Deio for the tasty gift and said that, as he had remembered the fairies, they would remember the miners.
The fairy said they would show the miners the way to the lead again and, sure enough, they soon heard knocking and found a rich vein of lead.
Today the former industrial landscape has been transformed and Bwlch Nant yr Arian visitor centre offers walks with stunning views, mountain bike trails and a café.
You can also see one of Wales’s modern success stories here – the dramatic spectacle of red kites coming in to feed. These birds of prey, which were once on the brink of extinction, were re-introduced several years ago and they are fed near the lake every afternoon.
The Elenydd Trail follows a circular path around the lake. It passes through areas of woodland and there are views of the surrounding hills. The trail is inspired by Elenydd, the old name for this area, and the sculptures beside the path bring the mythical landscape and its folklore to life. Look out for the special wind-up posts which tell the story of Deio and the knockers and other local legends.
Length: This circular, waymarked walk is ⅔ mile (1.2km) long.
Terrain: The path around the lake has a gradient of less than 10% and is graded as an accessible trail. It is suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs.
Start and finish: Bwlch Nant yr Arian visitor centre, near Aberystwyth.
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Elidir was a local boy who was training to be a priest. One day, bored by his training, he ran away and fell asleep on the banks of the River Nedd.
He was woken by two fairies (known as Tylwyth Teg in Welsh), who led him down a tunnel on the riverbank to the home of King of the Fairies. Elidir played with the king’s children for many days until he became homesick.
The king said he could return home but he must not tell anyone about his visit to the fairy kingdom.
But Elidir did not keep his promise and, when he told his mother about the golden balls he had played with there, she wanted him to bring one back. He reluctantly tried to do so but, when he got caught by the fairies, they called him a thief and a traitor.
Elidir was full of shame and was determined to apologise to his new friends, but he never found the entrance to the fairy kingdom again.
The Elidir Trail is situated in the area known as Waterfall Country as it is home to the largest concentration of waterfalls in Wales. The trail passes four of these waterfalls as it heads downstream to the village of Pontneddfechan. Hundreds of different types of moisture loving plants live here, and the entrance to the fairy kingdom visited by Elidir is reputed to be somewhere along the way, hidden amongst the mosses and ferns.
Length: This is a linear (there and back) waymarked trail which is 2.4 miles (3.9km) from the Pont Melin-fach car park to Pontneddfechan. You will need to retrace your steps when you reach Pontneddfechan to return to the Pont Melin-fach car park.
Terrain: The ground is uneven in many places and it is slippery after rainfall. There are some steep climbs and ascents, and the path from Pont Melin-fach to Sgwd Gwladys waterfall is steep and uneven.
Start and finish: Pont Melin-fach car park, near Ystradfellte.
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