Castles and dragons

Conwy Castle
Conwy Castle

The legend of Gelert, the hound, goes like this: During the early 1200s, the ruler of what is now Wales was Llywelyn the Great. (Like Smokey the Bear, the was Llywelyn’s middle name.)

One day he went hunting, leaving his newborn son at home in the care of an inattentive servant. Upon Llywelyn’s return, he was greeted at the door by his favorite hound, Gelert. The dog was covered in blood and Llywelyn’s son’s cradle was empty.

Believing the worst, Llywelyn drew his sword and, in a rage, killed the dog. As the hound’s final yelping died away, Llywelyn heard the faint cries of his baby son, lying unharmed beneath the cradle. Nearby was the body of a dead wolf. Gelert, the hero, had defended the baby and killed the wolf.

Overcome with remorse, Llywelyn buried his faithful hound with great ceremony and, so the legend goes, was never able to smile again.

Llywelyn the Great, unsmiling, greeted me as I stepped from the train in Conwy.

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Walking the Mother of Wales

Penmon Point, Wales
Penmon Lighthouse and Puffin Island

A year ago I hiked a loop through the Cotswolds, an area in England known for its rolling farmland and quaint villages.

This year, I traipsed a section of the coastal path around Anglesey, an island off the northwest coast of Wales.

The Isle of Anglesey was known as Mam Cymru (Mother of Wales) during the Middle Ages because the island’s fertile fields could feed the whole country.

The trail around Anglesey is 128 miles long, passing through green pastures, scrubby heath, sand dunes, salt marshes, pebbly beaches, mud flats, towering bluffs, and the occasional woods. Along the way I visited castles, ate fresh seafood, and attempted to field questions from the Welsh about the US presidential election, a topic which endlessly fascinated them.

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