Watery Worlds

Watery Worlds

...Waterfalls, Caves, Lakes & Waves

Places Of Interest

  • Aberaeron

    A beautiful coastal town, coloured with the painted Georgian Regency townhouses fronting the harbour. It is the hometown of novelist Cynan Jones (b. 1975), whose works depict characters from the wider area. Jones’ Everything I Found on the Beach traces dark life events and decisions faced by three strangers, and his haunting Cove follows a lone sea kayaker who is struck by lightning. Whilst there, visit Jones’ favourite pub The Harbourmaster for good food and local brews. Aberaeron is also the hometown of Caryl Lewis, multi-award winning Welsh-language writer whose book Martha, Jac a Sianco depicting rural hardships, was made into a hit S4C film. Aberaeron is a short drive from New Quay, where Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) lived during the 1940s. This picturesque fishing town was a source of inspiration for Llareggub in Under Milk Wood. 

  • Frenni Fawr, Crymych

    Originally called Cadair Macsen (‘Macsen’s Fort’), this mountain has long been associated with Magnus Maximus / Macsen (335-388 AD) from The Mabinogion, and also with the Tylwyth Teg (fairies). In the 1831 book Cambrian Superstitions, folklorist William Howells tells of a local shepherd boy who was taken by the fairies to their own country. The Tylwyth Teg wanted him to stay, but implored him not to drink from a particular well. Curious, he eventually gave in to temptation, and in a flash found himself back on the slopes of Frenni Fawr. A footpath runs up and across the mountain passing various Early Bronze Age barrows, one of which may hold the mythical Frenni Fawr treasure which is said to be guarded by a nasty ghost

  • Llyn Eiddwen

    Llyn Eiddwen is an upland lake surrounded by heathland and the source of the River Aeron – after which Dylan Thomas’ (1914-1953) daughter Aeronwy was named. A local prophecy, credited to Merlin, tells that when Llyn Eiddwen dries up, Carmarthen will sink. This might relate to a second belief that the lake is an entrance to the fairy world which, if blocked, would render them defenceless and spurn them into attack. The lake is also said to be the home of a water spirit, Lady of the Lake and monster, as well as the magical source of wild cattle which ran from its waters when disturbed. Llyn Eiddwen National Nature Reserve can be visited on foot and is an excellent place to spot water voles, otters and wildfowl. 

    Photograph of the otter - copyright Chris Denny / Geograph

  • Virtuous Well, Trellech

    Our prehistoric ancestors may have thought watery places were portals to other worlds, and Virtuous Well could have been sacred to them; its course is said to run under the nearby stone circle, Harold's Stones. Famed for its healing properties, pilgrims visited Virtuous Well until the 17th century. Traditionally one of nine wells stemming from four iron-rich springs, each well cured a different ailment. Pebbles were placed in the water, and the number of bubbles which rose indicated whether a cure would be granted. Locals tell of a farmer who shut the wells but reinstated them quickly after threats from a “strange little old man". Fairies are said to dance at the well on Midsummer eve, drinking water from the flowers found scattered every Midsummer morning. The beautiful Wye Valley village of Trellech is also the birthplace of philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872-1970).  

  • Llyn Tegid

    At four-miles long and over 40m deep, Llyn Tegid (‘Bala Lake’) is the largest lake in Wales, with its own mythical monster called Teggie. The 6th century legendary poet Taliesin may have been raised here. Writer Elis Gruffydd’s (1490-1552) mythologised version of Taliesin’s life suggests he was a servant boy for Tegid Foel (‘Bald Tegid’) the giant husband of the sorceress Ceridwen. The place where Tegid Foel’s court stood is now hidden beneath the waters of the lake after being suddenly drowned, and locals say that the court lanterns can be seen shimmering underwater on a moonlit night. A number of tracks and footpaths circle the lake, and Bala Adventure and Watersports on the foreshore offers a range adventure activities. Llyn Tegid is managed by Snowdonia National Park Authority.

  • St Winefride's Well

    This holy well sprung up in the 7th century when Gwenffrewi (‘Winefride’) was restored to life by her uncle, Saint Beuno (545-640 AD) after a brutal attack by spurned suitor Caradoc that left her decapitated. Saint Beuno turned Caradoc into a pool of water which sank into the earth and Gwenfrewi looked after the holy well before later becoming an abbess. Pilgrims have sought the curative waters here since the 12th century, including Henry V in 1416 to give thanks for Agincourt, James II and Queen Victoria. Holywell is featured in the late 14th century epic poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, one of the best known Arthurian narratives. Modern pilgrims can still bathe in the large exterior well pool, see the shrine, and visit Saint Winifride’s Chapel which is run by Cadw.

  • Cwm-yr-Eglwys

    The ferociousness of the Irish Sea has over the years taken its toll on the pretty fishing hamlet of Cwm yr Eglwys (‘Valley of the Church’), which sits on the east side of Ynys Dinas (‘Dinas Island’) - so-called because a stream separates it from the mainland. 12th century St. Brynach’s Church was destroyed by the great storm of 1859, and only the west end remains; perched on the edge of the beach. Secret tunnels and smugglers caves are said to litter the inaccessible cliffs around Ynys Dinas. Managed by the National Trust, a tarmac pathway suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs leads to another cove - Pwllgwaelod. Return to Cwm yr Eglwys directly, or climb Pen Y Fan for some of the finest views of the Pembrokeshire coast.

    Photo of Ynys Dinas - copyright Joe Cornish / National Trust

  • Llyn y Fan Fach

    This glacial lake below the peak of the Black Mountains in the Brecon Beacons National Park was home to the beautiful Lady of the Lake. She married a local farm boy with a pre-nuptial clause that if he struck her three times, she would go straight back to her lake and take all the farm animals with her. The marriage did not last, but their sons went on to become the first of many generations of expert herbalists and healers, the Physicians of Myddfai. Some of their ancient remedies, dating back to the 11th and 12th centuries, have survived in the 14th century Red Book of Hergest, one of our most important medieval manuscripts. Nowadays Llyn y Fan Fach (‘Lake of the small Beacon Hill’) is a great spot for wild swimming. 

  • Foel Las, Penmaenmawr

    Tyno Helig is said to have been a Welsh kingdom, situated on a low coastal plain to the west of Great Orme and run by Prince Helig ap Glannawg in the 6th century AD from Llys Helig (‘Helig's Palace’). One legend tells of Helig’s daughter Gwendud who was beautiful and cruel. She refused to marry her betrothed, Tahal, a Snowdonian nobleman’s son, unless he acquired a high status golden collar. Tahal murdered a Scottish chieftain, stealing his collar, and the two were wed. That night, the ghost of the murdered Scotsman appeared, cursing the family. Soon after, Tyno Helig was consumed by the sea. A rocky outcrop off the coast at Penmaenmawr still bears the name of the drowned palace Llys Helig. Climb Foel Las from the Sychnant Pass for stunning views across Conwy Bay where Helig’s lands once lay.

  • Crooked Oak, Millin Cross

    Standing on the banks of the Cleddau Ddu River stands the propped, gnarled Crooked Oak - a tree with strong literary and artistic connections. The celebrated poet Waldo Williams (1904-1971) would stay overnight at nearby Croes Millin Chapel so he could walk down the track to witness the light of the dawn break by this tree. Williams celebrated it in Y Dderwen Gam (‘The Crooked Oak’): a protest poem against since abandoned plans to flood this area. Follow in Waldo's footsteps and enjoy the light of the estuary from the bench there, before travelling on to Picton Castle to visit Picton Art Gallery, which holds regular art exhibitions. 

  • Ffynnon Eilian, Amlwch

    Ffynnon Eilian (‘Eilian’s Well’), is at the foot of a rocky outcrop close to the sea. Like most holy wells, Ffynnon Eilian was thought to have healing properties and was visited for rituals on Saint Eilian’s day. From the 17th century, the nearby Church of St. Eilian began to promote the story that the well sprung from the spot damned by the saint when a greyhound killed his pet deer. Ffynnon Eilian thereafter developed a reputation as a cursing well which could be used to cast bad luck on others. Visitors would pay at St. Eilian’s for a spell to be inscribed and thrown into the waters. The church reputedly grew rich from the proceeds, buying two farms and later distributing funds to the poor. Known from the 18th century as the ‘Witching Well’, it was noted in British Goblins (1881) as “the most dreadful well in Wales”. 

    Photos of Ffynnon Eilian - copyright Wellhopper

  • Borth & Ynyslas Beach

    At low tide the remains of an ancient sunken forest appear in the sands of Borth and Ynyslas in Ceredigion. Walk through the preserved stumps of Late Bronze Age oak, willow, birch and hazel trees which have been further exposed by recent storms. According to legend, this is the edge of Cantre’r Gwaelod – the famous Welsh kingdom lost to Cardigan Bay. The poet J.J Williams (1869-1954) wrote of this legendary place: “And as the sandy silence stays with me till I sleep, the bells of Cantre’r Gwaelod are ringing in the deep”. Borth Bog in nearby Dyfi National Nature Reserve is also the setting of A String in the Harp by Nancy Bond (b. 1945) - a time-travelling fantasy novel popular in the USA and linked to the 6th century poet Taliesin. It also appears in several episodes of the television series Hinterland

  • Pistyll Rhaeadr Falls

    The Dragon of Llanrhaeadr at Pistyll Rhaeadr (‘Rhaeadr Falls’) is a great Welsh legend where good triumphs over evil. The winged snake, called a Gwybr, lived in the lake above the waterfall and would fly down to terrorise the villagers who lived below. The canny locals eventually tricked the Gwybr into seeing another dragon, which it promptly attacked, impaling itself on hidden spikes and allowing the villagers to live in peace. At 80m, Pistyll Rhaeadr is the UK's highest single drop waterfall and is considerably higher than Niagara Falls. It’s always enchanting and, on the rare occasions that it freezes into an ice sculpture, delightfully spooky. 

    Photograph of the top of the falls - copyright Chris Downer / Geograph

  • Ffynnon Gelynnin, Llangelynnin

    Ffynnon Gelynnin is a holy well which can be found in the corner of the 12th Llangelynnin Church’s graveyard. The well predates the church and was used for baptisms, as well as divination: the clothes of sick children were floated on the water. Local folklore foretold that if they remained floating then the child would recover, but death would be the outcome if they sank. The site probably dates from the 6th century AD, when Saint Celynin established a religious centre here. Celynin was the son of the legendary Prince Helig ap Glannawg from Tyno Helig - the lowland kingdom west of Great Orme which was consumed by Conwy Bay. Visit Ffynnon Gelynnin on one of the many ancient footpaths connecting the Conwy Valley with the headland.

  • Llyn yr Afanc, Betws-y-Coed

    This pretty pool in the River Conwy was once terrorised by the water demon Afanc; sometimes referred to as the Welsh Loch Ness Monster. The Afanc is said to have taken the form of a crocodile, giant beaver or dwarf and was said to attack and eat anyone who entered its waters. The thrashings of the Afanc was said to have flooded and drowned all the people of Britain except for two: Dwyfan and Dwyfach. In another myth, the locals moved the Afanc to Llyn Glaslyn by ox after luring it to the foreshore using a singing girl as bait. The ensuing struggle caused the ox’s eyes to pop out, and its tears formed the Pwll Llygad yr Ych (‘Pool of the Ox’s Eye’). Assuming you're confident the demon has left, Llyn yr Afanc is a great place for a spot of wild swimming and is in Snowdonia National Park.

    Photos - copyright Vivienne Rickman-Poole