Cadair Idris, a mountain in Snowdonia National Park, is shrouded in myths and legends. RICK HALE delves into its intriguing folklore and tales of terror
Growing up in the American Midwest, we don’t really have much to look at. Sure, we have endless fields of corn, flat land, and thankfully I live close to one of our great cities, Chicago. Otherwise, it’s kind of boring.
However, when we took a vacation out west to the beautiful state of Colorado, and I saw the mountains for the first time I was blown away by the splendour of the Rockies.
As we drove up into them for the first time three words came to mind: Exhilarating, intimidating, and most of all mysterious.
My imagination was immediately captured and I pondered endlessly on what mysteries this adventure held.
The mountains are a place of extraordinary beauty.
I’m sure those who visit Snowdonia in Wales for the first time. With each craggy peak having their own myths and legends, of ghosts, fairy folk, and heroic figures who will be remembered for time immemorial.
And one of those mountains, Cadair Idris perhaps holds the greatest and most terrifying mysteries of them all.
Let’s climb this mountain and learn of those myths and legends. Myths and legends that are as old as the mountain itself.
Standing majestically at 893 metres (2930 feet) in the southern end of Snowdonia National Park, Cadair Idris is a favourite of hikers, climbers, and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds.
The unique and mysterious name of Cadair Idris is believed to mean, “Idris’ Chair.”
Idris was believed to be a learned giant, who we’ll learn about later. While others believe it derives its name from a real historical person.
1400 years ago in the 7th century, a bloody battle was fought between Irish invaders and the forces of Idris ap Gwyddno, a Meirionnydd prince.
The battle finally came to a dramatic end on the rocky slopes of the future Cadair Idris with the Welsh warrior prince coming out the Victor.
Since that battle, according to historians, the mountain was called Cadair Idris. Or Chair of Idris.
This may be the accepted origin of the mountain’s name. But this is Wales, a land known for its rich folklore. And some of that folklore has to do with giants.
A Brilliant Giant
Giants appear in much of the myths and legends of western Europe including the United Kingdom and Ireland.
According to much of the folklore, giants are brutish beasts, with tiny brains who are given to violence if provoked. If you were to encounter a giant you would more than likely be killed, and eaten.
However, the giant that inhabited Cadair Idris was far more different than his counterparts.
Rather than being, well, a brainless dolt, Idris the giant was well versed in poetry, astronomy, and philosophy.
The brilliant giant would sit atop the mountain that bears his name and ponder the complexities of the world around him. And think about what lives among the many stars that litters the night sky over Snowdonia.
With the giant long gone, it is said that if you should dare to spend the night in Idris’ favourite spot you would either die, go mad, or come down from the mountain a poet. If you’re courageous enough to spend the night, hope for the latter.
Hounds Of Cwn Annwn
Another feature of Welsh folklore are spectral wild hunts.
According to legend Cadair Idris is the hunting grounds of Gwyn ap Nudd, king of the Tylwyth Teg, fairy folk.
After the setting of the sun, King Nudd and his great, black spectral hounds appear and begin their hunt for souls.
When locals hear the howling and baying of these horrific beasts they are wise to slam their doors and shutter their windows. Lest they are discovered and dragged into the underworld in the jaws of these bloodthirsty dogs.
The Dragon Of Llyn Cau
In the very heart of Cadair Idris can be found a lake formed by the glaciers that cut across Snowdonia millenia ago during the last ice age.
The inky black waters of Llyn Cau are said to be bottomless and if you fall below its icy depths, your body will never be found again.
But being bottomless isn’t the only terrifying feature of Llyn Cau. A monster sleeps below the surface.
Wales has a long and detailed mythology concerning the heroic deeds of Britain’s greatest monarch, King Arthur.
Regardless of what you believe, historical evidence points towards a warrior King that Arthur is based on.
With that being said, the man may have existed, but his accomplishments were, shall we say, embellished. And one of those embellishments happened at Llyn Cau.
When Arthur ruled the land a monstrous dragon terrorised the people of present day Snowdonia.It would swoop down, destroy villages, and carry off whatever it desired to eat. Both livestock and humans.
The people petitioned Arthur to rid them of the dragon. But rather than kill it, he bound it and tossed it into the lake where it sleeps in its watery prison for all time.
Lights On The Mountain
If giants, dragons, and hellhounds aren’t enough to scare you away from exploring Cadair Idris, bizarre lights only add to the terror.
Those who live near the mountain have reported unexplained lights dancing about Cadair Idris and circling it.
Old timers believe that the lights are the fairy folk emerging from Annwn, Welsh underworld, searching for humans who stray too close to their kingdom.
While others believe these lights could be unidentified flying objects coming and going from a base inside the mountain. To be honest, the jury is still out on that one.
Snowdonia National Park, home of this mountain of mystery, is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in Britain. If not the world.
You could spend a lifetime, and possibly more, exploring its natural splendour as well as its rich folklore.
But please, if you should visit, keep in mind that it’s a protected place that should remain pristine. Both its natural beauty as well as its legends.
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