Charming and tranquil, Beddgelert exemplifies a North Wales village, neatly nestled in the Snowdonia mountains. The little hamlet claims to be named for a legendary and noble hound known as Gelert, and his story that goes back to medieval times. The story is a well-known and beloved variation on a folktale of many different cultures: a loyal and true canine companion falsely accused of taking a life.
The legend of Gelert is so deeply rooted in these parts, in the late 18th century this rural Welsh village claimed itself in the canine’s honor (Beddgelert means “Gelert’s Grave”). Even though it’s widely recognized that the village and its name are much older (originally from an early Celtic saint), the eponym has been unofficially accepted as coming from the story of a regal dog and his heroic, tragic ending.
Engraved in both English and Welsh, a marker at the designated (and probably wholly fictional) gravesite tells the tale of Gelert and his master, the Welsh Prince known as Llewelyn the Great:
In the 13th century Llewelyn, prince of North Wales, had a palace at Beddgelert. One day he went hunting without Gelert, ‘The Faithful Hound,’ who was unaccountably absent. On Llewelyn’s return the truant, stained and smeared with blood, joyfully sprang to meet his master. The prince, alarmed, hastened to find his son, and saw the infant’s cot empty, the bedclothes and floor covered with blood. The frantic father plunged his sword into the hound’s side, thinking it had killed his heir. The dog’s dying yell was answered by a child’s cry. Llewelyn searched and discovered his boy unharmed, but nearby lay the body of a mighty wolf which Gelert had slain. The prince, filled with remorse, is said never to have smiled again. He buried Gelert here.
Know Before You Go
Beddgelert is in northwest Wales, about an hour and a half drive southwest from Liverpool. Just outside the village to the south is Gelert's grave, which you can reach by a footpath along the banks of the River Glaslyn. The trail will take you through a field with sheep grazing in it, be prepared for mud and other unpleasantness. The area is well situated for hiking and water sports, and there is a narrow gauge train to Caernarfon and other points in Snowdonia National Park.