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New website takes visitors on an interactive storybook tour through Wales

Visitors to Wales can now plan a personalised trip based around their favourite books and legends.

Unusual and unexpected stories about pirates, rebels, smugglers and lost lovers - as well as Wales’ connections to some of the world’s most beloved books - are all being brought together in one place online for the very first time, through a partner project led by Literature Wales.

 

Wales has a unique and bilingual literary heritage: from poets such as Dafydd ap Gwilym, Gillian Clarke and Dylan Thomas; to children’s writers Roald Dahl and T Llew Jones; to contemporary novelists Caryl Lewis, Cynan Jones and Owen Sheers; to the enduringly mysterious stories of the Mabinogion.

 

Showcasing the best of Welsh literature, culture, and myths right in the places which created and inspired them, Land of Legends will take visitors on magical journeys to the heart of the stories and characters which made Wales. The Alice in Wonderland trail in Llandudno, the dramatic industrial landscape of the Valleys, and the vampire chairs of Llantwit Major, are a handful of the hundreds of literary attractions mapped through the newLand of Legends’ website (not live until Wed 12 April)

 

Working in partnership with National Trust Wales, Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales and Snowdonia, Pembrokeshire Coast and Brecon Beacons National Park Authorities, the new story map of Wales will get visitors on bespoke days out to hidden treasures and popular landmarks, based on their choices of haunted castles, fearless warrior princesses and mysterious monsters.

 

Mapped under 10 themes — Watery Worlds, Battles, Living Language, Folklore and Tradition, Sacred and Spiritual Landscapes, King Arthur, Childhood, Ghosts, Boots and Bread, and Rebels — each category highlights dozens of places attached to captivating stories, novels and myths, including places to eat, drink, explore and stay.

 

Visitors can browse the map, selecting places based on their hobbies and interests. Once they’re happy with their selection; ranging from ruined churches to secret coves, woodland trails, pubs and majestic mountains; they’ll be sent their very own itinerary by email – creating a unique literary adventure every time.

 

Watery Worlds covers waterfalls, caves, lakes and waves; Battles looks at warriors, warfare, castles and kingdoms; while Living Language explores Welsh and national identity.

 

Folklore & Tradition highlights weird and wonderful Welsh myths; Sacred & Spiritual Landscapes introduces pagans and pilgrimages; King Arthur uncovers Merlin, dragons and the sword in the stone; while Childhood tells fantastical family tales from Wales.

 

A Ghosts section reveals spooky haunts and tales of the otherworld; Boots & Bread tackles industrial heritage and hardship; while Rebels unearths Wales’ outlaws, rioters and uprisings.

 

Artist Pete Fowler, best-known for Super Furry Animals’ most iconic album covers, has created a series of evocative illustrations for each theme and a map which is used on the website.

 

At Dinas Mawddwy in mid Wales, tourists will learn about the charged adolescent jealousy behind Alan Garner’s prize-winning 1967 fantasy novel, The Owl Service, along with the Red Bandits of Mawddwy, a band of 16th century red-haired highwaymen who became famous in folk literature.

 

The website also tells visitors all they need to know about following the Roald Dahl trail in Cardiff — from the waterside Croc in the Dock art installation based on The Enormous Crocodile, to the pretty Norwegian Church where he was baptized, the sweet shop where he instigated The Great Mouse Plot, and the majestic Llandaff Cathedral in the village where he was schooled.

 

Lleucu Siencyn, Chief Executive at Literature Wales, said: “Wales is a walk-in storybook, with a tale in every corner, and a sense of place is important to many of our writers. This new resource will allow everyone who visits Wales to take their own literary trail and discover something new about our country.

“This year celebrates Visit Wales’ Year of Legends and Visit Britain’s Year of Literary Heroes, so what better time for visitors to design their own literary trails through Wales.

 

“This new project will bring to life the world-famous as well as Wales’ not so well-known literary treasures and connections.”

 

The project has been supported by the Welsh Government through the Visit Wales Tourism Product Innovation Fund in support of Year of Legends 2017. Cabinet Secretary for the Economy and Infrastructure, Ken Skates said: “This project is an excellent way to bring Wales’ rich, history, culture and legends alive and will enrich a visitor’s experience through showing the associations of landscapes and places with legends and literature.  This will give our visitors a chance to learn more and take part in our epic story during 2017.”

BOX-OUT: 10 Stories That You Can Discover In Wales

 

Ghosts: Relive a gothic love story in Llangollen

Lady Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby, also known as the Ladies of Llangollen, became known as ‘the most celebrated virgins in Europe’ — national celebrities who were visited by Wordsworth, Shelley and Byron at their home, Plas Newydd. Writer Dr Mary Gordon wrote about her ghostly conversation with the women there, in The Flight of the Wild Goose. It’s now a museum, retaining the Gothic features they introduced. The women are said to return to their beloved mansion, set on peaceful gardens surrounded by trees, every Christmas Eve.

 

Childhood: Take the Alice in Wonderland tour in Llandudno

The real-life Alice Liddell lived in Llandudno in the 1860s and visitors can enjoy a tour of the Victorian seaside resort, taking in the sites inspired by Lewis Carroll’s classic book. Follow 55 bronze cast rabbit footprints around a trail, stop at curio shops and art galleries onto the famous promenade, take a picnic in Happy Valley, explore Haulfre Gardens, and download an app that brings the sensory world of Alice to life and points you to all the best places to get lost and daydream.

 

Folklore & Traditions: Shed a tear for the ‘Welsh Juliet’ at Wales’ UNESCO biosphere

The wildlife-rich Dyfi Biosphere reserve in Mid Wales is also the setting for the Welsh love tragedy of Lleucu Llwyd, one of Wales’s most tragic love heroines, often referred to as the ‘Welsh Juliet’. Lleucu, who lived on Dolgelynen Farm near the Dyfi river, fell in love with a young poet, Llywelyn Goch, but her disapproving father told Lleucu her love had betrayed her and married another woman, and she died of a broken heart. The records of St Peter Ad Vincula church in Pennal record that she was buried under the altar in 1390. Songs and tales of the lovers are still common throughout Wales today, including Llywelyn Goch’s tragic Elegy for Lleucu Llwyd.

 

Rebels: Follow the world’s most successful pirate in Pembrokeshire

Family favourite T Llew Jones inspired a generation of children and adults with his novels — full of adventure, excitement, dangerous villains and fearless heroes. One rebellious hero was Bartholomew Roberts, better known as Barti Ddu (Black Barti) born in Casnewydd Bach, or Little Newcastle. “The most successful pirate the world ever knew”, he was a man who collected more gold and took more ships than any other pirate in history, including his counterparts Blackbeard and Captain Kidd.

 

Watery Worlds: Share a dip with a monster in Betws y Coed

Pretty lake, Llyn yr Afanc, was once terrorised by a water monster, 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 then eat anyone who entered its waters. Welsh mythology claims that the wild thrashings of the Afanc flooded and drowned all the people of Britain except for two: Dwyfan and Dwyfach. Head to Betws-y-Coed Information Centre to find out more.

 

Living Language: Visit Buckland Hall (the childhood home of Frodo Baggins)

JRR Tolkien felt the study of Welsh was crucial to his understanding of the history of the British Isles. He reputedly stayed near here one summer while writing The Lord of the Rings and borrowed generously from the area. His friend, Fred from Tredegar, appears as Fredegar, and Crickhowell turns up as Crick Hollow. Merthyr is Mordor, perhaps. Buckland, which as the book describes, does “lie on the east of the river”, became the residence of the Brandybuck Hobbits. Tolkien taught medieval Welsh while working at Leeds University and the Elvish language, Sindarin, is thought to have been inspired by the language. 

 

Sacred and Spiritual Landscapes: Seek out St Dogmaels Abbey and Coach House

This Abbey takes its name from Dogmael, a sixth century Christian Saint, said to be the cousin of St David, Wales' very own patron saint. This was a spiritual and cultural powerhouse on the banks of the River Teifi, once famed for its impressive library. One of St Dogmaels’ literary gems, the 13th-century Eusebius’ Historia Ecclesiastica, survives to this day in St John’s College, Cambridge. The church of St Thomas the Apostle next to the abbey features the Sagranus Stone bearing an inscription in the Ogham Script. Take a stroll along the nearby Poppet Sands for stunning views.

 

Boots and Bread: Breathe in Cordell country at Llanfoist Wharf

Blaenavon’s landscape is a living, breathing reminder of when Welsh coal and iron powered the world’s industries. It is from here that Alexander Cordell took his inspiration for his best-selling novel Rape of the Fair Country, the first in his series of novels portraying the turbulent history of early industrial Wales and working class struggles. Blaenavon has enjoyed a real resurrection, and investment in its archaeology culminated in its recognition as a World Heritage Site in 2000. Cordell is buried at The Church of St. Faith, Llanfoist. Follow the footpath up to the Grade II Listed Llanfoist Wharf Boathouse which can be hired as holiday accommodation. You can walk or hire a barge along the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal.

 

King Arthur: Take an underground guided tour of Dolaucothi Gold Mines

If the scenes of Smaug the dragon with his enormous hoard of gold in The Hobbit made you curious about how Welsh gold was mined, you’ll be gripped by the underground guided tour of Dolaucothi. Gold was extracted here from Roman times until 1938, the year after the book was published. After your visit, treat yourself to a pint of Double Dragon, a Carmarthenshire brew, in the nearby Dolaucothi Arms.

Battles: Be enchanted by Rhiannon in Newport, Pembs 

It was here on the cliffs above the mouth of the River Nyfer that the hounds of Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed in The Mabinogion, killed a stag which was being pursued by Arawn the King of the Otherworld. After his death, his wife, the legendary queen Rhiannon, appears on a gleaming white horse holding three magical birds whose song can “wake the dead and lull the living to sleep”. She was celebrated in the Fleetwood Mac song that bears her name, and remains a popular folk figure in this part of Pembrokeshire. The Visitor Centre, run by Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, offers exhibitions on local culture, heritage, walks and attractions.

Start the Journey now 

www.landoflegends.wales 

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