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The Llanrhaeadr Dragon!

 

Here be dragons!

Of course, we have our own dragon, the Gwybr of Llanrhaeadr. Above the waterfall is a lake called Llyn Luncaws. The story goes that in this lake lived a serpent with wings who, once every few days, would fly down the valley to the village and there seize children, women or animals, taking them back to the lake to devour them.

The people of the village got together and, as nobody knew how to kill the gwybr, a number of them set off and walked over the mountains for many days to reach the wise woman of the hills. They told her the frightening story and she listened in silence. When they were finished, she bade them sleep whilst she thought on the problem.

Next morning, when the villagers awoke, they gathered round her and she explained to them in detail what they had to do when they got home. As soon as they arrived back the men got together and went to the blacksmith's shop, where they worked all day and all night creating three enormous spiked collars of different sizes. The women worked together and gathered in all the linen in the village, sewed it together to make a huge sheet and dyed it blood-red.

In the afternoon of the second day, when all was ready, the whole village set off to the tumuli and great standing stone in the field at the foot of Rhos Brithin. Here the men dropped the three spiked collars over the pillar and the women wrapped the whole lot in the red linen. Then they set about building a circle of fire round the pillar.

The warning was given; the gwybr had been sighted on its way down the river. Quickly they lit the fire and hid amongst the bushes and hedges to watch. As it approached the village, the ring of fire attracted the great serpent and, as it flew closer, it thought it saw another dragon illuminated by the flickering flames. It roared with anger and threw itself to the attack, spearing its breast on the hidden spikes.

Again and again it attacked and each time the spikes drove deeper into its body until it dripped with blood and grew weaker. Eventually it could fight no more and collapsed bleeding and dying at the foot of the pillar.


The villagers, with the help of the wise woman of the hills, had outwitted the gwybr and once more the village was safe.

The pillar and the tumuli are still there, and with the farmer's permission, as this is private land, you can walk round the edge of the field to touch the great stone. It's called Pillar Coch, the red pillar, and may have stood there as a route marker, a grave marker, a river-crossing marker or a sentinel to those buried in the adjacent tumuli, for over 5,000 years. Please treat it with respect.

If you are wanting to unpick these tales. I suggest you consider the difficulty that early Christianity had with the pagan beliefs and superstitions in these isolated communities. Killing the dragon and despoiling standing stones was a Sunday afternoon activity after church, encouraged by the churchmen, yet the people knew there was more to the old ways than the church would allow.

Pistyll Rhaeadr

Tan-y-Pistyll, Waterfall Lane, Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant, Powys SY10 0BZ, Wales

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