Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Cyfaredd 10: Climbing Dinas Emrys

Haia Pawb

As I indicated in a previous post, in 2013 I climbed what I thought was Dinas Emrys. For those of you who don't know, Dinas Emrys is a mountaintop stronghold made famous in the Historia Brittonum and Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae as the place where Merlin (or Ambrosius Aurelianus) as a child confounded King Vortigern's advisors and uncovered the prophecy of the Red and White Dragons. Being quite interested in Merlin mythology, I decided to experience the place myself.
Dinas Emrys (photo from here)
However, as my post on Cader Idris indicates, I have a tendency to go off on my own and not (re)consult maps and the like. After I climbed the mountain and found what I thought was the pool under which the dragons had been 'discovered', I didn't know till I arrived back in Australia and started looking at other people's accounts that I hadn't climbed Dinas Emrys at all, but a mountain further down the road. Somehow, I had missed the real location and found a mountain with a similar profile but which was much bigger, hence the aching limbs and tiredness that prevented me from climbing Cader Idris the next day.
Dinas Emrys (diagram from here)
This time around, I was determined to climb the right mountain. I followed travel instructions I found online, arrived at the Craflwyn car park (one mile north of Beddgelert) and studied the map that detailed the various paths.
Map board at Craflwyn car park
Of course, as you can probably guess by now, my walk didn't go exactly to plan. The colours used on the map weren't the same as the colours used on the trail markers and I ended up going on a long hike before reaching the track that took me up Dinas Emrys. For those of you aware of The Hero's Journey, based on Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces, you'll understand how I was starting to feel as if the landscape was acting as some sort of Threshold Guardian and testing if I was worthy enough to reach Merlin's mythological site.
The path up the ridge to Dinas Emrys
So, after two attempts and a long detour I arrived at the summit of Dinas Emrys, with its ramparts and remains of walls and foundations. The views from there were amazing, which is probably why it was chosen (apparently by Llewelyn the Last) as a castle stronghold to guard the mountain pass of Snowdon.
Remains of a tower
View of Llyn Dinas from the top of Dinas Emrys
View of surrounding mountains
I knew I had found the right mountain because finally I was able to see the famous pool and its platform, though apparently the platform is dated later than the accepted periods for Vortigern and Ambrosius.
Pool and platform
More fortifications and building remains
With the masonry, the pool, the trees budding with Spring growth, the green moss and dormant heather, the hidden birds chatting amongst themselves about the quiet intruder, and the wind tousling leaves and rippling across the open areas, the place felt both mysterious and familiar.

Brief video of trees, birds and wind
A touch of magic
After exploring the summit, I found a small cave that kept the wind out and ate my lunch, after which I closed my eyes to concentrate on any mythic whispers that might come out of the earth. Maybe an idea for a scene in my book or useful images. White-knuckle mountains. The new leaf of a hazel tree feeling like the skin of a baby. Rivers like sweat from the brow of Gofannon, the Celtic God of metalworking.
The cave
I spent almost two hours on the summit and was only been interrupted once, by a man and a woman asking for directions. Luckily for me, they showed no interest in the place itself, no awareness of its mythological importance. But after some time in the cave I felt the need to move on. Just in time, too, for a group of walkers, who seemed intent on exploration, came up the ridge as I started down. After the testing by the Threshold Guardian, I had been blessed with quiet and inspiration and so could continue my own explorations elsewhere.
A waterfall I passed on the way back
When I returned to my car, I continued along the A498 to find the mountain I had climbed in 2013.  It was about another mile down the road. I still don't know how I missed Dinas Emrys the first time. That Threshold Guardian, I suppose.
The mountain I climbed in 2013
Dinas Emrys, in 2015 (less than half the height)
I hope you all manage to move further along your own hero/heroine journeys.

Till next time.

Pob Hwyl


Nadine Cresswell-Myatt said...

I really enjoyed this post Earl. Such a great sense of place and you could see so much that the other tourists could not. I sometimes that knowing about a place historically gives one such special insights knowing about myths and legends perhaps gives the onlooker even deeper insights. Such experiences are going to power your work beyond belief.

Earl Livings said...

Hi Nadine, You make a good point about the difference between a tourist and someone who knows more about a particular site, its history and/or mythology. All I can hope is that I've absorbed enough about the sites to use in the book. As always, thanks for your support and encouragement.

Grevel said...

Wonderful pictures, Earl! The magic of the landscape really readiates from your photographs. Thank you!

Earl Livings said...

Thanks, Grevel. I hope my posts (to be written soon) about our time together has photos just as evocative. All the best.