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Visiting Snowdonia

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Harlech

Nestling in the foothills of the Rhinog mountain range, Harlech is a beautiful little town overlooking Cardigan Bay. Dominated by its medievel castle and surrounding hills, it is one of Snowdonia's best kept secrets.

Harlech Castle

The castle was built by Edward 1 in 1283, and later on in 1404 it held the court of Owain Glyndŵr, Welsh patriot and statesman. It was also the last castle to fall to the Pariamentarians in the Civil War.

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Harlech Castle

Harlech Castle (© Kevin Richardson)

Beach

Harlech is renowned for its long stretch of golden sandy beach and clean sea, which has been awarded with a Green Coast Award. Harlech beach has also one of the finest examples of a natural dune system with some dunes reaching 30 feet high!

Golf

Nationally and internationally renowned, Royal St David's is one of Wales' premier golf courses. It provides a challenging test of golf set in a most beautiful coastal location and lies under the gaze of Harlech Castle, with a magnificent backdrop of the mountains of Snowdonia. Royal St. David’s won the 2010 Welsh Club of the Year.

Theatre

Theatr Ardudwy is a major local attraction and has a full programme throughout the year. The programme includes live theatre, dance shows, concerts, films and exhibitions of local artists' work.

Shops, Cafés and Restaurants

Harlech has many interesting little shops ideal for buying gifts for friends and family. If antiques and bric-a-brac are more up your street, you will not be disappointed. After all that shopping, take the weight off your feet and enjoy afternoon tea in one of the Tea Rooms, or taste local produce in the local restaurants, bistros and pubs.

Walking

There are plenty of places to go for a walk in and around Harlech. Learn about the town's history by following the Harlech History Trail, or take in the views on the Branwen walk. Visit Cwm Bychan to the south, or take a walk along the Roman Steps. For further details contact our Harlech Information Centre.

Welsh Legends

Harlech is the scene of one of the legends of the Mabinogion, namely "Branwen, Daughter of Llŷr". These Celtic tales were passed down by storytellers through the ages until they were finally recorded on manuscripts by monks in the thirteenth century.

This epic legend of betrayal and jealousy began with the arrival of Matholwch, the King of Ireland in Harlech seeking the hand of Branwen in marriage. The marriage feast on Anglesey, however, was marred by the malice of her half brother Efnisien who, angry at not being consulted over the marriage by the giant Bendigeidfran, Branwen's brother, maimed the Irish King's horses.

Later, having settled in Ireland and given birth to a son, Branwen was punished for Efnisien's actions by being demoted to a maid and clouted every day.

In desperation, Branwen sent a note under a Starling's wing to her brother, seeking help. At once, the Britons sailed over to Ireland with Bendigeidfran walking through the sea, as no ship could carry him.

As atonement for Branwen's treatment in Ireland, her young son Gwern was named King of Ireland but a treacherous plot to kill the Britons during the coronation feast was discovered by Efnisien. In a wilful act, he threw Gwern into the fire so beginning a fight to the death between the two armies. Eventually only 7 Britons were left standing - even Bendigeidfran was killed - and they returned to Anglesey with Branwen. There, she died of a broken heart realising that the two kingdoms had been destroyed on her account.

Header image - Morfa Harlech (© Crown copyright (2014) Visit Wales)