It’s said that Prince Llewelyn never smiled again after he killed his faithful hound Gelert. He returned from a hunting trip to find his baby son missing from his cot and the dog covered in blood. He plunged his sword into Gelert but the dogs yelps caused the baby to cry. When Llewelyn found the boy safe and a huge wolf dead nearby he realized he’d made a dreadful mistake.
The only mistake we make when we visit Beddgelert this weekend is not staying longer. We walk alongside the bubbling River Glaslyn past Gelert’s Grave and over the bridge that carries the Welsh Highland Railway from Caernarfon to Porthmadog, linking up with the Ffestiniog Railway. It is now possible to travel 40 miles through this legend-filled land by steam train. That journey goes on my wish list.
We stumble along the boulder path between the railway line and the River, crossing the sort of bridges trolls might live under. The Glaslyn, which comes to life on Snowdon’s flanks, pours over mossy rocks, slowing down to form deep grotto-green pools.
After two miles, we arrive at Aberglaslyn Bridge and eat cheese sandwiches on a fallen tree trunk, edging further and further along it as the sun moves down below the cliff. Before they built The Cob at Porthmadog, the sea used to reach this far inland and ships once tied up here.
Somewhere nearby is an osprey’s nest with a camera and viewing place. The birds return from Africa sometime in March. We keep our eyes peeled, just in case.
It’s dark by the time we head back to our campsite in the forest. The last time I remember being struck dumb by the night sky was on a school visit to the Planetarium but it was spoiled by kids flicking sweet papers and giggling in the dark. No giggling this time, just deep sighs and thousands and thousands of stars, some faint, some bright and flickering, with hardly any space between them. Eventually I get dizzy and cold (it’s minus two degrees centigrade) and head for our snug campervan. When I close my eyes under a mound of quilts, I can still see the stars and unlike Prince Llewelyn, I fall asleep with a great big smile on my face.