A tale of two dragons...at Beddgelert

The red dragon above Dinas Emrys and Llyn Dinas © Tim Albin

The red dragon above Dinas Emrys and Llyn Dinas

Beddgelert is the setting for two of Wales’s most celebrated legends. Probably the most famous of all is the story of Dinas Emrys, the lofty mountain home of the dragon you see fluttering on a thousand Welsh flags.

Building a castle

Way, way back in the fifth century the Celtic King Vortigern chose Dinas Emrys as the site for his castle. From here he hoped to escape the Saxons but his plans for a fortress weren't easily achieved.

Every night the royal masons would lay down their tools only to return the next day to find they'd vanished and their carefully crafted walls had fallen down.

And so it went on, day after day until Vortigern was forced to seek the help of sorcerers and magicians. They advised that the ground should be sprinkled with the blood of a child born to a human mother and a father from the ‘other world’.

Merlin and the dragons’ lair

A search was launched and eventually the child was found in Caer Myrddin (Carmarthen) and preparations for the sacrifice were made.

But the child, Myrddin Emrys, was no ordinary child. In fact, he was Merlin, the wizard. Merlin convinced Vortigern that two dragons lay sleeping under a lake inside the mountain and it was they that were destroying the foundations of his fortress.

Convinced the boy was right, Vortigern commanded his labourers to dig deep into the mountain.

They did as they were told and discovered an underground lake, just as Merlin had predicted. Once drained, the red and white dragons that lay sleeping there awoke and began to fight.

Battle of two dragons

The white dragon represented the Saxons and the red dragon the Welsh. Eventually the white dragon fled and the red dragon returned quietly to his lair.

Vortigern’s castle was built and duly named after Dinas Emrys in honour of Merlin, and the red dragon has been celebrated ever since.

Not convinced? In 1945 the site was excavated by archaeologists who discovered a lake and the ruins of the fortress dating to Vortigern’s time. The walls all showed signs of having been rebuilt several times…

Tread carefully if you explore this hill. A dragon sleeps beneath it.