Welsh legends, traditions and mystical tales

Footpath at Cwm Idwal, Snowdonia

Explore the myths, legends and folklore that have shaped the ancient landscapes of Wales. From the origin of our famous Welsh red dragon in North Wales to an enchanted lake in South Wales, there’s a magical tale for everyone.

Myths and legends of North Wales

Myths and legends of South Wales

Welsh traditions

Couple on a beach in Pembrokeshire

St. Dwynwen’s Day, 25 January

Have you heard the story about the Welsh patron saint of love? Dwynwen, the most beautiful of King Brychan Brycheiniog’s daughters, fell in love with a Prince called Maelon however they were unable to marry. Distraught, she begged God to help her forget him and so he sent an angel who gave her a potion to erase all memory of Maelon and turn him into a block of ice. God then gave her three wishes. She wished that Maelon would be thawed, that she would never marry, and that the wishes and dreams of all lovers would be granted. All three wishes were fulfilled and in thanks Dwynwen devoted her life to God, setting up a convent on the island of Llanddwyn, the remains of which can be seen to this day.

The view from Carn Llidi

St. David’s Day, 1 March

On the 1 March, Welsh people all over the world celebrate Saint David – or Dewi Sant in Welsh - the patron saint of Wales. With bright yellow daffodils, colourful traditional dress, dragon parades and rousing renditions of the national anthem, it's one of the most vibrant days in our calendar too! Born in the 6th century in Pembrokeshire, David is the only native-born saint in the UK and he has many stories and miracles associated with him. Head off to St David’s Peninsula, Pembrokeshire, to find out more about his life, or do as the Welsh do on the 1 March and pin a daffodil or leek to your lapel, cook up a Welsh feast of cawl or Welsh cakes, and join in the party at a parade or concert near you.

A bonfire with a dark misty wood behind.

Nos Calan Gaeaf, 31 October

Nos Calan Gaeaf comes from the Welsh for ‘Winter’s Eve’ and it marks the end of harvest and the start of winter. On this night villagers would dance around a bonfire before placing stones with their name written on them into the flames. As the fire began to die they would all run home to safety believing that if they lingered their souls would be taken by the fearsome tailless black sow, Hwch Ddu Gwta, who roams the countryside with Y Ladi Wen, or the White Lady. The following morning however, the villagers would return to the bonfire to inspect their stones. If theirs had been burned clean this was said to be good luck, however if their a stone was missing it was seen as an omen of their impending death.

A traditional Mari Lwyd with a horse skull head, mane of streamers and a crown of foliage

Mari Lwyd, Mid-winter

With the skull of a horse, baubles for eyes, and a mane of colourful decorations, you won't forget the first time you see Mari Lwyd. On the darkest of winter evenings, often between Christmas Day and Twelfth Night, Mari and her troupe travel through Welsh villages, creating plenty of mischief as they go. At each house they stop to request entry through a series of verses, or 'pwnco', and those inside reply with their own verses, giving an excuse for why Mari cannot enter. And so begins a battle of playful rhymes. If a homeowner relents and Mari and her group are permitted entry, they're given food and drink and the household is said to be rewarded with good luck for the year.