Christmas Shopping in Wales
Every year I decide that this will be the year I finally get properly organised with my Christmas shopping. Unfortunately, so far, that has never really happened and I really need to get a wriggle on if all my family are going to have something to unwrap on the big day. Inspiration for me is often the problem and when it is difficult to find the time to have a wander round the shops to see what is out there. This is why I love a good Christmas market. What better place for picking up interesting and unusual gifts for your loved ones.
Get into the Christmas spirit at the Broneirion Winter Wonderland on the evening of 5 December. At this classic Victorian house in Llandinam, Mid Wales, you can peruse the Victorian style Christmas market, visit Santa and Mother Claus, take part in Christmas crafts and join in with the choir as they sing carols around the 140ft Christmas tree!
For a unique gift for someone special visit The Royal Cambrian Academy, Conwy North Wales, where a special exhibition of affordable art, ceramics and craftwork by academy members is on at the moment and where nearly everything is for sale. For more artwork, gifts and local produce why not take the opportunity of Thursday late-night shopping on 4, 11 & 18 December at Erddig, a very fine National Trust historic house on the outskirts of Wrexham. After your shop you can even treat yourself to a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings in the restaurant situated in the old hay loft.
The Caerphilly Christmas Markets is one of the biggest our country has to offer and this year will be held on the 13 & 14 December. I was lucky enough to go a few years ago and the range of crafts and foods on offer, along with the entertainment and workshops offered, was astonishing. The stalls stretched from the castle into the town square and I happily spent a whole afternoon browsing, sampling and purchasing. The local cheese makers stall got quite a few visits! If you have already finished your shopping but still want an excuse to visit this historic South Wales town why not come and experience the River of Light Parade on the 18 December. Enjoy the lantern parade through the streets and make your way to the magnificent castle for the grand finale of a fireworks display
If city shopping is more your thing then make your way to Swansea. With a fantastic range of high street names, independent shops and a Christmas street market, which runs from the 28 November to 21 December, there is plenty of choice. For the kids, both big and small, there is the Swansea Winter Wonderland. Book some time on one of the two ice rinks, visit Santa in his grotto and make the most of the festive funfair.
Is there anywhere special that you return to when you are looking for an important gift or when you just can’t think what to get that one person who has everything? I can’t wait to hear from you as I need some ideas!
Gelert and the Wolf
Welsh history and its traditional literature is full of myths and legends and the Welsh landscape really does lend itself to truly picturing yourself back in those ancient times where the tales were passed down through generations of oral history. I hope to be able to write about a fair few on my blog but I will start with the one I knew first – Gelert and the Wolf.
One of the most well-known and loved folk-tales, I had the book when I was little and, even though I didn’t have any experience with dogs and the story made me sad, I read it again and again. Once we got our dog and I learnt what it meant to be a recipient of his unquestioning loyalty and affection, the tale had even more of a resonance for me.
There are many variations of the legend but the crux of the tale is this….
Prince Llewelyn the Great loved hunting in the countryside surrounding his castle on the banks of a river in Snowdonia and never more so than when he had his faithful wolf-hound Gelert by his side. On one fateful day when Llewelyn was visiting the castle with his family, Gelert was left to guard the nursery and the Prince’s baby son. On the hunting party’s return Llewelyn was greeted by a weary Gelert covered in blood, an overturned cot and the nursery in disarray. In his grief-fuelled anger Llewelyn plunged his sword into the dog he presumed had killed his son, but, as Gelert lay dying Llewelyn heard his baby whimper and discovered him safe under the cot with a slain wolf close-by. Llewelyn buried his brave companion outside the castle where the grave could be seen by all and it is said that in his remorse never smiled again.
The town of Beddgelert in Snowdonia has long been associated with the legend and people flock to visit ‘Gelert’s Grave’. If you follow the banks of the river Glaslyn out of the village you will discover a path leading to a stone monument and tombstone inscribed with the story in brief, centrally located in a field. The historian in me knows full well that the village is unlikely to be the actual sight of the legend and the version that a local C18th landlord played on the similarity of the names and created the grave to encourage tourists to the area is far more plausible, I still want to go!
Gelert and the Wolf is a relatively recent tale but it is not the only legend local to Beddgelert. Again on the banks of the Glaslyn stands a wooded hillock, Dinas Emerys, reputed to be the site where a young Merlin explained to the Celtic warlord Vortigen that his castle would never be secure as the white dragon of the invading Saxons and the red dragon of the British had been trapped in a pool beneath. Remains of a fortification dating back to C1st and C2nd have been found, but nothing of the dragons yet…….