Baleful legend of Cadair Idris

What is it about Cadair Idris that threatens so much and has drawn so many wild and woeful legends?

This looming fell is not the highest mountain in Merionethshire (an honour belonging to Aran Fawddwy) but is the most famous. It is a long, lofty ridge of peaks and troughs with its summit known as Penygadair at 2,930 feet; a challenging climb but one which draws many robust hikers. Its distinctive shape and beauty are richly evocative of the wild landscape over which it presides.

Here at the top of the mountain is a scoop in the rock forming a giant’s chair – for this mountain is the ‘Chair of Idris’, and filling its seat the placid tarn known as Llyn Cau.

This is an enchanted place, but hikers should not tarry overnight. It may be tempting to slumber by the tarn in the shelter of Craig Cau, but alone as you may be, beware of what is said of this place.

The Giant’s Chair and Llyn Cau

Now, even in dismissing local legends as heathenish nonsense, you will know the every year some unfortunate soul is dragged from the slopes of Cadair Idris, having overstretched himself or been caught in unexpected storms, and one must have sympathy with the mountain rescue teams who trudge the cursed slopes to find the lost walker who thought an iPhone was enough to navigate the timeless mountain, and to rescue him before nightfall.

This is a mountain which had stood for millennia even before Adam was formed from the dust; its slopes have been carved by ancient ice and scoured by untamed winds. It knows a thing or two that a brief visitor cannot.

The bards of old sang that Idris the Giant sat here in his chair, and many princes dwelling in the valleys about this fastness have been named ‘Idris’. Before you climb, as you may, from Dolgellau or the Mawddach, you should know that the howling wind is the baying of the Cŵn Annwn, the hounds of Gwyn ap Nudd, foretelling a death, and the tarns are bottomless and contains spirits vengeful when woken, or so has been said.

And bards frequently climbed these slopes, for it is said that anyone who sleeps on Cadair Idris alone will awaken either a madman or a poet; and few can tell the difference.


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