Part of my heritage is Welsh. The Davies name/blood on my paternal side held on tenaciously amidst the German and Irish, waving the surname like a flag. I have always been called to this aspect of my diverse Celtic heritage. So last holiday season the family started planning an epic trip. My family has had its fair share of grief and trauma in the last year and a half. So this trip was much needed – to celebrate life, and be together, and get a feel for the country of our ancestry.
To me – and for the writing here – I will treat Wales as its own country. While it is officially part of the UK, it has its own language, and strong independent cultural identity. The fact that the latter has survived amidst great prejudice and pressure to assimilate is remarkable to me. (Wales lost its last prince in 1282 when Edward I defeated Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. Then became part of the UK in 1535, early enough in UK history that you don’t see Wales represented in the UK flag, nor in the coat of arms. * See below )
Our trip started in early July ( the irony of landing in the UK on July 4th was not lost on any of us) and the 7 of us flew in from Delaware, Texas, New Mexico… Landing in Manchester and heading to Ruthin Wales. I was traveling solo – sadly my spouse had to work New job= no real leave time…. But I got to hop of the train in Warrington to have coffee with Caroline!
Caroline and I are both artists and writers for Art Elements blog. We have known each other for like 8 years? And this was our 2nd in person! She and I share a love of myth and magic, and hours passed in the blink of an eye and a few sips of latte. Then I was on the train – headed to Flint Wales with lunch – thanks to C! Although the windows were dirty, the view still made my heart happy.
Can I just take a second to appreciate al the bilingual signs all over Wales?! This (below) was at the tiny, gritty train station… where I waited for a taxi able to take me the rest of the way, a good jaunt, too Ruthin.
When I arrived – I had a few hours to myself. I set off to explore the grounds, and walk in to town.
Also on the grounds of Ruthin Castle is a Gorsedd stone circle. These circles are constructed for the ceremonies of the National Eisteddfod. The Ruthin circle was constructed in 1973, commemorating Ruthin hosting the festival. While it is a modern circle – walking amongst standing stones as tall as me, in the morning dew and mist, was a magical experience.
Now – true to form I am always looking for myth and magic. SO I present Maen Huail – where folklore says King Arthur ( yes, that King Arthur) beheaded the giant Huail. While the stone has been moved in town, from outside the bank to now outside a pub, it remains in the town center, and well marked! ( information here and here.)
Ruthin is a really charming market town. People were exceptionally friendly – and even more so when we told them about our trip. That we ranged in age from Dad at 81 to my nephews at 5 and 9. That we were “Davies” and interested in the land of our heritage, even though we weren’t conducting research. And our attempts and pronunciation and a few Welsh word – patiently well received.
The Ruthin Craft Centre was on my list of “I-hope-I-can-go-there” places. And it did not disappoint! Galleries, local artists work in the shop, artist residency studios, and classrooms – this place was hub of arts and learning. My sister and I went to see the exhibit by Primmy Chorley. ( see the image below for a quote on her work.)
One thing we had planned while based in Ruthin was a day trip to Rhosllanerchrugog. (Rhos – moor. Llanerch – glade. grugog – heathery. “Moor of the Heathery Glade”). We didn’t have a destination in mind specifically, so we did a drive through town. Rhos was a minion town, and seemed to be in a bit of a decline/hard times… We opted to continue on…
The afternoon was spent exploring the defunct Mineral lead mine, and lunch at Llandegla. Llandegla is a trout fishery, with a stunning camping area and a wonderful cafe. The boys fed some trout – and we ate some too. My obsession with elderflower started here…
Diolch! As in – thank you for reading the first installment of this amazing trip. More to come – stay tuned.