A town gone to the dog

The legend of a dog is an interesting diversion on a trip to a small town in Wales, says
Anurag Yadav

Stone replica of the faithful hound Gelert
Stone replica of the faithful hound Gelert.

The ancient town is a great tourist attraction.
The ancient town is a great tourist attraction.

Pet town… dog lovers in Beddgelert
Pet town… dog lovers in Beddgelert.

Back in the old days travelling to the UK usually meant a trip to just London. The modern tourist now knows better. A weekend in Wales can be a very exhilarating experience. It offers as beautiful a holiday as one can ever aspire for. A holiday away from the hustle-bustle of the big city and close to nature. Indeed, Wales’ countryside has surely to be one of the world’s most beautiful ones.

If London wears its holiday mood on its sleeve, the quiet and almost sleepy Welsh countryside also dons a sprightly spirit. There are cars, mountain bikes and coaches that rush to lap up the pristine beauty.

Wales has around 1200 km of silver-sand coastline and dramatic landscapes. The other big attraction are the numerous castles that have been meticulously preserved in all their glory. For those who like a weekend amidst pristine nature and history then Wales and its picture-book towns are the places to be in.

Beddgelert almost passed us by as one of the many charming towns that dot the countryside in Wales. It has neat rows of houses that do not have the staid monotony of London blocks but a small-town charm that flies through lace curtains in brightly painted windows.`A0We stopped to buy a bottle of water and discovered there was a fascinating story associated with the town.

Our curiosity was first aroused when we saw a large number of pet dogs and their doting owners on the roadside. The small convenience store where we stopped too had an unusually large number of picture postcards of dogs and a variety of stuffed cuddly puppy toys. Thus our inquisitiveness was tweaked further.

Legend of Gelert

Even before we could ask the signboards told the story. The story, like most legendary tales, is clouded in folk fantasy, myth and a smattering of historical truth. Around the 16th century, the town came to be associated with the legend of Gelert, the pet dog of Prince Llywelyn.

The prince was an avid hunter and would go on frequent trips to the forest. One day when his wife was away attending to a sick relative, the prince went hunting and left his infant son in the charge of his faithful hound, Gelert.


The distance from London to Beddgelert is around 400 km
Buses from London depart from Victoria station for Baddgelert near Cardiff.
One can stay at the innumerable B&B options but camping is a good idea if the weather is good.

On his return, the prince was horrified to see Gelert standing on the doorway panting with his mouth and muzzle soaked in blood. The prince’s precious little child was nowhere to be seen. In a mad fit of rage, he plunged his sword in the dog and instantly killed him.

Within minutes, however, he heard a cry and stumbled into the house only to find his son on the ground. Beside the cradle lay a dead wolf covered with wounds, the result of a fight to the death with the dog. The shocked Prince strode back to his faithful dog whom he had killed. He knelt down and wowed to make Gelert immortal. Soon enough he erected a commemorative stone near the dog’s grave.

While tales of dogs, horses and other animals close to humankind abound all over the world, the cult status that this story has reached is incomparable.

A stream running next to the fields where the dog’s grave stands is a popular venue for excited dogs who strain at their leash and romp and play in the waters as eager dog lovers throw them sticks to fetch. Gracy poses for us next to the gravestone as Bull, a photo-conscious hound, sniffs at the stone replica of the famous dog in a little courtyard created close to the grave to mark the place where he was supposed to have died.

Many dog lovers vouch for a change in the obedience levels of their dogs after they pay ‘homage’ to the celebrated dog.

Welsh cakes and pastries and a famous teashop in the town is a great way to top up the visit. The lady who owns the tea shop swears by the authenticity of Gelert’s tale as she displays an amazing array of tea varieties and freshly made cakes.

After tea we look wistfully at Gelert’s stone replica as more than a dozen frisky dogs scamper around it. Our destination is a few hours away. We bid a silent farewell to the unfortunate mutt promising to return to pay our tributes yet again. — NF