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Title: Motor Tours in Wales & the Border Counties
Author: Stawell, Rodolph, Mrs.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: Map.]


MOTOR TOURS IN WALES AND THE BORDER COUNTIES


[Illustration: VALLE CRUCIS ABBEY.

_Frontispiece_]



MOTOR TOURS IN WALES & THE BORDER COUNTIES

by

MRS. RODOLPH STAWELL

With Photographs by R. De S. Stawell



Boston
L. C. Page & Company
1909



CONTENTS


 I                                                                 PAGE

 SHROPSHIRE                                                           1

 II

 NORTH WALES                                                         65

 III

 THE HEART OF WALES                                                 135

 IV

 SOUTH WALES                                                        163

 V

 WYE VALLEY                                                         223



ILLUSTRATIONS


 VALLE CRUCIS ABBEY                                      _Frontispiece_

                                                            FACING PAGE

 LUDLOW CASTLE                                                        4

 THE FEATHERS HOTEL, LUDLOW                                           5

 TUDOR DOORWAY, LUDLOW CASTLE                                         6

 THE ROUND CHAPEL, LUDLOW CASTLE                                      7

 ENTRANCE TO HALL IN WHICH “COMUS” WAS FIRST PERFORMED               10

 STOKESAY CASTLE                                                     11

 OLD STREET IN SHREWSBURY                                            22

 RICHARD BAXTER’S HOUSE, EATON CONSTANTINE                           23

 BUILDWAS ABBEY                                                      28

 MADELEY COURT                                                       29

 HAUGHMOND ABBEY                                                     38

 WENLOCK PRIORY, ST. JOHN’S CHAPEL                                   39

 WENLOCK PRIORY, CHAPTER HOUSE                                       42

 BISHOP PERCY’S BIRTHPLACE, BRIDGNORTH                               43

 WHITTINGTON CASTLE                                                  64

 THE LLEDR VALLEY, FROM THE HOLYHEAD ROAD                            65

 THE OLD CHAPEL, BETTWS-Y-COED                                       82

 THE LLUGWY AT BETTWS-Y-COED                                         83

 CONWAY CASTLE                                                       90

 THE PASS OF NANT FFRANCON                                           91

 THE MENAI BRIDGE, FROM ANGLESEY                                    102

 CARNARVON CASTLE                                                   103

 DOLBADARN CASTLE                                                   106

 SNOWDON, FROM CAPEL CURIG                                          107

 NEAR BEDD GELERT                                                   120

 GATEWAY OF HARLECH CASTLE                                          121

 THE MAWDDACH, FROM TYN-Y-GROES HOTEL                               134

 LLANIDLOES                                                         135

 ARCHWAY AT STRATA FLORIDA                                          148

 NEAR GLANDOVEY                                                     149

 THE MAYOR’S HOUSE, MACHYNLLETH                                     156

 THE RIVER DULAS                                                    157

 THE PASS OF CORRIS, NEAR TAL-Y-LLYN                                158

 BALA LAKE                                                          159

 CAERPHILLY CASTLE                                                  172

 BEAUPRÉ CASTLE                                                     173

 EWENNY PRIORY                                                      180

 NEATH ABBEY                                                        181

 BRECON                                                             186

 GATEWAY, KIDWELLY CASTLE                                           187

 GOSCAR ROCK, TENBY                                                 196

 MANORBIER CASTLE, NEAR TENBY                                       197

 ENTRANCE TOWER, PEMBROKE CASTLE                                    202

 PEMBROKE COAST                                                     203

 CAREW CASTLE                                                       208

 ST. DAVID’S CATHEDRAL AND RUINS OF THE BISHOP’S PALACE             209

 ST. MARY’S COLLEGE, ST. DAVID’S                                    212

 ST. DAVID’S CATHEDRAL: INTERIOR                                    213

 KILGERRAN CASTLE, NEAR CARDIGAN                                    222

 THE WYE NEAR ITS SOURCE                                            223

 CONFLUENCE OF THE WYE AND THE MARTEG NEAR RHAYADER                 234

 HEREFORD                                                           235

 THE PREACHING CROSS, HEREFORD                                      238

 ROSS FROM WILTON                                                   239

 MONNOW BRIDGE, MONMOUTH                                            250

 RAGLAN CASTLE, ENTRANCE TOWER                                      251

 THE MOAT, RAGLAN CASTLE                                            254

 LLANTHONY PRIORY                                                   255

 INTERIOR OF LLANTHONY PRIORY, SHOWING THE EAST END                 258

 TINTERN ABBEY                                                      259

 TINTERN ABBEY                                                      266

 CHEPSTOW CASTLE                                                    267



Much of the material of this book has appeared in the _Car Illustrated_,
and is here reproduced by the kind consent of Lord Montagu.



SHORT RUNS IN SHROPSHIRE


There was once a tramp who said--“Och, now, it’s true what I’m tellin’
ye; I never got a bit o’ good out o’ me life till I took to the road!”

He was quite serious about it. He was a nice tramp, with a fine sense
of romance and a large trust in the future, and on this first day of
the tour his words ring in my head above the rush of the wind and
the throbbing of the engine. For though all the days will be good,
this first day is surely the best. To be on the road again; to have
one’s luggage behind one and all the world in front; to watch the
villages slipping by and mark their changing character; to saunter
through strange towns and swing across great, desolate moorlands; to
pause at some attractive inn, or eat sandwiches and sunshine by the
wayside--this is the first day. History and the camera must wait; the
first day must be given up to the sheer joy of the road.

So, as we shall not be able to hurry in Shropshire, seeing that there
history cannot be ignored, we shall do well to cross its border in the
evening, and spend the night in Ludlow. We will drop gently down the
hill by Ludford House, and cross the Teme when the light is growing
dim, and we can only tell by the deepening of the shadows in the trees
on the left that the castle stands among them. Then we will climb a
short, steep hill into the town through the only one of the old gates
that is still standing, turn to the right through the Bull Ring, and
draw up before the famous carved front of the “Feathers.”

[Illustration: LUDLOW CASTLE.]

[Illustration: THE FEATHERS HOTEL, LUDLOW.]

Here in this little town, in its historic inn, in its church and its
great castle, we may find the concentrated essence, as it were, of the
glamour of Shropshire--that borderland where the local stories have
helped to make the history of England, and the quiet towns have seen
wild deeds of courage and horror, and the fields have been red with
blood; where every tiny village has its own tale of love or battle,
of fair lady or fugitive king. This very house, the “Feathers,” has a
world of romance in its timbered walls and panelled rooms, for it is
far older than the beautiful Jacobean chimney-piece before which we
shall presently dine. These moulded ceilings and elaborate carvings,
it is said, were once the property of a member of that Council of the
Welsh Marches that Edward IV. established to bring order into the
affairs of this stormy neighbourhood, where the “Lords Marchers” had
hitherto taken what they chose, and kept it if they could. It is said
that the English King once asked by what warrant the Lords Marchers
held their lands. “By this warrant,” said one of them grimly, drawing
his sword--and the inquiry went no further.

The President of this Council lived in the great castle that still
stands so imposingly above the Teme, with its outer and inner baileys,
its Norman keep and curious round chapel, and all its long, long
memories.

[Illustration: TUDOR DOORWAY, LUDLOW CASTLE.]

[Illustration: THE ROUND CHAPEL, LUDLOW CASTLE.]

Within these grey walls we may dream of many things, both pitiful and
gay: of all the children who have played and the poets who have written
here; of young Prince Arthur, who died here; of his bride, Katherine
of Arragon; of poor Princess Mary--“my ladie Prince’s grace,” as they
called her quaintly--the Queen of blood and tears. Edward IV. and his
brother Edmund, dressed in green gowns, played in these courts as boys,
and wrote a letter to their “right noble lord and father,” begging
him daily to give them his hearty blessing, and to send them some
fine bonnets by the next sure messenger; and here on the right is the
roofless tower whose crumbling walls are haunted by the most touching
memories in all Ludlow. For these weed-grown stones have echoed to the
voices of Edward IV.’s little sons, who lived and laughed here with no
thought of that grimmer Tower that is connected for ever with their
names. There is still existing a wonderful letter written by the
King to “his Castle of Lodelowe,” in which he gives the most minute
instructions as to the education and general deportment of the Prince
of Wales--not forgetting the baby’s bedtime. His Majesty, indeed, was
definite on all points.

“We will that our said son have his breakfast immediately after his
mass; and between that and his meat to be occupied in such virtuous
learning as his age shall suffer to receive.”

His age at this time was three years. Not only was the virtuous
learning to occupy him from breakfast till dinner, but during the
latter meal “such noble stories as behoveth to a prince to understand
and know” were to be read aloud to him; and “after his meat, in
eschewing of idleness,” he was to be “occupied about his learning”
again. It is a relief to read that after his supper he was to
have “all such honest disports as may be conveniently devised for
his recreation.” At eight o’clock his attendants were “to enforce
themselves to make him merry and joyous towards his bed”; and, indeed,
after so hard a day of virtuous learning and noble stories and honest
disports, the poor child must have been glad to get there!

Later on, when Sir Henry Sidney was President of the Council, this
ground where we are standing was trodden by his son Philip, the pattern
of chivalry, who “fearde no foe, nor ever fought a friend”; and it was
through that doorway at the top of the inclined plane--then a flight of
marble steps--that little Lady Alice Egerton, not knowing that she was
on her way to immortality, passed on the evening that she took part in
the first performance of _Comus_, which Milton had written for her.

It is curious that in this venerable town so many of our thoughts
should be claimed by the very young. Ludlow Castle, as one sits
here thinking of the past, seems to be peopled with the ghosts of
children. And even in the church whose great tower gives Ludlow so
distinguished an air, the church where the solemn Councillors of the
Marches have their pompous tombs, we find the grave of Philip Sidney’s
little sister. “Heare lyethe the bodye of Ambrozia Sydney, iiijth
doughter of the Right Honourable Syr Henrye Sydney ... and the Ladye
Mary his wyef.” It is sometimes said, too, that Prince Arthur, Henry
VII.’s young son, is buried here, but this is not the case. There is a
cenotaph that was, perhaps raised in his memory, but his body was taken
to Worcester Cathedral.

These are the gentler memories of Ludlow. Of the fiercer kind there is
no lack, from the old fighting days of the de Lacy who built the keep,
and the de Dinan who built the round chapel, down through centuries of
siege and battle to the time of the Civil War, when the King’s flag
flew here longer than on any other castle of Shropshire.

Ludlow might well be chosen as a centre for motor drives in
Herefordshire, Shropshire, and Worcestershire. But for the moment we
are concerned with Shropshire only, and the centre of that county, in
every sense, is Shrewsbury; and so, sad though it is to leave Ludlow
so soon, we must glide away down the steep pitch beyond the door of
the “Feathers,” past the railway station, past the racecourse, and
over the twenty-nine miles of excellent and level road that lie between
Ludlow and Shrewsbury.

[Illustration: ENTRANCE TO HALL IN WHICH “COMUS” WAS FIRST PERFORMED.]

The first village on this road, Bromfield, is very typical of the
villages of Shropshire at their best. The black-and-white cottages seem
to have been set in their places with an eye to pictorial effect; the
stream and bridge are exactly in the right spot; and to complete the
picture, a beautiful old gatehouse stands a little way back from the
road. It is built half of stone, half of timber and plaster, and was
once the gateway of a Benedictine Priory which is mentioned in Domesday
Book as being of some importance. It leads now to the church, and is
one of those unexpected touches of beauty and interest that may meet
one’s eye at any turn of a Shropshire road.

[Illustration: STOKESAY CASTLE.

_Photo by W. D. Haydon._]

At Onibury we cross the line and the river Onny, and about a mile and
a half further on we should begin to look for Stokesay Castle on the
left. As it is a little way from the main road, and partly hidden by
trees, it is easy to miss it when travelling at a good pace; but
it is perhaps the most attractive ruin in Shropshire from an artist’s
point of view, and should on no account be neglected. It is really a
fortified house rather than a castle, and the mingling of the warlike
with the domestic gives it a peculiar charm. The northern end, with its
irregular roof and overhanging upper storey, the “Solar Room,” with its
magnificent carved chimney-piece, and even the timbered gateway, are
all merely suggestive of a dwelling-house; and it is only when we turn
to the curious polygonal tower that we remember how in the old days an
Englishman’s house was either very literally his castle or was likely
to become some other Englishman’s house at an early date. As far as I
know, however, the only time that Stokesay had to make any use of its
defences was when it was garrisoned for the King during the Civil War,
and on that occasion it seems to have yielded without much ado.

It is by very pleasant ways that this road is leading us--between
wooded hills and over quiet streams. The valley narrows and is at
its prettiest near Marshbrook and Little Stretton; then the pointed
hill of Caradoc became conspicuous, and beyond it the famous Wrekin
appears--famous not for its beauty, but because, being in the centre of
the county, it can be seen by nearly every one in Shropshire, and so
has gathered round it the sentiment of all Salopian hearts. “To friends
all round the Wrekin!” is the famous Shropshire toast, and there,
far away to the right, is the isolated rounded hill that means so
much to those born within sight of it. At Stretton we leave the hills
and wooded valleys behind us, and pass through a few miles of rather
dull country. It is at the village of Bayston Hill that we first see,
dimly blue against a background of hills, the slender spires--almost
unrivalled in beauty--of that fair town which long ago the Welsh named
_Y Mwythig_, the Delight.

The history of Shrewsbury is stirring, and very, very long. When
England was still in the making she stood there on her hill, looking
down at the encircling river that has defended her for so many
centuries. Nearly every street is connected in some way with history;
every second house is haunted by some great name. Many large and solemn
books have been written about Shrewsbury, and not one of them is
dull. Even in these few hundred yards between the river and our hotel
how many memories there are! As we turn on to the English Bridge to
cross the Severn we should glance backwards to the right at the red
tower and great west window of the Abbey founded by the Conqueror’s
kinsman, Roger de Montgomery, a man of mark; and then, having crossed
the steep rise and fall of the bridge, we climb into the heart of the
town by the hill called the Wyle Cop. It was up this steep hill that,
not so very long ago, the London coach used to dash, turning into the
yard of the Lion Hotel at a pace that is still spoken of with awe
and admiration. If we were to do the like we should probably have to
pay five pounds and costs, so we will ascend the Cop in a way more
conducive to dreaming of the past: of Harry Tudor on his way to “trye
hys right” at Bosworth, with the welcoming citizens strewing flowers
before him; of the more stately procession that wound up the hill when
he came back as Henry VII. with his Queen and young Prince Arthur; of
Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and his stepson Essex, after their
reception by bailiffs and aldermen, “and other to the number of xxiiij
scarlet gowns, with the scollars of the freescoole,” listening wearily
“at the upper end of the Wylde Coppe,” to three orations! Henry Tudor,
when he reached the Wyle Cop, was glad to take shelter for the night
in that picturesque little black-and-white house with the overhanging
top storey and the tiled roof--it is on the left, rather more than
half-way up the hill--for he had not won his way into the town without
difficulty. “The gates weare shutt against him and the portculleys lett
downe,” and a bailiff of the town--“a stout, wise gentleman,” we are
told--vowed that Henry should only enter over his prostrate body. So,
when Henry had made it clear that he did not mean to hurt the town,
“nor none therein,” the only way for the stout, wise gentleman to keep
his word was by lying down on the ground and allowing his future king
to step over him. Thus did Henry of Richmond come in triumph to the
little house on the Wyle.

If we are going to the “Raven,” or the “Crown,” as is probable, we
turn to the right near the top of the hill, and pass the beautiful old
timbered house--which stands on the right hand, a little back from the
street--where Princess Mary stayed on her way to Ludlow after she had
been created _Prince_ of Wales; and a little further up, on the left,
is the many-gabled house where Prince Rupert lived for a time when he
was here with Charles I. On each side of us rises one of the slender
spires that are the pride of Shrewsbury. St. Alkmund’s Church, on the
left, was founded by Alfred’s daughter Ethelfleda, known as the Lady
of the Mercians; a lady, it would seem, of some force. “A woman of
an enlarged soul,” William of Malmesbury calls her; and adds: “This
spirited heroine assisted her brother greatly with her advice, and was
of equal service in building cities.” It is gravely recorded in a
serious chronicle that in 1533 “the dyvyll apearyd in Saint Alkmond’s
Churche there when the preest was at highe masse with greate tempest
and darknes, so that as he passyd through the churche he mountyd up the
steeple in the sayde churche, teringe the wyer of the sayde clocke, and
put the prynt of hys clawes uppon the iiijth bell.” This steeple on our
left was the very scene of this feat; but the body of the church was
rebuilt in the eighteenth century. Another old Shrewsbury church, St.
Chad’s, had fallen down, and the congregation of Saint Alkmund’s feared
a repetition of the disaster. In the case of St. Alkmund’s, however, it
was the rebuilding that was the disaster.

The story of St. Mary’s lovely spire, on our right, is full of
incident. In 1572 it was “blown aside by wind”; in 1594 “there fell
such a monstrous dry wind, and so extreme fierce ... that the like was
never seen of those that be living ... the force whereof removed the
upper part of St. Mary’s steeple out of his place towards the south
about five inches”; in 1662 the steeple was “taken down six yards
from the top”; in 1690 it was damaged by an earthquake; in 1754 it was
“shattered by a high wind”; in 1756 the newly-built part was again
“blown aside”; in 1818 the upper part “became loose”; and during a
terrific storm in 1894 fifty feet of its masonry fell through the roof
of the nave shortly after the evening service. Most wonderfully this
last disaster did no damage to the stained glass, which is St. Mary’s
great glory and has itself had an eventful existence; for some of it
was in old St. Chad’s when it fell, and much of it, long ago, filled
the windows of religious houses in Germany.

The slender columns and pointed arches of this lovely church have rung
to the voice of Charles I., who once proclaimed his good intentions
within these walls, and knelt, harassed and nearly uncrowned, before
this altar. It was in St. Mary’s, too, that James II. touched for the
King’s Evil.

Just beyond the church is the Crown Hotel, and whether we stay there or
at the “Raven,” a hundred yards away, we shall hear the bells of St.
Mary’s, once described as “the comfortablest ring of bells in all the
town,” and the chiming clock that was the bequest of Fanny Burney’s
Uncle James, and the curfew, which still rings every night at nine. And
after the curfew we shall hear the number of the day of the month rung
out--a relic of the times before cheap almanacs existed.

There is no doubt that the most satisfactory way of seeing Shropshire
is to spend a few nights in Shrewsbury, and make it the basis of
operations; for Shrewsbury lies exactly in the centre of the county,
and is the meeting-point of a particularly large number of good roads.
The old town itself, too, does not deserve to be hurried through. The
longer one stays in it the more one feels the charm of its gentle old
age.

The Old School Buildings are within a stone’s-throw of us, with all
their memories of the wise and great: memories that are, as a matter
of fact, older than themselves; for though Charles Darwin was educated
within these very walls, it was in an older building of wood, standing
on the same spot, that Philip Sidney was a schoolboy--gentle and
grave, and as much loved then as he was destined to be all his life,
and is still. It was while he was here that his father wrote him a
“very godly letter ... most necessarie for all yoong gentlemen to
be carried in memorie,” which his mother, who added a postscript
“in the skirts of my Lord President’s letter,” considered to be so
full of “excellent counsailes,” that she begged Philip to “fayle not
continually once in foure or five daies to reade them over.” The
counsels were certainly excellent. “Be humble and obedient to your
master,” says Sir Henry, “... be courteous of gesture.... Give yourself
to be merie ... but let your mirth be ever void of all scurrillitie and
biting words to any man.... Above all things, tell no untruth, no not
in trifles”; and he ends quaintly: “Well, my little Philip, this is
enough for me, and I feare too much for you.” If my Lord President had
not also been my Lord Deputy of Ireland one might have loved him nearly
as much as his son.

Neither he nor Philip ever saw the timbered gatehouse that stands
opposite to the Old School Buildings, but in the red Council House to
which it leads, Sir Henry always stayed when he made official visits
to Shrewsbury. There were fine doings on these occasions; banquets
and processions, with “knightly robes most valiant,” and many scarlet
gowns; masquerades, too, by the boys of the school, who appeared now
as soldiers, now as nymphs, and made orations in both characters.
Later on the same red house sheltered Charles I., when he came here
to collect men and money. Half the plate in the county disappeared
into his mint, which was set up, some say, in a little tottering house
that may still be seen in an alley on Pride Hill--a fragment of green
and weather-worn stone that is one of the most picturesque things in
Shrewsbury. Some of the money that Charles “borrowed” on this occasion
was well spent in repairing the Castle, which is quite near the Council
House. The Castle is now a private dwelling, and one cannot walk about
the grounds without permission; but the oldest part of it is the great
entrance-gate, which all may see; the gate that was built by Roger
de Montgomery and attacked by Stephen; the gate through which Henry
IV. rode out to the famous Battle of Shrewsbury. The Castle itself,
as it now stands, was probably mostly built by Edward I.; but it
suffered so much through the centuries from siege, and treachery, and
time, that many repairs were necessary to secure it a peaceful old
age as a dwelling-house. Every motorist who is properly grateful to
his benefactors, will be interested to know that it was the engineer
Telford who carried out these repairs. He actually lived in the Castle
for a time, I believe, and he certainly built the “Laura” tower, which
stands on the foundations of the old watch-tower. Telford was in
Shrewsbury when the tower of Old St. Chad’s showed signs of collapsing,
and, on his advice being asked, said the church should be repaired
without delay. The Parish Vestry begged him to meet them in St. Chad’s
to discuss the matter, and demurred so long at the expense that at last
Telford walked out of the church, saying grimly that he would rather
talk the matter over in some place where there was less danger of the
roof falling on his head. Two or three days later it fell.

Not far from the fragments of this ruined church is the High Street,
where are some of the oldest and prettiest houses in the town; and hard
by is the Tudor marketplace, with its statue of Richard, Duke of York.
The claims of the Unitarian chapel in the same street are not based on
beauty, but on the fact that Coleridge’s voice once rose in it “like a
steam of rich distilled perfumes,” according to William Hazlitt, who
had walked ten miles to hear Coleridge preach here, and was as much
delighted, he says, “as if he had heard the music of the spheres.”
Charles Darwin attended the services of this chapel as a boy, but was
baptized in New St. Chad’s, the eighteenth-century church near the
Quarry, within whose classical walls Dr. Johnson once worshipped. The
Doctor’s famous rolling walk, too, of which we have all heard so much,
was once seen under the splendid limes of the Quarry.

[Illustration: OLD STREET IN SHREWSBURY.

_Photo by W. D. Haydon._]

[Illustration: RICHARD BAXTER’S HOUSE, EATON CONSTANTINE.]

As we entered Shrewsbury by the English Bridge we caught a glimpse of
the Abbey behind us. Leaving the town by the London Road, on our way
to see something of the eastern side of the county, we shall pass
close by the old red building that was partly spared when Roger de
Montgomery’s great monastery was dissolved. It will be worth while to
stop the engine for a moment, and to look at the massive Norman piers
of the nave, the fine altar-tombs, and the fragment of St. Winifred’s
shrine. The founder himself was buried here, after a long life of storm
and stress, and three days in a monk’s habit; but the knightly figure
that has been thought to represent him is said by the best authorities
to be of a later date than his. This Roger is very prominent in
Shropshire history, and is, indeed, not unknown in that of England, for
he figured in the Battle of Hastings, and wherever he figured he made
himself felt. We hear many conflicting things of his character, but
from them all we gather that he was a typical man of his day, spending
his time chiefly in acquiring his neighbour’s goods, and his leisure
moments in building abbeys. Having built this Abbey of Shrewsbury he
was careful to see that other people enriched it, and it soon became
one of the most important in England. Its actual buildings covered ten
acres: yet now all of it that we can see is this restored church, and,
across the road, a relic of a later date. There, in the din and dust
of a coal-yard, stands the graceful stone pulpit that was once in the
refectory wall. From under its delicately carved canopy a lay brother
read pious works aloud to the monks while they ate.

As we drive up the Abbey Foregate, between the trees and old houses,
the memory of the Benedictines is with us still; for it was down
this road that the monks, with their abbot at their head, came once
in solemn procession with the bones of St. Winifred. These, by the
combined use of a smooth tongue and a stout spade, they had brought
triumphantly away from the churchyard of a Welsh village, knowing full
well that no wealth of lands and churches enriched a monastery so
surely as a handful of saintly dust.

At the top of the Foregate is the column on which Lord Hill stands
above a list of his battles. Here we keep to the London Road, and are
soon in the open country. We are bound for Boscobel, but as there is
a good deal to be seen on the way, a round of forty-three miles is not
as short as it seems. Between Shrewsbury and Atcham the scenery is
not particularly interesting, but the road is level and the surface
good, so we have our compensations. From the picturesque bridge at
Atcham there is a lovely view of distant Caradoc, with the Severn in
the foreground, and on the river bank the old church that is said to
have been largely built, like that at Wroxeter, of the stones from the
Roman city of Uriconium. We are very near that city now. If we take
the first turn to the right after leaving Atcham, we shall soon be
actually passing over the ashes of “the White Town in the Woodland,”
as it was called by the Welsh poet who sang of its tragic end; and a
moment later we shall see, near the roadside, a fragment of the wall of
its basilica. By asking for the key at a cottage close at hand, and by
paying sixpence, we may see also the remains of its public baths, and a
piece of tesselated pavement that might have been laid down yesterday.
Many relics of this town that was built by the Romans, inhabited by
the British, and burnt by the Saxons, have been found within the limits
of the hundred and seventy acres that it once covered: skeletons of
men and women crouching where they had vainly sought safety in the
hypocausts of the burning baths; coins scattered by fugitives; pathetic
trifles of women’s dress--hairpins, buckles, and a brooch whose pin
still works. Older than these are the urns and tombstones found in the
Roman cemetery; the tombstone of Petronius, who is thought to have
taken part in the victory over Boadicea; and that of “Placida, aged
fifty-four, raised by the care of her husband.” Most of the relics have
been moved, for safe keeping, to the Museum in Shrewsbury.

From Uriconium a very pretty road leads us to Buildwas. The Severn
winds below us on the right, and on the hillside to the left is the
little village of Eaton Constantine, which Constantine the Norman--who
also gave his name to the Côtentin in France--held in the days of
Domesday Book at a rental of a pair of white gloves, valued at one
penny. Even at this distance is visible the black-and-white gable
of the farmhouse that was once the home of Richard Baxter, author
of “The Saints’ Everlasting Rest,” and an amazing number of other
books--enough, said Judge Jeffreys, “to load a cart.” Dr. Johnson,
however, pronounced them to be “all good.” Here, we learn, Baxter
“passed away his Childhood and Youth, which upon Reflection he,
according to the Wise Man’s Censure, found to be vanity.” In spite of
these austere views, however, his childhood was not without its wild
oats, for we are told that he “joyn’d sometimes with other Naughty Boys
in Robbing his Neighbours’ Orchards of their Fruit, when he had eno’ at
home ... and was bewitched with a love of Romances and Idle Tales.”

Presently, after passing through the pretty village of
Leighton-under-the-Wrekin, we see Buildwas, the Shelter near the Water,
on the further side of the river. Perhaps this is the most striking
view of the fourteen massive pillars of this roofless nave, in which
the Cistercians of the twelfth century austerely worshipped; but we
can visit the ruins if we wish to do so by crossing the bridge that has
quite recently superseded one built by Telford. There is not very much
more to be seen at close quarters than from here: the great charm of
Buildwas lies in its effect as a whole, in its simplicity and strength,
and in its position by the river.

[Illustration: BUILDWAS ABBEY.

_Photo by W. D. Haydon._]

[Illustration: MADELEY COURT.]

About a mile beyond Buildwas is Ironbridge, named from the first bridge
ever built in England of iron, which here spans the Severn at a height
of forty feet, by a single arch of a hundred feet in width. It was the
work of Abraham Darby, the third of his name, and was finished in 1779.
A gradient of 1 in 10 takes us through Ironbridge, and less than two
miles further on is Madeley, which appears at first sight the very type
of all that is unromantic, a prey to coal-dust and miners; yet if we
turn off the main road to the left we shall presently find, hidden in
a hollow near Madeley Court Station, as poetic a spot as we shall see
in many a day’s journey. Perhaps its very contrast to its surroundings
adds to its charm; perhaps to some it may not seem charming at all,
but merely a tumble-down, ill-kept house. But to others this little
nook, with the weather-stained, crumbling walls and tiled gables of
the Court House, the swinging ivy, the still pond, the bulrushes and
water-lilies, and the red-and-black timbered barn that once sheltered a
fugitive king, are a “faery land forlorn,” the very home of glamour and
romance. Here Charles II. arrived one night, dressed in green breeches
and a noggen shirt. He was tired and hungry, his hands and face were
smudged with soot, and he answered to the name of William Jones. He
was refreshed in this house, and spent the next day in the barn with
Richard Penderel, one of the five brothers to whom he owed his safety.
When night fell he walked to Boscobel.

It was hours before he was there, whereas we, if we were as much
hurried as he was, might be there in half an hour or so. But though
there is nothing to keep us at Shifnal we must pause at Tong, where
there are some especially pretty timbered cottages and a church that
is really remarkable, for it contains a collection of tombs which I
should imagine to be unequalled in a village church. They are those of
the Vernon family, and among them is that of Dame Margaret Stanley,
the sister of Dorothy Vernon, of Haddon Hall. Charles Dickens said
himself that it was of Tong Village he was thinking when he wrote the
end of “The Old Curiosity Shop,” and those to whom Little Nell appeals
may think of her and her grandfather in the porch of this church. Some
of us, however, will take more interest in the shot-marks that have
scarred the northern wall ever since the days of the Civil War.

In a park near the village stands the astonishing structure called Tong
Castle. It was once a real castle of stone; in the sixteenth century
Sir Henry Vernon rebuilt it of brick; in the eighteenth a new owner
thought that Moorish cupolas would make a pretty finish to it. When, in
1643, it was in the possession of the Parliamentarians, it was said on
that account to be a “great eye-sore to his Majesty’s good subjects
who pass’d yt road.” For other reasons it is so still.

A writer of the seventeenth century describes Boscobel as “a very
obscure habitation, situate in a kind of wilderness”; and no doubt it
was to this obscurity that Charles II. owed his safety. Even to-day
it is wonderfully isolated, and we reach it by a series of rather
circuitous by-roads; but we can drive right up to the house, and leave
our car in a safe enclosure, while we walk a hundred yards to the
Royal Oak--not the original “asylum of the most potent prince King
Charles II. ... the oak beloved by Jove,”[1] which was mostly made into
snuff-boxes and other treasures for the loyal--but an oak grown from
an acorn of that “fortunate tree.” When Charles reached Boscobel at
three o’clock in the morning he was taken into the big panelled room
that we shall presently see, and was refreshed with bread and cheese
and a posset of milk and beer. Colonel Carlis, another fugitive from
Worcester, “pulled off his Majesty’s shoos, which were full of gravel,
and stockens which were very wet,” and at daybreak went with him into
the wood, where they both climbed into the oak--here, where we are
standing--with a cushion for his Majesty to sit on. Here, for a great
part of the day, the tired King slept with his head on Colonel Carlis’s
knee. “He bore all these hardships and afflictions with incomparable
patience,” says a contemporary historian. At night he was hidden in the
house, buried beneath the garret floor in a box-like priest’s-hole,
with a load of cheese on the lid. We may climb the stairs and see it;
get into it if we will--and ask ourselves if, after spending a night in
it, we should be as lighthearted as this man who at any moment might
lose his life and had already lost everything else. In the morning
he called for a frying-pan and butter, and, having first despatched
Colonel Carlis with a dagger to slaughter a neighbour’s sheep, he gaily
cooked himself some mutton collops, while the Colonel, “being but
under-cook (and that honour enough too), made the fire and turned the
collops in the pan.”

From Boscobel we strike due north to Ivetsey Bank, where we shall
find an inn capable of providing a good, if homely, luncheon or
tea. Thence sixteen miles on Watling Street will bring us without a
pause (_unberufen!_) through Wellington to the point where we left
the main road on our outward journey. It is worth while, by the way,
to avoid the unpleasant bit of road through Oakengates by striking
across to the main road from Shifnal; to do which we must take a turn
in St. George’s, where a lamp-post stands out prominently. We enter
Shrewsbury, as we left it, by the London Road.

       *       *       *       *       *

A slightly longer run, covering about fifty miles altogether, will show
us something of the northern part of the county on its western side. We
drive out of the town past the station and through the squalid suburb
of Ditherington, where, for love of our springs and of humanity, we
must perforce drive slowly, by reason of the bumpiness of the surface
and the phenomenal number of children. Over this ground rode Henry IV.
and Prince Hal to the Battle of Shrewsbury, and there on our right is
Haughmond Hill, the “busky hill” to which Shakespeare refers. Presently
there appears on the left, a few hundred yards away from the road, the
church of Battlefield, raised, with the exception of the tower, quite
soon after the battle on the spot where the fight raged most fiercely,
in order that masses might be sung perpetually “for the prosperity of
the King and the souls of the slain.” Here Harry Hotspur died, and
with him thousands of others both gentle and simple, for this was a
very notable fight and many interests were concerned in it. Beneath
the mounds that we see on the south side of the church are the bones
of many of the slain. The King “had many marching in his coats,” as
Hotspur puts it in “Henry IV.,” and as they were killed in mistake for
him he saved himself by a device more ingenious than kingly.

There is nothing of special note between Battlefield and Hawkestone,
which is about twelve miles from Shrewsbury, and is a private park,
open to visitors. In the rhododendron season it is well worth while to
leave one’s car at the extremely nice hotel at the outskirts of the
park, and to walk about a mile through pretty grounds swarming with
black rabbits, to see the blaze of blossom for which Hawkestone is
famous. And yet I think they will fare still better who choose the time
of bluebells. These should drive through the park by the public road.
Beyond the gate, where the stream is close to them on the right and
woods slope to its edge, they will see, bright in the near foreground
but fading away into the distance under the trees in a misty cloud,
a soft, ethereal veil of grey-blue. Here and there the green breaks
through, and the flowers look like wisps of smoke trailing across the
grass. This wonderful sheet of mystic blue borders the river and the
road for some way, till the wood ends suddenly, and Hodnet Hall comes
in sight.

One really grows a little tired of recording the picturesqueness of
Shropshire villages. They are nearly all pretty: for the houses,
when they are not of timber and plaster, are often built of the warm
red sandstone that is the stone of the county and acquires such soft,
mellow colours in its old age. But I sometimes think Hodnet is the
prettiest village of them all. Half the houses are black-and-white; and
near the church gate a group of timber gables, with the octagonal tower
in the background, forms a complete and perfectly composed picture.
Bishop Reginald Heber, the author of “From Greenland’s icy mountains,”
was rector of Hodnet for some years before he sailed for “India’s coral
strand.”

From Hodnet we may either drive back to Shrewsbury or turn to the left
in the middle of the village and take a run of about thirty-four miles
by Market Drayton and Newport, two picturesque old towns with a good
road between them. The scenery in this part of the county is pleasing,
but not especially striking. If we choose this way we shall, as we
draw near Shrewsbury, pass the ruins of Haughmond, one of the great
Shropshire abbeys.

Long ago there was a hermitage at the foot of this “busky hill”; before
William FitzAlan’s monastery for Austin Canons rose here, with the
great church that has practically disappeared,[2] and the tall gable
with the turrets that are so conspicuous to-day, and the chapter-house
with the beautiful doorway. This Abbey was greatly patronised by
royalty. Stephen gave it a mill, Matilda gave it lands “for the
remission of her sins,” Henry II. gave churches, and Henry III. more
land, and Llewelyn of Wales “a moiety of Kenwicke.” The list of other
benefactions is endless: mills and fisheries, churches and markets,
woods and hogs and herds. Many were the “privileges of flesh and fish”
enjoyed by the canons of Haughmond; and Abbot Nicholas, in Edward
III.’s time, desiring to make the most of all these luxuries, built
a new kitchen for the brethren and “appointed them a cook to dress
their food.” It was in 1541 that Henry VIII., as his manner was, took
possession of Haughmond and all its riches, “beyng mynded to take the
same into his own handes for a better purpose”; and so the minster,
for which he had no use, gradually vanished. Nothing is left of it but
a fragment of wall and a doorway. Two tombs that were once within the
chancel now lie open to the sky on the hillside, where their appeal for
the prayers of the passers-by is of far more pathetic force than it
ever was under the shelter of the Abbey’s roof:--

    “_Vous Ki Passez Par Ici Priez Pur L’Alme Johan Fitz Aleine Ki Git
    Ici. Deu De Sa Alme Eit Merci. Amen._”

    “_Isabel De Mortimer Sa Femme Acost De Li. Deu De Lur Alme Eit
    Merci. Amen._”

[Illustration: HAUGHMOND ABBEY.]

From this road near Haughmond we have perhaps the loveliest view of
distant Shrewsbury. The pale hills rim the horizon, the river winds in
the foreground, and between them rise the clear outlines of the two
incomparable spires that crown The Delight.

       *       *       *       *       *

Another of the Shropshire monasteries that must certainly be seen is
Wenlock Priory, which lies on the way to Bridgnorth. It is a fairly
level road that leads to it by Cross Houses and Cound and pretty
Cressage, which in Domesday Book is Cristes-ache, or Christ’s Oak.
Christianity was preached here, it is said, under an old oak-tree, in
days so early that when St. Augustine visited the place he found it
already Christian. Between Harley and Wenlock there is a hill which the
Contour Book describes with perfect accuracy as “a precipitous hill on
which innumerable accidents have happened.” The accidents, I fancy,
have mostly happened to horse-drawn vehicles and bicycles--especially
the latter--when descending the hill, for it is a mile long and has a
turn in the middle. There is no reason why it should inconvenience a
good car, for the average gradient is nothing more alarming than 1 in
8, and it is well worth climbing for the sake of the wide view from the
top, just beyond which Much Wenlock lies.

[Illustration: WENLOCK PRIORY, ST. JOHN’S CHAPEL.

_Photo by W. D. Haydon._]

Milburga, Saxon princess and saint, built the first religious house
at Wenlock, and became its abbess, and was finally buried within its
precincts. William of Malmesbury tells us how, long after her death,
she enriched the place to which she had given her life and all she
possessed. “Milburga,” he says, “reposes at Wenlock ... but for
some time after the arrival of the Normans, through ignorance of the
place of her burial, she was neglected. Lately, however, a convent
of Clugniac monks being established there, while a new church was
erecting, a certain boy, running violently along the pavement, broke
into the hollow of the vault, and discovered the body of the virgin,
when a balsamic odour pervading the whole church, she was taken up, and
performed so many miracles that the people flocked thither in great
multitudes. Large spreading plains could hardly contain the troops
of pilgrims, while rich and poor came side by side, one common faith
compelling all.”

The convent of Clugniac monks in question was built by that notable
man Roger de Montgomery, and was the same whose ruins speak so plainly
to-day of the ornate tastes of the monks of Clugny. We saw no arcaded
walls such as these of the chapter-house, nor richly moulded doorways,
nor any such elaborate ornament at Cistercian Buildwas, whose lands
marched with the lands of this Priory, and whose monks found the
Rule of Clugny too soft, the tastes of Clugny too enervating. Go to
Wenlock in the spring, when its slender columns rise above a sea of
sweet-scented flowers, and its old wall is bright with rock-plants--for
the Priory stands in private grounds and is cared for like a garden.
It is the third religious house that has stood on this spot, for
between the days of Milburga, the royal saint, and those of Roger and
his Clugniacs, there was another monastery founded here by Leofric
of Mercia and his wife Godiva, a well-loved woman whom we are glad
to connect with this beautiful spot. The picturesque old Prior’s
Lodge is inhabited, and it is only on Tuesdays and Fridays that the
world at large is admitted to the ruins. Perhaps nothing recalls to
one so vividly the daily life of the monks in this place as the long
causeway that stretches across the field near the Priory garden. It
was here that the brothers took their daily exercise, raised above the
surrounding marsh--a long procession of dark figures, walking slowly to
and fro--and among them, unsuspected, that interesting swashbuckler of
whom we long to hear more, that man of extremes whose strange career
is all summed up for us in one short, pregnant sentence. “In 1283,” we
learn, “a brother of Wenlac became a captain of banditti.” We hear no
more of him, alas! except that he was hanged.

The road to Bridgnorth is a continuation of the one by which we entered
the town, so we must drive back, past the beautiful old Guildhall and
market-place, up the street to the Gaskell Arms, where we may have
luncheon if, as may well occur to motorists, we are too hungry to wait
till we reach the more imposing “Crown” at Bridgnorth. At the Gaskell
Arms we turn sharply to the left, and thence eight or nine miles of
good road, with several steep hills, will bring us to Bridgnorth.

[Illustration: WENLOCK PRIORY, CHAPTER HOUSE.

_Photo by W. D. Haydon_.]

[Illustration: BISHOP PERCY’S BIRTHPLACE, BRIDGNORTH.]

Ever since the Danes built a fort here this town, nearly as consistently
as Shrewsbury and Ludlow, has concerned itself with history. It has
been visited by half the kings of England. Henry I. besieged it; Henry
II. defended it; John and Edward I. stayed in it; Edward II. took
refuge in it; Henry IV. gathered his army here on his way to the
Battle of Shrewsbury; Charles I. was besieged here by Cromwell, who
narrowly escaped death before the walls. The Castle, of course, was the
centre of interest on all these occasions--the Castle that was built
so hurriedly by Robert de Belesme, Roger de Montgomery’s son, and is
now so conspicuous on account of its leaning tower. Round its ruins
is a path that must be practically the same as that which Charles I.
declared to be as pleasant a walk as any in his kingdom. Robert de
Belesme, who has been described with apparent justice as “an implacable
villain,” also founded the church of St. Mary Magdalene, but the
present building was designed by Telford. Another interesting church
is St. Leonard’s, where in the churchyard the Roundheads once beat the
Royalists in a skirmish, and where Richard Baxter was a curate. He
lived in the little black-and-white cottage close at hand, and seems
to have had a poor opinion of his flock. “He found the people here
generally ignorant and dead-hearted,” he says, “... so that though by
his first Labours among them he was Instrumental in the Conversion
of several Persons, and was generally Applauded, yet ... Tippling and
Ill Company rendred his Preaching ineffectual.” If his preaching was
ineffectual it at all events began early, for “when he was a little
Boy in Coats, if he heard other Children in Play speak Profane Words
he would reprove them, to the wonder of those that heard him.” At this
time--when he was a little Boy in Coats--he lived at Rowton in this
county; it was not till he was ten years old that he moved to Eaton
Constantine and indulged in dark deeds in his neighbours’ orchards.

An extremely steep dip with an awkward corner in the middle of it will
take us to the birthplace of another famous divine, Bishop Percy, best
known in connection with “Percy’s Reliques.” The house, which stands
in the Cartway, may be approached quite comfortably from below, and is
worth seeing for its own sake, being a good example of black-and-white
work.

Our best way home from here is by Ironbridge and Buildwas, on the road
by which we drove to Boscobel. Between Bridgnorth and Ironbridge some
of the country is pretty, and at Broseley especially it must have been
lovely in its natural state, before it was ruined by the potteries. We
cross the river by Abraham Darby’s iron bridge.

       *       *       *       *       *

A run of forty-seven miles or so, by Wem, Whitchurch, and Ellesmere,
will show us a good deal of the north-west part of the county, and
if, when we reach Whitchurch, we choose to lengthen the distance to
fifty-four miles by slipping over the Welsh border to Overton and
Erbistock, we shall not regret it.

We leave Shrewsbury by the road that branches to the left immediately
opposite to the station. Almost at once, at the point where the road
touches the Severn, we pass a long, low house of timber and plaster
on our right. It was from this house that Admiral Benbow ran away to
sea. He was living here as an apprentice, to his father or another,
and, since it was the custom to entrust the house-key to the care of
the apprentice, he had, fortunately for himself and England, special
facilities for making his escape. He hid the key in the tree that is
marked with a ring of whitewash, and stands between the house and the
railings; and there to this day it hangs.

Between Shrewsbury and Whitchurch there is nothing of particular
interest except the old farmhouse called Albright Hussey, which stands
in a field on the right about three miles out of Shrewsbury. It is
a pretty old moated house, partly black-and-white; but its greatest
beauty is within, where there is as charming a room as one need wish
to see, a room to make a housewife weep tears of covetousness--low,
oblong, oak-panelled to the ceiling, with seats in the mullioned
windows and a carved fireplace. The house is inhabited, but I
believe there is never any difficulty in obtaining leave to see
it. Its sixteenth-century walls were once threatened by a party of
Parliamentarian horse. There were only eight men to defend the place,
but their leader was a crafty man, and shouted his orders aloud within
hearing of the enemy. “Let ten men stay here, and ten go there, and
twenty stay with me!” he cried; and the attacking force, dismayed by
the number of mythical defenders, rode away and left the stone and
timber, the mullioned windows and oaken wainscotes, to be a joy to us
to-day.

In Wem, however, through which we presently pass, it was the
“Parliament men” who were in the ascendent. The place acted a prominent
part in the Civil War, and has a history many centuries long, but on
the surface is commonplace enough. In the List of the Owners of the
Manor of Wem the twenty-fourth name is the grim one of “Sir George
Jeffreys, Knight and Baronet, and Lord Chief Justice of the King’s
Bench, created in 1685 a peer of England by the style and title of
Baron Jeffreys of Wem.”

At Whitchurch we must draw up at the door of St. Alkmund’s Church;
not because it is old or beautiful, for the original church fell down
in 1711 and was entirely rebuilt; nor because Dean Swift subscribed
to the rebuilding of it; but because it contains the dust of the
great Talbot, first Earl of Shrewsbury, “the scourge of France.” His
valiant heart lies beneath the white stone in the porch, where careless
thousands have trodden it underfoot. It was found there in an urn when
the church was rebuilt, and with it were some figures of Christ and
the Virgin Mary from Talbot’s rosary. His bones are in the chancel,
whither, about fifty years after his death, they were brought from the
battlefield of Chastillon, where a little chapel had been raised on
the spot where he fell.[3] His effigy lies on a tomb that is an exact
copy of the original one. While this restoration was in progress the
bones of the great soldier were shown to the public, with the skull
cleft by the axe that killed him. “This is that terrible Talbot,” says
Thomas Fuller, “so famous for his sword ... which constantly conquered
where it came, insomuch that the bare fame of his approach frighted the
French from the siege of Bordeaux. Being victorious for twenty-four
years together, success failed him at last.... Henceforward we may say
‘Good-night to the English in France,’ whose victories were buried with
the body of this earl.”

From Whitchurch we drive about fourteen miles in a westerly direction
to Overton Bridge, by Hanmer and Overton village, a pretty little
place with a churchyard surrounded by yew-trees. Having crossed the
bridge, which is about two miles beyond the village, we turn to the
left at right angles and approach Erbistock by a road whose greatest
recommendation to inveterate lovers of speed will be that it is short.
After one experience, however, most of us will agree, I think, that
this by-road needs no recommendation but the fact that it leads to
Erbistock. A tiny church and a tiny inn at the brim of the Dee--that is
all that there is at Erbistock. But it is all enclosed in trees, and
the trees dip into the river, and the river is rather big and gentle
and gurgles sweetly at one’s feet, and the woods on the other side are
tangled and mysterious and full of fairies. One may have one’s tea
close beside the water, or one may cross the river in a ferry, and soon
be quite alone in the woods. There is no need to hurry, for when we
leave Erbistock we need not stop again till we reach Shrewsbury.

For Ellesmere, “wher was a castelle,” says Leland, “and very fair polis
yet be,” has now nothing left of its castle but the memory of it, and
the fair pools may be seen as we pass. More than once Ellesmere was
given as a dowry to the daughters of English kings, on their marriage
with Cymric princes; for as the rulers of the two countries were sure
to fall out soon after the wedding the gift was quickly taken back by
the donor, and so was ready for the next bride. Thus, though Henry II.
gave it to his sister Emma, there was nothing to prevent King John from
giving it to his daughter Joan, twenty-seven years later, when she
married Llewelyn the Great.

I think it must have been beside the lake, where on the level ground
there would be room for the dramatic scene, that Rupert, halting here
at Ellesmere, made his prisoners cast lots upon the drum to decide
which of them should die. Thirteen were doomed; but at the last
moment one of them was saved by Sir Vincent Corbet, who as he rode
past interceded for the man, who had been a servant in his family.
The rest were hanged there and then. Yet it is not they who haunt the
rushy banks of the mere; but the White Lady of Oteley. Long ago, it is
said, she robbed and ruined a monastery, and built herself a home here
with the spoils--a home that she has never left since then, except to
walk by night along the margin of the water. She was not even allowed
to move to the new house when it was built about a hundred years ago,
for a fragment of the old one was left standing in the park on purpose
for her accommodation. The new house faces us very conspicuously as we
drive close beside the water on the opposite side of the mere, and go
on our way to Shrewsbury, which is about sixteen miles away.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the south-west, which is the hilliest, and therefore the prettiest,
part of Shropshire, there is a variety of little runs, which may
be lengthened or shortened according to circumstances and tastes. A
pretty round of about fifty miles is by Chirbury and Bishop’s Castle,
whence either of two lovely roads will bring us back to Shrewsbury.
Nineteen miles of nearly level road lead to Chirbury through several
villages--Westbury, Worthen, Marton, and others--all of which are
fairly picturesque, but with nothing very noteworthy about them. Just
before Marton is reached there is an exceedingly sharp turn, which
should be borne in mind. At Chirbury our road turns to the left in the
middle of the village.

The name of this obscure little place has been known to the world for
some centuries in connection with that strange person Lord Herbert of
Chirbury, half ruffler, half scholar, who in a house only a few miles
from here, across the Welsh border, wrote the famous autobiography
that Horace Walpole called “perhaps the most extraordinary account
that was ever given seriously by a wise man of himself.” His home for
the greater part of his life, when he was not seeking adventures and
duels in France or London, was in Montgomery Castle, whose ruins we
may see by driving four miles further. Nothing but a fragment is left
of it now, but when the Herberts lived there it must have been a fine
sight on its wild crag; a more fitting home for Edward the soldier than
for his gentler and still more famous brother George. Chirbury itself
had a castle and a priory once; but of the castle, which was built
by the ever active Ethelfleda, nothing remains but the site; and of
the monastery there are only fragments left, for the present church,
ancient as it is, was not used by the monks, but was then, as now, the
parish church.[4] It has seen strange doings. It is hard to realise,
when the bells ring in this lonely little village, and the quiet
country folk take their seats for the morning service, that here within
these very walls the congregation of Chirbury was once electrified by
the clashing of armour and the clatter of horses’ hoofs in the aisle.
It was during the Civil War, and Mr. Edward Lewis, “a very goodly man,
did preach twice a day”; a rash thing for a Puritan to do when Captain
Corbet was no further off than Caus Castle. A party of Royalist horse
“rode into the church to the great fright and amazement of the people;
and with their pistols charged and cocked went up into the pulpit and
pulled down Mr. Lewis, pulling and tugging him in a most unworthy
manner ... and so left the people without their pastor because they
would not be content with one sermon a day.”

It was this same Edward Lewis who brought to Chirbury the chained
library that almost certainly belonged to George Herbert; for Isaac
Walton tells us of “a choice library which Mr. Herbert had fastened
with chains in a fit room in Montgomery Castle.” This choice library
contains books dating from 1530 to 1684, and among them is a
black-letter folio copy of Chaucer. They are kept in the vicarage, and
I believe may be seen by any one.

Turning to the left in Chirbury we soon pass Marrington Hall, or
_Havodwen_, the White Summer-house, as the Welsh call it; a very fine
example of sixteenth-century black-and-white work. The lovely little
valley beyond it is Marrington Dingle, and a mile or two further on
is Churchstoke. It is in this pretty part of Shropshire that the uses
of the motor-car are especially noticeable, for railway stations are
few and distant from each other, and the hilliness of the country is
not encouraging to bicyclists. Of Bishop’s Castle there is little to
be said, for pretty as the country is all round it, the town itself
is unattractive, and the castle is no more. But all the ways back to
Shrewsbury from here are lovely. We may join the Stretton road, which
we already know, at Marshbrook, and so see one of the most charming
little bits of wooded country in Shropshire; or we may follow the hilly
road through the wild scenery near Ratlinghope, down Cothercott Hill,
and through Longden and Hookagate. Cothercott Hill is very steep and
has a bad surface, but it is only for a short way that the gradient is
really severe, and the view from the top is one of the wildest in the
country. Personally, however, I should recommend the third way back to
Shrewsbury--over the moor to the Roman Gravels, and down through the
woods of the winding Hope Valley to Minsterley.

As there is nothing in the whole of this little run to delay us, we may
lengthen it, if our car is good on hills and we are of an enterprising
temperament, by going on from Bishop’s Castle to Clun, or even to
Knighton, and round by Leintwardine to join the Ludlow road. This is
a beautiful bit of country, and full of interest. Leland tells us
of the “faire forest of Clun.” “Cumming from Bisshop’s Castelle to
Clunne lordshippe,” he says, “cummeth doune a greate woode grouing
on a hille.” Much of this great wood is gone now, but there is still
enough to make the country very “faire,” and to compensate a motorist
for the climbing of a long hill. Suddenly, as we round a corner, Clun
comes into sight between two hills, with the stern tower of its castle
standing conspicuously above the river. “Clunne Castell,” says Leland,
“longynge to the Erle of Arundel, sumewhat ruinus. It hath bene bothe
stronge and well builded.” It is more than somewhat ruinous now, which
is hardly surprising when one considers all it has gone through at
the hands of Welshmen and Roundheads since it was built in Stephen’s
reign. There is a story that the stones of which it is made were passed
from hand to hand by a chain of men, from the quarry, a mile away, to
the river-bank where the castle stands; but be that as it may, these
crumbling stones, with their soft tints of grey and yellow, embody
enough romance to satisfy us, I think, seeing that they are connected
with all the greatest names of Wales. They have been stormed and
burnt by Rhys of the south; they have been attacked in vain by great
Llewelyn of the north; they have been overcome by Owen Glyndwr. They
are connected with modern romance, too, for it is supposed that the
“Garde Dolareuse,” in the “Betrothed,” represents the Castle of Clun,
and the Buffalo Inn claims to have sheltered Sir Walter Scott while he
was writing part of the book.

Everything is old at Clun: the church; the fine old bridge, of whose
building there is no record; and the “Hospital of the Holy and
Undivided Trinity at Clunn,” which was founded by the Duke of Norfolk
in 1614 for distressed tradesmen, who were each to receive yearly “a
gown ready-made of strong cloth or kersey, of a sad colour.”

The road between Clun and Knighton is not one to be undertaken lightly
by small cars of uncertain hill-climbing powers, for it is mostly
composed of long and precipitous hills, with gradients varying from 1
in 8 to 1 in 10; but the surface is good, and though the scenery is not
particularly interesting at first, it becomes really lovely as we draw
near Knighton, which lies in a valley, surrounded by wooded hills. Here
we turn to the left, and by way of compensation the road from Knighton
to Leintwardine is particularly level, along a narrow valley between
green hills that belong to Shropshire on the left and to Herefordshire
on the right. As the valley widens out into open country we reach
Brampton Brian, associated for ever with the name of Brilliana, Lady
Harley. That gallant-hearted lady was alone in her husband’s castle of
Brampton when it was threatened by the forces of Charles I., for the
Harleys were “Parliament men.” “I acknowleg,” she writes, “I doe not
thinke meself safe wheare I am.” Safe she certainly was not, but she
thanked God that she was “not afraide”; and when the Royalists bade
her surrender she simply answered, “I must endeavour to keep what is
mine as well as I can, in which I have the law of nature, of reason,
and of the law on my side, and you none to take it from me.” The siege
lasted some weeks, and Lady Harley, always delicate, suffered greatly;
but when pressed to yield said “she would rather choose an honourable
death.” She died; but this first siege was raised before her “heavenly
and happy end,” and so she never knew that the castle was besieged
again, was surrendered, and burnt to the ground.[5]

A few miles further on is Leintwardine, which I believe to be full of
antiquarian interest, and know to be picturesque as an artist’s dream;
and here, if we care to face a narrow byway with a rough surface, we
may leave the main road and take the more direct route to Craven Arms
by way of Clungunford. At Craven Arms we rejoin the road from Ludlow to
Shrewsbury.

       *       *       *       *       *

Of the many main roads that converge in Shrewsbury I have left to the
last the one that is in some ways the most important, the one that
is certainly the most famous; that road of great memories and great
achievement, by which so many Royal Mails have travelled breathlessly
at the dashing pace of eleven miles an hour, and by which we may travel
to-day at a pace that nothing shall induce me to betray: Telford’s road
to Holyhead. It is the road by which, if we are fortunate, we are going
into North Wales. If, however, it is our sad fate to turn our backs on
that most beautiful land, we must on no account neglect to run over to
Llangollen, a distance of thirty miles: for though I have left it to
the last on the assumption that we are going on to Wales, it is one of
the most enjoyable drives in this neighbourhood.

We leave Shrewsbury by the Welsh Bridge, the scene of Henry VII.’s
remarkable entry into the town over the body of the stout, wise
bailiff; and as we reach the top of the hill beyond it we pass on the
right the house in which Charles Darwin was born. At the corner where
the Holyhead road turns sharply to the right, about half a mile beyond
the last houses of the town, there stands in a private garden a famous
tree known as the Shelton Oak. I mention it merely because its fame
rests on a libel. There are those who will tell you--cheerfully taking
a great man’s name in vain--that Owen Glyndwr sat in this tree watching
the Battle of Shrewsbury when he should have been taking part in it.
Our knowledge of this fiery prince’s characteristics might be enough,
one would think, to discredit the tale, without the proved fact that he
was extremely occupied in South Wales at the time! But still the tale
is told.

Soon, at Montford Bridge, we cross the Severn, white with water-weeds
in the summer, and fringed with purple wild-flowers, and then, with
what speed we may, spin happily towards the Welsh hills. We can see
them on our left; the striking outline of the Breidden, with Rodney’s
Pillar on its topmost point, and beyond it a long blue range that
limits all the western horizon. At one spot only we have a choice of
roads. Telford’s road goes by Oswestry, an ancient town with an immense
history but few relics; but if at the “Queen’s Head,” fourteen miles
from Shrewsbury, we turn to the right, following the telegraph-posts,
we shall cut off more than a mile of distance and shall see Whittington.

There are some places that are peculiarly haunted. One is infinitely
more conscious in them of the past than of the present. Such are Hay
and Beaupré--both of which we shall see later on. But Whittington
is not so much haunted as haunting. Hay and Beaupré are enchanted:
Whittington is itself the enchantment. It stands in a clump of trees
by the wayside, in the middle of the village, and one comes upon it
suddenly: a great fortified gateway of pale grey stone, reflected in
the weed-grown water of what was once its moat--and leading nowhere.
One thinks, not of its history, but of itself. One cannot believe that
it is merely the entrance to a vanished mediæval castle; it is rather
the Gate of Dreams, through which every man sometimes passes in search
of his heart’s desire.

There is an old Norman-French romance that tells us how the White
Tower was built by William Peverel of the Peak, and how he promised
it as a dowry to Melette, the fairest of his nieces. “But none found
favour with her. And William reasoned with her, and besought her that
she would discover unto him if there was in the world any knight whom
she would take for lord.... ‘Certes, Sire,’ said she, ‘no knight is
there in all the world that I would take for the sake of riches and the
honour of lands, but if I ever take such an one he shall be handsome,
and courteous, and the most valiant of his order in Christendom.’” So
William proclaimed a tourney at the Peak, with Melette and the White
Tower for the prize; and among those who came to try their fortune was
one Guarin de Metz, well clad in red samite, with a crest of gold. “To
record the blows and the issues I am not minded,” says the story, “but
Guarin de Metz and his company proved that day the best, the fairest,
and the most valiant, and above all, Guarin was the most praised in all
ways.” So Guarin won the fastidious Melette of the White Tower, “and
with great joy did he take her, and the damsel him.”[6]

This romance is not very reliable history, I fear, but it is true that
Whittington belonged at one time to the Peverels, and later to the
Fitz-Warines or Guarins, of whom it was probably the third who built
this gate in the reign of John.

Two miles beyond Whittington is Gobowen, where we rejoin the main road;
and soon afterwards we dip into the narrow valley below Chirk, and with
the railway and the canal high above us on the left, cross the little
Ceiriog into Wales.

[Illustration: WHITTINGTON CASTLE.]

[Illustration: THE LLEDR VALLEY, FROM THE HOLYHEAD ROAD.]



A TOUR IN NORTH WALES


Here, on the very border of Wales, one is conscious of the Celtic
atmosphere. We left the quiet orderliness of England behind us when
we dipped down into this little valley, where the sparkling, bubbling
Ceiriog--every inch a Celt--calls to us to follow it up into the hills.
And so we will, as soon as we have climbed the other side of the valley
into Chirk village; turning there to the left, though our rightful
road, the road to Llangollen, lies directly in front of us. In Wales we
shall find ourselves constantly tempted to leave the highway, and in
most cases we shall be rewarded if we yield to the temptation without
ado. In this particular case we shall be rewarded with a dear little
glen, feathery birch-trees on the steep slopes, a yellow carpet in
primrose time, and a most charming little hotel about six miles up the
valley, at Glyn Ceiriog.

Near Chirk the road sweeps round under the trees of the deer-park,
where “there is on a smaul hille a mighty large and stronge castel
with dyvers towers”; towers that have stood here for many generations,
defying time and war; for this castle of Chirk is no ruin like most of
its contemporaries, but an inhabited house. Yet not these towers, I
believe, but the old Welsh Castell Crogen, stood here when Henry II.,
with “the chosen warriors of England,” and of several other countries,
marched up this valley to join battle with the great Owen Gwynedd and
all the might of Wales, who were encamped near Corwen. The English,
finding the trees in their way, cut them down as they advanced, which
so much infuriated some of the Welsh who were separated from their
main army, that the Ceiriog ran red with the blood of Henry’s chosen
warriors. This Battle of Crogen took place just below the older castle.

Perhaps the most dramatic event in the life of the present Chirk
Castle was when it fell into the hands of the cavaliers, and its owner,
Sir Thomas Myddleton, a Parliamentary leader, was obliged to besiege
his own house in his own person. I believe that on one day of the week
the world at large is allowed to pass through the beautiful gates of
wrought iron, and up the long slope of the avenue, and into the castle
itself, to see all the treasures of art and history that George Borrow
saw when he was here: the cabinet of Charles II., and the portraits of
Nell Gwynne, and of “the very proud daughter of the house,” as Borrow
calls Addison’s wife, “the Warwick Dowager who married the Spectator,
and led him the life of a dog.”

Across Chirk Park runs Offa’s Dyke, the long embankment “that was cast
up with great labour and industry by Offa the Mercian, as a boundary
between his Subjects and the Britains, from the mouth of Dee to that
of the River Wye.... Concerning which Joannes Sarisburiensis in his
‘Polycration’ saith that Harald establish’d a law that whatever
Welshman should be found arm’d on this side the limit he had set up,
then ... his right hand should be cut off by the King’s Officers.” It
touches the high-road a few miles beyond Chirk, just before we begin
the wonderful descent into the Vale of Llangollen; that long slope down
which we swing for several miles on a perfect gradient and a perfect
surface--marred, however, by an awkward turn--with the whole beautiful
valley spread out before us, and the Dee sweeping far below us, spanned
by the remarkable aqueduct called Pont-y-Cysylltau. Beyond it rise
the Eglwyseg crags, and far away the shattered fortress of Dinas Bran
is visible almost from the first on its peak above Llangollen. “The
castelle of Dinas Brane,” says Leland, “was never a bigge thing, but
sette al for strenght as in a place half inaccessible for enemyes.”
Even in his day it was “al in ruine,” and now there is only a fragment
left of it to remind us of those princes of ancient Powys who built
it in days so old as to be unchronicled, and defied the power of the
Saxon from within its walls; and of its owner in later days, Madoc ap
Gryffyth Maelor, who built the Abbey of Valle Crucis; and of the fair
Myfanwy, “all smiles and light,” who was loved by a poor bard of the
fourteenth century, and celebrated by him in a poem that still exists.

At the foot of the crag on which Dinas Bran is perched lies
Llangollen--a little town that owes its charm entirely to its position.
Only a few miles away, in Shropshire, an ugly house is an exception: in
Wales it is unfortunately the rule. A town or village that is really
pretty in itself, apart from its surroundings, is almost unknown. But
so lovely is the position of Llangollen that in spite of its rather
squalid streets it is an entrancing place; so entrancing that Robert
Browning lived for some time at the Hand Hotel, and the two famous
“Ladies of Llangollen,” Lady Eleanor Butler and Miss Ponsonby, chose
it out of all the world for their life-long home. Llangollen is still
dominated by “the Ladies,” almost as much as by Dinas Bran itself.
They adorn the windows of all its photograph shops; they shine in
crude colours from all its china mugs; and in its churchyard we learn
from an extremely ugly tombstone that one of them, in the opinion of
the other, had “manners worthy of her Illustrious Birth.” It must be
admitted that such is not the impression given by the impartial. It
became the fashion for travellers of mark to visit this quaint couple
in their house up there on the hill, and they themselves insisted on
its being also the fashion to give them presents--carvings, miniatures,
curiosities of all kinds. If we care to climb a steep hill we may
see the outside of Plas Newydd now, a black-and-white house, which
must have been really pretty in its original simplicity, but is now
overladen with a mass of carving. From the road we can see the porch
in which “the Ladies” once stood “fussing and tottering about in an
agony of expectation,” waiting for Sir Walter Scott, and looking, says
Lockhart, “like a couple of hazy or crazy old sailors.” “Who could
paint,” he goes on, “the prints, the dogs, the cats, the miniatures,
the cram of cabinets, clocks, glass-cases, books, bijouterie,
dragon-china, nodding mandarins, and whirligigs of every shape and
hue--the whole house outside and in _covered_ with carved oak ... and
the illustrated copies of Sir W.’s poems, and the joking, simpering
compliments about Waverley.” But whether their manners were worthy of
their Illustrious Birth or not, they were true friends to each other,
and the guardian angels, as Lockhart admits, of Llangollen. It is an
interesting fact (which should not be forgotten) that the church under
whose shadow they lie is dedicated to St. Collen ap Gwynnawg ap Clydawg
ap Cowrda ap Caradog Freichfras ap Llyr Merimap Eini Yrth ap Cunedda
Wledig.

Far more important than Plas Newydd or its memories of vanished
mandarins and whirligigs is the work of that prince of Powys, whose
name I mentioned in connection with Dinas Bran--Madoc ap Gryffyth
Maelor. In Pant-y-Groes, or the Valley of the Cross, stands Madoc’s
ruined abbey, the most perfect retreat, surely, that ever brought
comfort to the sad or sinful. It was of the Vale of Llangollen that
Ruskin characteristically wrote: “The whole valley, when once I got up
past the Works (whatever the accursed business of them) seemed to me
entirely lovely in its gentle wildness.” And it is this very quality
of gentle wildness that gives such charm to the little Glen of the
Cross, which joins the larger valley of the Dee just above Llangollen,
and is reached by way of the old stone bridge that was the first of its
kind in Wales.

When, in a few minutes, we see the gable of Valle Crucis Abbey below
us on the right, we leave our car by the roadside. We leave, indeed,
the whole world behind us as we pass through the heavy door by which
there was once no returning. The narrow wooded valley hems us in, the
trees are close round us, the waters of the fishpond, in their absolute
stillness, add to the sense of aloofness and peace. And under our very
feet, perhaps, is the dust of Iolo Goch, the famous bard who sang of
“Owain Glyndwr, the great, the good”; for Iolo’s unmarked grave is
here; and here, too, lies Madoc, who built this abbey in the last year
of the twelfth century; and Myfanwy, the beautiful princess, “fairer
than the cherry’s bloom”; and others who died long, long before them.
To antiquarians the tombs of Valle Crucis are full of interest, for
there are some that seem to prove, says the custodian--himself an
antiquarian--that this Cistercian house rose on the site of an older
Benedictine building. The Cistercians never used warlike symbols,
but always the sign of the Cross; yet here on two stones of very
early date--the sixth or seventh century--are carved the sword, the
spear, and the battleaxe. Fragments of stained glass, too, have been
unearthed, and coloured tiles, though the Cistercian Rule forbade the
use of colour in any form. This austere Order, however, while avoiding
the use of the sword as a symbol, was apparently not averse to using
it as a weapon on occasion, for it was by fighting the Benedictines in
a neighbouring field, according to the custodian’s theory, that they
became possessed of the site of their abbey. Truth to tell, the extreme
austerity of the Cistercians seems to have relaxed in later days, for
we hear after a time of four courses of meat in silver dishes at Valle
Crucis, and of an abbot with three of his fingers covered with rings.
But these are disturbing thoughts. Let us rather take away with us a
picture of the quiet fishpond, with its water-weeds and clumps of
yellow flags, and the gable of the church reflected in it line for
line, and on the bank a hooded figure, dressed in white, with a placid
face and a busy fishing-rod.

Quite near the abbey in a field is a far older relic, Eliseg’s Pillar,
the rough stone monument that gave its name to the Valley of the
Cross, though as a matter of fact it was probably never a cross. It
was once much higher than it is now, but in the days of the Civil War
the name of the valley was enough to make it _suspect_, and the pillar
was thrown down by the Puritans on the chance of its once having been
a cross. It has been much discussed and disagreed about, but at all
events its very great antiquity is a certainty, and the inscription
that is now illegible was luckily copied several centuries ago.
“Concenn,” it tells us, “the great grandson of Eliseg, erected this
stone to the memory of his great-grandfather, Eliseg. This is that
Eliseg who recovered his inheritance of Powis by his sword from the
power of the Angles.”

Returning to Llangollen we cross the Dee again and go on our way upon
the road to Holyhead, up the ridge of Rhysgog, past Berwyn Station, and
so out of the Vale of Llangollen into that of Edeyrnion. The Dee is
still below us on the right, with thickly wooded hills beyond it; and
on the left are rocky heights, sometimes bare and sometimes softened by
trees. We have a lovely run before us down the valley, but if we are
prudent we will _drive slowly in the neighbourhood of Corwen_.

But here, at the head of the valley, we are eight miles away from
Corwen, and have other things to think of--great things, indeed:
the last struggle for Welsh freedom, and the man who was the heart
and the head of it, that strange mixture of ruthless vengeance and
lovableness, Owen Glyndwr, who as a pattern squire, rather scholarly
and very hospitable, spent many quiet years, living sometimes here
at Glyndyfrdwy beside the Dee and sometimes at his other house at
Sycharth, and then suddenly, at the touch of injustice, unfurled the
red dragon of Uther and became the implacable devastator whose name
meets us in every ruin in Wales. Nothing remains now of his house, for
Prince Hal descended upon it one day, and, having left it level with
the ground, wrote to his “very dear and entirely beloved” Wardens of
the Marches to tell them all about it. After describing the burning of
Sycharth and of many houses round it he goes on: “Then we went straight
away to his other place of Glyndourdy, to seek for him there. There
we burnt a fine lodge in his park, and all the country round; and we
remained there all that night.” Above the spot where the fine lodge
stood is a curious tumulus crowned with firs, quite close to the road.
It is known as Owen’s Mount, not because he made it, for it is far
older than he, but because there is a story that he used it as a kind
of watch-tower. It was at Corwen, some say, that he first raised his
standard; but the other memories of him here are legendary and trivial.

From Corwen to wild Cerrig-y-Druidion--the Rock of the Druids--the road
rises steadily, and leads to nothing of note but the lovely little Pass
of Glyndyffws, a deep and narrow defile of sudden unexpected beauty
that connects two tracts of rather dull country. Here, where the Ceirw
flings itself into the ravine from a great height and foams among the
rocks far below us, Telford has thoughtfully supplied us with several
little recesses in the wall from which to enjoy the view. I have heard
that he cut his name in the stone of one of them, but I have never
been able to find it. Perhaps it was to his name that George Borrow
objected when he came here and laughed at “Mr. T.” for being eager for
immortality. There was no need for Telford to be over-anxious about his
immortality; nor yet, indeed, was there any for Borrow to flout him
because he was not a Welsh bard!

Tyn-y-nant, where “little Dick Vickers,” late of Shrewsbury Mail,
hanged himself rather exclusively, is a place of a dreary sort; and
so is Cerrig-y-Druidion; and so, most of all, is the straight road
from Cerrig to Cernioge, a piece of road that catches all the winds
of heaven, and always seems longer than it was last time. Open the
throttle here, and be thankful--if the weather be cold--that your good
engine is humming before you, and is making a better pace than the
eleven miles an hour of which the shivering travellers on this road
used to boast. Cernioge is to us merely an unkempt farmhouse, but to
them it meant a fire and hot drinks, for it was once a posting-house of
considerable renown.

At Cernioge begins the descent into the valley of the Conway; and it is
here that we first see, stretched out before us like the Promised Land,
the distant grandeur of Snowdonia, the wild, impenetrable fortress of
the Welsh and the trap of the invading English. When Pentre Voelas is
passed the beauty grows and grows, mile by mile, and we are gently
gliding down into the very heart of it; wild crags to the right of us,
and before and below us a sea of woodland, valley beyond valley and
hill beyond hill. There is one turn of the road where nearly every car
draws up. The valley of the Conway lies at our feet, with here and
there the river shining through the trees; the Lledr Valley stretches
away and merges into the distant moors; Moel Siabod’s peak rises at
the end of it; and over Siabod’s shoulder appears, on a clear day, a
wedge-shaped corner of Snowdon, faintly blue. I have seen this view at
many times of the year, and the best time of all is May.

For the woods that are at our feet, the woods that gave its name to
Bettws-y-Coed, the Chapel in the Wood, are at their best in May, when
every tree has its own individual shade of colour, the larch its tender
green, and the budding oak its pink and gold. But, indeed, Bettws is
always lovely. Nothing can spoil its innate simplicity; not even the
smart hats and parasols that look so incongruous in its little street
in July and August. It exists only for tourists; there are several good
hotels, and, roughly speaking, all the other houses are lodgings; yet
in spite of all, Bettws is a village still. Those who like to settle
down comfortably and motor round a centre, instead of touring from
place to place, will find this much the most central and convenient
spot from which to explore North Wales. And in any case, I think we
must stay here for a night or two. We must drive to Rhuddlan and
Conway and Dolwyddelan; we must stand on the Pont-y-Pair and watch the
tempestuous Llugwy; we must inspect David Cox’s famous signboard at the
Royal Oak; and in the evening, when the dusky yews are all in shadow,
we must sit in the churchyard beside the Conway, where the great artist
loved to paint. The church--the “Chapel in the Wood”--is uncouth and
bare, and not improved by modern windows; but it has stood here for
many centuries, and among its ugly pews we realise with a thrill that
the tomb at our feet holds the dust of a prince of Llewelyn’s house.

[Illustration: THE OLD CHAPEL, BETTWS-Y-COED.]

[Illustration: THE LLUGWY AT BETTWS-Y-COED.]

This is the country of Llewelyn the Great. On one side of us is the
valley that tradition names as his birthplace; on the other the valley
where he was buried. His grave we cannot see, for his burial-place at
Aberconwy was desecrated when Edward I. built his great castle; but on
the way from Bettws to Rhuddlan we may pause at the church of Llanrwst
and see there, on the floor of Inigo Jones’s chapel of the Wynnes, the
coffin of stone that once held the bones of the greatest of the
Welsh princes. There are a good many interesting things here--things
much older than the church itself; but not the least pleasing, I think,
is the Latin epitaph that the former rector composed, with a pretty
wit, for his own tomb. It has been thus translated:--

    “Once the undeserving schoolmaster,
    Then the more undeserving lecturer,
    Last of all the most undeserving rector of this parish.
    Do not think, speak, or write anything evil of the dead.”

If we are going to Rhuddlan it will not be necessary for us to cross
the shaking bridge, designed--perhaps--by Inigo Jones. I see no object
in a bridge shaking, myself, but there are always those at hand who for
a consideration will shake you the bridge if it gives you pleasure.
Our way, however, lies to the right, up a winding hill three miles in
length, with an average gradient of 1 in 12. It is a serious climb;
but the backward view of the mountain range beyond the Conway is
magnificent--a view of rather a rare quality, and not often seen by
those who depend upon horses’ legs or their own. The road that crosses
the top of the hills runs through scenery of rather a commonplace type;
then, as we drop down into Abergele the Morfa Rhuddlan lies before us
like a map--a dull map--with fashionable Rhyl in the distance; and from
Abergele to Rhuddlan the road is surely the straightest and flattest
that ever was seen.

The ivy-smothered towers of Rhuddlan Castle stand on the banks of the
Clwyd. That great statesman and soldier, Edward I., being weary of the
“Welsh Question,” determined to get the affair finished once for all;
so he rebuilt this castle, settled down here with his Court and family,
conquered the country, made its laws, and saw that they were carried
out. There is a remnant still standing of the house where he held his
parliament and “secured its independence to the Principality of Wales.”
These words, though not Edward’s, are quite in the spirit of his little
jokes. It was here that he played his historical practical joke upon
the Welsh nation, when he promised them a prince who was a native of
Wales and could not speak a word of English--and then showed them the
baby. There is nothing for us to see inside this castle, for Cromwell
altogether dismantled it, and its heavy green towers, though impressive
enough as being the grave of Welsh independence, are not nearly so
typical of the “ruthless king” as his great fortresses of Carnarvon and
Harlech and Conway.

Conway is only seventeen miles away, and we may see it on our return
journey to Bettws, by driving back to Abergele, where there is a nice
old posting-house, and thence passing on above Colwyn Bay. Five hundred
years ago another traveller came by this way from Conway: a poor,
duped, heart-sick king riding helplessly to imprisonment and mysterious
death. It was at Conway that Bolingbroke’s messenger Northumberland,
a man of a most treacherous heart, met Richard II. with solemn
vows of friendship; and along this coast that they rode together,
still smiling, the knave and the fool, to Rhuddlan and Flint, where
Bolingbroke’s army lay waiting on the sands o’ Dee. Those splendid
walls and towers of Conway that we see beyond the estuary, piled high
above the water-side, were Richard II.’s last refuge. From that day
forward every roof that sheltered him was a prison.

All through the history of Wales this estuary has played an important
part. Long, long before Edward’s magnificent towers rose over the
desecrated burial-place of the great Llewelyn there was a castle
guarding the river-mouth at Deganwy. We can see its fragments still
if we choose to drive round that way before crossing to Conway; but
there is only a remnant left, a few stones on a hillside facing the
sea--stones that tell of Maelgwyn of the sixth century, and of Norman
Robert, lord of Rhuddlan, who rebuilt Maelgwyn’s fortress and met his
death there, and of King John of England, who was starved out by the
Welsh. Robert of Rhuddlan’s death was picturesque, and, I imagine,
well deserved. This was the manner of it. He was still employed in
rebuilding the Welsh castle of Deganwy for the harrying of the people
to whom it really belonged, when one day he fell asleep--a rash thing
to do in those days and in that place. Then came Griffith, Prince of
Gwynedd, with his ships, and stole all Robert’s cattle, and was just
setting sail again when Robert awoke and saw what was going forward.
Down this steep bank below the castle he dashed to the shore, and
fought desperately, with only one follower to support him; but soon
died, of course, by the spears of the Welsh. Griffith nailed his head
to the mast and sailed away; then, when the Normans chased him, flung
it into the sea before their eyes.

As for King John, when he in his turn tried to strengthen the fortress
of Deganwy, he was glad enough to escape with his wicked head on his
shoulders. He had come into Wales “minded to destroy all that had life
within the country”; but he departed, we are told, in a great fury,
leaving a large proportion of his army behind him for Llewelyn to bury.
For the Welsh had cut off all the supplies of the English, “so that in
time they were glad to take up with horseflesh or anything, were it
never so mean, which might fill up their greedy and empty stomachs.”
So says Caradoc of Llancarvan. Other historians give us a letter
written on the spot by a certain knight, a man of parts, of whose life
and letters one would like to know more. He describes the royal army
as “watching, fasting, praying, and freezing. We watch,” he continues,
“for fear of the Welsh.... We fast for want of provisions.... We pray
that we may speedily return safe and scot-free home; and we freeze for
want of winter garments, having but a thin linen shirt to keep us from
the wind.” This vivid letter-writer goes on to tell us of the spoiling
of Aberconwy Abbey and the burning of all the valuable old Welsh
records there, and he shows a good deal of nice feeling in the matter.

It was on the ruins of Aberconwy that Edward’s glorious castle rose
later on to overawe the Welsh. This Castle of Conway is the most
beautiful of all Henry de Elfreton’s works, I think; more beautiful in
itself even than Harlech; and we can well believe, as we drive across
the bridge and under the great machicolated town gate, that in early
days it could only be taken by the help of guile or famine. Glyndwr’s
men won their way in by disguising one of their number as a carpenter,
and to dislodge them Hotspur, finding his engines useless, was obliged
to starve them out. During the Civil War the castle was held for the
King by the Archbishop of York, an extremely “muscular Christian,” who
on being superseded in his command felt the slight so deeply that he
joined Mytton the Roundhead, and himself led the assault! And these
great walls, fifteen feet in thickness, yielded at last. As one climbs
the long flight of steps to the entrance with all these things in one’s
mind there is something almost overwhelming in the grandeur of these
strong towers.

“A very neat castle,” says Camden.

When we have had our luncheon at the Castle Hotel we must cross
the road to Plas Mawr, the town house of the Wynnes of Gwydir, who
entertained Queen Elizabeth there more than once, and even decorated
her rooms with appropriate symbols, royal arms, and monograms. The
plaster mouldings in this house are its special feature: fireplaces,
ceilings, walls, all are ornamented with them, and in each room the
design is different. One cannot, however, enjoy the mouldings and the
oak furniture and the priests’ hiding-hole and the lantern window with
an undivided mind, for the Plas Mawr ghost--unconventional soul!--walks
by daylight.

[Illustration: CONWAY CASTLE.]

[Illustration: THE PASS OF NANT FFRANCON.]

We leave Conway by the road that follows the western bank of the river,
for by so doing we secure an impressive backward view of the old town
walls, which is ample compensation for the steep ascent that soon
carries us out of sight. Moreover this road, after a few more hills
and a few more miles of level going, with a view up the valley that
grows lovelier every moment, will lead us to Trefriew, a dear little
watering-place with a good hotel. The tiny church here has no outward
attractions; it has not even any appearance of age. Yet it has its own
romance; for it is said that when the English wife of Llewelyn the
Great--Joan, the daughter of King John--found the severe climb to the
old church of Llanrhychwyn too much for her, her thoughtful husband
built this one for her at the foot of the hill. Those who do not
share her feelings may still see, on the heights above the village, the
yet older church where Llewelyn worshipped before his wife objected
to the walk. And beyond it again, on the wild hill-top, is Llyn
Geirionydd, on whose shores lived Taliesin, the Bard of the Radiant
Brow, the most famous of all the Welsh bards.

Between Trefriew and Bettws there are but a few miles of level road and
very lovely scenery. Gwydir Castle, the old house of the Wynnes, stands
between us and the river, and may be seen when Lord Carrington is away.
It is full, I believe, of carvings and tapestry and relics of history.
Queen Elizabeth stayed here, and Leicester, and Charles I.

But here among these wild Welsh hills Elizabeth’s starched ruff and
Charles’s curls strike one as a little out of place. We may find
memories of Elizabeth--who seems to have slept in as many different
places as a motorist--in half the towns and big houses of England. This
is the country of the Kings of Gwynedd.

We saw the Lledr Valley stretched out before us as we came down the
hill from Pentre Voelas to Bettws. But that bird’s-eye view of it
gives one no idea at all of its extreme beauty; of the towering height
of its steep slopes, now bare and rocky, now richly wooded: of its
brilliant colouring and deep purple shadows. At the head of it, where
its beauty is partly spoiled by quarries and all their works, is
Dolwyddelan village; and beyond that again, standing alone among the
desolate hills, is the stern tower where Llewelyn the Great, the “eagle
of men,” is believed to have been born. It is only a square tower now,
and though it once had two towers it was never a place of any size;
for Dolwyddelan and Dolbadarn, the two mountain strongholds of the
princes of Gwynedd, did not rely upon their own strength, but on the
great bewildering hills that defended them on every side. Thus it was
that this small fortress was the last to yield to Edward I. And while
remembering Llewelyn here do not let us forget to dedicate one sigh to
his poor father, Iorwerth Drwyndwn--of the broken nose--who, when that
unfortunate feature kept him from his princedom, was given this country
and its tower by way of compensation.

It is the custom to return to Bettws from this point, for reasons that
a glance at the Contour Book may perhaps explain. But the fashion
has been set, I think, by bicyclists, whom one really cannot blame
for shirking the hill that rises between Dolwyddelan and Maentwrog.
Here let me assure motorists that there is little reason why they
should miss the wild beauty of the moors above this point; the rolling
expanse of brown and purple bogland, the endless succession of hills,
the grand outline of Moel Siabod. For though the road is certainly
steep the surface is excellent, except for a mile or so above Blaenau
Festiniog, that strange town on the mountain ledge that entirely owes
its existence to the neighbouring quarries, and yet is more than a
mile long and has three railway stations. There is no need to brave
the hill again to return to Bettws, for the road by Maentwrog,
Penrhyndeudraeth, and the Pass of Aberglaslyn is one of the loveliest
in Wales, and though we shall come down the Pass by and by there is
no hardship in going over the ground twice. It is worth remembering,
too, that at Maentwrog it is possible, if time allows, to cross the
valley and approach the famous toy railway-line at its prettiest point,
Tan-y-Bwlch, where a lake lies hidden among the woods, and where we may
have tea on the grass close beside the water, facing a scene of rich
colouring and deep, cool shadows.

All this, however, is a digression. It is highly probable that the
great majority of motorists will look at the Contour Book and return
to Bettws from Dolwyddelan. They will have the advantage of seeing the
Lledr Valley from a new point of view.

Now in the Snowdon country there are three great passes through the
mountains to the sea: the Passes of Nant Ffrancon, Llanberis, and
Nant Gwynant combined with Aberglaslyn. It is hard to say which is
the most beautiful of the three; and it is quite imperative, and also
quite easy, to see them all by pursuing rather a zigzag course. Nant
Ffrancon is the route of the Holyhead Road and the nearest to Bettws:
so we will go down by Nant Ffrancon, and come up again by Llanberis on
the same day; and on the next start off again by way of Nant Gwynant
and Aberglaslyn, passing through Bedd Gelert.

The road climbs out of Bettws through a thick wood beside the rushing
Llugwy, and soon draws near the Swallow Falls.[7] This triple fall is
only a stone’s-throw from the road, and it is worth while to follow the
slippery path across the pine-needles, and stand for a moment in the
pricking spray watching the commotion. In the thick of the hubbub they
say the spirit of Sir John Wynne, which left this mortal coil early
in the seventeenth century, is being “purged, punished, and spouted
upon”; though I have never heard anything definite against him except
that he was “shrewd and successful.” He was a member of that Court of
the Marches of which we heard so much at Ludlow, and he left a very
valuable record of his family behind him.

This bit of country between Bettws and Capel Curig is one of the gems
of North Wales. Moel Siabod towers above us; and beyond it soon appears
that cloud-capped peak whose name quickens every Welsh heart--the
rallying-point of heroes, the symbol and stronghold of the liberties of
Wales. The finest view of Snowdon is from Capel Curig, where the double
peak is reflected in the double lake.

Our road, still climbing, turns to the right in Capel Curig and
takes us up into the heart of the hills, through a scene of splendid
desolation--bare heights, huge boulders tossed and heaped upon the
ground, jagged outlines, and dark sullen colours--a land that was
vastly disconcerting to those travellers of an earlier day whose
idea of beauty was “a smiling landscape.” As we reach the summit and
see the waters of Llyn Ogwen below us, sapphire-blue or lead-grey
according to circumstances, the great sides of Tryfaen and the Glydyrs
tower on the left. Beyond the lake Alla Wen rises steeply. “A horrid
spot of hills,” says a seventeenth-century writer. “The most dreadful
horse-path in Wales,” says Pennant; and that indeed it may well have
been before Telford came here to perform his miracles of engineering.
“The district through which the surveys were carried is mountainous,”
he says quietly; “and I found the existing roads very imperfect.” When
we have passed Llyn Ogwen, and the cottage where food is to be had if
necessary, and the sudden turning over the bridge, and are swinging
down the gentle slope of Nant Ffrancon high up on the mountain-side,
we must surely give nearly as much admiration to this road which
descends for ten miles with no steeper gradient than 1 in 15 as we give
to the wide Valley of the Beavers below us. Above us the mountain is
a mass of grey boulders, of scars and landslips; below us it sweeps
down precipitously to where the little Ogwen dances like a streak of
quicksilver. Presently we pass under the hideous excrescence of the
Penrhyn slate quarries, grey terraces of rubbish contrasting cruelly
with the glowing gorse of the opposite slopes; and then through the
equally hideous town of slate, Bethesda, the miners’ town, whose slate
walls, slate steps, and slate porches are enough, as Dr. Johnson, would
say, “to make a man hang himself.” Let us hurry on into the Cochwillan
Woods.

Very soon after passing the modern towers of Penrhyn Castle we reach
the town of Bangor, “which for the beauty of its situation, was called
Ban-cor, the high or conspicuous choir.” It is not a very inviting
place, nevertheless, and there is no need to pause here, for even the
cathedral is not beautiful. It has had a great deal to bear; for it
was burnt by Harold the Saxon, and again by King John, and again by
Owen Glyndwr; and no doubt the castle built by Hugh, Earl of Chester,
suffered on one or all of these occasions, for Camden says, “though
he made diligent inquiry he could not discover the least footsteps”
of it. The original cathedral was founded by St. Deiniol in the sixth
century, and beneath it is buried the great Welsh prince Owen Gwynedd,
hero of many battles, who fought here on the heights above the straits
a fight so desperate that “the Menai could not ebb on account of the
torrent of blood which flowed into it.” Before we go on to Carnarvon we
must cross those straits, for the sake of the bridge, and of the view,
and of Beaumaris.

It was in the year 1826 that the mail-coach, swaying under its burden
of excited officials, rolled slowly for the first time over the Menai
Bridge. It was a brave scene. Telford, in his modest way, had pleaded
against a formal procession, but he could not check personal enthusiasm
nor prevent the mustering of that long, long line of carriages and
horsemen and thousands on foot, which followed the Royal London and
Holyhead Mail, amid the fluttering of flags and the firing of guns, and
the roaring of a gale. Nor yet could he control the shouts that rose
above the wind when he himself passed by in an inconspicuous carriage.

As soon as we reach the sacred shore of Mona, the last home of
the Druids, we turn sharply to the right; unless, indeed, we
have a mind to pursue the Holyhead road for a couple of miles,
for the pleasure of telling our friends that we have seen
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerchwryndrobwllantysiliogogogoch. I once
heard a rumour that this place was to be connected by rail with
Pontrhydfendigaedmynachlogfawr, but as the scheme may come to nothing
perhaps it would be wiser not to mention it.

From the shore road to Beaumaris we see the whole grand panorama of
the Gwynedd mountains, height beyond height and range beyond range,
from the pale distant peak of Snowdon to the dark shadows of steep
Penmaenmawr. It is a scene that has a quality of strangeness in it.
One looks at it from the outside, as it were; for Anglesey, which once
was green with the sacred groves of the Druids, is now, as it was
in the days of Giraldus Cambrensis, “an arid and stony land, rough
and unpleasant in its appearance.” One feels, on this flat shore,
worlds away from that beautiful country beyond the strait. On a day
of sunshine and cloud, when the mountains are glowing with every
imaginable colour and seem every moment to be changing their shapes
under the moving shadows, it is worth driving many a mile to sit on the
beach of Beaumaris.

Behind us, close at hand, is Beaumaris Castle; opposite to us, across
the water, is “Aber of the white shells,” where Llewelyn the Great held
his Court, and where his English wife died; and a little further along
the Anglesey shore to our left is Llanfaes, where he buried her “with
dire lamentation and no little honour,” and built over her grave a
monastery that was altogether destroyed by Henry IV. Poor Joan’s coffin
must have been through many changes before the sad day when it occurred
to some thrifty farmer that the queer old stone trough would do finely
for his cattle to drink out of. It was fortunately discovered early in
the last century, and another watering-trough having been found for the
cows, it was placed in safety in the garden at Baron Hill.

Beaumaris Castle does not make so brave a show as most of Edward’s
fortresses; but its ten low towers and its double line of defence were
no doubt formidable enough before their thick drapery of ivy gave them
so soft an air. The rusty iron rings that hang on the outer wall give
one of those little touches of the commonplace that bring the past so
near. Edward I. cut a canal and filled the moat of Beaumaris Castle
from the sea, and so the ships that brought supplies to the garrison
were moored and unladed at the very walls.

The shores of the Menai have seen a vast amount of fighting of a very
desperate kind, from the days when the Druids stood at bay here to
the time when Edward I. bridged the strait with boats and was badly
beaten by the last Llewelyn. And as we re-cross the bridge and look
down at the ancient little church of Llandysilio so far below us, we
may remember another scene--peaceful in itself but not unconnected
with bloodshed--when on a hill near here, Archbishop Baldwin and that
delightful chronicler Giraldus induced many persons, by persuasive
discourses, to “take the cross.”

[Illustration: THE MENAI BRIDGE, FROM ANGLESEY.]

[Illustration: CARNARVON CASTLE.]

From the other side of the Menai, on the Carnarvon road, the view is,
of course, comparatively tame; but we have only eight miles to travel
before reaching Carnarvon, and on a level road they are soon disposed
of.

It is difficult to realise at the first moment that the well-preserved,
clean walls upon which one comes so suddenly in the middle of Carnarvon
were raised by Edward I.; though that king himself stands above the
gateway, with his hand on the sword that worked so hard. This is the
greatest of his castles; he chose it for the birthplace of his son, and
chose it too, apparently, to be the monument and symbol of himself.
Nothing could be a more fitting emblem of the unyielding strength of
the king who built castles in Wales almost as profusely as other men
build them in Spain. On this, the town side of it, one is more struck
with its strength than with its beauty. To see it at its best one must
cross the bridge, and from the other side of the river-mouth look at
the huge bulk of it; the long line of the curtain-wall reflected
in the water; the great octagonal towers, with their clusters of
slender turrets; the unutterable repellent air of it. There are no
windows in these cold walls; no ivy or very little, to soften their
austerity. Even from this side, though the water and the shipping
give it picturesque surroundings, I think Carnarvon Castle is not
beautiful so much as impressive. When Queen Eleanor entered it through
the gate still called the Queen’s she did not see it as it stands
now, for it was finished by her son, who was born in the castle soon
after her arrival. A little room in the Eagle Tower is shown as his
birthplace; but those who have read the local records declare it to be
proved beyond doubt that the tower was without a roof till the baby in
question, Edward II., put a roof on it himself.

It is surprisingly well preserved. This, no doubt, is partly because
it has never been overcome by any more destructive agent than the
starvation of its garrison. Glyndwr besieged it on its landward side,
and his French allies attacked it from the sea; but they made little
impression upon it, and finally, since time was precious, they thought
it wiser to employ their engines elsewhere more profitably, though
the garrison within numbered only twenty-eight men, in sore want of
provisions.

Between Carnarvon and the Pass of Llanberis lie ten miles of undulating
country. But the mountains are towering before us like an impassable
wall, growing ever higher and more formidable as we pass Llyn Padarn
and Llanberis town, whence the mountain-railway starts for the summit
of Snowdon. No doubt the northern shores of Llyn Padarn and of Llyn
Peris, which lies beyond it, were once beautiful; but they are now
merely a mass of unsightly débris, mountains of broken slate, terrace
above terrace of melancholy grey. The southern shore of Llyn Peris,
however, at the very foot of the Pass, has kept its own wild beauty,
and on a craggy little hill that rises at the lower end “there is yet
a pece of a toure,” as Leland says. A very notable piece of a tower
it is too; for Dolbadarn was the very centre and heart and ultimate
citadel of Welsh freedom from the earliest days. Here Llewelyn, the
third and last, kept his brother a prisoner for twenty-three years,
and here Owen Glyndwr hid himself whenever it suited him to elude the
English, who invariably lost their way among these mountains. It was
here, too, that Owen hid his chief enemy, Lord Grey of Ruthin, who had
embroiled him with the King of England and caused all the trouble. But
this little square grey “pece of a toure” is far older, they say, than
Owen or Llewelyn. It is supposed to have been built by Maelgwyn, the
same prince who built that first castle at Deganwy which was rebuilt
by Robert of Rhuddlan and King John at such large cost to themselves.
Maelgwyn, King of Gwynedd in the sixth century, is one of the forceful
characters who stand out here and there conspicuously in the rather
bewildering host of Cymric princes; a personable man, according to
all accounts, and one of great courage and success in battle, yet not
without leanings towards the monastic life. He actually became a monk
for a time; but no one can have been greatly surprised when he tired
of the constraint and took to soldiering again. On the whole I fear
he was a truculent creature, for Taliesin, “chief of the bards of the
West,” proclaimed, with the ambiguity common to prophets, that--

    “A most strange creature should come from the sea-marsh of Rhianedd
    As a punishment of iniquity on Maelgwn Gywnedd,
    His hair, his teeth, and his eyes being as gold.”

And Maelgwyn died of the yellow plague.

[Illustration: DOLBADARN CASTLE.]

[Illustration: SNOWDON, FROM CAPEL CURIG.]

It is only a little way beyond this point that the actual Pass of
Llanberis begins to rise, cleaving its straight course between the
mountains to the very foot of Snowdon--“to the Welsh always the hill
of hills,” as Borrow says. The highest peak, Y Wyddfa, is not visible
from the Pass, but one sharp-edged shoulder in certain lights seems
to be within a stone’s-throw of the road. This is the steepest of the
three passes near Snowdon, and the one whose name is best known to the
world in general. As for beauty--the most beautiful of the three is the
one on whose royal blues and imperial purples one’s eyes are actually
feasting at the moment. But I would say this: to understand even the
elements of the beauty of these hills it is imperative to travel _up_
each of the three passes, for as one climbs up into the heart of the
mountains the effect is in every case more beautiful than on the
downward journey. On a continuous tour this is of course impossible;
and that is one reason why the best way of seeing Snowdonia is to
stay for a few days at a centre, such as Bettws, or Capel Curig, or
Pen-y-Gwryd.

At one or other of the two latter places it will probably be necessary
to spend a night after this run from Bettws to Bangor and Carnarvon.
Capel Curig has the finer view, and a hotel that has overlooked Llyn
Mymbyr and faced the peaks of Snowdon for many a year. I do not know if
it is the same that Sir Walter Scott stayed in and Lockhart described
as “a pretty little inn in a most picturesque situation certainly, and
as to the matter of toasted cheese, quite exquisite”; but it is without
doubt the same that seemed to George Borrow “a very magnificent
edifice.” He dined here, he tells us, “in a grand saloon amidst a great
deal of fashionable company,” who “surveyed him with looks of the most
supercilious disdain.” I strongly suspect that both the fashion and the
disdain existed only in a sensitive imagination.

Pen-y-Gwryd is exactly at the junction of the Pass of Llanberis with
Nant Gwynant, the valley down which our future course lies; and here
too there is a comfortable inn, with memories of Charles Kingsley and
the author of “Tom Brown’s Schooldays.” From this point we can start
off in the morning without retracing a step.

As one glides down the perfect gradient of this entrancing valley of
the Glaslyn, with the very blue waters of Llyn Gwynant glittering below
and the sides of Snowdon rising precipitously from the shore on the
right, and on the left the wild green slopes climbing up and up from
the roadside to the sky, one comes after all to a decision as to the
comparative beauty of these passes. Nant Gwynant is the best. The hill
is three miles and a half long, and in some places just steep enough
to force us to slacken speed and so make the most of our surroundings;
then a few miles of undulating road lead past Llyn Dinas and, still by
the side of the stony Glaslyn, into the village of Bedd Gelert, which
has won fame on false grounds as the burial-place of Llewelyn’s hound.
The rough, pathetic tomb, that stands in a meadow and is reached by a
path made by the feet of thousands of pilgrims, has a most plausible
appearance; but it was, I believe, raised by the forethought of a
hotel-keeper--a man who apparently knew his world. No bones of a
faithful dog lie here; but if we may not weep over the dust of Gelert
we may at all events mourn the loss of a beautiful, but dead, legend.
We drive through the village and enter, almost at once, the Pass of
Aberglaslyn. The steep part of the road is quite short; but this
strange cleft in the rock, this narrow ravine that holds only the river
and the road between its cliffs, forms an imposing southern gate to the
Snowdon mountains. We pass out of it almost suddenly into the wide,
level meadowland of the Traeth Mawr--and may the gorse be in its full
glory at the time!

This plain that we are swinging across so happily, this plain of
green and gold, was a barren marsh, useless to man or beast, till
it was reclaimed in the early part of last century by a certain Mr.
Maddox, who gave his name to the two towns that own their existence
to him--Portmadoc and Tremadoc. At Tremadoc lived Percy and Harriet
Shelley for a little time, while they were still happy. The poet, with
characteristic enthusiasm, was fascinated by the great draining-scheme;
and in his leisure moments grounded poor Harriet in Latin.

It is here or at Portmadoc that we turn to the right, if we are minded,
to explore the little-known peninsula of Lleyn. For some mysterious
reason the greater part of this promontory is seldom visited, though it
is not by any means without attractions. It cannot, of course, compare
in any respect with the dramatic grandeur of the Snowdon country;
there are large tracts that might even be called uninteresting; but
from the southern uplands the panorama of the mountains of Gwynedd is
really magnificent, and on the northern coast the fine outline of Yr
Eifl--ridiculously corrupted into the Rivals--rises very grandly from
the sea. And when the gorse is in blossom the whole country is veined
with gold, for here they make their hedges of gorse, and the air is
heavy with its poignant sweetness.

As for the roads, they are mostly good. The roads from Pwllheli to
Nevin, to Yr Eifl and Clynnogfawr, and to Aberdaron are all excellent;
so also is the one that connects Nevin with Aberdaron; but the “Saints’
Road to Bardsey” from Nevin to Llanaellraiarn should be avoided, since
the saints, apparently, employed indifferent engineers.

To reach Pwllheli from Portmadoc we must past through Criccieth, one
of the most popular places on this coast, and one that must have been
really beautiful before its popularity spoilt it. It has a nice hotel,
and is, in any case, a far more attractive stopping-place than the
ambitious Pwllheli. The castle, not without dignity, stands aloof upon
its abrupt round promontory, facing the rows of modern lodging-house as
though they were some new kind of enemy drawn up against it. For that
Edwardian gateway has faced many enemies, and the castle still more. Of
its original founding I believe nothing is certainly known, but it is
older than its gateway, for Llewelyn the Great chose it for the prison
of his unruly son, Gryffydd, of whom it was said that “peace was not
to be looked for in his neighbourhood.” But, indeed, in those times a
strong prison seems to have been the only way of securing peace in any
one’s neighbourhood.

Much the most picturesque person who has ever been connected with
Criccieth was Sir Howel y Fwyall, or _of the Axe_. So doughty were
his deeds at Poictiers that the Black Prince not only did him honour
in the usual ways, with money and knighthood, but gave orders that
the pole-axe with which he had done so valiantly should be set up in
this castle of Criccieth--of which Howel was Constable--and should be
served with a mess of meat daily. Eight yeoman were entrusted with this
service, and after the ceremony the meat was given to the poor. The
custom was kept up till the reign of Elizabeth.

The name of Pwllheli is well known, if ill-pronounced, in the world of
tourists. It aspires to be a fashionable watering-place, and one feels
that success may possibly crown its endeavours, when one considers the
natural disadvantages of Rhyl and Borth and many another prosperous
spot.

A few years ago we should have been obliged, having once passed
Criccieth, to spend the night at Pwllheli; but now we shall do well if
we rather choose Nevin for our stopping-place. A nice new hotel has
been built there--a hotel with no foolish pretensions, but evidently
with every intention of gradually becoming a thoroughly comfortable
abiding-place for golfers who like quietness. The little town lies
close under the shelter of the hills, and between it and the sea is
the flat land of the Morfa Nevin, where Edward I. gathered all the
chivalry of England and many a foreign noble to celebrate his conquest
of Wales in a great tournament.

Nevin is threatened with the railway, which, if it actually approaches
the place, will certainly spoil it; but it will be long, I imagine,
before any intrusion of that kind disturbs the peace or injures the
beauty of little Aberdaron. It is an elect spot, this End of the World
in Wales; more remote, less visited than St. David’s, and infinitely
less famous; yet once trodden, like St. David’s, by the weary feet of
countless pilgrims. For just beyond that low headland on our right is
sacred Bardsey, the Island of the Saints, where lies the dust of twenty
thousand holy men. St. Mary’s Abbey, of which some fragments still are
left, was founded in such early days that Dubritius, who crowned King
Arthur and then resigned the See of Caerleon to St. David, came to end
his day in this remote monastery; and so holy was the soil at last
that every monk in Wales crossed this dangerous channel to kneel upon
it. It was here, from these wide, white sands of Aberdaron, that they
embarked, half trembling, half inspired--white-robed Cistercians and
sombre Benedictines--and here, in this little church between the hills
and the sea, that they spent the night on their knees before braving
dangers that were not by any means imaginary. The building has been
re-roofed and much restored, but these are the very walls within which
the pilgrims prayed, the very walls that once gave sanctuary to any
man, innocent or guilty, who sought their shelter. The blind wall on
the north bears witness to the early British origin of the church.

And we must not forget, as we stand thinking of the pilgrim monks on
the shore, that this sheltered, isolated corner, hidden closely by the
hills on the one side and protected by the long headlands on the other,
was once visited by secular history. Into this bay sailed Hotspur’s
father, the base Northumberland, from France, and from Harlech came
Owen Glyndwr and Edmund Mortimer; and here in the house of the lord
of Aberdaron they swore to be thenceforward “bound by the bond of a
true league and true friendship and sure and good union,” and to act
in all ways as became “good true and faithful friends to good true and
faithful friends.”

The fascinations of the Bay of Aberdaron, however, must not blind us
to the fact that the finest scenery in the Peninsula, of Lleyn, is in
the north. From Pwllheli we should drive across to Llanaellraiarn under
the great brow of Yr Eifl, and then, turning to the right, follow the
road between the wild, craggy hills and the sea to Clynnogfawr. Here
lived and died the great St. Beuno, and the church that bears his name
is of a size and importance quite unusual in so tiny a place: “almost
as bigge as St. Davides,” says Leland. This large church only dates
from the fifteenth century, but the little chapel where St. Beuno is
buried is connected with it by a covered way, and was founded by the
saint himself in the seventh century. His tomb was still to be seen
in Pennant’s day, and had the gift of working miracles, but now both
monument and miracles are no more. In the larger church is carefully
preserved a strange old chest that is said to have belonged to St.
Beuno.

To reach the Traeth Mawr from Clynnog our best way is to go on to
Pont-y-Croes, then strike across to Pen-y-Groes, and thence descend
to Tremadoc. There is not much to be said in favour of this road’s
surface, but the beauty of it increases every moment, and for the
last few miles, as we drop gently down on to that plain of gorse that
lies like a sheet of flame between two ranges of purple mountains, we
have as fine a sight above, below, and before us as any we shall find
in Wales. A few minutes later we are in Portmadoc, and from the long
embankment there look up the valley of the Glaslyn across the Traeth
Mawr to that gate of Gwynedd through which we came a little while ago.

Presently we cross the estuary of the river Dwryd by a toll-bridge.
I think this river-bank must be the scene of a touching incident
described by Giraldus. He and his Archbishop, recruiting for the
Crusades, were met “at the passage of a bridge” between the Traeth
Mawr and Llanbedr near Harlech by Meredyth ap Conan, a prince of this
country. He brought with him a large suite, and then and there by the
river-side the Archbishop preached to them, and “many persons were
signed with the Cross.” Among these ardent souls was a personal friend
of the young prince. Meredyth, seated higher on the bank than his
suite, looked on while the symbolic cross was sewn upon the cloaks of
the new crusaders, till it came to the turn of his own friend. Then
Meredyth, says Giraldus, “observing that the cloak on which the cross
was to be sewn was of too thin and too common a texture, with a flood
of tears threw him down his own.”

From the banks of the Dwryd a very level road soon brings us within
sight of Harlech. It is a very distant glimpse of it that we have
first; an irregular outline, a grey mass of towers standing out against
the sky, raised grandly upon a rock above a plain that is nearly as
flat as the sea beyond it. Then trees hide it, and we climb through the
woods to the level of the great gate before which so many armies have
stood before us--armies of Owen and of Henry, of Edward IV., and of
Oliver.

[Illustration: NEAR BEDD GELERT.]

[Illustration: GATEWAY OF HARLECH CASTLE.]

Long, long before Henry de Elfreton, king of architects, built this
grand fortress at Edward’s command, a royal castle stood upon this
rock. So, at least, says one of the “Mabinogion,” and here, under the
spell of the land that created those old romances, I would fain believe
that Branwen, the daughter of Llyr, lived at Harlech with her royal
brother Bendigeid Vran, and that Matholwch, King of Ireland, came
across the sea to woo her, with thirteen ships flying beautiful flags
of satin. At the wedding, unfortunately, there was trouble between
the two kings; but after a certain amount of friction the banquet was
“carried on with joyousness,” and the happy pair journeyed towards
Ireland with their thirteen ships. In Ireland Branwen “passed her
time pleasantly, enjoying honour and friendship,” which she owed to
the fact--we are given to understand--that she presented each of her
visitors with a clasp, or a ring, or a royal jewel, “such as it was
honourable to be seen departing with.”[8] By and by mischief was
made between Matholwch and his wife, and she was sent to the kitchen
to cook for the Court, which seems a drastic way of treating a Queen
Consort. Then came Bendigeid Vran, her brother, to avenge her, with the
hosts of seven score countries and four, and there was war between the
two islands because of her. And only seven men of the Welsh escaped,
and in Ireland none were left alive except five women. And Branwen went
with the seven men of Wales to Mona, and she “looked towards Ireland
and towards the Island of the Mighty, to see if she could descry them.
‘Alas!’ said she, ‘woe is me that I was ever born; two islands have
been destroyed because of me!’ Then she uttered a loud groan and there
broke her heart. And they made her a four-sided grave, and buried her
upon the banks of the Alaw.” And her name still lives upon this rock of
Harlech in Branwen’s Tower.

Bendigeid Vran, the son of Llyr, was not the last Welsh prince who held
his Court here within sight of Snowdon. For Glyndwr made his way in
between those great towers after a long siege, during which Henry’s
garrison, who were at last reduced to sixteen, locked up their governor
because they did not trust his constancy. Glyndwr brought his family
here, and held a parliament, and gathered a little Court round him;
but after another long siege he lost more than the castle, for his
son-in-law Mortimer was killed, and his wife and grandchildren were
taken prisoners to London. But it was that later siege by Edward IV.’s
army that was the most fierce of all. It was then that the March of the
Men of Harlech first stirred the sea-breeze and the hearts of men; and
it was then that the blood of six thousand men flowed here where we are
standing before the gates. Still later on Harlech held very obstinately
for Charles I.

At Harlech we look our last on Snowdon, for the road, high above the
sea, soon turns a corner, then dips to the shore at Llanbedr. At this
pretty village those who are prepared to face a road that finally
becomes little more than a track, and are, moreover, tolerably
good walkers, may leave the high-road and drive up into a very wild
and beautiful bit of country to Cwm Bychan. I freely admit that the
enterprise is more suitable for bicycles than for motors, and I further
confess that I have never undertaken it in a car myself; but I should
be extremely happy to make the attempt on the first fine day. For Llyn
Cwm Bychan is a lovely lake lying among moors and steep, rocky hills;
it has the wildness of a loch in Galloway. And the only way out of this
hollow in the hills, except the track by which we enter it, is a mighty
staircase of stone slabs set regularly in the hillside--a staircase a
mile in length, which has withstood time and weather since the feet of
the Romans passed this way.

Even the best-advertised car could hardly climb the Roman Steps; so we
must rejoin the coast road at Llanbedr and go on our way to Barmouth.
There was once a time very long ago, it is said, when all the bay that
lies upon our right was a fertile plain, the Plain of Gwaelod, with
cities and fortresses thick upon the ground, and a great and busy
population, and a king called Gwyddno Longshanks. And because the land
lay so low and the sea so close at hand a mighty embankment of stone
was built along the shore, and all went well for many a year. But there
came a time when the chief overseer of this great dyke was Seithenyn ap
Seithyn Saidi, and he, unfortunately, has been known ever since as one
of the “three immortal drunkards of the Isle of Britain.” It is easy
to imagine the result: the decay of the dyke, and the terrible night
when the waters swept all before them and drowned the whole Cantref of
Gwaelod. The point of Mochras near Llanbedr was at one extremity of the
drowned cantref; and still, when the tide is low, you may sometimes
see the long line of the broken dyke. As late as the year 1824 there
was a stone in existence which had been found below the sea a hundred
yards beyond the shore, and bore an inscription meaning, “Here lies the
boatman to King Gwynddo.”[9] I do not know if the stone still exists,
but as it was used as a footbridge it probably does not. At the
beginning of the nineteenth century this seems, in Wales, to have been
considered the best way of using up old monuments. It was certainly the
quickest.

Eight miles from Llanbedr is Barmouth. The town itself is becoming
every year more entirely a prey to the family group. Every year there
are more hotels, more bathing-boxes, more wooden spades. But I doubt
if anywhere in England or Wales a town is built in a more beautiful
spot. You cannot drive across the long bridge that spans the estuary
at its mouth, but you will be a thousandfold repaid if you leave your
car and cross the bridge on foot, for the best view--I think I am not
too rash in saying the best view in Wales--is from about the middle of
the bridge. The Mawddach winds away between two ranges of mountains, on
whose grand slopes the brilliant greens and purples, the rich browns
and far-away faint blues change every moment under the varying sky.
Cader Idris rises on the right in gloomy dignity from the soft drapery
of foliage that is flung about his feet. And in the foreground, when
the tide is low--and that, I maintain, is the loveliest time--the blue
sea is riven with the rosy gold of wet sands, dotted with countless
sea-gulls.

A great deal of this we can see as we drive up the estuary on its
northern bank to Dolgelley, by an excellent road that clings close
under the hills. Every moment the scene changes, and all the changes
are good; whether we look across at Cader’s grand shoulder against the
sky, or up the valley at the winding water and the distant hills, or
overhead on our left at the mountain-sides that rise so steeply from
the very road, or even when, the trees hemming us in for a moment,
we see only glimpses through them of purple rock or shining river.
At Llanelltyd the Mawddach meets the Wnion, and our way lies to the
right over the bridge. As we cross the bridge the ruins of Cymmer
Abbey lie upon our left on the river-bank--a Cistercian abbey, as we
may easily guess, since we know the pretty taste in scenery possessed
by that sagacious Order. If the truth were known, I fear we might
find that their motive in choosing, as they always did, the loneliest
and loveliest spots in the country, was one of self-denial, for the
mountainous solitude that we love was in their day regarded with little
less than terror. This particular abbey was founded in the last years
of the twelfth century, and it was patronised by Llewelyn the Great.
Behind it, about two miles away, are the slopes of Nannau, where Owen
Glyndwr once went for a walk with his cousin and came back without him.

Owen, as I have already said, was a man of swift and extremely complete
vengeance, and treachery made his gorge rise. His cousin, Howel Sele,
the lord of Nannau, lived on that hill at the foot of Moel Offrwm,
and had little sympathy--so far and so safe was he from the Marcher
Lords--with Owen’s overbearing ways. Their relations had been strained,
therefore; but when Howel asked his kinsman to visit him at Nannau Owen
consented without hesitation--yet not without a coat of mail beneath
his outer garment. As they walked in the park with a few retainers
they saw a buck at some distance among the trees, and Owen, anxious to
please, suggested that Howel should show his well-known prowess with
the bow. Howel raised his bow, took aim, paused a moment; then suddenly
turned upon his traitor’s heel and shot the arrow straight at the heart
of his kinsman. One can picture Owen’s smile as the arrow rang upon the
coat of mail that he wore unseen.

Howel went home no more. What dreadful fate befel him no one knows for
certain; for probably all his own retainers were killed and Owen’s were
too busy to talk. But long afterwards a skeleton was found in a hollow
tree quite near the spot where the famous bowman had drawn his bow for
the last time. The house of Nannau was burnt to ashes.

Before we cross the bridge to Dolgelley I should like to call attention
to a very beautiful drive over the hills between this spot and
Maentwrog. Beautiful as it is, it must on no account be substituted
for the route by Harlech and the Barmouth Estuary, by those who are
travelling in this neighbourhood for the first time; but those who know
the estuary well, or those who are staying at Dolgelley and wish for a
circular drive, could not do better than go up the Vale of Ganllwyd and
over the hills to Trawsfynydd and Maentwrog, lunch at the Tan-y-Bwlch
hotel, and return by Harlech.

For the first few miles the road rises through lovely woods; the
tempestuous Mawddach shines behind the trees, and beyond it, bounding
the narrow valley, are steep and craggy slopes. At Tyn-y-Groes is
a charming little hotel, much frequented by fishermen, with a fine
view of the Mawddach and the peak of Moel Offrwm; a delightful place
to spend a week in summer, since it is within a drive of many of the
loveliest parts of Wales, and has itself an outlook of very striking
beauty.

Beyond Tyn-y-Groes the scenery grows wilder and the hills more bare;
the road rises rather steeply and the surface is not all that could
be wished. Presently we pass a turning on the left that would lead
us, if we followed it, to the top of that strange colossal flight
of steps whose lower end we saw at Cwm Bychan, the way by which the
Romans climbed this mountain-side; and soon, as we reach the summit of
the hill, the many peaks of the Snowdon range come into sight. After
this, as is only to be expected, the view is continuously fine till we
drop into Maentwrog on a precipitous gradient, and find ourselves in a
valley famed for its beauty.

But we must return to Dolgelley.

“Dolgethle,” says Leland, who favoured phonetic spelling, “is the
best village in this commote.” There is not much, if any, of Leland’s
Dolgelley left, I imagine; but within the memory of this generation
there was still standing a battered little cottage, built half of
irregular stone-work and half of timber and plaster, that Leland may
well have seen, though very likely it did not interest him nearly as
much as it would interest us. It has been replaced by an ironmonger’s
shop, and we now supply ourselves with petrol on the spot where
“Owen, by the Grace of God Prince of Wales,” held his council, and
drew up the instrument that allied him formally with the French. It
was now some little time since Henry IV.’s council had written to him
scornfully that the power of the rebels was not so great as it was
heretofore reported, and that the people of Wales were but of little
reputation; for which reason it seemed good to Henry, he said, “not
to go thither in person, but by one of our Lords to do punishment on
our said rebels.” Henry had said that just three years ago, yet the
rebels were still unpunished. The chief rebel, indeed, was now become
“our illustrious and most dread Lord, Owen, Prince of Wales,” signing
alliances with his royal hand and seal, and receiving a gilded helmet
as a gift from the King of France.

At Dolgelley we turn eastwards and make our way back to the English
border. As a matter of fact we have not actually reached the limits
of North Wales, which is divided from South Wales by the river Dyfi,
or Dovey. But for our present purpose it will be more convenient to
consider a strip of the North--overlapping our present route--together
with a strip of the South, as Mid-Wales, and to return to the border by
the laborious but beautiful pass that rises between Dolgelley and Dinas
Mawddy.

We have six miles of climbing before us, close under the heights of
Cader Idris, through one of the wildest tracts of country in wild
Wales, where the road at last rises steeply between rough stone
walls across a desolate moor, and a mountain stream dashes below us
on the right, and in all probability a flock of little Welsh sheep
makes excitedly for the nearest gap. For the Welsh sheep, unlike the
sheep of England, has somewhere in its round, woolly head a glimmer
of intelligence, and instead of rushing madly past every turning and
every gap, knows where it wants to go and goes there with all possible
despatch.

At a point six miles above Dolgelley we reach the summit of this
precipitous pass, the Bwlch Oerdrws, and the valley lies below us like
a gulf. It is a fine scene and a very wild one--wild even when the sun
is shining, but still wilder when the great bare hills are looming
through driving clouds of rain, and wildest and most beautiful of all
when the April snow is glistening upon the April gorse.

The steepest part of the descent, the average gradient of which is
between 1 in 7 and 1 in 8, is about two miles long. For the rest of
the journey, through Dinas Mawddy and Mallwyd, and up the long climb
to Cann Office, and so by Llanfair Caereinion to Welshpool, there is
nothing to pause for, except tea at Cann Office. This mysterious name,
oddly enough, does not appear on Bartholomew’s map where the place it
denotes is called Llangadfan. The little inn there is very popular
with fishermen, who seem to have a wonderful knack of securing homely
comfort.

Between Cann Office and Welshpool the scenery gradually becomes more
English in character, for Welshpool, though not actually on the border,
is very near it. “The grounde about the bankes and valley of Severn
there is most pleasunt,” says Leland; and “most pleasant,” I think,
describes this country perfectly. I cannot do better than end in his
words. “And wille I passid this way within a iii miles of Walsch Pole
I saw a veri notable hille beyound the valley on the lift hond having
iii toppes as iii heddes rising owt of one body.... Communely thei be
caullid Brethin Hilles. Not far from thes hilles enterith Shropshir.”

[Illustration: THE MAWDDACH, FROM TYN-Y-GROES HOTEL.]

[Illustration: LLANIDLOES.]



THROUGH THE HEART OF WALES


One may enter Mid-Wales by the Severn Valley, or by Knighton and the
Teme. The probability is that one’s action in this matter is entirely
regulated by circumstances, but if haply it were possible to be guided
simply by charm the road across the wild hills would be the road to
choose. For wide moorlands, whatever the season, whatever the weather,
never fail to be attractive; whereas the valley of the Upper Severn
is extremely variable in its appearance. Indeed, I have seen it
look almost uninteresting: though in the spring, when on every hill
the fruit blossom is mingled with the piercing green of the budding
larches, I know no place where the youth of the year has a more
engaging air.

In any case, we must pass through Newtown. Despite its name, despite
its modern appearance, the newness of this town is only comparative;
for its prosperity waxed, I believe, as that of Caersws waned;
and Caersws, a little higher up the valley, was at its zenith in
the days of the Romans. We pass it by and by on our right: a mere
village now, of no particular attractions on the surface, though no
doubt a sufficiently interesting past is buried beneath its soil,
for hypocausts have been found here and tesselated pavement, and
coins bearing the magic name of Marcus Aurelius and other names less
honoured. Less authentic, but more moving, are the associations of the
broad meadow on our left, the traditional scene of Sabrina’s flight
from--

                  “the mad pursuit
    Of her enragéd stepdame Guendolen,”

and therefore connected for ever with Milton’s exquisite lyric,
“Sabrina fair.” This is the “glassy, cool, translucent wave” beneath
which the goddess sits; this is “the rushy-fringéd bank” from
which--they say--she still sometimes rises at twilight; and here are
the cowslips on which she sets “her printless feet” so lightly that
they “bend not as she treads.”

Between Llandinam and Llanidloes the scene begins to grow wilder;
abrupt hills bare, or patched with gorse, rise from the roadside on our
left; we are drawing nearer to the slopes of Plynlimmon. At Llanidloes
there is a picturesque old market-place, and the church, founded in the
seventh century, has some interesting and beautiful fragments from the
Abbey of Cwm Hir; a row of fine Early English arches and some quaint
figures on the beams that support the roof.

At Llanidloes we leave the banks of the Severn, and, climbing all the
way, pass through a prettily wooded gorge into the valley of another
famous river--the river that is more renowned for beauty than any other
in England--the Wye. But here at Llangurig the Wye has few charms, for
we are at the foot of bleak Plynlimmon, and the river flows through
a somewhat dull country that is neither fertile nor wild. Llangurig
itself is a desolate, chilly little place, but it has a nice inn; and
I believe the fishing is good. About eight miles beyond it we leave
the Wye, now a mere mountain stream, at a point that is only four
miles from its source, and after this the scenery grows more and more
austere, as we skirt the bare sides of Plynlimmon.

Upon those wind-swept slopes the red dragon of Wales was once unfurled;
for here Owen Glyndwr, with only five hundred men, was surprised and
surrounded by fifteen hundred of the Flemings of Pembrokeshire. He cut
his way through them, and left two hundred of them behind him, and left
behind him, too, an unshakable belief that he was a wizard indeed.

These heights are not without grandeur. At one point, indeed, there
is a very striking and unusual view, where the road is high upon the
hillside, and the river, very far below, twists and curls away into
the distance through a narrow but extremely level plain. The surface
of this main road to Aberystwith is above reproach, but after we turn
off to the left on the road to the Devil’s Bridge it is not so good and
there are some rather steep hills.

“If pleasant recollections,” says George Borrow, “do not haunt you
through life of the noble falls, and the beautiful wooded dingles to
the west of the Bridge of the Evil One, and awful and mysterious ones
of the monks’ boiling cauldron, the long, savage, shadowy cleft, and
the grey, crumbling, spectral bridge, I say boldly that you must be a
very unpoetical person indeed.”

The falls, and the wooded dingles, and the monks’ boiling cauldron
are still beautiful enough to rouse any poetical feelings that we may
possess; but the bridge, alas! is neither crumbling, nor spectral,
nor in the least poetical. Three bridges now span the rushing waters
of the Mynach, built closely one above the other. The lowest of all,
dapper and shining with the cement of the restorer, is the original
bridge built by the monks of Strata Florida in the eleventh century and
ascribed to the Devil, not from any uncomplimentary feeling towards
the monks, but merely because the bridging of the Mynach was no easy
matter and demanded a simple explanation. The bridge above this is the
one that Borrow calls modern, though it was built in 1735, and now
looks older than the first; the topmost and newest of all is quite a
recent achievement, and might well appropriate the name of the original
structure, since it entirely destroys all the picturesqueness of the
scene. No doubt, however, its existence is necessary, for this is the
only way across the gorge: and these beautiful wooded hills and deep
valleys, with the two tempestuous streams, the Rheiddol and the Mynach,
are by no means dependent for their charm on the famous bridge.

The road from this spot to Aberystwith is of a most striking and
uncommon character. It is raised high on one side of the bare hill, and
overlooks a deep valley, through which the Rheiddol twists and curves.
The great hills beyond the valley are richly green in summer, but in
the spring are chiefly reddish brown, with streaks of the vivid larch,
and here and there a shining patch of gorse. A run of twelve miles,
mostly downhill, brings us to Aberystwith.

At the first glance, seen from a distance, it is not unpicturesque.
It lies at the end of a valley, with the sea beyond it, and in the
heart of it the castle tower stands up conspicuously to remind one
that Aberystwith was once something more interesting than a popular
watering-place. For once all the resources of England were combined
in an attack upon this castle. Guns came from Yorkshire, and timber
from the Forest of Dean; huge supplies of arms and various murderous
concoctions were sent from Hereford, and a shipload of carpenters
landed in the bay to turn the timber into machines of war. There was
not a young spark in the country, apparently, but thought it incumbent
on him as a man of fashion to join Prince Hal outside the walls of
Aberystwith.

Yet the end of all this effort and display was merely comic. Glyndwr’s
garrison at last, half starving, agreed to yield the castle upon a
certain day unless Owen meanwhile relieved it. The Prince, too hasty,
as he sometimes was, went off to London joyfully and received the
thanks of Parliament for having secured Aberystwith--at the very
moment, had he but known it, when Owen and a relieving force were
quietly entering the besieged castle!

This was but one of many sieges suffered by Aberystwith, which was
always regarded as a place of much importance; so much so, indeed, that
Strongbow’s castle on this spot had been battered into uselessness
before the days of Edward I., who had to build another. Prince Henry
and Oliver have left little enough of that. What there is of it--some
round towers and a piece of the curtain-wall--is more tidy than
romantic. To tell the truth, Aberystwith is not a romantic place.

It has been my happy fortune to read some manuscript letters written by
a lady from Mid-Wales towards the end of the eighteenth century. This
is what she says of Aberystwith--

“I have inquired about Aberystwith, where the Sea is very rough, and
no Apothecary near, and most ignorant people in regard to illness,
which they are so happy to know nothing of, as the Sea is their ownly
Physition.”

This might be useful as a house-agent’s advertisement, if the next
sentence were suppressed.

“I think the Sea fogs very unwholesom, but dare not say so, as they are
for ever talking about the purity of their air.”

The sea is no longer the only physician at Aberystwith; but the purity
of the air is still a topic of conversation.

One of its advantages is that it is only fifteen miles from Ystradfflur
or Strata Florida; and though this does not lie upon our route, so
short a run is but a slight tribute to pay to a place of such great
memories. The drive, moreover, will itself repay us. The road follows
the Ystwith most of the way, and crosses it at Trawscoed, where
splendid beeches overhang the river and masses of rhododendrons line
the banks. There is one formidable hill, with a gradient of 1 in 8,
from the top of which there is a fine view of winding river and wooded
hills. Soon after leaving the Ystwith we join the Teify near its
source.

In the Abbey itself there is little to see, but very much to remember.
It was founded in the twelfth century by some Cistercian monks on
land given by a Norman; but its foundation is often ascribed to that
great prince of South Wales, the Lord Rhys, who was one of its chief
benefactors. Once it was the grandest house of worship in all Wales,
the burial-place of her southern princes, the depository of her
archives; but there is little left to show its past greatness but the
unique west doorway and the remains of six side chapels--roofed now
with corrugated iron! Behind the south transept is a wedge-shaped strip
of ground that was the monks’ cemetery, where, under a stone carved
plainly with a cross, lies Cadell, the brother of the Lord Rhys. The
large cemetery that holds the dust of eleven Welsh princes is between
the Abbey and the river. “The cœmiteri wherin the cunteri about doth
buri is veri large,” says Leland, “and meanely waullid with stoone.
In it be xxxix great hue trees.” There were originally forty of these
yew-trees, and now there are but two or three, so it is hardly likely
that one of the survivors should be the tree underneath which Dafydd
ap Gwilym, the greatest of Welsh poets, was buried; the tree of which
Gruffydd Gryg, his rival, wrote--

    “May lightnings never lay thee low
    Nor archer cut from thee his bow.”

Mr. Baring-Gould tells us how these two bards were constantly in a
state of feud and bitter rivalry, till an ingenious friend put an
end to their quarrels by simply telling each of them that the other
was dead, and was to be buried at Strata Florida on such-and-such a
day--mentioning the same day in both cases. Each of the poets, in the
glow of generosity consequent on the death of a hated rival, composed a
beautiful ode in praise of his enemy, and proceeded to the churchyard
to read it beside the grave. There, of course, they met; and each,
determined to read his ode at any cost, forthwith read it to the hero
of it, and buried his enmity instead of his enemy.

It was somewhere within that “meanely waullid” cemetery that this
quaint scene took place; and it was somewhere within these precincts
that a thousand frightened children crowded together long ago, waiting
to be carried away from their parents and homes in Cardiganshire to
the exile in England to which Henry IV. had doomed them. That is an
ill-omened name in Ystradfflur--the name of Henry Bolingbroke--for in
his fury at the rebellion of Glyndwr he fell upon this sacred place and
ruined it, and drove out its monks, and stabled his horses at its High
Altar.

To reach Machynlleth, which is our object, we must return to
Aberystwith--but we may do this by a slightly different road, diverging
at Trawscoed. The surface is better than that of the other, and the
road is wider, but there is one bad hill, with a nominal gradient of
1 in 7. As we approach Aberystwith we see, beyond the river, a little
place called Llanbadarn Fawr. Here, in very early times, long before
the great days of Ystradfflur, there was a famous monastery, founded
by St. Padarn, a contemporary of St. David. Like St. David’s own
monastery, it was laid waste by the Danes.

[Illustration: ARCHWAY AT STRATA FLORIDA.]

[Illustration: NEAR GLANDOVEY.]

Passing through Aberystwith we climb out of it on the further side by
a long hill. Except the wide view from this hill there is nothing of
special attraction in any way till we have passed Tal-y-bont. Then
suddenly there comes into sight the headland beyond the Dyfi (Dovey).
Far away on the left is the sea, and between us and it lies a wide and
absolutely level plain, with Borth showing darkly on the shore. Soon
we pass Tre-Taliesin, named from the great bard of Arthur’s day, whose
grave is said by some to lie on this hillside to the right, and by
others to be beside the waters of Geirionydd. Beyond this village we
climb through lovely woods of birch and larch, and then we run down,
leaving the trees behind us, into the beautiful estuary of the Dyfi. A
wide sea of gorse is at out feet; the river winds through the shallows
beyond; and, bounding the valley and the view, rises the mighty wall of
North Wales.

This is on the left--a wide and splendid landscape; and meanwhile on
the right are wild hills rising from the road, cleft here and there by
narrow wooded gorges or tumbling mountain streams. At Ysgubor-y-coed
the water dashes down between sharp rocks, and makes a lovely picture
with the great mill-wheel and mossy-tiled building that stand beside
it; and just beyond Glan Dovey station we catch a momentary glimpse of
the steep sides of the beautiful Llyfnant Valley. Thence four level
miles bring us to Machynlleth.

There is a charm about Machynlleth. Its wide central street is planted
with trees. In most Welsh towns, History, though she has lived in them
so long, has rather an uneasy air: tales of valour, or of treachery on
a large scale, blend rather incongruously with prim grey houses and
slate roofs. But in Machynlleth we are quite prepared to learn that
these quaint and quiet streets--and some of the houses, even--are bound
up very closely with the picturesque life of the last of the Welsh
princes: so closely indeed, that Owen Glyndwr’s royal seal figures
in the arms of the town. In those low, whitewashed cottages he held
his first parliament; and in that little corner-house in the next
street he rested the uneasy head that wore a crown for such a brief
and troublous time. It is the oldest house in Wales, they say, but
much renovation and a new chimney have destroyed any picturesqueness
it ever had; and it is now neither as venerable nor as interesting in
appearance as the Old Mayor’s House, a timber-and-plaster building at
one end of the main street, with gables leaning in all directions.
Neither do the whitewashed Houses of Parliament show any signs of their
distinguished past--yet here Glyndwr accepted his crown and very nearly
lost his life. For among the members of this his first parliament was
one who was his enemy, and the sworn man of the House of Lancaster.
Davy Gam, “the Crooked,” a little red-haired, squinting man who,
whatever he was, was no coward, came to this house with the intention
of killing Glyndwr, but being betrayed, was thrown into prison for
ten years, while his house near Brecon was burnt to ashes. Owen, with
unusual forbearance, spared his life, perhaps in acknowledgment of
the man’s courage in coming among his enemies single-handed. He showed
his courage more honourably at Agincourt. “There are enough to kill,”
he said of the French just before the battle, “enough to be taken
prisoners, and enough to run away.” He died on that field, and was
knighted by Henry V. as he lay dying. “He lived like a wolf and died
like a lion,” it has been said of him.

Now, on leaving Machynlleth, supposing it to be our intention to go
on to Dolgelley and so to Bala, we have a choice of roads. All the
ways are so beautiful, however, that we can hardly go wrong; but those
who fix upon the shortest way, by Corris, should know that they will
find it well worth while to run down the estuary to Aberdovey and back
again. For this estuary of the Dyfi is second only to that of the
Mawddach in beauty.

Its best time, certainly, is in the summer, for the hills are thickly
wooded; but at all seasons there is a lovely view at every turn of
the road. One of those that haunt the memory is from the point where
the road to Aberdovey, after passing through Pennal, comes again
within sight of the river. In the foreground is a wide expanse of rich
colouring, of red and brown, green and gold and russet; beyond it
shines a thin line of silver; and beyond that again rise the hills of
South Wales--not so imposing by any means as that massive bulwark of
mountains that we saw from the other side and are now close under, but
yet very beautiful in colour and bold in outline. As the estuary widens
a succession of headlands stretch out before us, one beyond another,
and round these the road curves, sometimes very sharply. At the extreme
mouth of the estuary lies Aberdovey, in the shelter of the hills.

The same eighteenth-century lady whom I quoted before describes a visit
to “Aberdove Seaport,” as she calls it. “Down we set at the window,”
she says, “... to see the Sea hempty it self in to a Beautifull
serpentine river, at the beginning of which lay ten ships at harbour.”
One cannot marvel that any one should sit down at a window to watch
so strange a phenomenon as the sea emptying itself into a river.
Unfortunately this interesting sight cannot now be promised to visitors
at Aberdovey; but the “beginning” of the river still owes much of its
picturesque effect to the little quays that jut out into the stream,
and the ships of considerable size that lie “at harbour.” The best
hotel, and it is an extremely nice one, is a short distance beyond
the little town, and is perched on the hillside above the golf-links,
facing the sea.

It was somewhere in this estuary, probably on the shore of the Traeth
Maelgwyn, that a strange scene took place between thirteen and fourteen
hundred years ago. Maelgwyn, that King of Gwynedd whose name recurs so
often in the history of North Wales, that gigantic man of fitful valour
and still more fitful piety, determined to unite all the strength of
the west under one ruler, the better to oppose the conquering Saxons.
It was agreed that all the princes and knights who had any pretensions
should meet together in the estuary of the Dyfi, the dividing-line
between North and South Wales; that they should there seat themselves
on chairs upon the shore, and he who contrived to keep his seat the
longest should be the king. Then Maelgwyn, having settled these
preliminaries, had a wonderful chair made for himself of the wings of
birds, waxed. As the tide rose the seats of the other princes were
overturned, but Maelgwyn’s chair floated on the surface of the sea. So
Maelgwyn became chief of all the princes of the west.

From Aberdovey, as I said before, we may, if we choose, drive straight
on round the coast by Towyn and Fairbourne, and up the southern side of
the Barmouth estuary to Dolgelley. Or we may turn eastward at Towyn,
and reach Dolgelley by way of Tal-y-llyn. Or, thirdly, we may return to
Machynlleth and drive thence to Dolgelley by Corris.

No motorist should really rest satisfied till he has driven on all
these roads, so beautiful are the three. Towyn, I believe, has charms
for many, but on the surface it is singularly unattractive. It has a
very ancient church, however, built in the twelfth century by Gruffyd
ap Cynan, of whom it was said that he built so many that his country
“glittered with whitewashed churches as the heavens are bright with
stars.” Near it are some extremely interesting old memorial stones; but
here, to all appearance, the interest of Towyn begins and ends. Beyond
it there are some fine views of the hills as the road turns inland; and
again when it turns to the coast and, high on the side of the cliff,
curves round into the Barmouth estuary, the effect is really fine. It
must have been of this part of the road that a traveller once wrote:
“We ascended a precipice, frightful beyond description, on one side of
us was the highest ragget Rock I have seen, the stones to appearance
lose, and look as if just droping on your heads, some of which have
fell a few years ago. The Precipice down to the Mean (Main) Ocean not
less than thirty yards, and us travlers not a yard from the side of
it, where the waves dash and tide rores, till it made me tremble.”
Grand as these “ragget” cliffs are, however, the most beautiful part
of this drive is in the Barmouth estuary, under the shadow of Cader
Idris. But to many travellers in Wales this valley of the Mawddach
is thoroughly familiar, and to them I heartily recommend the road by
Corris.

[Illustration: THE MAYOR’S HOUSE, MACHYNLLETH.]

[Illustration: THE RIVER DULAS.]

From Aberdovey one drives back to a point in the Dyfi Valley almost
opposite to Machynlleth. The river Dulas, near the point where it joins
the Dyfi, is spanned by a fine old bridge, whose arches have resounded
to the tramp of Henry Tudor’s followers, as he and they marched
eastwards to fight for the crown; and to the tramp of Cromwell’s men as
they marched westwards to fight, if not for the crown, for everything
that goes with it. It is at this point that we turn sharply to the
left and follow the course of the Dulas. This opening of the valley of
Corris is very lovely, for the river, which has all the impetuosity of
a mountain stream, is overhung by splendid trees, and through their
stems in the spring we may see the further bank, steep and mossy,
and thickly jewelled with primroses. The whole of this narrow and
wild valley, indeed, is full of beauty. The road rises gradually to a
considerable height; then beyond Upper Corris, where the landscape is
defaced, as so often in Wales, by enormous banks of slate, it drops
down by some very steep gradients, amid fine mountain scenery, to the
level of Tal-y-llyn.

It is only the eastern extremity of the lake that we see, and this
we leave behind us, turning at this point sharply to the right into
a defile of extreme barrenness. This narrow gorge, with its towering
sides reft and lacerated by landslips, its huge boulders poised as
though about to fall, its grey slopes softened only here and there
by patches of short grass, is the most utterly, the most desolately
savage spot I have seen in Wales. As we leave it and emerge into more
open country, we realise that those wild slopes were the foot of Cader
Idris, for looking back we see the heavy grey shoulder of the mountain.
Soon we reach Cross Foxes, and thence run down through beautiful woods
on a delightful gradient to Dolgelley, with the purple hills of the
Mawddach estuary showing in a long line above and behind the vivid
green of the trees.

[Illustration: THE PASS OF CORRIS, NEAR TAL-Y-LLYN.]

[Illustration: BALA LAKE.]

In Dolgelley, as we saw before, all the historical interest is
concentrated on a lamp-shop. There is nothing to keep us there, unless
we wish for a meal, or perchance a bed, at the “Golden Lion,” or unless
we mean to use the place, as many do, as a centre for expeditions. But
at present our concern is to turn towards the English frontier, and to
reach it through Bala and Llanrhaiadr.

For ten miles after we leave Dolgelley the road ascends, persistently
but never steeply. The backward views of mountain, wood, and stream
are unfailingly lovely on this road, as on all others that converge at
Dolgelley; and no less attractive in its own way is the wilder scenery
at the top of this hill, which is practically a pass. From the summit
we descend to the shores of Bala Lake, and after driving for three
miles close beside its waters we reach the little town.

It is not an especially attractive place. The neighbourhood of the lake
is of course pleasant, but the hotel--which, by the way, like many
Welsh inns, contains some lovely old furniture--looks out over the
street. The scenery of the lake is pretty rather than grand.

Bala must have been more interesting, I think, in Pennant’s day. It
must certainly have presented an appearance all its own; for he assures
us that the entire population--men, women, and children--spent all
their time in knitting stockings. They knitted in their doorways, they
knitted as they walked about the streets, and on fine days they sat
together on the tumulus at the end of the town, and knitted there. On
Saturdays the fruit of all this industry was sold, to the value of four
or five hundred pounds, in a special stocking-market. This must have
been a sight worth seeing.

We may still see the Tomen-y-Bala, the tumulus where the knitters
used to sit and sun themselves, and where, very long ago, a little
castle stood. The mound has been made very neat, with gravel paths and
rhododendrons; and by paying a small sum we may climb to its modest
summit and give a thought to the Romans who made the tumulus, and
the Britons who made the castle, and the past generations who made
stockings.

Leaving Bala, we may follow the Dee to Corwen, and there join the great
London and Holyhead road; and this is by far the simplest route we can
choose.

The route we should certainly _not_ choose is the so-called road from
Bala to Lake Vyrnwy, the reservoir of Liverpool. The scenery round
this lake is very beautiful, it is true, and an excellent hotel stands
high on the hillside above the water; and since there is no railway
among these wild hills, this is one of the places that show the uses
of the motor-car most strikingly. But Vyrnwy should be approached from
Shropshire, by way of Llanfyllin. The road that connects it with Bala
is a narrow, precipitous pass, cut on the side of a slope that is at
some points almost a precipice, unprotected by any kind of fence,
sloping downwards on the outer side, and crossed at short intervals by
natural water-channels. It is a discouraging picture, and the reality
is, to put it mildly, uncomfortable.

As an alternative to the Corwen road we may cross the Holy Dee at the
very spot where the “wizard stream,” as Milton calls it--that stream
that had the gift of prophesying good or evil fortune to the cause
of Wales--flows from the parent waters of Llyn Tegid or Bala Lake,
and following a mountain road of many “dangerous” hills, visit the
waterfall at Llanrhaiadr before we pass into Shropshire.

The fall is at a lonely spot about four miles beyond the village of
Llanrhaiadr, which is itself a pretty place with a nice inn. The road
that leads to Pistyll-y-Rhaiadr is little more than a lane, but one may
drive up almost to the very foot of the fall. “Prodigious high,” says
the letter-writer I have so often quoted: “and seemingly the hend of
the world.” There is really some excuse for this dramatic statement.
An abrupt mass of rock rises before us impassably. On each side of it
are pine-woods, climbing the craggy slopes. There is an air of finality
about the place: it is “seemingly the hend of the world.”



A TOUR IN SOUTH WALES


For those whose affections are at all equally divided between natural
beauty and historical interest the map of South Wales presents a
dilemma. The imperative thing is to avoid the once beautiful hills
and valleys that are now scarred, and rent, and blackened with
coal-dust; and this may be done by taking either the moorland road
above the mining country, or the level road below it near the sea. Now
I, who know both these roads, assure you that in adopting either of
these courses you will miss much. For if you choose the lower road,
tempted by its excellence, you will miss some of the finest scenery in
South Wales, which, though not to be compared with the North, is yet
beautiful; and if you choose the upper one you will miss the romance
of Beaupré, and the very ancient memories of Llantwit Major, and you
will, moreover, miss a good many miles of as fine a road as ever made
an engine purr. There is only one way out of this dilemma, namely, to
follow a zigzag course, from the sea to the hills, from the hills to
the sea, and so enjoy the best of both roads.

To avoid the mines we must aim very low; at Cardiff or Caerphilly.
And if we are approaching the Border from Monmouth or Hereford, or
the Midlands, we shall probably, just before we reach the spreading
outskirts of Newport, pass through a village with a great name. A dull,
sleepy-looking village it is, standing in a commonplace landscape
beside a very dirty stream, a place entirely without superficial
attractions. But it is a name to conjure with. Caerleon-upon-Usk, the
City of Legions! Once it “abounded in wealth above all other cities,
... and passing fair was the magnificence of the kingly palaces
thereof.” The gilded roofs of the Romans glittered here beside the Usk,
and the great amphitheatre that may still be traced once echoed to the
shouts of the second legion: towers and temples, baths and aqueducts
and splendid buildings stood where now a few poor houses keep alive
the name of Caerleon. Round its shining palaces grew up a world of
legend. We know all about the fine doings at Arthur’s coronation
here: how he and Guinevere were crowned in different churches, and
how the music in both was “so transporting” that the congregations
ran to and fro between one church and the other all day; and how a
banquet of great splendour followed, with Caius, the server, dressed
in ermine, and Bedver, the butler, waiting with all kinds of cups, and
hosts of noblemen handing the dishes; and how, after the feast, the
soldiers got up a sham fight to amuse the ladies, who sat on the town
walls and “darted amorous glances in a sportive manner.” And in the
“Mabinogion” we are given a more domestic picture of King Arthur at
Caerleon-upon-Usk: a picture of him in his palace dozing upon a seat
of green rushes covered with flame-coloured satin, with a red satin
cushion under his elbow, while Guinevere and her handmaidens sit at
their needlework by the window, and a group of knights are drinking
mead from a golden goblet. And at Caerleon, too, it was that Maxen
Wledig, the truant Emperor of Rome, built one of three great castles
for Helen, his wife. He had seen her first in a dream, and sought her
by land and sea, and having found her he forgot his Empire and lived in
Britain seven years. So they made them a new Emperor in Rome.

“And this one wrote a letter of threat to Maxen. There was nought in
the letter but only this, ‘If thou comest, and if thou ever comest to
Rome.’ And even unto Caerleon came this letter to Maxen, and these
tidings. Then sent he a letter to the man who styled himself Emperor in
Rome. There was nought in that letter also but only this, ‘If I come to
Rome, and if I come.’”

So, through the Middle Ages, the memory of the great days of Caerleon
was preserved in legend.

Long before we have finished dreaming of King Arthur and his red satin
cushion the tram-lines of Newport force themselves upon our attention.
Newport was so called, I believe, because it superseded Caerleon, the
old port, of which Leland says: “Very great shyppes might wel cum now
to the town, as they did in the Romaynes tyme, but that Newport Bridge
is a lette.”

Before leaving Newport any one who is likely to be hungry soon will
do well to secure a meal, for though Cardiff is not far away the
ruins of Caerphilly take some time to see, and the little town cannot
be depended upon for food. And we must on no account miss seeing
Caerphilly; for this vast ruin covers more ground than any other in
this island, and, moreover, has the special distinction of being a
characteristically Edwardian castle of a date earlier than Edward’s. It
was chiefly the work of Gilbert de Clare, the Red Earl of Gloucester,
whose architect, unlike that great artist, Henry de Elfreton, thought
little of beauty when he designed these mighty walls, but altogether
of strength. “Waules of a wonderful thickness,” says Leland; and of a
wonderful thickness they are, and of a wonderful tenacity too, seeing
that one of the great bastions that were mined with gunpowder in the
Civil War was only half ruined, and the other half has been leaning
at a most surprising angle ever since. The history of the ruins is not
at all in proportion to their size; and, indeed, it is possible that
their size and strength may have acted as a deterrent to the makers of
history. There is a story that Edward II. took refuge here with the
Despensers; but even these unyielding walls failed to give any real
sense of security to that poor spirit and at the first word of his
enemies’ approach he hurried away, preferring to trust to disguise.
He chose the inappropriate _rôle_ of a farm labourer--this indolent,
boudoir-King, who had never done a day’s work in his life--and he
failed signally to please his master, who was as anxious to be rid of
him as his subjects were. It was soon after this that he was captured
and led away to the horrors of Berkeley Castle.

On the direct route from Caerphilly to Cardiff there rises such a
precipitous hill that the longer way by Nantgarw is really the best;
and unless Cardiff has some special attraction for us there is no
need to thread our way through its modern streets and its maze of
tram-lines. For the Cardiff of the Romans, and of the Welsh princes of
Morganwg, and of the Norman barons, is altogether overpowered by the
Cardiff of commerce; and though there is a fragment left of the castle
that has sheltered so many crowned heads at various times, the castle
in which poor blind Robert of Normandy was a prisoner for twenty-eight
years, yet even this is modernised and closed to the public.

But in Llandaff, which is now practically a suburb of Cardiff, there
are still signs of age: a picturesque green and restored cross,
some pretty old houses, and the cathedral of the most ancient see
in the island. For even when St. Teilo of the sixth century laid
the foundation of the first cathedral the bishopric of Llandaff had
been in existence for more than five hundred years. By the eleventh
century Teilo’s cathedral was past repair; and when the “business
of the Cross was publicly proclaimed” here it was in a new building
that the Archbishop celebrated mass--the same building, more or
less, that stands down there in that curious hollow to-day. More or
less: for the restorations of this greatly chastened cathedral have
been many, and it has narrowly escaped suffering even more terrible
things at the hands of its well-wishers. Jasper Tudor’s beautiful
and uncommon west tower, for instance, was once threatened by an
eighteenth-century bishop, a versatile soul who wrote a successful
“Treatise on the Modes.” He was evidently more capable of dealing with
the modes than with ecclesiastical architecture, for we hear that he
was seized with a longing to remove Jasper’s tower and replace it with
a rustic porch.[10] For once the poverty of the see was a fortunate
circumstance, and saved the tower. But no doubt that same poverty
injured the building greatly on many occasions; for at one time the see
was so cruelly robbed by the Crown that its brave and humorous bishop
had himself presented to Henry VIII. as the Bishop of Aff. “I was the
Bishop of Llandaff,” he explained, “but lately the _land_ has been
removed.”[11]

[Illustration: CAERPHILLY CASTLE.]

[Illustration: BEAUPRÉ CASTLE.]

The tombs of Llandaff Cathedral are of great interest; and it is
with real pleasure that one sees the new, for once, not unworthy to be
beside the old. The recumbent figure of marble on the grave of Dean
Vaughan is really beautiful.

As we climb the long hill a mile or two beyond Llandaff, we see Cardiff
stretched out below us, a forest of masts and tall chimneys--an
impressive symbol in its way. Then, when we reach the level ground,
we forget everything for a time but the sheer delight of moving on
a perfect road--forget even the heights of Exmoor showing faintly
across the water on the left, and on the right the wild hills of
Glamorganshire rolling away into the distance.

Now, at Cowbridge, it is necessary to come to a decision. If it should
be too much for the resolution of an ardent motorist to leave this
road, he may pursue his way to Neath without “lette,” as Leland would
say; but for all antiquarians, artists, and other lovers of romance and
beauty, the finger-post points very resolutely to a detour by Beaupré,
Llantwit, St. Donat’s, and Ewenny.

About two miles south of Cowbridge is Old Beaupré (Bewper). Do not
climb the stile and walk across the fields, but drive on a hundred
yards or so to the gate; for this grass-grown, deserted avenue is the
fitting approach to the spellbound house of the Bassetts, that strange
mixture of splendour and squalor, with its delicate carvings and dainty
Corinthian pillars and its air of utter desolation. We know very well
as we look at it that fair faces once looked down through those Tudor
windows, and gay satins swept between the classic columns of the
doorway, and the walls echoed to music and singing and laughter, until
the fatal day that an enchantment was laid upon the beautiful white
doorway of the love-lorn Welshman who learnt his art in Italy, and upon
the avenue that once led the Bassetts out to war and home to love, and
upon every stone of the old castle, so that it became a farmhouse.
And now the fluted pillars and carved friezes are green with moss and
fringed with ferns, and the walls echo to nothing but the clucking of
innumerable hens.

Beaupré is not greatly visited. There is, indeed, nothing to see but
that strange, incongruous doorway and the ghosts that flutter round
it; but it is one of those eloquent, unforgettable places through
which, for a moment, one seems to be actually in touch with the life
that they have seen.

At Llantwit Major the interest is of a very different kind. Here there
is not very much to attract the artist, but to the antiquary and
historian “the dwelling-place and home of the Blessed Illtyd” must
surely be of the first importance. For it was here that the Breton
saint, St. Iltutus, or Illtyd, founded a monastery and university that
made a very deep mark upon the life of the sixth century; for its
professors educated not only all the princes of the west, but also
every illustrious Welshman--bishop, saint, or scholar--of the day. It
is not surprising that an institution of its size and brilliancy--for
its 2,400 students filled four hundred houses--should have seized the
imagination of early writers, and given rise to so much picturesque
legend that it is hard to know the truth. Some say that St. David
himself was taught by St. Illtyd, and that Gildas the historian,
called the Wise, and Taliesin, the bard of the Radiant Brow, were
also brought up here. Of Illtyd himself the tale is told that he was
originally a soldier, but hearing the call, he forsook his profession
and his wife for the life of a hermit; and when his poor wife came
to him, one day as he was working in the fields, he silently turned
away from her, and stood so, with his back to her, till she left him
in despair. This is a pathetic foundation for all the scholarship and
saintliness of the sixth century in Wales, and one can only hope, for
the sake of Illtyd’s conscience when he was a comfortable professor,
that it is untrue. Of all the four hundred houses and seven halls of
his university not a stone is now left; but in the church, which is
itself very full of interest, there are some wonderful monuments, one
of them being a memorial raised to St. Illtyd by one of his pupils,
Samson, a saint himself. The head of the cross is gone, but on the
shaft the beautiful Celtic designs are still clear and the words still
legible to those who can read them--“Samson placed this cross for his
soul.”

Just beyond Llantwit and nearer to the Bristol Channel is St. Donat’s,
which, as Leland says, “stondith on a meane hille a quarter of a mile
from the Severn Se.” This castle, partly Norman and partly Tudor, has
been inhabited ever since the Norman conquest of Glamorgan; and so, as
“the parkes booth and the castell long to ... a gentilman of very fair
landes in that countery,” we can see no more than a glimpse of towers
above the trees. But we pass close to the churchyard, and there we may
see the very beautiful and uninjured Celtic cross.

From St. Donat’s we may rejoin the main road at Bridgend; but in this
country, where good accommodation is not always to be found, it is
well to know that there is a very nice modern hotel at Southerndown,
with the Channel and the Exmoor coast in front of it and the trees
and Castle of Dunraven near at hand. The actual building of Dunraven
is new, but a castle has stood on the same spot for many generations,
through many tragedies. In Henry VIII.’s reign the lord of Dunraven,
Boteler, or Butler, lost all his children but one on the same day. He
saw them die, perhaps, for the windows of his castle looked out across
the waters that drowned them. Only one girl was left, and through her
Dunraven passed to the Vaughans, who do not always seem to have made
a good use of its position. For in Tenby Church lies the dust of a
certain Walter of that house, who figures darkly in one of those moral
tales--one might almost call them tracts--of which one occasionally
hears in actual life. In Walter’s day, which was also the day of Queen
Mary, these shores of Dunraven twinkled with treacherous lights, which
lured unwary ships to the shore, causing their complete destruction and
the great enrichment of the lord of the manor. At last, after years of
this villainy, he was waiting one night for the fruits of his labours,
waiting while the doomed ship was shaken to pieces and the bodies of
her crew were one by one washed ashore. The last body that came was
that of his own sailor-son.

Whether we approach Bridgend from Llantwit or from Southerndown, we
shall see on our right the embattled tower of Ewenny among the trees.
The restored conventual buildings of this very ancient Benedictine
Priory are now a private house, but by leaving the high-road we may
pass the fortified gateway that once stood between the monks and their
enemies. There is no finer example, I believe, of a monastery that is
also a castle, and no doubt it is partly owing to the strength of its
defences that the Priory of Ewenny still stands in its original Norman
austerity, not as a picturesque ruin, but as a parish church. With the
exception of one or two Tudor windows, it is pure Norman throughout,
very simple, very dignified; and it is still divided, according to
ancient custom, into two separate churches that were used respectively
by the monastery and the parish at large. The founder, whose beautiful
tomb is wonderfully well preserved, was Maurice de Londres, whose name
we shall meet again in a less amiable connection at Kidwelly. A great
deal has been done in the way of restoring and preserving Ewenny by
its owners, the ancient lords of Coity, whose great castle lies in
ruins a few miles away. The Norman marchers of their house, it is said,
set out to win the lands of Coity by force of arms, but seeing the
fair daughter of the Welshman who owned them, he was himself won, and
never a blow was struck, for Coity became his by marriage. How much of
this story is true I do not know, but it is certainly true that his
descendants have lived within a few miles of the spot from that day to
this.

At Bridgend we rejoin the road that we left so reluctantly at
Cowbridge, and soon, on the right, we pass the hills of Margam, at
whose foot are the fragments of a famous Cistercian abbey, more
celebrated, we are told, for its charitable deeds than any of that
Order in Wales; while on the left there stretch between us and the
sea the dreary sands that long ago buried--“shokid and devourid”--the
castle and lands of Kenfig. The hills, cleft here and there with deep
wooded valleys, are every moment drawing nearer; a strip of glittering
sea appears beyond the sands, and beyond that again are the Mumbles.
For a little time the masts of Aberavon rise picturesquely on the
skyline, but they are too soon replaced by the chimneys of Briton
Ferry.

[Illustration: EWENNY PRIORY.]

[Illustration: NEATH ABBEY.]

It was here that the travellers of old days used to ford the river
Neath. It was a dangerous ford, famous for its quicksands. Wherefore
a certain twelfth-century bishop of St. David’s, being of a prudent
temperament and desirous to cross, selected one of his minor clergy to
ford the river before him, a “chaplain of those parts,” who had lately
incurred the bishop’s displeasure, and had been suspended. The chaplain
meekly consented; took the bishop’s best horse for the purpose; crossed
in safety, and forthwith rode away. And it was only when the bishop
restored the cure that the chaplain restored the horse.

This pleasant little story, recalled by the name of the ugly smoky town
of Briton Ferry, will help us through the dismal streets that lead to
Neath.

Neath itself is not an attractive town. Its abbey to Leland “semid the
fairest abbay in al Wales.” To-day it is perhaps the most pathetic.
During its last and most splendid days a Welsh bard sang of it and
of the monks who lived in it; sang of its towers and cloisters, and
coloured windows and princely shields; of its columns of blue marble
and of the painted archangels on its roof. It was just at this time
that it seemed to Leland so fair, that is to say just before Leland’s
employer, Henry VIII., silenced the “peaceful songs of praise” of its
white monks for ever. Even now we can guess at its past splendour, for
though the blue marble and the archangels are gone, the crypt still has
its vaulted roof, and through the heavy ivy there are fragments visible
of the gleaming white stone with which it was once faced. It stands,
unspeakably desolate, on the low, squalid outskirts of the town, amid a
waste of scrap-iron and nettles and rubbish; but when Edward II. came
to beg for a night’s lodging under its roof, when Neath was little more
than a village and a castle, and there were no shunting, shrieking
trains between the abbey and the hills, this must indeed have seemed a
beautiful refuge for a tired, hunted king.

For close behind the abbey the hills begin to rise, and through them
the river Neath cleaves its way to the sea in a valley that will lead
us, if we follow it, to extremely desirable things. Ultimately the road
will lead us to Brecon, by no means to be despised in itself, but it
is rather for the sake of the miles of moorland that lie between that
we must here strike up into the hills in a way that may seem eccentric
till we know what they are like.

The Vale of Neath itself is famous for its lovely scenery, its woods
and mountains and river. The road is practically level as far as
Glyn-Neath, where, if the day is young, and the mood enterprising, we
may, instead of keeping to our rightful road, diverge for a mile or
so to Pont Neath Fechan. Thence the active-minded and able-bodied may
visit a series of very pretty waterfalls on the river Mellte. This
entails a considerable walk of a rough kind, but it also gives one an
excuse for exploring a little more of this lovely moorland country: for
the best way to approach the falls is to drive up for two miles into
the hills and so reach the river from above.

But probably the most usual course is, at Glyn-Neath, to turn
towards Hirwain. It is after this point that the really distinctive
features of this run become apparent, the features that make the road
essentially one for motorists; for no railway crosses these hills,
and if there be strong-limbed bicyclists who do, they cannot often
be women, I think. For the road that seems to the engine of a car to
be merely gently undulating, is really climbing steadily upwards for
miles. Gradually the scene becomes wilder and wilder, more and more
desolate, till at last we are spinning over a moor as wide as the eye
can see, on a road that winds visibly before us far away into the
distance. Range beyond range, the hills completely encircle us: stern,
bare hills with rugged outlines, and never a tree to soften them; and
in the foreground great sweeping curves covered with short grass and
here and there a glowing patch of heather. Then, when the summit is
reached, and Cardiff waterworks are passed, begins the descent of nine
miles on a perfect surface, close under the shoulder of the Brecon
Beacons. I think this gentle descent is one of the most perfect runs,
from a motoring point of view, that I have ever enjoyed; and if, as is
likely, there is a touch of evening softness over the great hills, few
people will regret having forsaken their direct westward road for the
sake of this drive. Close under the Beacons lies Brecon.

A prodigious amount of fighting has raged round this peaceful-looking
little town. It was not without bloodshed that Brychan the Irishman,
in the fifth century, made this country his own with complete
thoroughness, supplying it not only with a new name but with a new
population (for he is said to have had forty-nine children); and Brecon
was one of the many places that were attacked and overcome by the
army of Alfred’s warlike daughter Ethelfleda; and truly there was no
lack of fighting in the days of the Normans, the Neuf-Marché, and the
de Braose. It was Bernard de Neuf-Marché, or Newmarch, who built the
castle, once “very large, strong, and wele mainteynid,” but now only a
remnant, a bit of battlemented wall and a tower, which passed through
many stormy experiences before it came to the strangest end to which,
surely, a castle was ever brought. For it was the inhabitants of Brecon
themselves who, feeling that they had figured sufficiently in the
annals of their country, demolished their own castle. It was during the
Civil War, and a siege seemed imminent. The simplest way of avoiding
this was to remove the castle.

Brecon might well be tired of fighting. Newmarch had fortified it
well, with walls and gates and the “keepe of the castel very large and
faire,” but it required all its defences and more, for a border castle
was never safe. From the family of Newmarch it passed to that of de
Braose, and they lost it again, not by the sword but by the seditious
spirit and shrewd tongue of a woman. Matilda de St. Valerie, the wife
of William de Braose, “uttered reproachful language against King John,”
which though perfectly just, was rash. She lost not only her castle,
but her husband and finally her life, for Brecon became Crown property;
de Braose, after slaughtering the King’s garrison, fled to Ireland;
and Matilda was starved to death in prison.

[Illustration: BRECON.]

[Illustration: GATEWAY KIDWELLY CASTLE.]

If we spend a night in Brecon we may sit in the pretty garden of
the hotel under the shadow of the last remaining wall of Newmarch’s
castle. Opposite us, filling almost the whole landscape, are the solemn
Beacons; just below us is the Usk and its picturesque bridge.

We must cross that bridge to reach Carmarthen; and following the
course of the Usk, pass through Trecastle, where the scenery becomes
strikingly beautiful as the road cleaves a narrow gorge and then runs
gently down for miles between wooded hills. At Llandovery we enter the
valley of the Towy.

There is nothing to detain us at Llandovery; but as the gay flowers of
the Castle Inn catch our eye in passing we may remember that George
Borrow once spent a night there; and the remains of the castle hard by
may perhaps call to mind the great chieftain Griffith ap Nicholas, who
was lord of Dynevor and Kilgerran as well as of Llandovery and many
another castle. He was also a Justice of the Peace, and a harbourer of
thieves; a _protégé_ of the House of Lancaster who yet died in fighting
for the house of York at Mortimer’s Cross: not a very conventional
person, in short.

We leave the fragments of his castle on our left, and, on a practically
level road, follow the slow-flowing Towy through Llangadoch to
Llandeilo. This pretty little place, where there is a really nice inn,
was once dignified with the name of Llandeilo Vawr, or the Great;
probably because of its close proximity to the great castle of Dynevor.
If we pause for a moment on the bridge that here crosses the Towy we
shall see reflected in the river a thickly wooded bluff. Among these
trees are the ruins of Dynevor, perhaps the most important stronghold
of the princes of South Wales. It was in the ninth century that Roderic
the Great built the first castle here, and from that day forward till
Roderic’s fortress had for many years been replaced by a Norman one,
Dynevor passed from hand to hand, from Welsh to English and from
English to Welsh, and from one turbulent chieftain to another. It
seems to have been regarded more or less as the key to South Wales;
for on one occasion Henry II. sent a special spy to inquire into the
strength of Dynevor and the general character of the country. This
artless knight asked his way of a Welsh dean, and was, as he might
have expected, led by a route so wild, so rough, and so extremely
circuitous that the castle seemed to be practically inaccessible. By
way of heightening the effect this humorous divine paused at intervals
to satisfy his hunger with handfuls of grass. It was the custom in
that poor country, he said. The knight returned to Henry with the
report that the country round Dynevor was “uninhabitable, vile, and
inaccessible, only affording food to a beastly nation, living like
brutes.”

Within a few miles of Dynevor there is another castle that looks as if
it might well have been inaccessible--Cerrig Cennen. It is worth while
to drive a few miles out of our way to see this circlet of towers on
its pale grey crag, dominating the whole landscape of rounded hills.
It is best to approach it by Derwydd Station, partly because the more
direct route leads over a long and precipitous hill, and partly because
from this side one’s first view of the old fortress is more striking.
I think there is little to be gained by trying to drive close to the
actual ruins: the impressive effect is in the distant outline of this
strange and sudden crag, on which, it is said, a Knight of the Round
Table built his fortress before the Norman of later days made it his
stronghold.

From Llandeilo to Carmarthen we have a choice of roads. The upper one
is perhaps slightly the faster of the two, but from the lower there
is a better view of Dynevor, and Dryslwyn Castle, and Abergwili, the
palace of the bishops of St. David’s. In Carmarthen itself there are
few relics left of a history that begins in the days of the Romans
and has been stormy to a most unusual degree; so stormy, indeed, that
one marvels the place exists at all. The wicked Vortigern, King of
Britain in the fifth century, is said to have built a castle here,
to defend himself against a too persistent saint who was trying,
quite in vain, to turn him from the many errors of his ways. He had
first taken refuge at Rhayader, but, says Nennius the historian, “St.
Germanus followed him with all the British clergy, and upon a rock
prayed for his sins during 40 days and 40 nights.” So the worried King
fled here to Carmarthen and built a castle in which to hide. But, says
the story, “the saint as usual followed him there and with his clergy
fasted and prayed ... and on the third night a fire fell suddenly
from heaven and totally burnt the castle.” How many times since then
Carmarthen has been burnt to the ground and besieged and plundered I
do not know, but one or other of these incidents is casually recorded
on nearly every page of the History of Wales. But Carmarthen, like
hope, “springs eternal.” Among the many who burnt it is Owen Glyndwr,
who at the very time that the foolish legend describes him as sitting
in a tree watching the Battle of Shrewsbury was really occupied,
not only in destroying this town, but also, as though influenced by
the reputed birthplace of Merlin, in having his fortune told by a
soothsayer brought from Gower for the purpose. But though this brave
fortune-teller prophesied evil things they were not fulfilled. Owen had
still many successes before him, and his dealings with this ill-fated
town of Carmarthen made a great sensation. There is an agitated letter
still existing which the Archdeacon of Hereford, the “lowly creature,”
as he signed himself, of Henry IV., wrote in “haste, great haste,” to
implore that King for help. “And note,” he adds in a postscript, “on
Friday last Kemerdyn town is taken and burnt, and the castle yielded
... and slain of the town of Kemerdyn more than L persons. Written in
right haste on Sunday; and I cry your mercy and put me in your high
grace that I write so shortly; for by my troth that I owe to you, it
is needful.” The exciting effect of Owen’s presence, we see, was of
somewhat wide radius. Yet even Owen could not suppress Carmarthen
for more than a short time. Leland tells us of two “reparations done
on the castel,” and in his day, he says, it was “veri fair and doble
waullid.” Even now there is some of it left, but unless we exceed the
speed-limit and refuse to pay the fine we shall probably not see it, as
it has been made into a prison.

But even the modern streets that have risen from so many ashes are
not without their own memories of the great. They were once lined
with shouting, excited crowds, gathered from all the country round
to see Nelson drive through the town: and through them passed the
strange funeral procession of Richard Steele, who was carried by night,
attended by twenty-five torch-bearers, to his grave in St. Peter’s
Church. Above it a modern brass has been placed of late years, but
for long the grave was, at his own dying request, left nameless. “I
shall be remembered by posterity,” he said. There are other monuments
worth seeing in St. Peter’s Church: the tomb of Sir Rhys ap Thomas, to
whose efforts Henry VII. owed much in his quest for the crown; and a
mural tablet of the seventeenth century, to “virtuous Anne, the lady
Vaughan,” who was, we learn, “the choice elixir of mortalitie.”

From Carmarthen we must certainly not neglect to visit Kidweli, ten
miles away near the sea, for there we shall find much of that visible
romance that has, by storm and stress, been battered out of the
county town. Kidweli once had walls, and three gates, and a priory of
Black Monks, as well as the castle that still stands above the river
Gwendraeth in all its imposing simplicity. The round towers and the
curtain-wall and the great gateway have a very distinctly Edwardian
character, but Caradoc of Llancarvan says there was a castle built
here quite at the end of the twelfth century by Rhys ap Griffith,
that great prince of South Wales who is known in Welsh history as The
Lord Rhys; and even in those destructive days a hundred years was a
short time for a castle to last. Probably Rhys built it and Edward
repaired it, giving it the special character of his own work, but not
entirely wiping out the work of Rhys. In this way we may account for
the name of Gwenllian’s Tower, for Rhys had a much-loved daughter
Gwenllian, “a woman of such incomparable beauty, and exceeding in all
feminine qualifications, that she was accounted the fairest and best
accomplished lady in all the country.” She had fine traditions behind
her, but they were not so much “feminine” as warlike; for her father
Rhys was “the protection of his country, the splendour of arms, the
arm of power,” and her great uncle was the valiant Owen Gwynedd, and
her grandmother was that gallant lady after whom she was doubtless
named, Gwenllian the wife of Griffith. It was quite near Kidweli that
this other Gwenllian died. In her husband’s absence she led his men
to battle against the Norman invader, Maurice de Londres, whose grave
we saw in his priory-church of Ewenny. Her forces were defeated, and
she herself, by order of de Londres, was beheaded there and then. Her
brother Owen Gwynedd, however, was still alive, and he saw to it that
the reckoning was heavy.

The road from Carmarthen to Tenby lies at first through rather dull
country, but after a time passes between extremely pretty wooded hills.
Presently we catch sight of the sea shining at the end of a deep
valley, and after this a delightful run on a downward gradient carries
us within sight of Tenby, the most charming of watering-places. Now,
it is not altogether an artificial classification if we divide the
civilised world into two parties: those who delight in watering-places
and those who flee from them. For this taste or distaste is really,
more or less, an indication of temperament, and at the end of half an
hour one could usually guess correctly in which of the two classes
to place a new acquaintance. But I really defy any one to dislike
Tenby. There is something endearing about it. From the roadside the
cliffs drop steeply to the sands below--very yellow sands sweeping
in long curves to the edge of a brilliantly green sea, while beyond
them the long headlands stretch one behind the other, mere blurs of
purple or misty blue. On the right the remnant of the castle stands
upon a rock, and below it there juts into the sea a picturesque little
pier, entirely for use, and innocent of pavilion or bandstand. Here
the innumerable trawlers take shelter, till in the early morning they
unfurl their crimson or brown sails, and one by one glide out into
the bay--a brave sight, and one that calls to mind the early name of
this place, Dynbych-y-Pysgod, the Little Town of Fish.

[Illustration: GOSCAP ROCK, TENBY.]

[Illustration: MANORBIER CASTLE, NEAR TENBY.]

There is something almost incongruous in the thought of the many sieges
that this quiet, sunny town has suffered. From very early days it
played an active part in the history of this strange English corner
of Wales, and if its walls and gateways are still standing to add to
its beauty, this is not for want of use, but because their uses were
so constant that they were kept in good order. Of the castle, indeed,
little enough remains: a ruined tower, an archway, and a fragment of
wall are all that is left on the rock that juts out so picturesquely
into the green sea.

But if the shrewd blows of several centuries have left us little of
Tenby Castle, it is far otherwise with the splendid walls and towers
of Manorbier, which stand close above the sea a few miles further
along the same coast. To see Manorbier at its best one should approach
it from the road called the Ridgeway, and this route, too, has the
advantage of commanding, here and there, some very lovely views of the
coast, of Lydstep and Caldey Island. It is well to know that on Sunday
no strangers are admitted within the gate of Manorbier.

It stands, as Leland says, betwixt two “hillettes, between the wich the
Severn Se gulfith in”--a fine setting for its battlemented walls and
towers, the “turrets and bulwarks” of which Giraldus proudly speaks.
That most delightful chronicler declares this to be the pleasantest
spot in Wales, and then half apologises for his enthusiasm over this
“his native soil, his genial territory.” We may forgive him for his
love of the place, even if we think he goes a little too far, for this
Gerald de Berri the Norman, who oddly enough has been known to all
who have come after him as Giraldus the Welshman, was born here at
Manorbier; and down there on the shore are the sands where he played as
a child, building, we are told, not castles, but always churches and
abbeys.

Strange enough this belligerent-looking building seems to have no
history. It has, apparently, led an entirely domestic life. We hear
of mills and ponds, of parks and dovecots in connection with it, but
of siege and bloodshed not a word. The great, grim walls and bastions,
however, must have added greatly to the peace and comfort of the Norman
barons who lived behind them, and they certainly add very much to our
pleasure.

Climbing again to the Ridgeway we turn to the left, with a view to
seeing Lamphey, Pembroke, and the Stack Rocks before, following in the
footsteps of many a pilgrim, we visit the shrine of St. David.

Lamphey Palace was for several centuries one of the dwellings of the
Bishop of St. David’s; and a good deal of it was built by Bishop
Gower, whose “mason’s mark,” so to speak, is the arcaded parapet so
conspicuous here and at his cathedral city. Bishop Gower seems to have
been the benefactor of this see, as Bishop Barlow was its evil genius.
It was owing to the latter that Lamphey passed to the Crown, and
thence to the house of Devereux; and so it came to pass that in this
sequestered corner Robert, Earl of Essex, passed the early years of
a life that was destined to be anything but sheltered, and played his
childish games with no thought of a capricious queen or of Tower Hill.
And with him, no doubt, played his sister Penelope, whom the pen of Sir
Philip Sidney has made more familiar to us as “Stella.”

From Lamphey two miles of level road will take us to Pembroke, and
to the castle that is perhaps the most impressive in all this land
of relics, where the castles are so strangely thick upon the ground.
The great walls rise upon a rock whose base is lapped by the waters
of Milford Haven; in the centre stands the mighty double keep, and
round it is a ring of bastions; on the town side is the entrance-gate,
flanked by massive towers. There is something peculiarly imposing
about this gateway, whose implacable strength seems all the more
uncompromising from its being unsoftened by ivy and very little
discoloured by time, though its fine effect is, of course, cruelly
marred by the lawn-tennis nets that seem so often to be regarded as
pleasing and appropriate additions to mediæval castles. Pembroke,
unlike Manorbier, is full of history; there has been no lack of sieges
here. Even before the building of this castle there were stirring
doings round this rock: fierce attacks and wily stratagems, not
unmixed, some say, with romance. There was a “slender fortress” here,
built by Arnulph de Montgomery of stakes and turf--a poor defence one
would have thought, but apparently sufficient to bear a good deal under
the guardianship of that “worthy and discreet” constable, Gerald de
Windsor, grandfather of our Giraldus. He showed his discretion on one
occasion, when the stakes and turf were besieged by the Welsh, and his
garrison was extremely short of food, by cutting up the last few beasts
that remained to them, and throwing the pieces to the enemy. In our day
this would be described, not as discretion, but as “bluff,” and it was
as successful as that quality so often is. It is said by some that it
was this same Gerald who built the existing castle, but there seems to
be a good deal of uncertainty on the subject; and even more uncertainty
as to which castle it was from which Gerald’s wife Nest, who was less
discreet, apparently, than her husband, was carried off by a Welsh
prince, not without encouragement from the lady. But when one hears
that the discreet Gerald escaped on this occasion by creeping down a
drain-pipe, one feels that there was some excuse after all for Nest.
But these are mere traditions. What is very certain is that one of the
stern entrance-towers was the birthplace of Henry VII., who lived here
with his mother through the early years of his life, and after his
exile in Brittany landed only a few miles away at Dale, where he won
the Welsh at once to his cause by unfurling the Red Dragon of Uther.
When Leland was here he was shown the room in which Henry was born, and
in it “a chymmeney new made with the armes and badges of King Henri the
VII.”; but this fireplace must have vanished long ago, for even the
local guide-books do not profess to know the room of Henry’s birth.

[Illustration: ENTRANCE TOWER, PEMBROKE CASTLE.]

[Illustration: PEMBROKE COAST.]

There was a memorable siege of Pembroke in the Civil War--memorable
not only because of its importance, but because the leaders of the
Royalist garrison were renegade Roundheads. Cromwell’s guns were lying
useless in the sand, for the ship that carried them had run aground;
but undismayed he determined to starve the garrison out. “Here is a
very desperate enemy,” he wrote to Fairfax, “who being put out of all
hope of mercy, are resolved to endure to the uttermost extremity, being
very many of them gentlemen of quality and thoroughly resolved.” They
yielded at last, and “Drunken Colonel Payer,” as Carlyle calls the
renegade, “full of brandy and Presbyterian texts of Scripture,” being
indeed out of all hope of mercy, was shot at Covent Garden. Beyond
hope of mercy, too, was the traitor who, by betraying the source of
the castle’s water-supply to Cromwell, was the cause of the surrender.
Cromwell, with characteristic promptitude, cut the drain-pipes and
hanged his informant on the spot; and not many years ago some workmen
found the broken pipes, and close beside them some human bones.

About eight miles beyond Pembroke are the Stack Rocks. The road is
hilly and the gates across it are exasperatingly numerous; but these
are but small discomforts, and the reward is very great. It is almost
suddenly that one finds oneself on the very edge of the stupendous
cliffs that form the southern coast of Pembrokeshire--an edge that is
almost mathematically a right angle, so sheer is the drop, so level is
the plateau above. This stern, impregnable coast has the impressiveness
that extreme simplicity on a large scale always has: it has the
directness of Early Norman architecture. There is not an unnecessary
line, so to speak, not the least attempt at ornament; and the effect
is to take away one’s breath. A few yards from the cliff are the great
pillars known as the Stack Rocks, obviously separated from the mainland
by the patient efforts of the sea and air--examples of the survival of
the fittest. Their tall, gaunt outlines, and the sea-gulls that circle
round them, add much to this strange scene; but our real reward for
opening all those gates lies, not in the actual Stack Rocks themselves,
but in the long curves of the coast-line, the massive cliffs, the
green, transparent sea that swirls about their base.

It is necessary to pass through Pembroke on the return journey, but we
must leave it by the Carmarthen road, since to reach Haverfordwest we
have to avoid all the long ramifications of Milford Haven. Soon we turn
sharply to the left and enter the tiny village of Carew, where, close
beside the roadway, stands one of the finest Celtic crosses in Wales,
richly carved with one of those interlaced designs that the Welsh in
very early days copied from the Irish. And not very far away is another
of those splendid castles that were, to a Norman baron in Wales, among
the bare necessities of life--the half Norman, half Tudor castle of
Carew, or Caer-wy (the Fort on the Water), whence the pronunciation
_Carey_. The east front, the entrance-gate and bastions are, I believe,
the work of Gerard de Windsor, constable of Pembroke, and are plainly
Edwardian in character; but the north front, with its famous mullioned
windows, was added by Sir Rhys ap Thomas, the energetic supporter of
Henry VII., whose tomb we saw at Carmarthen; while the eastern side,
with the great banqueting-hall and the lovely arch that leads to it,
was contributed by Sir John Perrot, of Elizabethan days. This Sir
John Perrot was one of the worst of the Irish Lords Deputy, but it
was not on this account, very certainly, that he was suddenly called
away from his building operations at Carew and bestowed in the Tower
of London. The builders, delivered from his vigilant eye, did their
work so perfunctorily that it is now in a more dilapidated condition
than the sturdy defences of the Norman part of the castle.[12] But
perhaps the old splendour of Carew is represented and recalled best
of all by the beautiful rooms on the northern side, whose thresholds
have been trodden by so many mailed feet, so many dainty silken shoes;
for the hospitalities of Carew, at all events in the days of Sir Rhys
ap Thomas, were carried out on a large scale. Henry of Richmond, not
yet Henry of England, was entertained here on his way to Bosworth, and
mounted the stairs to the room that displays his arms upon a shield,
only a little time before he mounted the steps of the throne. This
last event was celebrated here in a magnificent pageant, a medley of
feasts and tournaments and sermons, at which a thousand guests filled
these weed-grown rooms with all the glitter and colour of an age that
loved fine clothes. Sir Rhys himself figured on the occasion in “a
fine gilt armour,” and was attended by “two hundred tall men in blewe
coats.” The banqueting-hall on the east side was not then in existence,
but there was nevertheless “a goodlie spaciouse roome richlie hanged
with clothe of arras and tapestrie” in which “the bettermost sort”
were entertained, a cross table being laid at one end for the King who
was so many miles away. And yet, in spite of these rash distinctions
among the guests, we are assured by the chronicler that “one thing is
noteworthy, that for the space of five dayes among a thousand people
there was not one quarrell, crosse word, or unkind looke that happened
betweene them.” It seems almost unnecessary that the bishop, before
they parted, should have “bestowed a sermon upon them.”

Fifteen miles of a hilly road lie between Carew and Haverfordwest,
a town that was important enough in Edward IV.’s day to be made a
separate county. It was the chief town and stronghold of the Flemish
colony, and the dominating position of the castle bears witness to its
former usefulness; while its present mission as a gaol does nothing to
detract from its grim appearance.

It was outside the embattled walls of Haverfordwest that Glyndwr first
met his French allies, who had landed in Milford Haven from their
hundred and forty ships. There were four or five thousand of them, very
gay in their apparel, very rich in their accoutrements, and here before
the hill of Haverfordwest they must have been an encouraging sight for
a man whose luck was beginning to turn. But this stern castle withstood
them, none the less, and though they burnt the town, they were obliged
to retire. In the Civil War the Royalist garrison adopted a simple plan
for saving themselves from the discomforts of a siege. Hearing that
the enemy was approaching, it seemed to them that the best way to avoid
unpleasantness would be to leave the place vacant, which they did with
all possible despatch.

[Illustration: CAREW CASTLE.]

[Illustration: ST. DAVID’S CATHEDRAL AND RUINS OF THE BISHOP’S PALACE.]

There are a good many things that we may think of in this town: those
“people brave and robust,” as Giraldus calls the Flemings whom Henry I.
established here; poor Richard II., who gave them their charter; Edward
IV., who gave them a high sheriff; the sieges of centuries; the gay
French army; but I, when I climb the steep streets of Haverfordwest,
long most of all to know the spot on which the Crusades were preached
to “a people well versed in commerce and woollen manufactories.”
“It appeared wonderful and miraculous,” says the historian, with no
consciousness that he is saying anything humorous, “that although
the archdeacon addressed them both in the Latin and French tongues,
those persons who understood neither of those languages were equally
affected, and flocked in great numbers to the cross.”

In the days when people journeyed to St. David’s for the good of their
souls it was considered that two pilgrimages to that shrine secured
as many spiritual advantages as one pilgrimage to Rome. It seems hard
that those who now approach St. David’s by train should not derive some
solid benefit of this kind, for the penance must really be very great,
since Haverfordwest is the nearest station, and the road between the
two places is known as “sixteen miles and seventeen hills.” One passes
these sad pilgrims, packed very closely in hired wagonettes behind
still sadder horses, and one hopes that good may accrue to their souls,
since surely this must be very bad for their bodies. Even bicyclists,
our brethren of the road, must find these seventeen hills no easy task.
The pilgrimage to St. David’s is pre-eminently one for motorists.

The surface, on the whole, is good, and near the coast the scenery
is fine. As the sea comes into sight on our left the rather dull,
flat landscape to the right is enlivened by the curiously sudden crag
on which stand the remains of Roche Castle, the birthplace of Lucy
Walters, the Duke of Monmouth’s mother. After a time the road dips
suddenly to the shore at Newgale, where the sands stretch for two miles
between low headlands, and where long ago the sea once receded and
showed the blackened stumps of a huge submerged forest. Between this
and St. David’s are “divers other little creekittes,” says Leland, who
has a passion for diminutives of an original kind; and of them all
none is so charming as little Solva where the narrow creek runs up
far into the land, and a picturesque village climbs the hill, and the
“fischerbotes” take refuge now as they did in the sixteenth century,
and probably long before it.

A few minutes later appear the outskirts of the strangely squalid
village that is the cathedral city of St. David’s. The straggling,
ugly street gives little promise of reward for our pilgrimage. Then
suddenly we are at the edge of a hill, and we look down into the little
dell that holds, perhaps, as much beauty and history and legend as any
spot of its size in our country: the cathedral itself, very plain and
built of a strange purple stone; close beside it the ruins of St.
Mary’s College, founded by John of Gaunt and his wife; and beyond it
the far greater ruins of Bishop Gower’s very beautiful palace, with
its great rose-window and the arcaded parapet that characterises the
bishop’s buildings. And to the seeing eye this little hollow contains
far more than these mere stones: it is filled with countless memories
of saints, and those who were anything but saints; it is crossed by a
long procession of pilgrims; William I., who came to worship before St.
David’s shrine and in some sort apologise, as it were, for conquering
the country--an apology that was rather premature; Edward I. and his
faithful Eleanor, on the same errand, with more reason; William Rufus,
with little interest in saints or shrines; Henry II., “habited like a
pilgrim, and leaning on a staff,” and met at the gate by a long and
solemn procession. Of all these, Edward was the only one who worshipped
in this very building, for it is the fourth that has stood on this spot
and was raised just after Henry II.’s visit. Much restoration has given
it the look of a new building, as seen from the outside. Perhaps
this is why, as one passes through the doorway, one is inclined to hold
one’s breath from sheer surprise; for St. David’s Cathedral is “all
glorious within,” and there is nothing outside to prepare one for the
Norman arches with their varied and rich ornament, for the splendour
of the fifteenth-century roof, and of the rood-screen that Gower built
and is buried in. For nearly two hundred years the nave was covered
with whitewash, and indeed it has narrowly escaped worse things at the
hands of evil men, for Bishop Barlow, of whom we heard at Lamphey, and
heard nothing good, was minded to strip the roof of its lead, and was
only stopped in this enterprise by Henry VIII. It was this same bishop
who stripped the roof of Gower’s palace and so led to its decay; and
being, it seems, a veritable _esprit fort_, he not only was the first
Protestant bishop who took advantage of the permission to marry, but
he also took advantage of the dissolution of nunneries and married an
abbess. Their five daughters, it is said, all married bishops. Barlow
positively hated St. David’s. Why, he asked, should money be spent
on these ruinous buildings “to nourish clattering conventicles of
barbarous rural persons”? Why not move the see to Carmarthen, since
St. David’s was “in such a desolate angle, and in so rare a frequented
place, except of vagabond pilgrims”? The Saint himself was merely “an
antique gargle of idolatry.” In short, the lead of the roof was the
only valuable thing here.

[Illustration: ST. MARY’S COLLEGE, ST. DAVID’S.]

[Illustration: ST. DAVID’S CATHEDRAL, INTERIOR.]

Now Henry VIII., as we well know, had little enough respect for the
shrines of the saints or for the beauties of architecture, but he
had a great respect for the bones of his own grandfather--and these
lay here. So Barlow had to hold his hand; and we, as we stand in the
presbytery of the cathedral beside Edmund Tudor’s tomb, must remember
all we owe to it. Nor is his the only notable tomb in this place; for
here is the simple shrine before which so many kings, such countless
pilgrims, have knelt, and there is the recumbent figure that some say
is the Lord Rhys, the son of the brave Gwenllian, the greatest of the
princes of South Wales, of whom it was said that “his prowesse passed
his manners, his wytte passed his prowesse, his fayre speeche passed
his wytte, his good thewes passed his fayre speeche.” Of the grave of
Giraldus we must not be too sure, for though it is pointed out to us
there has been much discussion with regard to it. Yet somewhere in this
cathedral his dust lies we know.

Just beyond St. David’s is the sea. And here too we must go, and, if
possible, see the sun setting behind that western horizon where the
hills of Holy Ireland are said to be sometimes visible. St. Patrick
saw them, says the legend, as he sat on this shore, and vowed to
give his life to the conversion of that land. He kept his vow; but
William Rufus, who stood here with very different intentions, was less
successful. As he looked across the sea to Ireland, he said, “I will
summon hither all the ships of my realm, and with them make a bridge to
attack that country.” His words were reported to Murchard, Prince of
Leinster, who, says the story, paused awhile, and answered, “Did the
King add to this mighty threat, If God please?” and being informed that
he had made no mention of God in his speech, he replied, “I fear not
his coming.”

The legend that connects St. Patrick with this shore is extremely
circumstantial, but whether it has the least foundation in truth I do
not know. In the Rosy Valley, says the story, he built a college, where
he taught both boys and girls, and trained missionaries who afterwards
became Irish saints. One of the girls was Nôn, the mother of St. David,
and it was near Porth Clais that that saint was born. And when he was
old enough the boy too became a pupil of St. Patrick; and so, when
his college days at Llantwit were over, and he was made “Archbishop
of Legions,” because “his life was a perfect example of that goodness
which by his doctrine he taught,” he moved the see from Caerleon to
Menevia for love of his master St. Patrick. In this way was fulfilled
the prophesy of Merlin: “Menevia shall put on the pall of the City of
Legions”; and from that time forward Menevia has been called after its
first and most famous bishop, St. David.

From this strange, remote land of dreams and legends and memories of
early saints the transition to the world of modern progress is rather
sudden; for only fifteen miles lie between the shrine of St. David and
the new turbine steamers of Fishguard. We shall do well to choose the
upper road, which runs for the most part through a bare, inhospitable
land that is far more suggestive of the remoteness of the village-city
than the most dramatic mountain pass could be. Here and there we have
a fine glimpse of the coast, and there is a sudden softening in the
scenery as we draw near Goodwick. Here, at one side of the pretty bay
of Fishguard, are all the evidences of the new route to Ireland--the
station, the hotel, and the steamers at the quay, while across the bay,
beyond the long beach, the upper town of Fishguard appears above the
headland. Here, at Fishguard, the French landed in 1797. Then, as they
looked at those heights above the town, their hearts misgave them, for
the hills were ominously streaked and patched with scarlet. It became
plain to them that a very large force--a far larger force than they
were prepared to meet--was waiting to descend upon them. And so it
happened that their general, without loss of time, repaired to the
Royal Oak Inn, where he signed his capitulation to Lord Cawdor. I do
not know when, if ever, he found out that the masses of scarlet figures
on the hills were not soldiers, but the enterprising matrons and maids
of all the county round, who had come out in the red cloaks that were
then part of the national dress, to see what was going forward.

The lower town of Fishguard lies in a cleft between two steep hills,
and its pretty little harbour has all the picturesqueness that quays
and boats and rippling green water can give. The further hill of the
two, which we must climb, is of a most amazing gradient--computed in
contour-books as averaging 1 in 7, but certainly 1 in 5 in places.
From the high ground to which it leads us, lying between Fishguard and
Newport, there are glimpses from time to time of fine coast scenery,
and beyond Newport the road lies through very pretty country, under
the conspicuous peak of Carningly. In the churchyard at Nevern there
is a beautiful Celtic cross, the cross of St. Brynach, an Irish
contemporary of St. David. From this point the road gradually rises to
a considerable height, and then runs down a long hill to Cardigan.

Cardigan, once “the lock and key of all Wales,” gives us no hint of
its former greatness. It appears an uninteresting little town till one
realises that it is the Aberteifi whose castle was taken and retaken,
burnt, and shattered, and built again, through all the stormiest years
of Welsh history; captured by the men of the north from the men of
the south; defended by both against the Anglo-Normans; attacked by
the Flemings; at one time the court of Llewelyn, the greatest of the
northern princes; and at another the court of Lord Rhys, the greatest
of the southern princes. Here lived Griffith, the father of Rhys, “the
light and the strength and the gentleness of the men of the south,”
whose brave wife, Gwenllian, was killed by Maurice de Londres; and here
he and Gwenllian’s brother, the great Owen Gwynedd, avenged her, when
Cardigan bridge broke under the retreating Normans, and “the salt green
wave of Teivy was clogged” with the bodies of the slain. And here the
Lord Rhys held his famous revels, which included one of those mediæval
Tournaments of Song with which Wagner has made us so familiar. The
invitations were sent out in good time--a year and a day before the
event--and many hundreds of English and Normans were bidden from “all
Britain, Ireland, and the islands adjacent.” The historian goes on to
tell us how “Rhys caused all the bards or poets throughout all Wales
to come thither; and for a better diversion to the company he provided
chairs to be set in the hall, in which the bards being seated, they
were to answer each other in rhyme, and those that acquitted themselves
most handsomely and overcame the rest, were promised great rewards and
rich presents.” And the men of Gwynedd won the prize for poetry, but
the men of the south were victorious in music.

Such in the old days was Cardigan, where the tourist may pause for a
mid-day chop or buy a picture postcard.

Two miles above Cardigan, on a crag beside the Teify, are the ruined
towers of Cilgerran, which have been very little concerned with
history, though they have stood here since the days of Henry I. Their
striking position above the wooded banks of the river, however, will
repay us for a detour of a mile or two, and we can rejoin the main road
at the beautiful bridge of Llechryd. Here, where the prevailing note
of the landscape is peace, the gentle Teify, whose purling waters have
so often run red, was once actually dammed--as on another occasion at
Cardigan--by the bodies of the slain, when the princes of the south met
the invading princes of Powys and overthrew them.

From Llechryd we follow the Teify past Newcastle Emlyn; and thence, if
we like, we may cross the moors to Lampeter; or, better still, we may
go straight on through the Henllan woods to Llandyssil, a lovely little
place where fishermen delight to dwell, and where in consequence there
is a really charming little hotel. And if, as may well happen, there
is no room for us there, we can after all go on our way to Lampeter,
for there also there is quite a nice hotel, though of course it lacks
the charm of the country garden and the rushing Teify. The moorland
road between Llandyssil and Lampeter is in its way unique, for on both
sides of it the hills are covered with a thick, short growth of gorse,
a carpet of gold spread almost smoothly for miles.

At Lampeter there is nothing to detain us but the important business
of consulting maps. For here is the parting of the ways. If our object
is merely to reach the English border, our best way perhaps is to
aim at Builth. To do this we must strike across the hills through
lovely scenery; past Pumpsaint, where George Borrow awoke to hear
the murmuring of the Cothi; through Llandovery, where we have been
before on the way to Carmarthen; and thence over a really fine pass to
Llanwrtyd Wells. If, on the other hand, we are aiming at North Wales
our obvious course is to strike across to Aberaeron, and thence follow
the coast to Aberystwith and Barmouth. And if--and this is the course
I strongly recommend--we intend to complete the circle, and end our
little tour by running down the Wye Valley, then too we should make for
Aberystwith, and, turning thence eastward, join the infant Wye on the
slopes of Plynlimmon.

[Illustration: KILGERRAN CASTLE, NEAR CARDIGAN.]

[Illustration: THE WYE NEAR ITS SOURCE.]



THE VALLEY OF THE WYE


Those who have stout hearts and stout boots may, I believe, discover
the actual source of the Wye among the rushes of Plynlimmon. Five
miles of hard walking over rather dull downs will procure them the
satisfaction of seeing the first gleams of the thin silver thread that
is destined to grow into the most beautiful river of England. Most of
us, however, will be content to meet the Wye for the first time when
it is five miles old, so to speak, at the point where it touches the
high-road from Aberystwith to Newtown. Even here it is a tiny stream,
rushing lightheartedly down the hill over the rocks, unsobered as yet
by the dignified reflections of Hereford and Tintern and Chepstow
Castle.

These slopes of Plynlimmon are not particularly inspiring, except when
regarded as the cradle of the Wye, and of that greater river whose
tributary she is, the Severn. It is true that the standard of Wales,
with its red dragon, once floated victoriously on the side of this
hill, and the short grass has been dyed with the blood of the Flemings,
who mustered here to chastise that stout rebel, Owen Glyndwr, and were
thoroughly chastised by him instead. But in themselves the heights of
Plynlimmon are a little uninteresting. Short grass and rushes are all
that grow upon them, and though their rounded outlines have a dignity
of their own, the lack of colour makes them rather desolate. It is not
till the Wye has passed Llangurig that it begins to earn its fame.

Curiously enough, the Wye’s fame seems to depend mainly on its lower
reaches. Nine people out of ten regard it as rising, so to speak,
in Hereford; the Upper Wye is unknown to them and considered of no
account. Yet to those who know it the Upper Wye, with its rugged hills
and its wealth of colours, has a stronger charm even than the wooded
loveliness of Symond’s Yat or of Tintern.

At Llangurig--which is a wind-swept village with a nice little inn and
a reputation for good fishing--the river and the road that follows
it turn sharply to the right, and begin to descend by a very gentle
gradient towards Rhayader. The landscape changes gradually. The hills
lose their bleak desolation only to become cultivated and commonplace:
then the fields yield to moorlands and the rounded curves to bold and
jagged rocks; and at last, near the spot where the river Marteg adds
its waters to the Wye and the railway joins the road, the great hills
rise on each side so precipitously that the way lies almost through a
defile. The hilltops are bare and grey, but by the banks of the river
is a belt of trees; and as the valley widens the slopes are no longer
bare but are glorious in purple and gold, in heather and gorse. And
where the flaming sides of the Elan Valley converge with the valley of
the Wye stands the tiny town of Rhayader.

This is, I think, the gem of the Wye. It is well, therefore, if
possible, to stay here for a day or two; and fortunately there is a
nice little hotel to stay in. There are hills near and far, and on
every hill are all the colours of the rainbow, and with the passing of
every cloud the colours move and change. Close at hand are slopes of
bracken topped by rugged crags; far away the hills of the Elan Valley
are blue and amethyst. The river rushes through the town, giving to it
its name of Rhayader Gwy, the Falls of the Wye, though the falls are
not what they once were, I believe, before the bridge was built. Of
course there is a castle-mound, for no Welsh town of a respectable age
is complete without one. The castle itself has disappeared. The days
of its life, indeed, appear to have been few and evil. It was built by
“the Lord Rhys,” the mightiest of all the princes of the south, but so
strenuous was the life of his day that he was obliged to rebuild it a
few years later. Afterwards he was for a short time imprisoned by his
own sons, and it was while he was in this undignified position that his
castle of Rhayader was seized by his enemies. But these dim memories
have lately been eclipsed. Those who visit Rhayader to-day think little
of the valorous and potent prince of ancient Wales; they think almost
exclusively of the Birmingham Waterworks. We may forgive them for
this, for the Birmingham Waterworks are more romantic than one would
expect--romantic not merely as all great engineering works must be,
with the romance of enterprise and achievement, but also romantically
beautiful. One may drive for miles beside the lakes that wind into the
heart of the mountains, and would have so natural an air if it were not
for their mighty dams of Caban, and Pen-y-Garreg, and Craig Goch. It is
a drive worth taking, for the road is good, the mountains tower above
it with real grandeur, and the waters have pathos as well as beauty.
The legend of buried houses and churches is common to many lakes; but
in the case of the lakes of Cwm Elan it is no legend, but a fact,
that their waters flow over the ground where generations of men have
lived and worked, have ploughed their fields and said their prayers.
The affairs of most of them are forgotten as completely as their
houses are buried, but there is one memory here that no waters can
hide--whether of Cwm Elan or of the chilly Serpentine or of the blue
Mediterranean--the memory of Percy and Harriet Shelley. They lived here
once, young and happy, and would have thought it a wild prophecy indeed
if it had been foretold to them that not only they themselves, but even
their quiet homestead among the green fields, would be destroyed by
water.

From Rhayader to Newbridge the road still closely follows the river,
which, as we watch it mile by mile, gradually becomes wider and calmer.
For the first few miles the banks are wild enough, and very beautiful;
then suddenly the river is hidden from us by the deep shades and
countless stems of Doldowlod Woods, where James Watt once lived; and by
the time we dart out into the sunlight again we are nearing Newbridge.
On this road there is nothing to limit our speed except the law, for
from end to end of the Wye the surface is good, and there are no hills
that deserve the name. At Newbridge we leave the river for a few miles,
but join it again near Builth, and cross it to enter that town.

Builth is unattractive. It professes to be a Spa, but I never heard
of any one who drank the waters; and it is hardly likely to become
popular, since all the charms of Llanwrtyd Wells are but thirteen miles
away on the one side, and all the fashion of Llandrindod only seven
miles away on the other. Llanwrtyd is a delightful little place, with
a good hotel and lovely surroundings, unspoilt as yet by popularity;
while Llandrindod, as every one knows, is beloved by so many that it is
no longer very lovable. Builth has little to offer in rivalry of these,
and indeed makes small show of hospitality, maintaining in this matter
the character it earned long ago, when it refused to admit its fugitive
prince, the last Llewelyn. It is only a little way from here to the
dell whither he struggled through the snow from this his treacherous
town, only to find fresh treachery, and to die through its means. His
dust lies, they say, at the spot called Cefn-y-Bedd, or the Bank of the
Grave; and here in quite recent times a monument of stone has been set
up. It stands close to the wayside on the road from Builth to Llanwrtyd.

This, however, is not our road, which follows the Wye very closely for
a time; through Erwood, where from the top of a slight rise we have a
wide and beautiful view; past Llyswen and the “Three Cocks,” one of the
most famous of fishing inns, and through Glasbury to Hay. We are now in
a broad and fertile valley; the hills are wooded; the river is growing
slow and stately in its demeanour. The whole aspect of the country has
changed, for at Hay we shall leave all the wildness of Wales behind us,
and shall enter the quiet, homely county of Hereford.

“I cam _in crepusculo_ to the Hay,” says Leland, and he chose his time
wisely.

Hay, or La Haie, as it was originally called, was once the
meeting-ground of all those turbulent mediæval passions that flourished
so exceedingly on the border. For this reason it is full of ghosts.
From this, the Welsh side, it has rather an undistinguished air, but
when first seen by twilight from the English side, with the Black
Mountains lowering behind it, and the remains of its grim castle
dominating it, little Hay seizes the imagination. For those who
approach it thus _in crepusculo_, like Leland, the past for ever
lives in its commonplace streets more insistently than the present;
lives above all in its castle--“the which sumetime hath bene right
stately”--the castle with the long, picturesque flight of steps, and
the longer and still more picturesque history. Through that great
doorway many feet have passed that never came out, for those that
entered the castle of Hay did it at their peril. The greater part of
the building as it now stands is of Tudor date, but the entrance has
by some means survived since King John’s time, and this in spite of
difficulties: for the place was plundered during the Border Wars,
destroyed by the Welsh themselves in self-defence, rebuilt by Henry
III., captured by Llewelyn, retaken by Prince Edward, captured once
more by Llewelyn’s grandson, and finally suffered the general fate of
Welsh castles. “Now being almost totally decay’d,” says Camden, “it
complains of the outrages of that profligate Rebel, Owen Glyn Dowrdwy,
who in his March through these Countries consumed it with fire.”

This last disaster may account for the entirely modern appearance of
the houses; but there is nothing, no slate roof, no shop-window full
of cheap blouses, that can make one forget the haunting presence of
those that walk unseen in Hay--the undying ghosts of a hundred battles,
murders, and sudden deaths.

Soon after leaving Hay we pass the remains of Clifford Castle. Here was
born Jane de Clifford, destined to be so fair that men would call her
the Rose of the World; and here no doubt she played her childish games
on the banks of the Wye, with no disturbing visions of that harder game
which she was to play later on and finally to lose. The story of the
avenging poison-cup is untrue, we are told: it was in the nunnery of
Godstow that Fair Rosamund died, and was buried beneath the cruellest
epitaph, surely, that was ever graven on a tomb.

[Illustration: CONFLUENCE OF THE WYE AND THE MARTEG NEAR RHAYADER.]

[Illustration: HEREFORD.]

Two miles beyond Clifford is the toll-bridge of Whitney, and this we
cross with a pretty view of the river on each side of us. Our way
lies through Letton, past the turn to Monnington--which claims to
be the burial-place of Owen Glyndwr--and through Bridge Sollars
to Hereford. The landscape all the way is characteristic of the
country: a scene of quiet fields and gentle river, of thatched
cottages and gay gardens. It is not exciting, but it is extremely
pleasant. Characteristic as it is, however, it does not represent
Herefordshire at its best. The hills above Ledbury, the hop-gardens
round Leominster, the woods and the wide views near Richard’s Castle,
are all more distinctive and more beautiful than this part of the Wye
Valley. Indeed, if we were not at this moment pledged to follow the
Wye we should do well to drive from Hay to Hereford by way of the
Golden Valley, though the journey is considerably longer and the road
by no means so good. This valley was originally named by the British,
from the river that runs through it, the Valley of the Dore, or of
the Water, for _water_ is in Welsh _dwr_. The Normans, jumping to
conclusions, translated this into _Val d’Or_, and so it became the
Golden Valley; “which name,” says Camden, “It may well be thought to
deserve, for its golden, rich, and pleasant fertility.”

But it is improbable that either the fertility of the “Gilden Vale”
or the remains of Abbeydore Monastery will tempt a motorist to leave
the splendid road that will lead him into Hereford by Letton, and
Bridge Sollars, and the White Cross that was set up in the fourteenth
century when the plague was raging in Hereford, to mark the spot where
the infection ceased, and where, in consequence, it was safe to hold
a market. Here, on the left, lies the suburb of Widemarsh and beyond
it the Racecourse, where the promising youth who was afterwards Edward
I. showed at an early age that genius for extremely practical jokes
that he used at the expense of the Welsh later on. He was the prisoner
of Simon de Montfort on this occasion, and was taking a ride with a
certain number of attendants. He guilelessly suggested that his guards
should ride races among themselves, while he amused himself by looking
on; then, when their horses were tired, he upon his fresh one galloped
off to Dinmore Hill, where the Mortimers of Wigmore were waiting for
him. This incident took place in Widemarsh; and in Widemarsh too is
a relic that is worth seeking out before we drive into the heart of
the town--the preaching-cross of the Dominicans, which, with the ruins
of a thirteenth-century monastery, stands among the cabbages of the
Coningsby Hospital. The latter is an Elizabethan foundation, and with
the red coats of its pensioners is in itself a picturesque object in a
town that is not very rich in visible memorials of its great history.
We may look in vain for the castle that was, according to Leland, the
largest and strongest in all England; the castle that was repaired by
King Harold and was once so splendid with its ten wall-towers and great
keep; where Ranulph of Normandy stayed, and Tostig, and King John,
where John of Gaunt was governor, were Simon de Montfort imprisoned
Prince Edward after the Battle of Lewes, where Isabella proclaimed
her son Edward III. Protector of England, and where Owen Tudor was a
prisoner. As it suffered no less than three sieges during the Civil
War, and when they were over its remains were sold for £85, we need not
be surprised that the castle is now represented by a public garden,
where the youthful citizens of Hereford may play leap-frog over the
spot where kings have feasted and made history. And not only has the
castle disappeared, but even of the old houses there are very few
remaining, as may be judged by the name of the fine one that stands in
the principal street of the town. In Chester, Worcester, or Shrewsbury,
“The Old House” would not be a very distinguishing name!

The chief point of interest in Hereford is, of course, the Cathedral,
with its long and somewhat confusing history. An endless number of
people have had a hand in the building of it, apparently, from the
days when Offa of Mercia enriched the shrine of his murdered guest,
Ethelbert of East Anglia, till the quite recent and rather unfortunate
day when the west front was finished. The consequence of this diversity
of builders is that Hereford Cathedral, with its austere Norman
south transept, its Early English Lady-Chapel, its Decorated south
choir-transept, and its Perpendicular cloister, is a complete Guide of
Architecture.

[Illustration: THE PREACHING CROSS, HEREFORD.]

[Illustration: ROSS FROM WILTON.]

It was as the shrine of St. Ethelbert that it first became important.
There is a good deal of disagreement on the subject of Ethelbert’s
death. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, for instance, says _tout court_ that
in 792 Offa commanded the head of King Ethelbert to be cut off; whereas
Matthew of Westminster gives quite a different version of the affair,
completely exonerating Offa, “that most noble and most illustrious and
most high-born king.” It was Offa’s queen, Quendritha, he says, who
caused a peculiarly comfortable armchair to be placed in the bedroom
of her visitor the King of East Anglia, and beneath it “a deep hole
to be dug”--with very unpleasant consequences for the visitor. When
the horrified Offa heard of Ethelbert’s fate he shut himself up and
refused food. “But,” adds Matthew, “although he was quite innocent of
all participation in the King’s death, he nevertheless sent a powerful
expedition and annexed the Kingdom of the East Angles to his own
dominions.”

The murdered guest, whoever his murderer, was first buried at the
spot still called St. Ethelbert’s Well, and afterwards in Hereford
Cathedral, to its great enrichment.

There are several roads from Hereford to Ross, none of which follow
the river closely. The most commonly used--being the least hilly--is
by Bridstow and Much Birch. Between this road and the Wye are still to
be seen traces of the College of Llanfrother, founded by Dubritius,
that great Archbishop of Caerleon who preached so movingly at King
Arthur’s coronation and then resigned his see to the still greater St.
David. On the other side of the Wye is a shorter, but after the first
five or six miles a more hilly route, with some fine backward views
and some glimpses of the river. The surface of this road is all that
can be desired, and the hills are by no means formidable; but as one
approaches Ross the country is rather uninteresting.

Ross itself may be regarded as a monument to one John Kyrle.

    “Rise, honest muse, and sing the Man of Ross! [cries Pope]
    Whose causeway paves the vale with shady rows?
    Whose seats the weary traveller repose?
    Who taught that heaven-directed spire to rise?
    ‘The _Man of Ross_,’ each lisping babe replies.”

The lisping babe, however, is making a mistake, for the Man of Ross
only taught the spire to rise forty-seven feet; and, moreover, it
has been destroyed by lightning and rebuilt since his day (which was
a very long day, lasting from 1637 to 1724). “A small exaggeration
you must allow me as a poet,” said Pope. But the fame of John Kyrle
does not depend upon the spire alone, for he did much to improve the
town, and did it, too, on a very small income. “He was a very humble,
good-natured man ... of little or no literature,” an eighteenth-century
diarist says of him. “His estate was £500 per ann., and no more, with
which he did wonders.” It was not, however, by means of this modest
estate alone that he won his lasting fame as a philanthropist, but also
by untiring energy and skill in the art of beggary, and the judicious
use of other men’s money. In the case of the church bell it was his own
money that he used, and his own silver goblet also. While the bell was
in process of casting he drank to Church and King, and then flung the
goblet into the molten metal--that after serving for the sacred toast
it might be for ever consecrated to sacred uses. This incident adds a
touch of the picturesque to the sterling qualities of the benevolent
old gentleman to whom Ross owes its public walks, and the _Prospect_
that quaint Gilpin of the eighteenth century described as “an amusing
view.” Ross repays him by keeping his name green. It also--not entirely
without difficulty--keeps green the two elm-suckers that long ago
forced their way beneath the wall of the church and rose (being elms of
Ross) in the pew of John Kyrle. They have been dead for some time, but
they are still draped carefully with foliage to keep up the illusion.
The church itself is fairly old, and has some interesting monuments,
including an ugly one tardily raised to the memory of the Man of Ross.

In the town the most cherished relics are, of course, Kyrle’s house and
the carved monogram he is supposed to have placed on the outer wall
of the Market Hall. The letters “F.C.” are interlaced with a heart,
and are said to represent the words, “_Faithful to Charles in heart_,”
for Kyrle was devoted to the Stuarts. Charles I. himself slept once in
this town, and other kings have visited it, but none has distinguished
himself here save George IV. The Mayor of Ross sallied forth to meet
him, as mayors use, wreathed in smiles and primed with speeches. By
way of response to all this loyalty and eloquence, however, “the first
gentleman in Europe” merely pulled down the blinds of the carriage!
History does not record the mayor’s next proceeding. The position
strikes one as difficult.

Close to Ross and on our way to Monmouth is Wilton, which is reached
by a beautiful and ancient bridge of six arches, whence there is a
good view of Ross, clustered prettily on its hill and surmounted by
its heaven-directed spire. Part of this bridge was broken down during
the Civil War to prevent Cromwell’s army from reaching Hereford. The
castle, too, fell into the hands of the Royalists, though its owner
had carefully refrained from supporting either side, with the result
that he offended both. The ruins now enclose a private garden and are
fairly picturesque though they hardly compensate for an interrupted
run. Within these walls, of which so very little is left, the poet
Spenser was once entertained in the days of the Greys. Later on the
castle was owned by the family of Brydges, one of whom, when he was
Deputy-Lieutenant of the Tower, was the means, either deliberately or
from mere procrastination, of securing for England one of the most
glorious reigns in her history. The warrant for the execution of
Princess Elizabeth reached the Tower, but Charles Brydges delayed to
carry it out. While he was waiting Queen Mary died.

From Wilton to Monmouth the scenery grows in beauty. At Goodrich Cross
we should turn sharply to the left to visit the castle, and this is a
matter that will take some time. For in the first place the castle is
at some distance from the road, and in the second place there is much
to see, and much, too, to hear. Yet there is little history connected
with Goodrich, considering its age and dignity, and the great names of
Pembroke and Talbot that are bound up with it. Its name, apparently is
a corruption of _Godric_, who built a fort here before the Conquest,
though the oldest part of the present ruin is said to date from the
twelfth century. In the Civil War it endured two sieges, and it was
after the second one, which lasted for five months, that the Parliament
dismantled it. Except on this one dramatic occasion, Goodrich figured
little in public life. It is the antiquary rather than the historian
who will find it of absorbing interest, for the arches and Norman
ornaments of the keep date from Stephen’s reign, and many styles of
architecture are represented in the various galleries, sallyports, and
towers, which have been gradually added by the successive owners of the
castle. Greatest of these was Talbot, first Earl of Shrewsbury and hero
of forty fights, “a valiant man, of an invincible, unconquered spirit.”
He is said to have added a room to the keep, whence he must often have
seen, as we may see, the Malvern Hills and the Welsh mountains in the
distance, with Symond’s Yat and the Kymin nearer at hand.

Below Goodrich is Huntsham Ferry, which Henry IV. was in the act of
crossing when he heard of the birth of his son, afterwards Henry V.
So great was his excitement on this occasion that he impulsively
presented the ferry and its profits to the ferryman, whose heirs held
this possession for generations.

About three miles from Goodrich we have to climb a short hill with a
gradient of 1 in 10; the steepest, I think, on this Wye Valley road.
From the top of it we run down on an easy slope past the wall of
Wyaston Leys and through the woods behind the Little Doward, with a
beautiful view--unfortunately visible only in glimpses--of the winding
river as it bends away towards Symond’s Yat. At the foot of the hill we
enter Monmouth.

Now Monmouth, or some spot quite near it, is without doubt the best
motoring centre on the Wye. The town itself is not so pleasant to stay
in as Ross or Tintern, where there are hotels in pretty positions
with nice gardens; but to the motorist this is less important than to
others, since he will probably spend the day on the road. The important
thing is to have a variety of interesting roads upon which to spend it.
From Monmouth, one may drive up the Wye to Goodrich, Hereford, and Hay;
or down the Wye to Tintern and Chepstow; or through the Forest of Dean
on the further side of the river; or to Raglan, eight miles away, and
on to Abergavenny; or past Abergavenny and the Holy Mountain into the
wild Vale of Ewyas to far Llanthony.

“I’ll tell you, there is goot men porn at Monmouth,” says Fluellen,
thinking of his king; and it is of Harry of Monmouth that we too think
as we wake the echoes of his birthplace with our horn--those echoes
that have so often answered to the “tucket” of John of Gaunt and of
many another. Some say that it was John of Gaunt who built the castle
in which his grandson was born, but whether this be the case or not
there was a castle on this spot long before his day, though little
seems to be known of it. The probability is that John of Gaunt improved
and repaired the castle that was already there. The existing building
has had an unusually chequered career even for a castle, having been
in turn a palace, a pig-stye, an assize court, and a barrack. Even
in James I.’s time it was said “that his Majestie hath one ancient
castell, called Monmouth Castell ... which is nowe and hath been for
a long time ruinous and in decaye, but by whom it hath byn decayed
wee knowe not, nor to what value, in regarde it was before our
rememberment.” “Harry’s Window,” but little else, survives as a shrine
to the king whose name is still “a name to conjure with.” His statue
stands on the town-hall, but the bells of St. Mary’s are the best
memorial of Prince Hal, though their story is more characteristic of
the rollicking schoolboy of Shakespeare than of the wise and soldierly
monarch of history. Time was when these bells rang out over the town
of Calais. They were doing so when Harry of Monmouth heard them first,
and were, in point of fact, celebrating his departure from the shores
of France with so much joyousness that the demonstration seemed to him
to be carried too far. He vowed that they should ring no more insolent
peals in Calais, and forthwith ordered them to be taken down and
carried to his native town.

His town has other memories than his, and even other famous windows
than “Harry’s.” There is a fine oriel window, belonging now to
a school, but carefully preserved in honour of a twelfth-century
archdeacon, who was none other than that Geoffrey of Monmouth whom
Camden describes as “an Author well skill’d in Antiquities, but, as
it seems, not of entire credit.” I fear there is little to be said in
defence of Geoffrey’s credit as a historian, and there are those who
say that his window is no more authentic than his writings.

Monmouth, like Hereford, is not rich in relics. Of its defences,
its walls and its four gates, there is left only one gate on the
Monnow Bridge, but of this the foundations are so old that there is
no record of their origin. The form of the gateway itself has been
slightly altered from time to time to suit increasing traffic, but its
picturesqueness is uninjured. Through its arch we must pass on our way
to Raglan and Abergavenny and Llanthony.

It is possible, of course, to see all these places on the same day,
but it is not desirable. At Raglan one should have a leisured mind,
undisturbed by thoughts of space or time or possible punctures. There
are seats on its green terraces where one might sit happily all day
under the shadow of the Yellow Tower of Gwent, seeing, not only the
straight, stern lines of the great citadel rising from the moat, and
the beautiful windows beyond, and the machicolated towers that flank
the entrance, but also, as clearly as these, the pageantry and doughty
deeds of long-dead but unforgotten Somersets. Some of them lost their
heads in defence of the Rose of York, and some lost theirs for the Rose
of Lancaster, and one, the most famous of all, lost the home of his
fathers in the cause of the thankless Stuarts. Charles I. himself--for
whose sake all this splendour of banqueting-halls and state-rooms and
strong defences was made a ruin--has stood upon this terrace and looked
up at the great keep to which he was so fatal, has feasted in the
Elizabethan Hall, has ridden between the entrance-towers in state, and
has come to them for safety as a fugitive. It was after the Battle of
Naseby that he fled for protection to the house whose hospitalities he
knew so well, and whose owner, the first Marquis of Worcester, had
raised an army of two thousand men to fight for the King. Somewhere,
in some dark corner within those walls that were then so stately, Lord
Worcester met his ruined King by stealth, and being aged and infirm
was obliged to call for help before he could kneel, as it behoved him,
before the fugitive. “Sire,” said the old man weeping, “I have not a
thought in my heart that tends not to the service of my God and you;”
and he put three hundred pounds into the royal hand that took so much
and gave so little. It closed upon this gift, as it closed a few days
later upon the waistcoat that the Vicar of Goodrich, Dean Swift’s
grandfather, had lined with Broad Pieces. There was one occasion, it is
true, when Charles feared his entertainment might be too costly to Lord
Worcester, and suggested pleasantly that supplies should be wrung from
the neighbouring peasants. But Worcester was prouder than the King, “My
castle would not stand long,” he said, “if it leaned upon the country.”

[Illustration: MONNOW BRIDGE, MONMOUTH.]

[Illustration: RAGLAN CASTLE, ENTRANCE TOWER.]

Even as matters were, his castle did not stand long. It held for
the King till the last barrel of powder was opened; but the sad day
came when the gallant old man of eighty-five passed for the last time
through his own great gateway, between those warlike towers that had
fought their last fight. He marched out to the sound of music and with
all the honours of war, but his heart was broken, and after a short
imprisonment in the custody of Black Rod, he died. “When I spoke with
the man,” he said of his guardian, “I found him a very civil gentleman,
but I saw no black rod.”

With this splendid old warrior the glory of Raglan departed. Fairfax so
dealt with it that neither blood nor wine should ever be spilt within
its walls again; and the work begun by him was finished by private
enterprise. It is said that twenty-three staircases have been stolen
from the ruins of Raglan.

About eight miles beyond Raglan is Abergavenny, lying
peacefully--forgetful of its lurid past--in the shadow of the Holy
Mountain. There is about Abergavenny now a peculiar serenity that is
only equalled by the darkness of its history. Not very much is left
of the Castle, of which Giraldus Cambrensis, the historian, said that
“it was more dishonoured by treachery than any other in Wales”; and
what there is of it is dishonoured now by swing-boats and asphalt
lawn-tennis courts. If these attractions appeal to us we may enter the
walls by paying twopence; but in the twelfth century the Seisyllts--the
ancestors of the Cecils--found that entering Abergavenny Castle cost
them more than this. One of them, in the absence of the Norman lord of
the place, was having a friendly chat one day with the constable. There
was a part of the wall that was in some way weaker than the rest, and
Seisyllt, pointing laughingly to this spot, said in the manner of one
who jests, “We shall come in there to-night.” The constable took the
precaution of keeping guard till daylight, then went to sleep. A few
hours later he and his wife were prisoners and the castle was captured
and burnt.

It was after this, I believe, when the castle had been rebuilt, that
the villain, William de Braose, invited the princes of South Wales
to a banquet in these halls, picked a quarrel with them at his own
table, and had them massacred before his eyes. He then solemnly thanked
God for the fortunate issue of the affair, and more especially for
the lands of the dead Seisyllts. For this William de Braose, traitor,
murderer, and robber, never forgot to be pious. “He always placed the
name of the Lord before his sentences,” says Giraldus; and his letters
“were loaded, or rather honoured, with words expressive of the divine
indulgence, to a degree not only tiresome to his scribe, but even to
his auditors; for as a reward to each of his scribes for concluding
his letters with the words ‘by divine assistance’ he gave annually a
piece of gold.” In the matter of the murdered Seisyllts, however, his
thanksgiving was premature, for there were Seisyllts still alive who
fell upon Abergavenny Castle and demolished it.

[Illustration: THE MOAT, RAGLAN CASTLE.]

[Illustration: LLANTHONY PRIORY.]

It raised its head again and took an active part in larger wars; but
it adds little nowadays to the attraction of Abergavenny, whose charms
are altogether those of peacefulness and depend on the quiet Usk, and
the hills that grow so purple against the evening sky. To reach
Llanthony we must drive on into the heart of those hills, with the
Skirrid Fawr, or Holy Mountain, on the right and the Sugar Loaf on the
left; then, at Llanfihangel Crucorney, turn sharply to the left down a
short but very steep hill, and so enter the Vale of Ewyas. Soon after
passing Cwmyoy the road grows very narrow and hilly. At Llanthony we
can take our car into the cloister-garth, for it is now the courtyard
of an inn.

Long ago, when Rufus was king, a horseman drew rein here and looked
about him. On every side he saw the grand, clear outline of the hills,
and the shadows of the clouds sweeping across the fern and heather, and
the dark masses of the woods. Below him the little Honddu glittered
among the trees, and far away at the head of the valley the heights
of the Black Mountains rose between him and the world. And then and
there he vowed that they should rise between him and the world while he
lived, and should guard his grave when he was dead. We can see the same
hills at this moment rising blue and misty behind the ruined towers of
his Priory of Llanthony; and only a few yards away, among the grass and
nettles, we can see the spot where William de Lacy, soldier and monk,
was buried under the High Altar.

William de Lacy was not the first to whom this valley appealed as being
“truly fitted for contemplation, a happy and delightful spot”; for long
before his day this very place to which he had wandered by chance had
been made sacred by the prayers of the greatest of all Welsh saints,
St. David. We may say our prayers on the self-same spot to-day, for
over there, just beyond the cloister-garth, where St. David had long
before made himself a hermitage, de Lacy built a tiny chapel. For
many centuries the richly endowed Priory has been deserted, roofless,
desecrated; its very arches are fringed with weeds, and fowls peck at
its grass-grown altar steps; but over there in that plain little grey
stone building prayers are still rising Sunday by Sunday from the spot
where St. David knelt alone.

Here in Llandewi Nanthodeni, or the Church of St. David beside the
river Honddu, William de Lacy “laid aside his belt and girded himself
with a rope; instead of fine linen he covered himself with haircloth,
and instead of his soldier’s robe he loaded himself with weighty iron.”
His solitude did not last long. In those roystering days the sudden
piety of a soldier of noble birth was not likely to pass unnoticed,
and Matilda, Henry I.’s Queen, whom William of Malmesbury describes as
singularly holy and by no means despicable in point of beauty, came to
visit the hermit in his hill-bound cell, and playfully dropped a large
purse of gold into the folds of his coarse garments. His fame grew.
Soon there were many who desired to share his seclusion, and still more
who, while not quite seeing their way to the forsaking of this world,
were anxious to show their interest in the next. The former gave their
lives and the latter their money, and so Llanthony Priory rose in
all its grace and simplicity, the quiet lines of its architecture in
perfect harmony with those of the great hills that encircled it. “The
whole treasure of the King and his kingdom,” said Henry I.’s Prime
Minister, “would not be sufficient to build such a cloister.” The Court
was rather scandalised by this bold statement, till the Prime Minister
explained that “he alluded to the cloister of mountains by which this
church is on every side surrounded.”

Giraldus describes the place as he saw it in the twelfth century. “A
situation truly calculated for religion,” he says, “and more adapted to
canonical discipline than all the monasteries of the British Isles....
Here the monks, sitting in their cloisters enjoying the fresh air,
when they happen to look up towards the horizon, behold the tops of
the mountains as it were touching the heavens, and herds of wild deer
feeding on their summits.” It is probable that when the Augustinians of
Llanthony looked up towards the horizon it was not altogether for the
pleasure of seeing the wild deer. They had other reasons for taking an
interest in the hills, which too often were swarming with the hostile
Welsh. It was not long, indeed, before the brethren’s terror of
the Welsh grew stronger than their love of isolation, and the greater
number of them fled to Gloucester, where in a new Priory of Llanthony
their meditations were undisturbed.

[Illustration: INTERIOR OF LLANTHONY PRIORY, SHOWING THE EAST END.]

[Illustration: TINTERN ABBEY.]

The beautiful valley, with its great, bare hilltops and mysterious
woods, its loneliness and calm, its memories of saintly men, attracted
a poet of the last century so strongly that he, like William de Lacy,
determined to stay here. Like de Lacy’s monks, however, Walter Savage
Landor could not get on with his neighbours, and after buying the
ruins of the Priory and building himself half a house he quarrelled so
thoroughly with all the countryside that he thought he would have more
peace elsewhere. He lived in the rooms that now form an inn, in the
Prior’s Lodge, and here Southey stayed with him.

This run from Monmouth to Llanthony is about twenty-five miles in
length. If we are not wedded to the high-road we may return to Monmouth
by another route--composed almost entirely of byways and in some cases
very hilly ones--and so visit Grosmont and Skenfrith Castles. The red
towers of Grosmont stand, as the name implies, on a hill that is not
climbed without an effort, and the ruin overlooks a village that was
once a town, and indeed is technically a town still. It still possesses
a charter, I believe, and a Mayor’s staff; but in the matter of size
and prosperity it has been no more than a village since the day when
Henry V., then Prince of Wales, wrote to his “most redoubted and most
sovereign lord and father” in his “most humble manner” to this effect:
“On Wednesday the eleventh day of this present month of March (1405)
your rebels of the parts of Glamorgan, Morgannoc, Usk, Netherwent, and
Overwent, were assembled to the number of eight thousand men, according
to their own account; and they went on the said Wednesday in the
morning, and burnt part of your town of Grosmont ... and I immediately
sent off my very dear cousin, the Lord Talbot, and the small body of my
own household ... who were but a very small force in all.... And there,
by the aid of the Blessed Trinity, your people gained the field and
vanquished all the said rebels, and slew of them by fair account on
the field on their return from the chase, some say eight hundred, and
some say a thousand, being questioned on pain of death. Nevertheless,
whether it were one or the other, on such an account I would not
contend.”

That was a sad day for poor Alice Scudamore, who lived hard by at
Kentchurch Court beyond the river Monnow; for Alice Scudamore, or
Skydmore, was the daughter of Owen Glyndwr, and the dead men whom
Prince Henry left upon the field of Grosmont were Owen’s followers.
This defeat was Owen’s first serious disaster, and was for him the
beginning of the end. It is said that years later, after the end had
come, he lived for a time with his daughter in the castellated tower
that still stands below the hill of Grosmont; and, indeed, Kentchurch
sometimes claims to be his burial-place. But the claims of Monnington,
where another of his daughters lived, are generally thought to be more
authentic.

By making a very short detour from the direct road we may see the
ruins of Skenfrith Castle on our way back to Monmouth. Even in the
seventeenth century this castle was described as having been “decayed
time out of the memory of man,” and its remains are now naturally
scanty and not especially picturesque. Far more interesting than
the castle is the church, with its pretty timbered tower and fine
sixteenth-century tombs. At the vicarage is carefully preserved the
rarest treasure of this church: a cope that dates from the days before
the Reformation.

On the other side of Monmouth, beyond the Wye, is the Forest of Dean,
where one may drive for miles through country nearly as grand and quite
as thickly wooded as the Black Forest. In most cases the trees are not
nearly so fine as those of our own New Forest, for the greater part
of this Forest of Dean was cut down to build our victorious fleets of
the eighteenth century; but the width of view and the succession of
tree-clad hills rising one beyond another, are compensations for the
lack of magnificent individual trees. Of these, however, there are a
few, such as the Newland Oak and the High Beeches. But on the whole the
beauty of Dean Forest lies in its distant views, its great expanses
of foliage stretching away from one’s feet to the blue horizon, as at
the Speech House and above Parkend, and at many another place; though
unfortunately many of these views are partly, if not entirely, spoilt
by the black scars and smoking chimneys of the collieries. The Speech
House is now a hotel, but it was originally built in Charles II.’s day
as a kind of Court House in which to settle disputes connected with
the Forest. St. Briavel’s Castle, a few miles further south than this,
and nearer the Wye, is a far older relic, for it is said that it once
sheltered King John. Be that as it may, the little that is left of this
castle is peculiarly attractive. To reach it, or the Speech House, or
indeed to drive in the Forest of Dean at all, one must be prepared to
encounter long hills with gradients in some places not less than 1 in
7, and roads that have suffered a good deal from the heavy traffic
connected with the mines.

There is one expedition from Monmouth that we cannot possibly undertake
in a car, yet should by no means omit. The famous Symond’s Yat, with
its perfect river scenery, cannot be approached by road, but it is
easy to reach it by train, and very delightful to return to Monmouth
by water, past the great limestone crags known as the Seven Sisters.
At the hotel, where the train deposits one, the attraction is simply
the view of the river and its wooded banks, but for the energetic this
view may be much enlarged by half an hour’s climb to the summit of the
Yat itself, where those who enjoy scenery in proportion to the number
of counties visible, may have the satisfaction of seeing seven. It was
near Symond’s Yat, at a defile significantly called The Slaughter to
this day, that the Danes, under Eric of the Bloody Axe, were defeated
by King Alfred’s son Edward the Elder, named also the Unconquered, whom
Matthew of Westminster declares to have been “even more glorious than
his father for power and dignity.”

The last fifteen miles of the Wye Valley, from Monmouth to Chepstow,
where the Wye falls into the estuary of the Severn, are probably as
beautiful as any fifteen miles of English road. It is late in May or
early in October that we should drive along this road to see it at its
best, for the whole landscape is filled with trees. The quiet river,
with the road close beside it, winds between two wooded heights from
Redbrook to the Severn. A gentle rise takes us out of Redbrook, which
has spoilt its beauty by manufacturing tin-plate; then we run down to
Bigsweir Bridge, and cross it, with a lovely view downstream; pass
Llandogo, where the Wye becomes tidal; pass Brockweir with its ferry;
and driving through Tintern Parva come within sight of the unsurpassed
beauty of Tintern Abbey.

Go to Tintern again and again, for it never palls. See it when
the trees are first breaking into leaf, and all the leaves are of
different colours; and see it again against the heavy foliage of the
summer woods; and again when the hills behind it are red and gold in
autumn. For the Cistercians, though they denied art, were surely
admirable artists; and being forbidden by their stern rule to adorn
their churches with coloured glass or superfluous carving, they raised
for themselves buildings of perfect form in the loveliest places in
all England, where in spring and autumn the cold grey stone of their
exquisite windows was the frame of fairer colours than were ever
stained on glass.

It was of this abbey that the incomparable Gilpin wrote quite gravely:
“A number of gable-ends hurt the eye with their regularity and disgust
it by the vulgarity of their shape.” A mallet, judiciously used,
he suggested, might make improvements. Unfortunately time and long
neglect have done only too much towards the ruin of Tintern, without
any help from the judicious mallet of Gilpin. For many years the
place was utterly uncared for; the stones were used by any one who
wished to build a cottage, and an old beggar-woman made her dwelling
in the library of the monks. This was long ago: every care is given
to Tintern now. The floor of the nave is covered with well-kept turf,
the fallen fragments of masonry are gathered together, the weak
places of the building are strengthened wherever it is possible. But
the alarming curves of the arches bear witness to past neglect, and the
timid tourist is appalled by the ominous warning on the notice-board:
“Persons who visit this Abbey do so at their own risk.” This is
discouraging.

[Illustration: TINTERN ABBEY.]

[Illustration: CHEPSTOW CASTLE.]

From Tintern the road rises for about three miles towards the splendid
scenery of the Wyndcliff. The river winds below, and beyond it among
the trees a discerning eye may detect the straight ridge of Offa’s
Dyke. The view from the road as it passes beneath the famous cliff
is wonderfully beautiful--a view of tortuous river and height beyond
height of woodland, and gleaming in the distance the waters of the
Severn estuary: and those who climb the Wyndcliff come down again well
contented, having seen nine counties.

As we pass the little village at St. Arvan’s the river is completely
hidden by the walls and trees of Piercefield Park. A gentle descent of
about two miles brings us to the steep hill that winds downwards into
Chepstow above the castle, passing under one of the old town-gates.

“The towne of Chepstow hath bene very strongly waulled,” says Leland.
“The waulles began at the ende of the great bridge over Wy, and so
cam to the castel, the which yet standeth fayr and strong.” To all
appearances, as seen from the further side of Wye, it is strong still,
and fair it certainly is, standing high upon the red cliffs that add
so much to the beauty of this last bend of the river. It covers three
acres of ground, but as it is built in a succession of courts, sloping
upwards one above the other, the whole of its great length may be seen
at once and the effect is very fine. This castle, since it was built
by William FitzOsborne, Earl of Hereford, soon after the Conquest, has
seen a good deal of life, and even more of death. Its second owner
forfeited it, being of too independent a temperament to please the
King. William, having safely imprisoned this rebellious Roger, sent him
as an Easter gift his own royal robes--an attention that was meant
well, but was not very tactful. Earl Roger “forthwith caused a great
fire to be made, and the mantle, the inner surcoat of silk, and the
upper garment, lined with precious furs, to be suddenly burnt.” This
was his last act of rebellion. “By the brightness of God,” exclaimed
the flouted King, “he shall never come out of prison as long as I live!”

Later on the castle passed to the great house of Clare.

    “From Chepstow’s towers, ere dawn of morn,
    Was heard afar the bugle-horn;
    And forth in banded pomp and pride
    Stout Clare and fiery Neville ride.”[13]

The greatest of the Clares, Richard Strongbow, sometimes called the
Conqueror of Ireland, was born at Chepstow; “a man tall in stature,” we
are told, “and of great generosity, and courteous manner.... In time
of peace he was more disposed to be led by others than to command,”
but “the post he occupied in battle was a sure rallying-point for his
troops.”

The castle passed from hand to hand through the stirring centuries that
followed Strongbow’s day. In the Civil War it had many adventures. It
held for the King at first, was taken by the army of the Parliament,
and was recaptured by a handful of Royalists under Sir Nicholas Kemys,
by guile rather than by force. “On the whole,” says Carlyle, “Cromwell
will have to go.... Let him march swiftly!” He marched swiftly and took
the town of Chepstow, but besieged the castle in vain. Carlyle tells
the tale in few words: “Castle will not surrender,--he leaves Colonel
Ewer to do the Castle; who, after four weeks, does it.” It was not
easily, however, that Colonel Ewer “did it.” The garrison, reduced to
nineteen, held out till they were starving, and even then determined,
not on surrender, but on flight. Their boat lay ready beneath the
walls, waiting for the darkness. But when night came no boat was there,
for a soldier of the Parliament, a man of keen eyes, had detected both
the boat and her object, and, with a knife between his teeth, had swum
across the Wye and cut the rope that moored her to the river-bank. The
next day the nineteen Royalists surrendered. Thus Colonel Ewer “did the
castle.”

During the Commonwealth Jeremy Taylor, the author of “Holy Living and
Holy Dying”--according to Coleridge the most eloquent of divines--was
imprisoned in Chepstow Castle as a follower of Archbishop Laud:
and here, too, when Cromwell’s day was over, Sir Henry Marten, the
regicide, suffered a mild form of imprisonment for twenty years. He
was allowed not only to receive his friends but to visit them, and he
was not deprived of the companionship of his wife. From what I read,
however, I cannot assure myself that he appreciated the last of these
privileges. He was buried in Chepstow Church, under an epitaph that he
composed himself--a rhyming epitaph of a high moral tone. Yet neither
poetry nor morality was Marten’s strong point. At a later date a
loyalist vicar removed from the chancel to the nave the bones of the
man who had signed Charles I.’s death-warrant.

Chepstow Church once formed part of a Benedictine Priory connected
with the Norman Abbey of Cormeilles, and was originally the nave of a
larger building. It dates from early in the twelfth century; and even
if one has not time to enter the church it is well worth while to drive
past the beautiful Early Norman entrance. There are some interesting
tombs within, notably that of the second Earl of Worcester, who was
present at the Field of the Cloth of Gold.

Two miles south of Chepstow is Mathern, where Tewdric of Glamorganshire,
saint and king, was buried. He was killed in a battle fought at
Tintern, and in the year 600 a chapel was built here as a shrine for
him.

“Wye also,” says Leland, “a very great and famose river, passeth
through Ventland, and at S. Tereudake’s Chapel entereth ynto Severn.”



INDEX


 Abbeydore, 236

 Abbey Foregate, Shrewsbury, 24

 Aber, 101

 Aberaeron, 222

 Aberavon, 180

 Aberconwy, 82, 88

 Aberdaron, 112, 115-117

 Aberdovy, 152-155, 157

 Abergavenny, 247, 249, 252-254

 Abergele, 84, 85

 Aberglaslyn, Pass of, 94, 95, 110

 Abergwili, 190

 Aberteifi, 219

 Aberystwith, 141, 142-145, 148, 149, 222, 225

 Agincourt, 152

 Alaw, River, 121

 Albright Hussey, 46, 47

 Alla Wen, 97

 Anglesey, 100-102

 Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 239

 Arthur, King, 115, 167, 168, 240

 Arthur, Prince, 6, 9, 14

 Atcham, 25


 Bala, 152, 159-161

 Bala, Lake of, 159, 162

 Baldwin, Archbishop, 102, 118, 119, 172

 Bangor, 98

 Bardsey, 112, 115

 Baring-Gould, Rev. S., 147

 Barlow, Bishop, 199, 213, 214

 Barmouth, 123, 125, 128, 222

 Barmouth Estuary, 125, 126, 152, 155, 156, 158

 Baron Hill, 101

 Bassetts, 174

 Battlefield, 34

 Baxter, Richard, 27, 43, 44

 Bayston Hill, 12

 Beaupré, 62, 165, 173-175

 Beaumaris, 99, 100-102

 Bedd Gelert, 95, 110

 Belesme, Robert de, 43

 Benbow, Admiral, 45

 Bendigeid Vran, 120, 121

 Berkeley Castle, 170

 Berwyn, 77

 Bethesda, 98

 Bettws-y-Coed, 81, 82, 85, 91, 92, 94, 95, 108

 Borth, 113, 149

 Boscobel, 29, 31-33, 44

 Bigsweir Bridge, 265

 Birmingham Waterworks, 229

 Bishop’s Castle, 52, 55, 56

 Black Mountains, 232, 255

 Bolingbroke, 85

 Borrow, George, 69, 79, 107, 109, 141, 187, 222

 Boteler of Dunraven, 177, 178

 Brampton Brian, 58, 59

 Branwen, 120, 121

 Braose, Matilda de, 186, 187

 Braose, William de, 185, 186, 253, 254

 Brecon, 151, 183, 185-187

 Brecon Beacons, 184, 185, 187

 Breidden Hills, 62, 134

 Bridgend, 177, 178, 180

 Bridge Sollars, 234, 236

 Bridgnorth, 42-45

 Bridstow, 240

 Briton Ferry, 180, 181

 Brockweir, 265

 Bromfield, 10

 Broseley, 45

 Browning, Robert, 71

 Brychan, 185

 Brydges, Charles, 24

 Buildwas, 26-28, 44

 Builth, 222, 230, 231

 Butler, Lady Eleanor, 71

 Bwlch Oerdrws, 132, 133


 Cadell, Prince of South Wales, 146

 Cader Idris, 125, 126, 132, 157, 158

 Caerleon, 115, 166-169, 216

 Caerphilly, 166, 169, 170

 Caersws, 138

 Caldey Island, 198

 Camden, 89, 98, 233, 235, 249

 Cann Office, 133

 Capel Curig, 96, 108

 Caradoc, 12, 25

 Caradoc of Llancarvan, 87, 194

 Cardiff, 166, 170, 171, 173

 Cardiff Waterworks, 184

 Cardigan, 219-221

 Carew Castle, 205-208

 Carew, Celtic Cross, 205

 Carlyle, Thomas, 203, 270

 Carmarthen, 187, 190-195, 222

 Carnarvon, 85, 99, 103-105

 Carningley, 218

 Castell Crogen, 68

 Caus Castle, 54

 Cawdor, Lord, 218

 Cefn-y-Bedd, 231

 Ceiriog, River, 64, 67, 68

 Ceiriog, Valley of the, 67

 Ceirw, River, 79

 Cernioge, 79, 80

 Cerrig Cennen, 189, 190

 Cerrig-y-Druidion, 78, 79

 Charles I., 15, 17, 20, 43, 91, 122, 242, 250, 251, 271

 Charles II., 29, 31-33, 69

 Chastillon, Battle of, 48

 Chepstow, 225, 247, 265, 268-272

 Chester, Hugh, Earl of, 98

 Chirbury, 52-54

 Chirbury, Lord Herbert of, 52-54

 Chirk, 64, 67-69

 Churchstoke, 55

 Cilgerran, 187, 220, 221

 Clare, Gilbert de, 169

 Clifford Castle, 234

 Clifford, Jane de, 234

 Clun, 56-58

 Clungunford, 60

 Clwyd, River, 84

 Clynnogfawr, 112, 117, 118

 Cochwillan Woods, 98

 Coity, 179-180

 Coleridge, 22, 271

 Colwyn Bay, 85

 Comus, 8

 Concenn, 76

 Conway, 82, 85, 86, 88-90

 Conway, River, 80, 83

 Corbet, Captain, 54

 Corbet, Sir Vincent, 51

 Cormeilles, Abbey of, 272

 Corris, 152, 155, 157

 Corwen, 68, 77, 78, 161

 Cothercott Hill, 55

 Cothi, River, 222

 Cound, 38

 Cowbridge, 173

 Cox, David, 82

 Craven Arms, 60

 Cressage, 38, 39

 Criccieth, 112-114

 Crogen, Battle of, 68

 Cromwell, Oliver, 43, 85, 120, 144, 157, 203, 243, 270, 271

 Cross Foxes, 158

 Cross Houses, 38

 Cwm Bychan, 123, 130

 Cwm Hir Abbey, 139

 Cwmyoy, 255

 Cymmer Abbey, 126


 Dafydd ap Gwilym, 147

 Dale, 202

 Darby, Abraham, 28

 Darwin, Charles, 18, 22, 61

 Davy Gam, 151, 152

 Dean, Forest of, 143, 247, 262, 263

 Dee, River, 49, 69, 70, 74, 76, 77, 85, 161, 162

 Deganwy, 86-88, 106

 Derwydd Station, 190

 Despensers, 170

 Devereux, Penelope, 200

 Devil’s Bridge, 141

 Dinan, de, 9

 Dinas Bran, 70, 71

 Dinas Mawddy, 132, 133

 Dinmore Hill, 236

 Dolbadarn, 92, 105

 Doldowlod Woods, 230

 Dolgelley, 126, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 152, 155, 158, 159

 Dolwyddelan, 82, 92, 93, 94

 Dore, River, 235

 Dryslwyn Castle, 190

 Dubritius, 115, 240

 Dulas, River, 157

 Dunraven, 177

 Dwryd, River, 118, 119

 Dyfi (Dovey), River, 131, 149, 152-155, 157

 Dynevor, 187, 188, 189, 190


 Eaton Constantine, 26, 27, 44

 Edeyrnion, Vale of, 77

 Edmund, Prince, 6

 Edward the Black Prince, 113

 Edward the Elder, 264

 Edward I., 21, 42, 82, 84, 86, 92, 102, 114, 120, 144, 194, 212, 236,
   237

 Edward II., 42, 104, 170, 182

 Edward IV., 5, 6, 120, 122, 209

 Edward V., 6, 7

 Egerton, Lady Alice, 8

 Eglwyseg Rocks, 70

 Elan Valley, 227-230

 Eleanor, Queen, 104, 212

 Elfreton, Henry de, 88, 120, 169

 Eliseg’s Pillar, 76

 Elizabeth, Queen, 89, 91, 244

 Ellesmere, 45, 50

 Erbistock, 45, 49, 50

 Eric of the Bloody Axe, 264

 Erwood, 232

 Essex, Earl of, 14, 200

 Ethelbert, King, 238, 239

 Ethelfleda, 15, 53, 185

 Ewenny, 173, 178, 179, 195

 Ewer, Colonel, 270, 271

 Ewyas, Vale of, 247, 255-259

 Exmoor, 173, 177


 Fairbourne, 155

 Fairfax, General, 203, 252

 Fair Rosamund, 234

 Feathers Hotel, Ludlow, 4, 5

 Fishguard, 217, 218

 Fitz-Osborne, Roger, 268, 269

 Fitz-Osborne, William, 268

 Fitz-Warines, 64

 Flemings, 140, 208, 209, 219, 226

 Flint, 85

 Fuller, Thomas, 48


 Ganllwyd, Vale of, 129, 130

 Geirionydd, Lake, 91, 149

 Geoffrey of Monmouth, 249

 George IV., 243

 Gildas, 175

 Gilpin, 242, 266

 Giraldus Cambrensis, 100, 102, 118, 119, 198, 209, 215, 253, 254, 258

 Glamorganshire, 173

 Glan Dovey, 150

 Glasbury, 232

 Glaslyn, River, 109, 110, 118

 Gloucester, 259

 Glydyrs, 97

 Glyn Ceiriog, 68

 Glyndwr, Owen, 57, 61, 74, 77, 88, 98, 104, 106, 116, 120, 122, 127,
   128, 131, 140, 143, 144, 148, 150-152, 191, 192, 208, 226, 233, 234,
   261

 Glyndyffws, Pass of, 78

 Glyndyfrdwy, 77, 78

 Glyn-Neath, 183

 Gobowen, 64

 Godiva, 41

 Godstow, 234

 Golden Valley, 235

 Goodrich, 244, 245, 246

 Goodrich, Vicar of, 251

 Goodwick, 217

 Gower, 192

 Gower, Bishop, 199, 212, 213

 Grey, Lord, of Ruthin, 106

 Griffith ap Cynan, 155

 Griffith Gryg, 147

 Griffith ap Llewelyn, 113

 Griffith ap Nicholas, 187

 Griffith, Prince of Gwynedd, 87

 Griffith, Prince of South Wales, 219

 Grosmont, 260, 261

 Guinevere, 166

 Gwaelod, Plain of, 123

 Gwenllian, daughter of the Lord Rhys, 194, 195

 Gwenllian, mother of the Lord Rhys, 195, 214, 219

 Gwyddno Longshanks, 124

 Gwydir, 91

 Gwynedd, 91, 92, 100, 112, 118, 154, 220

 Gwynne, Nell, 69


 Hanmer, 49

 Harlech, 85, 88, 116, 119-122, 128, 129

 Harley, Lady, 58, 59

 Harold, King, 98, 237

 Haughmond Abbey, 36-38

 Haughmond Hill, 34

 Haverfordwest, 205, 208-210

 Hawkestone, 35

 Hay, 62, 232-234, 235, 246

 Hazlitt, William, 22

 Heber, Bishop, 36

 Henllan Woods, 221

 Henry I., 42, 209

 Henry II., 37, 42, 50, 68, 189, 212

 Henry III., 37, 233

 Henry IV., 20, 34, 42, 85, 101, 120, 122, 131, 148, 192, 245, 260

 Henry V., 34, 78, 143, 144, 152, 245, 247, 248, 260, 261

 Henry VII., 13, 14, 61, 157, 193, 202, 206

 Henry VIII., 37, 172, 182, 213-14

 Herbert, George, 53

 Herbert, Lord, of Chirbury, 52-54

 Hereford, 143, 225, 226, 235, 236-239, 243, 246

 Hereford, Archdeacon of, 192

 Herefordshire, 232, 235

 Hirwain, 183

 Hodnet, 35, 36

 Holyhead Road, 60, 77, 95, 161

 Holy Mountain, 247, 252, 255

 Honddu, River, 255, 257

 Hookagate, 55

 Hope Valley, 56

 Hotspur, Harry, 34, 89

 Howel y Fwyall, 113

 Howel Sele, 127, 128

 Huntsham Ferry, 245


 Inigo Jones, 82, 83

 Iolo Goch, 74

 Iorwerth, 93

 Ireland, 121, 215

 Ironbridge, 28, 44, 45

 Isabella, Queen, 237

 Ivetsey Bank, 33


 James I., 247

 James II., 17

 Jeffreys, Judge, 27, 47

 Jeremy Taylor, 271

 Joan, Queen, 50, 90, 101

 John, King, 42, 50, 86, 87, 90, 98, 106, 186, 237, 263

 John of Gaunt, 212, 237, 247

 Johnson, Dr., 22, 27, 98


 Katherine of Arragon, 6

 Kenfig, 180

 Kemys, Sir Nicholas, 270

 Kentchurch, 261

 Kidwelly, 174, 194, 195

 Kilgerran, 187, 220, 221

 Kingsley, Charles, 109

 Knighton, 56, 58, 137

 Kymin, The, 245

 Kyrle, John, 240-242


 Lacy, Roger de, 9

 Lacy, William de, 256-259

 Lampeter, 221, 222

 Lamphey Palace, 199, 200, 213

 Landor, Walter Savage, 259

 Laud, Archbishop, 271

 Ledbury, 235

 Leicester, Earl of, 14, 91

 Leighton-under-the-Wrekin, 27

 Leintwardine, 56, 58, 59

 Leland, 50, 56, 70, 105, 117, 130, 133, 146, 169, 177, 181, 192, 198,
   202, 211, 232, 237, 268, 272

 Leofric of Mercia, 41

 Leominster, 235

 Letton, 234, 236

 Lewis, Rev. Edward, 53, 54

 Little Doward, 245

 Little Stretton, 12

 Liverpool Reservoir, 161

 Llanaellraiarn, 112, 117

 Llanbadarn Fawr, 148

 Llanbedr, 119, 122, 123, 124, 125

 Llanberis, Pass of, 94, 95, 105, 107, 109

 Llanberis, Town, 105

 Llandaff, 171-173

 Llandeilo, 188, 190

 Llandinam, 139

 Llandogo, 265

 Llandovery, 187, 222

 Llandrindod Wells, 231

 Llandysilio, 102

 Llandyssil, 221

 Llanelltyd, 126

 Llanfaes, 101

 Llanfair Caereinion, 133

 Llanfair P. G., 100

 Llanfihangel Crucorney, 255

 Llanfrother, 240

 Llanfyllin, 161

 Llangadfan, 133

 Llangadoch, 188

 Llangollen, 60, 67, 70-73

 Llangollen, Ladies of, 71-73

 Llangurig, 139, 140, 226, 227

 Llanidloes, 139

 Llanrhaiadr, 159, 162

 Llanrhychwyn, 90

 Llanrwst, 82, 83

 Llanthony, 247, 249, 255-259

 Llanthony, Second Priory of, 259

 Llantwit Major, 166, 173, 175, 176, 216

 Llanwrtyd Wells, 222, 231

 Llechryd, 221

 Lledr Valley, 80, 92, 94

 Llewelyn, the Great, 37, 50, 57, 82, 86, 87, 90, 91, 92, 101, 110, 113,
   127, 233

 Llewelyn III., 102, 106, 231

 Lleyn Peninsula, 111-118

 Llugwy, 82, 95

 Llyfnant Valley, 150

 Llyn Dinas, 110

 Llyn Gwynant, 109

 Llyn Mymbyr, 108

 Llyn Padarn, 105

 Llyn Peris, 105

 Llyn Tegid (Bala), 162

 Llyswen, 232

 Lockhart, 72, 73, 108

 Londres, Maurice de, 179, 194, 219

 Longden, 55

 Lucy Waters, 211

 Ludford, 4

 Ludlow, 4-10

 Lydstep, 198


 Mabinogion, 120, 167

 Machynlleth, 148, 150-152, 155, 157

 Maddox, Mr., 111

 Madeley, 28, 29

 Madoc, Prince of Powys, 70, 73, 74

 Maelgwyn, 86, 106, 107, 154, 155

 Maentwrog, 93, 94, 128, 129, 130

 Mallwyd, 133

 Malvern Hills, 245

 Manorbier Castle, 197-199

 Marches, Court of the, 5, 96

 Margam, 180

 Market Drayton, 36

 Marrington Dingle, 55

 Marrington Hall, 54

 Marshbrook, 12, 55

 Marteg, River, 227

 Marten, Sir Henry, 271

 Marton, 52

 Mary, Queen, 6, 15, 244

 Mathern, 272

 Matholwch, King of Ireland, 120, 121

 Matilda, Queen, 37, 257

 Matthew of Westminster, 239, 264

 Mawddach, River, 125, 126, 129, 152, 157, 158

 Maxen Wledig, 168

 Mellte, River, 183

 Menai Bridge, 99

 Menai Straits, 99, 102, 103

 Menevia, 216

 Meredyth ap Conan, 119

 Merlin, 192, 216

 Milburga, Princess, 39-41

 Milford Haven, 200, 205, 208

 Milton, 8, 138, 162

 Minsterley, 56

 Mochras, Point of, 124

 Moel Offrwm, 127, 129

 Mona, 100-102, 121

 Monmouth, 243, 246-249

 Monmouth, Duke of, 211

 Monnington, 234, 261

 Monnow, River, 261

 Montfort Bridge, 61

 Montfort, Simon de, 236, 237

 Montgomery, 53, 54

 Montgomery, Arnulph de, 201

 Montgomery, Roger de, 13, 20, 23, 40, 41

 Morfa Nevin, 114

 Morfa Rhuddlan, 84

 Mortimer, Edmund, 116, 122

 Much Birch, 240

 Much Wenlock, 39-42

 Mumbles, The, 180

 Murchard, Prince of Leinster, 215

 Myddleton, Sir Thomas, 69

 Myfanwy, Princess, 71, 74

 Mynach, River, 141, 142

 Mytton, General, 89


 Nannau, 127, 128

 Nant Ffrancon, 94, 95, 97

 Nantgarw, 170

 Nant Gwynant, 94, 95, 109

 Naseby, Battle of, 250

 Neath, 173, 181, 182

 Neath, River, 181, 182

 Neath, Vale of, 182, 183

 Nelson, Lord, 193

 Nennius, 191

 Nest, Princess, 202

 Neuf-Marché, Bernard de, 185-187

 Nevern, 218

 Nevin, 112, 114, 115

 Newbridge, 230

 Newcastle Emlyn, 221

 Newgale, 211

 Newport, Mon., 166, 168, 169

 Newport, Pembroke, 218

 Newport, Salop, 36

 Newtown, 138, 225

 Nôn, 216

 Northumberland, Earl of, 85, 116


 Oakengates, 33

 Offa, 69, 238, 239

 Offa’s Dyke, 69, 267

 Ogwen, Lake, 96, 97

 Ogwen, River, 98

 Onibury, 10

 Onny, River, 10

 Oswestry, 62

 Oteley, 51

 Overton, 45, 49

 Owen Gwynedd, 68, 99, 195, 219

 Owen’s Mount, 78


 Pant-y-Groes, 73

 Parkend, 263

 Payer, Colonel, 203

 Pembroke, 200-203

 Pembrokeshire, Coast of, 204

 Penmaenmawr, 100

 Pennal, 153

 Pennant, 97, 117, 160

 Penrhyn Castle, 98

 Penrhyndeudraeth, 94

 Penrhyn Quarries, 98

 Pentre Voelas, 80, 92

 Pen-y-Groes, 118

 Pen-y-Gwryd, 108, 109

 Percy, Bishop, 44

 Perrot, Sir John, 206

 Peverels of the Peak, 63, 64

 Piercefield Park, 267

 Pistyll-y-Rhaiadr, 162

 Plynlimmon, 139, 140, 222, 225

 Ponsonby, Miss, 71

 Pont Neath Fechan, 183

 Pontrhydfendigaidmynachlogfawr, 100

 Pont-y-Croes, 118

 Pont-y-Cysylltau, 70

 Pont-y-Pair, 82

 Pope, 240, 241

 Porth Clais, 216

 Portmadoc, 111, 112, 118

 Pumpsaint, 222

 Pwllheli, 112, 113, 114, 117


 Queen’s Head Inn, 62

 Quendritha, Queen, 239


 Raglan, 247, 249-252

 Ranulph of Normandy, 237

 Ratlinghope, 55

 Redbrook, 265

 Rhayader, 191, 227-230

 Rheiddol, River, 142

 Rhianedd, Marsh of, 107

 Rhuddlan, 82, 83-85

 Rhyl, 84, 114

 Rhys, 57, 146, 194, 195, 214, 219, 220, 228

 Rhys ap Thomas, 193, 205, 206, 207

 Rhysgog Hill, 77

 Richard II., 85, 86, 209

 Richard’s Castle, 235

 Ridgeway, The, 197, 199

 Rivals, The, 112, 117

 Robert of Normandy, 171

 Robert of Rhuddlan, 86, 106

 Roche Castle, 210

 Roderic the Great, 188

 Roman Gravels, 56

 Roman Steps, 123, 130

 Ross, 240-243, 246

 Royal Oak, 31

 Royal Oak Hotel, Bettws, 82

 Royal Oak Inn, Fishguard, 218

 Rupert, Prince, 15, 50

 Ruskin, 73


 Sabrina, 138

 St. Alkmund’s, Shrewsbury, 15, 16

 St. Alkmund’s, Whitchurch, 47, 48

 St. Arvan’s, 267

 St. Beuno, 117, 118

 St. Briavel’s, 263

 St. Brynach, Cross of, 218

 St. Chad’s (New), Shrewsbury, 22

 St. Chad’s (Old), Shrewsbury, 16, 17, 21

 St. Collen’s, Llangollen, 73

 St. David, 115, 117, 148, 175, 216, 240, 256

 St. David’s, 115, 210, 211, 217

 St. Deiniol, 99

 St. Donat’s, 173, 176, 177

 St. Germanus, 191

 St. Illtyd, 175, 176

 St. Mary’s, Shrewsbury, 16, 17, 18

 St. Padarn, 148

 St. Patrick, 215, 216

 St. Peter’s, Carmarthen, 193

 St. Samson, 176

 St. Teilo, 171

 St. Tewdric, 272

 Scott, Sir Walter, 57, 72, 108

 Scudamore, Alice, 261

 Seisyllts (Cecils), 253, 254

 Seithenyn, 124

 Severn, 13, 25, 26, 28, 45, 61, 133, 137, 139, 226, 265, 267, 272

 Siabod, Moel, 81, 93, 96

 Sidney, Ambrozia, 8, 9

 Sidney, Philip, 8, 18, 19, 200

 Sidney, Sir Henry, 8, 19, 20

 Shelley, 111, 230

 Shelley, Harriet, 111, 230

 Shelton Oak, 61

 Shifnal, 29

 Shrewsbury, 12-24, 45, 60

 Shrewsbury Abbey, 13, 22-24

 Shrewsbury, Battle of, 21, 43 61, 191

 Shrewsbury Castle, 20, 21

 Shropshire, 1-64, 134, 162

 Skenfrith, 260, 262

 Skirrid Fawr, 255

 Snowdon, 81, 96, 100, 107, 108, 109, 122

 Snowdonia, 80, 94, 100, 108, 111

 Solva, 211

 Southerndown, 177

 Southey, 259

 Speech House, 263

 Spenser, 243

 Stack Rocks, 204

 Steele, Richard, 193

 Stephen, King, 20, 37

 Stokesay Castle, 10, 11

 Strata Florida, 141, 145-148

 Strongbow, Richard, 144, 269

 Sugar Loaf Mountain, 255

 Swallow Falls, 95

 Swift, Dean, 47

 Sycharth, 77, 78

 Symond’s Yat, 226, 245, 246, 264


 Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, 48, 245, 260

 Taliesin, 91, 107, 149, 175

 Tal-y-Bont, 149

 Tan-y-Bwlch, 94, 129

 Tal-y-Llyn, 155, 158

 Teify, River, 145, 219, 220, 221

 Telford, 21, 28, 43, 60, 79, 97, 99

 Teme, River, 4, 5, 137

 Tenby, 178, 195-197

 Tintern, 225, 226, 246, 247, 265-267, 272

 Tintern Parva, 265

 Tomen-y-Bala, 160

 Tong, 29, 30

 Tostig, 237

 Towy, River, 187, 188

 Towyn, 155, 156

 Traeth Maelgwyn, 154

 Traeth Mawr, 111, 118, 119

 Trawscoed, 145, 148

 Trawsfynydd, 129

 Trecastle, 187

 Trefriew, 90, 91

 Tremadoc, 111, 118

 Tre-Taliesin, 149

 Tryfaen, 97

 Tudor, Edmund, 214

 Tudor, Jasper, 172

 Tudor, Owen, 237

 Tyn-y-Groes, 129

 Tyn-y-Nant, 79


 Upper Corris, 158

 Upper Wye, 226

 Uriconium, 25, 26

 Usk, River, 166, 187, 254


 Valle Crucis, 71, 73-76

 Vaughan, Dean, Tomb of, 173

 Vaughans of Dunraven, 178

 Vernon, Dorothy, 30

 Vernon, Sir Henry, 30

 Vickers, Dick, 79

 Vortigern, 190, 191

 Vyrnwy, Lake, 161


 Wales, Mid, 137-162

 Wales, North, 67-134

 Wales, South, 165-222

 Walpole, Horace, 52

 Walton, Isaac, 54

 Warwick, Dowager Lady, 69

 Watling Street, 33

 Watt, James, 230

 Wellington, 33

 Welshpool, 133, 134

 Wem, 45, 47

 Wenlock Priory, 38-42

 Westbury, 52

 Whitchurch, 45, 47

 Whitney, 234

 Whittington, 62-64

 Widemarsh, Hereford, 236

 William I., 212, 268, 269

 William II., 212, 215

 William of Malmesbury, 15, 39, 257

 Wilton, 243, 244

 Windsor, Gerald de, 201, 205

 Wnion, River, 126

 Worcester, 2nd Earl of, 272

 Worcester, 1st Marquis of, 251, 252

 Worthen, 52

 Wrekin, 12

 Wroxeter, 25

 Wyaston Leys, 245

 Wye, 69, 139, 140, 222, 226, 265, 268, 272

 Wye, Valley of the, 225-272

 Wyndcliff, 267

 Wynnes of Gwydir, 82, 89, 91, 95, 96


 York, Archbishop of, 89

 York, Richard Duke of, 22

 Yr Eifl, 112, 117

 Ysgubor-y-coed, 150

 Ystradfflur, 145-148

 Ystwith, River, 145

 Y Wyddfa, 107


         UNWIN BROTHERS, LIMITED, PRINTERS, WOKING AND LONDON.


FOOTNOTES:

[1] Latin inscription on the wall that used to surround the
tree.--DUKE’S VERSION.

[2] Since these words were written there have been extensive
excavations at Haughmond, by which important disclosures have been made.

[3] Transactions of the Archæological Society of Shropshire.

[4] Transactions of the Archæological Society of Shropshire.

[5] _Gentleman’s Magazine_, August, 1906.

[6] “The History of Fulk Fitz-Warine,” translated by Alice Kemp-Welch.

[7] I have seen somewhere that the original name of these falls was not
Rhaiadr y Wennol, or Swallow Falls, but Rhaiadr Eweynol, or Foaming
Falls. This seems probable: but Borrow accepted the former version, and
he was a stern critic in such matters.

[8] Quotations from the “Mabinogion” are from Lady Charlotte Guest’s
translation.

[9] _Sic._

[10] “The Book of South Wales,” by the Rev. S. Baring-Gould.

[11] “The March and Borderland of Wales,” by A. G. Bradley.

[12] Rev. S. Baring-Gould, “The Book of South Wales.”

[13] “The Norman Horse-shoe” (Sir Walter Scott.)



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber's note:

Every effort has been made to replicate this text as faithfully as
possible, including some inconsistencies in hyphenation. Some minor
corrections of spelling have been made.





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