HILL - CARMARTHEN
Working Farm B&B and Iron Age Hill Fort
Merlin the Magician – wizard or druid mystic has appeared in legends for a thousand years. He has made appearances in epic poems of romantic medieval myths of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, the mystic engineer of Arthur’s birth to Uther Pendragon and Igraine, a mentor wizard who lives forward and backward in time, half born of a demon and half druid priest ultimately entrapped forever in a netherworld by the enchantress half-sister of Arthur, Morgan Le Fey. Merlin’s popular culture images range from a historical force instrumental in the national legend of Britain, Disney's befuddled kindly mentor, to a cable television show of a young wizard as clever nerd to Arthur’s fair-haired frat boy. He has been transformed as inspiration for other literary and pop culture characters, from Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars, to even Dumbledore in Harry Potter. But was he ever a real person? The answer to that is a myth wrapped in the riddle.
In south Wales just 2 miles to the east of Carmarthen along the road toward the Brecon Beacons Park is a round promontory of green grass and gnarled trees topped by some ancient stones called Merlin’s Hill (Bryn Myrddin). What has come to us of the wizardly Merlin and King Arthur is bound in the writings of two clerics of the middle ages. Geoffrey of Monmouth was a Welsh speaking Benedictine monk teacher at Oxford’s St. George's College, writing in the 12th Century of the mystical foundations of the British Isles in his “History of the Kings of Britain” (Historia Regum Britanniae) essentially creating the fanciful myth story of King Arthur from early Breton historical figures. Gerald of Wales was another cleric born from a powerful Norman family in Wales, born around 1146 in Pembrokeshire of mixed Norman and Welsh parentage, grandson of the Gerald Fitzwalter the constable of Pembroke Castle under William Marshal (see Pembroke Castle). He had risen to Archdeacon of Brecon and tried unsuccessfully to get himself named as Bishop of St David’s where his uncle had held the post (see St Davids Bishops Palace). He served as chaplain to Henry II, before falling into some disfavor. His literary career began with the telling of Henry II’s conquest of Ireland.
Gerald wrote of his travels through Wales with the Archbishop Baldwin encountering the site of a prophecy from 400 years earlier of the downfall of a Welsh King near the River Conwy (see Conwy Castle). Gerald of Wales told of two Merlins, one a Scottish troubadour turned mad poet wild man of the woods - Myrddin Wyllt (Merlin the Wild) and another, a young boy prophet, Myrddin Emrys (Merlin of Emrys), who prophesied to King Vortigern the deafeat of the Saxon's white dragon by the Welsh red dragon, who was "begotten by a demon incubus, born at Caermardin (Carmarthen) the city of Merlin" while the other Merlin grew mad, "taking shelter in a wood, passed the remainder of his days in a savage state.” The young prophet who predicted a king's victory establishing the Red Dragon as the symbol of Wales and the mad wild man of the woods became joined in the legends as told by Geoffrey and later romanticized in the 15th Century at the height of the age of chivalry by Thomas Mallory in his Le Morte d’Arthur, and in the 16th Century by Edmund Spenser in The Faerie Queen (see Lismore Castle Gardens). Modern UFO theories even use the legends of Merlin to suggest he had a magic wand using alien anti-gravity technology to move the stones of Stonehenge into place. This from Geoffrey telling of Merlin’s moving the stones from a Giant’s Circle in Ireland to Stonehenge, amazing the medieval knights by his working of ropes and levers to make the stones appear to float, more advanced engineer than alien power.
Merlin’s Hill Farm
At the top of Merlin’s Hill from a steep hike are the remains of one of a few large hill forts from the Iron Age in West Wales, which once controlled large swaths of territories in the valleys and glens. The Romans established a fortified town in in the Towy Valley on the site of the current Carmarthen in 75 AD. Drawing from Gerald’s writings that the town was the birthplace of Merlin, and that he lived in the mountain forests, the legend grew that Merlin lived in a cave somewhere at the hilltop fort and still remains entombed there by enchantment, hence named Merlin’s Hill. The cave is long vanished along with most of the fort, but visitors can explore what little remains of the outline among the trees and shrubs on a hillside nature walk.
The legend of Merlin’s Hill is tended by the family of the Alltyfyrddin Farm, on whose property the hill of Merlin’s mysterious fate lies. A working dairy and sheep farm with bed and breakfast accommodations and small museum dedicated to the history of the valley, sheep farming and the wizard wild man. The Alltyfyrddin Bed & Breakfast on the farm offers country style Bed and Breakfast lodging in an updated farmhouse from the early 1700s with beamed ceilings and nook fireplace, featuring five bedrooms of single, double, twin and family rooms, tastefully decorated, all with en-suite facilities. The farm fresh breakfast comes from local produce. The Merlin’s Hill Farm produces its own wool products of scarfs, throws, and blankets spun locally from its Jacob Sheep available for purchase and the Merlin’s Hill Centre is the starting place for exploring the hill and natural trails through the hills views.
The Alltyfyrddin Farm B&B makes for a base to explore Carmarthenshire’s landscape from Carreg Cennen Castle and Brecon Beacons to the coast of Laugharne, inspiration to the poet Dylan Thomas (see Dylan Thomas Boathouse) or nostalgic steam train rides on the Gwili Railway, just around the corner (see Bronwydd Arms Station and Gwili Railway), or just stop by for a hike up the hill.
Visiting Merlin’s Hill Centre
The Merlin's Hill Centre is open daily except Christmas day from 10am to 7pm April to October: 10am to 5pm November to March. Admission is £3 for adults, £1.50 for Children and £2 for Seniors and Disabled (though access up the hill is limited) and a Family Ticket for £9. Parking is on the farm property so be prepared for close encounters with the curious and friendly sheep which trod the paths once possibly wandered by the ephemeral mystical Merlin. © Bargain Travel Europe
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Merlins Hill Farm Centre
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