With its misty mountains, mysterious lakes, ancient landscape and hundreds of castles, Wales is truly a land of legends. And there can’t be many legends more famous than those of King Arthur and his knights of the round table.
Considering that Wales is celebrating The Year of Legends 2017, and with Guy Richie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword hitting cinemas this May from Warner Bros (with Snowdonia in Wales features as a key film location), you have the perfect excuse to travel back in time and explore those legendary places.
Places which have inspired poets and storytellers for centuries, to tell tales about dragons, magic, monsters, giants, wizards and heroes.
You can find connections to the legends of King Arthur, his mighty sword Excalibur, his knights, and the magician Merlin almost wherever you go in Wales. While it’s hard to say what’s true and what’s legend, just the epic scenery will leave you in awe.
But before you start to explore the Arthurian places in Wales, get in the mood by watching the trailer to the new movie, coming out May 12. Are you as excited as I am?!
Explore the Filming Locations in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Filming has taken place in Snowdonia National Park, Nant Gwynant and the Vivian Quarry near Llanberis. Cast and crew were also spotted around the small village of Capel Curig (it’s a really small village – only 226 people live there).
Here are the filming locations you MUST visit (whether you want to explore the King Arthur areas or not).
Snowdonia National Park
Wales is beautiful, but the breath-taking views in Snowdonia, the mountainous heart of southern Britain, could come from a different world. This National Park has, with every right, a starring role in the new King Arthur movie. Not only is the magical scenery with its dramatic mountains and mysterious lakes perfect for any fantasy movie setting, but Snowdonia National Park is also strongly associated with the legend of King Arthur.
It was here that Arthur reputedly killed and buried Rhitta, a fearsome giant who created a cape for himself out of the beards of his fallen enemies (eww!).
Rhitta’s corpse was covered in huge stones by Arthur’s men at the summit of the mountain. So keep your eyes open for the remains of a giant.
Snowdonia is the largest National Park in Wales. It’s also the home of Mount Snowdon, the highest mountain in England and Wales, and the largest natural lake in Wales.
There are also a lot of exciting adventures in Snowdonia (like the world’s fastest zipline, Bounce Below and steam train rides).
If you don’t want to hike up to the summit of Snowdon, you can cheat and go in Harry Potter-style with a train ride. Whatever you choose, it will be a magical journey.
We traveled up to Clogwyn station with Snowdon Mountain Railway
Nant Gwynant Pass
North-east of the city Beddgelert is the beautiful Valley Nant Gwynant Pass. Two idyllic lakes fill the valley’s floor, and the whole area is steeped in the Arthurian legends.
Parts of the movie were filmed in the Nant Gwynant area. You can even spot a bit of it in the trailer when Jude Law is gazing out over all the gathered people.
Excalibur lake in Snowdonia
There are at least three Welsh lakes that claim to contain Arthur’s magical sword, Excalibur. The lakes of Llydaw, Dinas, and Ogwen are all close together in the heart of the Snowdonia National Park. One of them is bound to be the right one!
In Legend of the Sword, Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) hurls his sword into one of these lakes.
I did unfortunately not spot any sword in any lake, but you might just feel the magical presence … of something.
Apart from Snowdonia, one of my favorite #OMGB-moments in Wales was visiting Vivian Quarry. It’s like a hidden Welsh paradise in the middle of, what feels like nowhere. I had no idea what to expect and was therefore so surprised when I stepped through the portal leading into the quarry. The first thing I saw was how the old slate quarry was reflected picture perfectly in the water.
It was so stunning! Vivian Quarry is, except from beautiful, a well-known dive site and one of the filming locations in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.
If you watch the trailer again, watch out for when Arthur jumps off a cliff. That is filmed here! The stuntman to Charlie Hunnam jumped the 80ft down to the water.
KING ARTHUR LOCATIONS IN WALES
Valle Crucis Abbey
Romantic, a bit sad and magnificent. The ruin Valle Crucis Abbey is well worth a visit and is just a short drive from the idyllic town of Llangollen (see my Instagram picture of Llangollen here).
The present ruins date from around the year 1200 and have connections to both The Holy Grail legend and the historical King Arthur.
Maen Huail, Town of Ruthin
Visiting a limestone block might not seem fun or legendary at all. But in the town of Ruthin is one of the most enchanting castles I’ve visited with peacocks walking around in the castle garden. And you can sleep in Ruthin Castle Hotel!
If you are here to check out the castle, you might just as well take the few minutes walk down to the town center and see this stone. It’s said to be the very stone on which King Arthur beheaded the young warrior Huail (his rival in love and war).
In Britain’s smallest city, St Davids, you find the stunning St David’s Cathedral. Both the city and the cathedral is named after the patron saint of Wales, Saint David, who were buried here in 589 AD.
In medieval times it was believed that St David was the nephew of King Arthur. A short drive from St Davids, are also standing stones at Cerrigmarchogion which are said to be some of Arthur’s knights, petrified by a fearsome giant boar.
It’s also believed that King Arthur held court in this small city. See what I mean? The Arthurian legends are everywhere in Wales!
Dinas Emrys, near Beddgelert
Hardly anything remains of the ancient hill fort Dinas Emrys, near Beddgelert. But it plays a vital role in Arthurian mythology, and The Prophecy of Merlin is centered on Dinas Emrys. The 5th-century King Vortigern was trying to build a castle here, but the walls kept mysteriously falling down. The boy wizard, Merlin, identified the problem. Beneath the ground, he explained, was a deep pool where a red dragon (representing Wales and the leader King Arthur) and a white dragon (representing Saxon England) fought every night.
When the red dragon won the fight, then peace would return.
When Dinas Emrys was finally dug up in the 1950s, they actually did find a deep pool. Creepy or what?
Caernarvon’s towers, tunnels, spiraling staircases, and views are worth a visit.
I have visited a lot of castles in Wales, and Caernarvon Castle is one of my favorites. It’s one of the most important castles in the UK, and it’s so majestic and impressive. Inspired by the legendary King Arthur, Caernarfon Castle was built by the king and military genius Edward I after his conquest of North Wales in 1283.
Many Kings of England turned these Arthurian myths and legends to their advantage for political purposes during the Middle Ages. Even if King Arthur was real or not, it’s fascinating to see, feel and touch something that was born from the legend.
Tips: Unlock your kingdom and win a trip to Britain
Find your own kingdom with the new King Arthur legend generator! You can also visit the site for a chance to win a legendary trip to Britain.
Pin it! Save my King Arthur Tips in Wales for later
I visited Wales with Visit Britain in conjunction with the promotional campaign of King Arthur: Legend of The Sword’s filming locations in Wales. As always, all the thoughts and tips are my own (and based on my two trips to Wales).
To see my journey with other influencers from different countries, explore the tag #OMGBLegends on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.