The mythology of Snowdonia stretches back many hundreds of years. The deeds of King Arthur and his knights, mythical beasts like giants and the Gwiber, warring dragons – all are common themes in Snowdonia’s mythology.
But spooky stories abound, too. Caernarfon residents describe visitations from Roman legionaries and ghostly nuns, Gwydir Castle boasts a number of resident ghosts – including the spectre of a long-dead dog – and shadowy figures in period costume have been reported at Conwy Castle.
The following are two of our favourite Snowdonia ghost stories.
The Landlord of Beddgelert
According to legend, in the late 18th century the villagers of Beddgelert, led by a David Pritchard, landlord of the Goat Inn, concocted the legend of Gelert, the faithful hound killed while protecting his master’s baby son.
Times were hard in those days, and the village, like many others, relied on passing trade to keep the local economy thriving. Having a local legend, the villagers thought, would bring more tourists and pilgrims to the area. And sure enough, Gelert’s grave drew in the tourists, and David Pritchard’s wealth increased as his inn prospered.
In 1821 David Pritchard died suddenly without leaving a will. Shortly after his funeral, ghostly footsteps started to be heard at night in the Goat Inn. Strange noises were regularly heard, including sounds of the fire being raked, and the rattling of fire irons – a habit of Pritchard’s – which terrified the guests.
After a while, people started reporting seeing David Pritchard wandering around the village. Others saw his ghost tapping at the stable door. And he was also seen near Gelert’s grave.
Everyone in the village was terrified, except Pritchard’s old friend, a farmer called Huw, who was eventually visited by Pritchard’s ghost. Huw asked Pritchard why he haunted the village instead of lying at peace. Pritchard’s ghost explained that he had unfinished business, and gave Huw a message for his widow. Pritchard’s widow accepted the message and followed her late husband’s instructions, lifting the hearthstone in the bar room most affected by the fire raking noises. There she found a pouch containing a hundred gold guineas, Pritchard’s legacy to his wife and children.
Its unfinished business now dealt with, David Pritchard’s ghost was never seen again.
The Tragedy at Plas Mawr
One of Snowdonia’s most beautiful – and famous – buildings is Plas Mawr in Conwy, which was built by Robert Wynne towards the end of the 16th century.
Robert Wynne was expected home after months away at war, and his return was eagerly anticipated by his pregnant wife and three year old son. On the day that Wynne was due to return home, his wife and child kept lookout at the top of the watchtower.
After hours of waiting and still no sign of Wynne, his wife decided it was too late to keep the child up, and started to take him down the steps of the watchtower back to the warmth of the house. But she slipped and fell, with her son, down to the bottom of the stairs, and both were badly injured.
Mrs Wynne and the child were taken to the Lantern Room and the local doctor was summoned. Soon afterwards, there was a knock at the door; but in place of the usual doctor was a young stranger. He introduced himself as Doctor Dick and explained that the family doctor was with another patient, and that he had been sent in the doctor’s place.
When Doctor Dick examined the patients, he told the servants that he was not sufficiently skilled to treat them, and so the servants sent another messenger to fetch the family doctor. In the meantime, the servants refused to let Doctor Dick go, and locked him in the Lantern Room.
After many hours of waiting, there was a knock at the door. Standing there was Robert Wynne, home from the wars. The servants told him what had happened and he burst into the Lantern Room to be met by his wife, son and premature baby, all lying dead on the floor.
Enraged, Wynne looked for Doctor Dick, but the young stranger had completely disappeared. Wynne locked himself in the Lantern Room and refused to come out until he had found the doctor.
The next morning, the servants let themselves into the room and found Wynne dead; in his grief he’d stabbed himself in the throat with his dagger.
Doctor Dick was never seen or heard of again. Legend says that he had tried to escape by climbing up the chimney, and that his bones, blackened with soot, are still hidden somewhere in the house.
And Robert Wynne’s ghost, still looking to avenge the untimely deaths of his young family, is said to still haunt the Lantern Room to this day.
Steven Jones is Senior Tourism Services Officer at Cyngor Gwynedd Council, a Welsh local authority whose not-for-profit Snowdonia Mountains and Coast website provides visitors to Snowdonia with a wealth of useful information about the region, including activities, attractions, history and culture. The site also enables visitors to search an extensive database of Snowdonia accommodation, and to plan their holidays in some of Snowdonia’s most popular towns and villages.