It rained all the way on our journey from Builth Wells to Llyn Tegid. I didn’t care. The mountains of mid- and north Wales are so spectacular, so mythic, that the relentless rain only added to their mystery and power.
I wanted to take photographs through the windscreen as we traveled. The only thing to hand was my iPhone but it wasn’t up to the job. I don’t think any camera is really up to the job. I’ve seen this landscape on TV and in thousands of photographs but 2D media cannot do justice to the raw wildness and heft of it. It’s a landscape that you need to experience, to occupy.
The road runs alongside the River Wye for miles. Not yet the sleek brown Wye of the south but its wilder upper reaches, a stony river of hurtling black water flecked with white. Beyond road and river, the mountains fill half the sky – steep wooded slopes; platforms of wiry grass, bracken, and gorse; sheer drops of fissured rock.
A great waterfall plunging from heights lost in cloud, as if falling from the sky itself.
Spring is late this year. Oak and alder are leafless as we head north, black and dripping in the rain. Here and there, shaggy-fleeced mountain sheep lie with their lambs beneath the trees, waiting out the downpour.
We pitch up at the northeastern end of Llyn Tegid, Lake of Serenity, and the winds battered us for four days and nights. Llyn Tegid – the biggest natural lake in Wales, home to a mythical water beast much like the Loch Ness Monster. On moonlit nights, so legend has it, towers are visible in the lake’s depths – the drowned palace of Tegid Foel, husband of the enchantress Ceridwen who swallowed her servant Gwion Bach and nine months later gave birth to Taliesin, bard and wildman of the mountains.
I have been a course, I have been an eagle.
I have been a coracle in the seas:
I have been compliant in the banquet.
I have been a drop in a shower;
I have been a sword in the grasp of the hand
I have been a shield in battle.
I have been a string in a harp,
Disguised for nine years.
in water, in foam.
- Cad Goddeu, The Book of Taliesin
And so we went on, to the coast and the western edge of Snowdonia National Park. Spring arrived in a rush – sunlight, warmth, hawthorns tipped with green, willow catkins bristling like hedgehogs, a bumble bee bumping drunkenly from one pollen-yellow head to another.
We walked through Barmouth, over the famous railway bridge that spans the Mawddach estuary then along the Llywbr Mawddach towards Dolgellau.
All the while here, we feel outside time, or moving through mythic time. That we might see footsore Roman soldiers trudging along the valley, or look up and see Myrddin Wyllt silhouetted on a high peak, or hear the songs of Taliesin – bard, shapeshifter – whispered on the breeze.