Legends and Customs of Wales

button-theme-legends-hubLegends and Customs of Wales

Wales has a rich heritage of legends and folk customs, many of which you can read about on the HistoryPoints website. Follow the links below to discover the stories – each comes with a map to show you the relevant location in Wales.

Some of the stories relate to the early Christian saints who worked miracles or established cells after suffering losses or seeing the error of their earlier ways. Later Christians performed rituals at wells dedicated to certain saints, often in hope of cures.

You can also read about witches, pirates, beasts, folk heroes, tomb raiders, mermaids, giants, the Tylwyth Teg (“fair folk”) and clever people who outwitted the devil. Other stories stem from historic literature, including The Mabinogi and tales of King Arthur. We also highlight places where you can see physical evidence of ancient traditions for yourself.

You can also tap into Wales’ remarkable tradition of nicknames, essential in a  country where there weren’t many names to go round. We also highlight some curious alternatives to official place-names.

North-West Wales


  • Llanddona - witches arrived by boat and held generations of residents in fear
  • Red Wharf Bay - home of poet of legendary strength who once freed a cart which three horses couldn’t move
  • Holyhead - after the Roman era, Caswallon defeated the Irish giant Sirigi
  • Holyhead - ‘Billy-in-the-bowl’, born without legs, married a beautiful woman and had two fine sons
  • Llaneilian - devotees would visit the holy well on the eve of St Eilian’s Day
  • Llaneilian – church founded by Caswallon has a 1667 chest, Cyff Eilian, for pilgrims’ offerings
  • Rhosneigr - Barclodiad y Gawres’ name stems from belief that burial-mound rocks came from aprons of witches or giants’ wives
  • Llanddwyn - Patron saint of Welsh lovers settled here in 5th century after an unhappy love affair


  • Bethesda – hear a song about a giant Christmas pudding, sent to families in Britain's longest strike
  • Bangor - read and hear a ditty by the deluded ‘Cockle Bard’, who thought he was a fine poet
  • Llanberis - healing at St Peris’ Well partly depended on two fish which lived there
  • Caernarfon - church linked to Roman leader who saw a beautiful woman in a dream and found her in Wales
  • Caernarfon - sailors went to 'Four and Six Street' for a bottle of gin … and a female companion
  • Caernarfon - beside the tower where prisoners were hanged is an inn that’s said to be haunted
  • Dinas Dinlle - said to be childhood home of Lleu Llaw Gyffes, featured in The Mabinogi
  • Clynnog Fawr - any calf or lamb whose ear bore St Beuno’s mark was donated to the church
  • Nant Gwrtheyrn - tragic tale of young lovers Rhys and Meinir
  • Nant Gwrtheyrn - named after British king Vortigern, who fled here from Saxons
  • Pistyll - the floor of St Beuno's Church is still covered with traditional rushes and herbs
  • Aberdaron - St Hywyn's Church was once a haven where any fugitive could stay for up to 40 days
  • Aberdaron - pilgrims could claim a free meal before crossing the water to Ynys Enlli
  • Uwchmynydd - your wish would be granted if you carried a mouthful of water from holy well to chapel
  • Criccieth - generations of men have tried to lift the ‘feat stone’, probably once used for mounting horses
  • Porthmadog - where a duel was agreed between Pryderi and Gwydion, according to The Mabinogi
  • Beddgelert - monument to legendary dog Gelert, slain after protecting prince’s baby
  • Beddgelert - beer was free if you emptied a 4-pint pot without pause, as one character routinely did
  • Shell Island - local red apples are said to stem from the 1825 wreck of glamorous New York ship
  • Maentwrog - you can see the stone St Twrog hurled from a mountain to destroy a pagan altar
  • Harlech - where Irish king Matholwch came ashore, seeking Branwen, according to The Mabinogi
  • Blaenau Ffestiniog - Wales’ last wolf was reputedly slain at Coed y Bleiddiau (‘Forest of the Wolves’)
  • Llwyngwril - stones kept moving to their correct location when builders disobeyed St Celynnin


  • Penmaenmawr - causeway to Anglesey left one saint with fair skin, another sun-darkened
  • Conwy - town cursed by mermaid after cruel fishermen refused to return her to the sea
  • Conwy - buoy on quay was moored near Llys Helig, a legendary mansion flooded as punishment
  • Conwy - hotel reputedly haunted until chambermaid’s body was exhumed and returned to Anglesey
  • Conwy - sailor’s pub where the smell of vanilla is said to be a portent of death
  • Llandudno Junction - pub opposite the railway station is still known as ‘The Killer’
  • Mochdre - tradition says church was begun by princess who married into a mighty Roman family
  • Mochdre - ‘Sue pais goch’ got her nickname when a gust of wind revealed her red petticoat
  • Mochdre - according to the Mabinogion, Gwydion stayed a night here when fleeing with stolen pigs
  • Llanrhos - where King of Britons reputedly died after ‘Yellow Lady’ approached him during plague
  • Llysfaen - St Cynfran’s well was the place to seek a blessing for your animals
  • Llysfaen - Tradition of 'canu Plygain’ on Christmas morning continued into 20th century
  • Llandrillo-yn-Rhos - church tower was a lookout post when African pirates were feared
  • Rhos-on-Sea - Prince Madog began his legendary journey to America from here in 1170
  • Glan Conwy - tribunal in 1594 decided that a herbalist was a witch, and she was soon hanged
  • Eglwysbach - where a terrifying beast known as the Garrog exacted posthumous revenge
  • Eglwysbach - once a week the Midland Bank would open for business in someone’s front room
  • Dolgarrog - ‘Dic Loco’ drove a train but he wasn’t mad, just a little mischievous
  • Llanbedr-y-cennin - mole-catching miller was called ‘Shôn Ffidl Dwrch’, as he also played the violin
  • Trefriw - church reputedly built by Prince Llewelyn Fawr for his footsore wife
  • Llanrwst - ‘Wil Comic’ thought he was Winston Churchill and dressed the part
  • Llanrwst - see a child’s shoe which was once hidden in a shop wall as a symbol of good fortune
  • Llanddoged - 5th-century King Doged was reputedly killed by a man who wanted to steal his wife
  • Capel Curig - in the 1920s a resident cockatoo would insult tearoom guests at the ‘Ugly House’
  • Capel Curig - church reputedly built in thanksgiving by woman cured of skin disease
  • Mymbyr viewpoint - see the mountain where lies a giant who made clothes from his enemies' beards
  • Llyn Ogwen - is this where Sir Bedivere returned King Arthur’s sword to the Lady of the Lake?
  • Dolwyddelan - ancient beam depicts dragon who swam up the river and caused floods
  • Penmachno - church dedicated to a saint linked to the drowned lands of Cantre'r Gwaelod
  • Ysbyty Ifan - Knights of St John sheltered Mawddwy bandits, born from fairy-human union
  • The Pentrefoelas fairy trail - read or listen to age-old tales of the Tylwyth Teg, the Fair Folk
  • Cerrigydrudion - how a pretty woman and giant oxen helped to banish the devil to a lake
  • Llangernyw - butchers reputedly honed knives on Tudor font before market banished from churchyard in 1749
  • Llangernyw - visitors traditionally got a free drink for donating to pub’s ceiling bric-a-brac
  • Llanfair TH - sanctuary ring on door helped fugitives, who must then leave Britain

North-East Wales


  • St Asaph - where 6th-century Queen Nest lost a ring, which reappeared in a surprising place
  • St Asaph - grave of ‘quarter idiot, three-quarters genius’ who reputedly knew 15 languages
  • St Asaph - destination of booze cruises when Sundays were dry in Wales, save for travellers
  • Tremeirchion - probable effigy of Dafydd Ddu, who outwitted a witch and the devil
  • Ruthin - thief and folk hero John Jones escaped from the town jail twice
  • Ruthin - listen for ghostly wails as you stand under gallows remnants at the former courthouse
  • Corwen church – a mark on a lintel was supposedly made by Owain Glyndŵr’s dagger
  • Llandegla - epileptics seeking cure carried a chicken three times round the well after sunset
  • Llandegla - 'John y Botel' always took a bottle of beer when he caught the 7pm bus home
  • Llandegla - Dafarn Dywyrch was originally built of turfs, according to writer George Borrow
  • Horseshoe Pass - ‘Dai the Mule’ had to fetch water for his upland café from St Collen’s Well


  • Holywell - where St Winefride was decapitated by a spurned lover but returned to life by her saintly uncle
  • Holywell - see the church bell, which the bell-man had to carry around town before each service
  • Mostyn - Llety Gonest was reputedly named after owner who vanished but left the cash he owed workers
  • Mostyn - where customs men guarding smuggled wine were overpowered by curiously well-dressed colliers
  • Llannerch-y-Môr - see a window where lepers paid for beer via a bowl of disinfectant
  • Gwaenysgor - legend has it that Boudica fought her last battle against Romans at Gop Hill


  • Rossett - villagers buried Jeffrey the ploughman after his rotting body on a gibbet deterred trade
  • Marford - windows shaped like eyes are typical of the village’s whimsical vernacular architecture

Mid and West Wales


  • Welshpool - camp of Cadwallon, according to the Canu Llywarch Hen saga of the 9th or 10th century
  • Welshpool - reputed home of ‘Wild Humphrey’, famed for his ability to evade capture
  • Discoed - church still has pipe which sounded starting note for singers, before organ installation
  • Llowes – a hermit miraculously understood Latin, and a giantess threw a stone into the churchyard
  • Brecon - see the church’s dog door, specially built for ejecting rowdy canines


  • Borth - Sarn Gynfelyn is associated with the legend of the inundated land of Cantre’r Gwaelod
  • Llanbadarn Fawr - St Padarn put his hand into boiling water to prove his innocence
  • Aberystwyth - ex-home of royal physician said by some to have been Jack the Ripper
  • Devil’s Bridge - where an old woman outwitted the bridge-building devil
  • Llansantffraed church - St Ffraed reputedly crossed the Irish Sea on a piece of turf
  • Llanddewi Brefi - the church is on a mound which miraculously rose as Dewi Sant preached c.550
  • New Quay - stale bread used to hang from the Black Lion's ceiling, symbolising hospitality


  • Llandybïe - St Tybïe, a daughter of Brychan Brycheiniog, murdered here in the 5th century
  • Llandyfân - historical sources say curative well water was drunk from a human skull
  • Laugharne - medieval Common Walk of the bounds is still performed. People who can’t name places are ‘hoisted’
  • Carmarthen - where the ‘druidic’ Gorsedd of Bards first linked up with an eisteddfod
  • Carmarthen - tomb of granddaughter of King George III through reputed secret marriage
  • Carmarthen - ‘Johnny Bogus’ wore a wig and told tall tales


  • Cemaes Head - where a fisherman caught and released a mermaid, who later saved his life
  • Llanychaer – New Year is still celebrated here on 13 January, the ancient Hen Galan
  • Carreg Samson – a royal courtier lost a finger lifting the Neolithic burial chamber’s 12-ton capstone
  • Carew - beautiful Princess Nest was reputedly stolen from her Norman husband by a Welsh lover
  • Bosherston - where towering cliffs moved to protect St Govan from Lundy Island pirates
  • Tenby - harbour church replaced Fisherman’s Chapel, where clergy were paid in seafood

South Wales


  • City centre - executed prisoner William Crach returned to life after Lady de Braose prayed for him
  • Mumbles - gallery devoted to lovespoons, once carved by amorous - and hopeful - young men
  • Oxwich - where a ghostly horse was seen disappearing into a well
  • Reynoldston - it’s said the 25-ton cap of a prehistoric tomb was once a pebble in King Arthur’s shoe
  • Pennard - a gwrach or hag is said to jump on anyone who dares sleep in the ruined castle

Neath Port Talbot

  • Neath - town’s first policeman was so unpopular he was dangled over a bridge till he promised to quit
  • Margam - the miraculous early ripening of an abbey crop in the 12th century averted starvation
  • Banwen - stone marks the area where St Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint, was reputedly born


  • Clwb Ifor Bach - named after folk hero who kidnapped earl from Cardiff Castle
  • Lovespoon Gallery - giant lovespoon, almost 7 metres long, celebrates a Welsh carving tradition
  • Rummer Tavern - watch out for ghosts in the toilets and cellar
  • Danescourt - God answered the prayer of a 5th-century hermit by narrowing the river Taff


  • Newport - warlord Gwynllyw was told in a dream to build a church wherever he’d find an unusually marked ox
  • Caerleon - home of the fabled Round Table, Tennyson believed as he penned his Arthurian epic here
  • Nash - church has a leper’s squint, an aperture where lepers outside could watch the priest conduct services


  • Abergaveny - where naughty schoolboys would be hoisted up to the rafters for the day
  • Skirrid - did the mountain split when Christ was crucified or when the wizard Jack o’ Kent leapt onto it?
  • Usk – St Cybi restored the sight of a king who went blind when trying to attack him and fellow monks
  • Chepstow – effigy of lady-in-waiting rumoured to have smeared Anne Boleyn’s name
  • Chepstow - waterfront was known as ‘Hell’s Acre’, with good reason
  • Portskewett - where the ancient tradition of fishing with lave nets continues