Last updated: 06:31 PM ET, Fri October 14 2016

Opinion Home | Why Wales? Discover Britain's Road Less Traveled!

  • Visit Wales Staff Writer | October 14, 2016 6:31 PM ET

    Here Be Dragons: Mystical, Magical Wales is a Fantasy Fan’s Dream

    Here Be Dragons: Mystical, Magical Wales is a Fantasy Fan’s Dream

    PHOTO: Dolbadarn Castle. (photo courtesy of Visit Wales)

    If you’re one of the millions of sword and sorcery fans that have been thrilled by visions of dragons and “mothers of dragons” lately, a pilgrimage to Wales — land of dragons — may be your travel destiny.

    Among the many places that have inspired George R. R. Martin, author of “Game of Thrones,” Wales, the nation whose flag bears a red dragon, has been a muse. Martin credits Wales for places in Westeros such as Dorne, and the country’s Celtic heritage is a rich source of names for characters like Bran. In fact, Bran is a legendary Welsh hero whose name translates to English as “crow” or “raven.”

    For lovers of this epic tale, a journey to the land of dragons itself can take many forms. Tenon Tours, for example, does a five-day, four-night “Game of Thrones”-inspired tour of Wales that visits castles like Dolbadarn and Gwydir where the Lannisters or the Starks would feel right at home. At the ruins of Valle Crucis Abbey, in North Wales, you might just envision the High Sparrow conducting rituals to the Gods of Westeros.

    Lovers looking for the oracle of romance should pay a visit to St. Dwynwen’s well on the mystical North Wales island of Anglesey, where the goddess of love is said to dwell and predict their fate. The entire island of Anglesey was once the center of the Druids, whose wisdom and magic guided the Celtic peoples before the arrival of Romans in Britain. The Druids were known for their mystical ability to command the natural world, much like the characters of Melisandre and the tree spirits that tutored Bran in shape shifting.

    In the Welsh village of Nevern, an ancient yew tree stands in St. Brynach’s churchyard.  This tree bleeds red sap, just like the face of the Three-eyed Raven in the Weirwood Heart Tree. Since pre-historic times, the Celtic people have revered the Yew tree for its mystical powers and association with the Druids and the Celtic saints. So a visit to Nevern is sure to spark the imaginations of “Game of Thrones” fans looking to discover the real-life sacred trees of antiquity.

    READ MORE: 4 Ways to Embrace the Cuisine Renaissance in Wales

    A Heart Tree also figures in the creation of the first White Walker, who is transformed while bound to the tree amid rings of standing stones. Fantasy fans who love standing stones will be captivated by Pentre Ifan, a Welsh Neolithic monument situated on the Welsh 

    Pembrokeshire coast in the Preseli Hills, the same place where the stones of Stonehenge originated. No one knows how these stones

    were transported from the Welsh coast all the way to Stonehenge, but perhaps it was the work of Merlin the Magician who was born in the nearby Welsh town of Carmarthen. Unlike Stonehenge, at Pentre Ifan, visitors can explore unencumbered by fences or throngs of tourists.

    Tales like “Game of Thrones,” “Lord of the Rings” and the legends of King Arthur take inspiration from the myths and folklore of ancient cultures, including the Celtic heritage of Wales. If you’re a book lover like Samwell Tarley, you’ll be enchanted with the “Mabinogion,” a medieval Welsh manuscript of 11 magical tales that influenced the generations of storytellers across the ages. For fantasy fans, a visit to the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, which holds the earliest version of the “Mabinogion,” is a must.

    And finally, since Wales is one of only two countries in the world with a dragon on its flag, what better way to explore the country than atop a winged dragon? According to a Google maps “easter egg,” flying on a dragon is the fastest way to travel between Mount Snowdon in North Wales and the Brecon Beacons National Park in mid-Wales. It’s certainly how Daenerys Targaryen would want to tour Wales.


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Visit Wales Staff Writer Why Wales? Discover Britain's Road Less Traveled!

Visit Wales Staff Writer Visit Wales is the New York-based government tourism office for Wales, one of four countries that make up the United Kingdom. A land with 641 castles, 870 miles of walkable coastline, three national parks and award-winning cuisine, Wales offers travelers a variety of activities and different landscapes to explore. The country's Celtic history and ancient language make it a distinctive British destination. For more information on Wales travel, trade can visit and consumers can visit
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