Merlin, or Myrddin, the magician and foreteller of prophesies, has tales about him from across West Wales, linking him with Arthurian legend and prominent sites in the landscape. There are a variety of sites to visit where you can explore his myths yourself!
Gerald of Wales wrote about Merlin in the 12th century, who is thought to have been born in Carmarthen. Another written history is the Black Book of Carmarthen, created in St John’s Priory, the religious house which was formed in the ruins of the former Roman town.
The Black Book incorporates legends of the Mabinogion with tales of Merlin and Arthur. The Welsh name for Carmarthen – Caerfyrddin – means “Merlin’s Fort”, although it is thought that the name Myrddin derives from Caerfyrddin rather than vice versa.
Carmarthen as a focus for stories of Merlin includes Merlin’s Hill, an Iron Age hillfort with a cave where he might once have lived under enchantment, and was entombed. Some say they can hear his chains clankings still! The nearby Merlin’s Stone was prophesied to be the location of his treasure, and where a raven would drink the blood of a man.
In Carmarthen is Merlin’s Tree – the Priory Oak. This is linked to the saying “when Myrddin’s Tree shall tumble down, Then shall fall Carmarthen Town”. The tree was kept braced upright even after it died before parts were preserved in the local museum and later the civic hall.
The legend of the killing of the last Welsh dragon, amongst the annual fair, on the banks of the River Teifi, is set in Newcastle Emlyn. It is thought to originate from Merlin’s prophecy of the red dragon rising up against the white dragon of the east, and the use of a gold-red dragon in Prince Owain Glyndwr’s flag during the 1403 battle at Newcastle Emlyn Castle.
Finally, whether you are on a quest of your own to visit Merlin’s sites of legend or not, Carmarthen is a great place to explore this year. Merlin’s Festival is a well-known celebration in Carmarthen which will be making a comeback this year and is well worth a visit, featuring magic, a sculpture trail and other street entertainment as well as a mouth-watering local produce market! The Festival will take place in the town centre, on Friday and Saturday 24-25 March from 10 am to 4pm each day, and entry is free.