Country diary: on this mystical upland, a case of mistaken identity


Rhyd Ddu, Gwynedd: Fairies know how to confuse us mere humans, as they did during the making of my previous column

In my last country diary (9 January), I took readers to a portal of fairyland – a pass above Llyn y Dywarchen between Rhyd Ddu and Nantlle. I then said that the pass was called Bwlch y Moch (Pigs’ Pass). But this was wrong. Thanks to an eagle-eyed reader, I can now tell you its recent name is Bwlch Gylfin (Curlew Pass). And previous to that it was “Culfin” (Narrow Pass). Curlew Pass is an entirely apt name for an upland region of lakes and marshy bottoms, which is a perfect breeding ground for these summer hill spirits.

But back to the fairies. Even a shallow acquaintance with the scholarly writings of Kathleen Raine, Oxford don Principal Rhys, WB Yeats, Marie-Louise von Franz, Marina Warner and WY Evans-Wentz will leave you with the impression of a certain maziness about the “hosts of the air” (the fairies). To join their merry dance leads to abandonment on hillsides, or waking suddenly old and in a country from which all past certainties have fled. And so it was with me when I wrote about the “fairy lady from the lake” variant folktale that locates at Llyn y Dywarchen.

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