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The Dragon's Flight

The Old Ways – an exploration of the splendour & mysteries of ancient Wales ~ Cymru

4th – 10th May 2020

 

Full Itinerary

Wales has long held an association with dragons; even its national flag is a dragon. Dragons are symbolic of buried treasure, and the holding of ancient secrets and law.  On this journey we will travel through Wales, visiting some of its most ancient and sacred sites, traversing the routes of our ancestors and discovering the riches of Wales, including its language, which originates from a Celtic language spoken by ancient Britons.  Visiting these places provides a great insight into the abundance, diversity and breadth of the history of the country, and one word does spring to mind when describing it all – wow!

We will travel the ancient paths and roads of Wales, through mountain valleys and from river source to sea.  The link to modern day of onward travel is not felt more poignantly than the connection to emigration from the verdant valleys to America, during the nineteenth century.

Wood dolmenOur specialist guide for the Dragon’s flight tour is Ros Briagha, who has an incredible knowledge and understanding of ancient sites and places of power; she is also a great regaler of original Welsh tales, such as those from the Mabinogion*, which she will relate to us in her own fantastic style during the course of the tour, Sarah Ewing will be hosting alongside Ros on this wonderful tour.     *see additional information tab

“There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories”  – Ursula Le Guin

Day 1

Pick up from Heathrow airport and travel to our first stop, a beautiful medieval court and manor house, extended during the Elizabethan period.  It was the home of Dick Whittington, four times Mayor of London, and was also the childhood home of Elinor Fettiplace, wife of an Elizabethan aristocrat, who was known for her recipes and household management book, still in print today.  The grounds of the court are beautiful, with a sunken water garden.  We will have a private tour of the house and grounds, by the owners, and then lunch, which will be provided by them in the ballroom or in the gardens, depending on the weather.  A great way to start our adventures, already stepping back in time.

Then on to our next stop, and to meet with our specialist guide Ros.   We will visit a tiny church nestled deep in a hidden valley with an ancient veteran yew, perhaps over 5000 years old, and other interesting delights, including an 17th century Abracadabra charm.  Local tales relate that the church, along with a number of other local ones all dedicated to St Michael, are said to be confining the last dragon of Wales.   After visiting the church we will travel through this stunning Welsh countryside, past deep ravines and wooded hillsides, through the dragon’s lair to our overnight accommodation at a traditional drovers inn. The area is a designated area of natural beauty and it truly is stunningly beautiful.   During the evening we will be entertained with tales of local fable and myth and be guided through the history of the area by landscape interpretation, by a local historian and bard.

When old map makers got to the edge of the world they used to write “Beyond this place there be dragons”

Elizabethan Manor House Medieval ChurchWelsh Valley

Day 2

We start the day with a short, but lovely, walk through part of the lair of the dragon to an incredible waterfall.  The vegetation is so lush it feels tropical and jungle like, and the waterfall is a great place for a paddle.  Then onwards we travel, back in time, to visit an ancient stone circle, and Ros will explain the significance of its siting in this, a place of power.  One of the stones has been taken from the circle, and is now placed in a magnificent medieval church nearby, which is our next stop. The church has many original features, carvings, tiles and paintings, and contains one of the oldest organ cases in the United Kingdom, dating back to 1500.  The church is as fine example of a medieval church you will find.

Early painting depicting Moses

After lunch at a historic pub, with fabulous views over this stunning countryside, we venture on to an ancient well in the most tranquil of settings.  Pilgrims travelled from far and wide to visit the site. It was also a place of a great battle between a Welsh prince rebel and English forces, with a massive and humiliating defeat for the English in 1402. The deep peacefulness of the place belies its traumatic past.  Final stop of the day is a fantastic train journey through this breathtaking countryside, taking us onwards and further into Wales.  The train chugs its way through sublimely beautiful scenery, and then we alight at our delightful next overnight stop and a delicious dinner, at a fabulous country house hotel, frequented in the past by foreign heads of state and the likes of Lloyd George.

 Waterfall Stone circleWindow relief

Day 3

After a fine breakfast, out and on, and upwards, on an adventurous drive through dramatic valleys and amazing mountain scenery, leading on to a sweeping vista of the green wilderness that is the heart of Wales.  We visit a chapel high in the hills, the main social meeting point for centuries gone by for the farming families for miles around.  The area has a feeling of great serenity about it, nothing but butterflies, the sound of the stream and the wind blowing in the trees, not another dwelling in sight, extraordinary to find such a place in such an isolated position.  We travel on through this mountain wilderness, to descend suddenly into a green fertile valley, and are reminded of the drovers and pilgrims of old who took this route, and the welcome site the valley must have been.

Welsh saying

Next stop is a visit to a very interesting art and craft and gold centre.  Welsh gold has been mined since ancient times, and was highly prized and worn by the early Welsh princes, and is now used for wedding rings by the royal family.  After an explore of the centre and a nice stop for lunch, we take a leisurely walk through a extraordinary national wetland reserve in the heart of the valley, home to rare fauna and flora.  After our walk, a visit to the remains of a very important twelfth century medieval abbey, the burial place of many early Welsh princes.  Final stop of the day is a Welsh blanket emporium.  The Welsh woollen industry is renowned for its geometric designs but every area had its own patterns, style, stories and history. We will be given a talk on these designs and a chance to buy some. The collection includes some exquisite antique blankets and patterns are now in the national archive as part of Welsh heritage. The owner of the emporium was selected due to her knowledge to produce a blanket for Barack Obama when he visited Wales.

Welsh blankets

Overnight accommodation is in a lovely welsh market town where you will hear Welsh spoken as often as you will English.  It was the home of one of the founders of a union that would later become the United Nations and also a sixteenth century Welsh robin hood!!  Nestling in a verdant valley beneath wild mountains you can see why, a great place to spend the evening.

Welsh valley Medieval abbey archValley wetland

Day 4

A short drive through the lush river valley takes us to a little village with a big history.   Earliest mentions of its church date back to the sixth century, and the place is associated with St David, who is said to have appeared, raised the earth and given a sermon here. It is home to some very ancient stones, including one called St David’s staff.  Then onto an ancient roman road that linked North and South Wales, a very important trading route, especially for the Welsh gold.  The stretch we visit has sweeping panoramic views to the South and North West.  On this route a magnificent stone from around 2300BC is set called the goblin stone, which has many legends and tales attached to it, and Ros will relate some to us.  Next stop is an organic distillery and cheese centre for a sample of Welsh culinary delights!

Journeying further on down our valley route we come to our next destination, a waterfall hidden deep in the woods, and associated with the Mabinogion.  It is a truly magical place, where we will have a picnic lunch by the waterfall, weather permitting, or a nearby hostelry, and be related stories by Ros from these old tales.   Afterwards onto another set of spectacular waterfalls, and a chance to visit a 17th century mill and visit a coracle museum.  Coracles are very small rounded boats and have been used by fishermen on these waters since pre-roman times and tomorrow we will get the chance to try one out!  Overnight accommodation is in a delightful little seaside town, our base for the next three nights.  Evening at your leisure to explore the great selection of places you can eat, and a chance to walk along the estuary to the sea.

WaterfallAncient fishing boatWelsh river

Day 5

Having travelled down the ancient routes through the heart of Wales as others have done centuries before, this morning we go on a route used as far back as the Bronze Age, if not earlier, set on the Preseli Hills.  The hills are scattered with innumerable standing stones, stone circles, cairns, and hill forts.  We will first visit a stone circle sited beneath the towering craggy rocks of the Preseli’s, looking themselves like a dragons spiny back or some ancient ruined city, it is a captivating view! The stone circle has some outlier stones, one of which is known as the Dreaming stone.  Ros will explain the alignments of the stones to us.  Then up, like travellers of old, onto the ancient road, and we will, after a short twenty minute climb, reach the remains of an Iron Age fort with amazing views, then go on to the source of the inner circle of stones at Stonehenge*.   If time allows we will also visit another stone circle set on the path, known as Arthurs grave, which also has associations with Stonehenge.

Standing stone

After lunch a spectacular afternoon canoe along the river, whose route we have been traversing, a chance to see otters, kingfishers, dragonflies, birds of prey and water buffalo.  We will canoe past a medieval castle towering above us, surrounded by native woodland. Upon return a chance to try out a coracle, can you steer it!! Evening at a local establishment with local folk musicians, a great way to end the day.

 “The earth has music for those who listen” –  William Shakespeare

Traditional Pub signRiver

* see additional information tab

Day 6

A morning visit to the best preserved and most famous dolmen in Wales, with views back up to the hills of the previous days walk.  Its position gives you a sense of connectedness of all of these places.  We then venture onto a nearby stone circle bought to life by Ros and her team. The circle is a place of great tranquility, sitting right beneath Carn Ingli – Hill of Angels, to many Welsh one of Wales’s most holy mountains.  It is also part of the Preseli Hills and on a clear day Ireland can be seen from the summit. The circle is a wonderful place just to sit for a while.  Ros will explain the methods used in its construction, which included only poles, lever and pulleys, no modern machinery, quite a feat of engineering.  Then onto lunch and a visit to a fully reconstructed Iron Age roundhouse village, built on the original foundations.  It is a fascinating insight into Iron Age life and the only one of its kind in the United Kingdom.

Next we travel on to see a very interesting church site.  It has a tenth century 13 foot high Celtic cross, the finest cross in Wales, and there is a fifth century Ogham (Irish branch of the Celtic language) script inscribed stone in the church.  In the churchyard there is also a mysteriously bleeding yew.  The saint who founded the church is said to have communed with angels on Carn Ingli.  Next we go coastal and a visit to another fine dolmen with outstanding views back towards the Preseli hills, and the final destination is a short dramatic walk down beautiful cliffs to a secluded bay. You will be picked up by the minibus at the bay and taken back to our accommodation and final evening in our lovely seaside town.

Coast path

Day 7

Our day of departure, rather than a sad farewell we can only end on the most ancient and sacred note, and a feast!  We visit an early medieval castle, which is one of the most romantic and dramatic ruins in Wales.  It is a magnificent site, set high up with wonderful views towards the mountains of South Wales.  Within the castle environs lies a cave where human remains were found, dating back 30,000 years.  It is a very sacred site, and we will go down into the cave to honour our ancestors.

After our final visit of the tour, time for a special farewell lunch at a highly acclaimed Welsh establishment, showcasing delicious food and the best Wales has to offer. Then onward travel to Swansea train station in South Wales, for connection to services back to London or other destinations.

Medieval castleMedieval castle

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end”Ursula Le Guin

Highlights

Hilltop Castle Coast ViewStone circle

  • Have a private tour by its owners of a stunning medieval court that was home to Dick Whittington.
  • Walk besides beautiful waterfalls in ancient woodlands.
  • Discover the lair of reputedly the last dragon of Wales.
  • Be amazed by ancient standing stones and holy wells mentioned in the 11th century Domesday Book.
  • Journey to the wild and dramatic site that is the source of stones used to build in inner circle of Stonehenge.
  • Visit some extraordinary and best preserved Neolithic sites in Wales.
  • Learn from its builder about the construction, using traditional methods, of a stunning stone circle nestling below the beautiful and sacred Hill of the Angels.
  • Explore a church with the most perfect examples of an ancient Celtic cross and stones inscribed with Ogham script.
  • Journey through an incredible green wilderness.
  • Walk in the footsteps of monks at a grand medieval abbey – a place of pilgrimage.
  • Feel the ancient power of Wales’ most romantic ruined castle and explore a sacred cave.
  • Canoe through a gorge on a beautiful river past a medieval castle.
  • Feast on delicious offerings of Welsh hospitality.

This is a fully guided tour led by experts in landscape interpretation through archaeoastronomy, folklore, ancient history and storytelling bringing the places you visit vividly to life and showing you the hidden secrets of these places.  Your guides for this tour are Ros Briagha and Sarah Ewing.  For more information on your guides, please see about your guides page and for more detailed information on the tour please see the full itinerary tab.

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

John Muir

 

Pricing and Booking

The total cost of this 7 day tour is £1295. (Please note during our Thanksgiving promotion this price is reduced to £1165 – offer ends on 29th November 2019, please quote code Holiday20 when making your booking)

This price is based on double occupancy, all rooms can be either twin or double so sharing is possible, and some rooms are available on a single occupancy basis on request for an extra fee.

A deposit of £250 per person will secure your place on the tour; reservations are accepted on a first come first serve basis.  The balance must be paid in full 3 months before the start date of the tour.  

 

To book this tour, please click on the link below and you will be taken to a registration form and upon completion to the payment page for PayPal’s secure payment to pay your deposit and secure your place on this tour.

 

We very much look forward to welcoming you on your journey through the land of the dragon!

 

Book Now

What is included in the tour?

 

  • Extremely comfortable 4 star accommodation* that has been carefully selected for high standards of comfort and beautiful locations.  Fees are based on double occupancy, single occupancy at extra charge.
  • Intimate tour group 10 people maximum
  • Hearty Welsh breakfasts
  • Lunches on the first, third, fourth and sixth days, dinner on the second day and a feast on the last day!
  • Spirit and Cheese Tasting
  • Admissions to all attractions listed on the tour itinerary
  • Personal full-time tour guides with expert local knowledge
  • All Transportation

* please note accommodation on the first night is at a drovers inn, which though comfortable,  tastefully decorated and with great character is a 15th century droving inn and is 3 star standard.

 

For more details please see the additional information tab

Old droving inn

Additional Information

pony and cartWhat is included in the tour?

  • Overnight accommodation in 4 star accommodation that have been carefully selected for high standards of comfort and beautiful locations. Fees are based on double occupancy, single occupancy at extra charge.
  • Intimate tour group 10 people maximum
  • Personal full-time tour guides with expert local knowledge
  • Hearty Welsh breakfasts
  • Lunches on the first, third, fourth and sixth days, dinner on the second day and a feast on the last day!
  • Spirit and artisan tasting
  • Admissions to all attractions listed on the tour itinerary
  • All transportation

What is not included?

  • Airfare (we can offer guidance on best ways to book)
  • Expenses before and after the tour
  • Teas, Lunches and dinners (except where specified)
  • Any side trips or excursions guest do outside of the set itinerary
  • Gifts, souvenirs, laundry, cleaning, telephone calls, telexes, faxes, cables, wines, liquors, beer, mineral water, soft drinks and incidental expenditures
  • Porterage – we carry our own bags, always
  • Tips for tour guides, hotel staff

Good to Know

Walks on some of the routes are on rough paths. Please bring good walking boots with you and water proof clothing.

The walk up to the bluestones is on an unmade path and is uphill, but not very steep.  If there are members of the group who do not wish to make the climb we will take them to other nearby megalithic sites, leaving the rest of the group to walk up to the ancient pilgrimage route.

What is the Mabinogion?

The Mabinogion is s set of eleven Welsh tales first passed down orally over countless generations then written down in the fourteenth century in Welsh.  The first four stories are called the branches and tell the lives of early Welsh kings and mythical creatures.  Although they are mythic tales they are set in places that exist today in Wales, mainly Gwynedd and Dyfed, namely Caernarvonshire and Pembrokeshire.  The majority of the other stories are about King Arthur and his knights in a similar land of enchantment, filled with giants and fabulous beasts. One tales an example of how the tales relate to today is about a Roman Emperor and his chair on the Preseli Hills, which we visit and his wife Helen, a Welsh princess who gave her name to an important early highway that we travel along, it is great way of linking into the past and all its myths.

Weather

Wales is a land of sunshine, mists, wind, rain and anything else it feels like doing.  Conditions can change quickly but tours will not be cancelled due to poor weather. There might be slightly altered itineraries but tours will still go ahead.  The most important thing is to be prepared for all weather conditions to ensure you are comfortable.  Some of the most amazing photos can be taken just before or after storms the light can be incredibly intense and certainly brings you closer to nature!

What to bring

  • Waterproof jacket and trousers
  • Walking pole (if required)
  • Sturdy shoes or walking boots
  • Rucksack
  • Diary and paints if you like to record your trip

Which terminals are you picking up from at Heathrow?

We are picking up from outside terminal 3 at 9am.  Most US flights come into terminals 2 or 3.  If you require accommodation the night before we recommend The Premier Inn, Bath Road.  If you require any help with your accommodation prior to the tour or after the tour please ask.

https://www.premierinn.com/gb/en/hotels/england/greater-london/london/london-heathrow-airport-bath-road.html

How long does it take to get from Swansea train station to London?

Trains run every hour during the day from Swansea train station to London, the journey time is roughly three hours, we recommend you book a seat for your journey, but please speak to us first about which train you book to ensure you will be at the train station in time.

https://www.thetrainline.com

What is the Cancellation Policy?

In the event of cancellation before 1st February 2020.  Your deposit will only be refunded if your place is filled by someone else, in which case it will be refunded minus an administration fee.

In the event of cancellation on or after 1st February 2020 no refunds will be issued unless your place is filled by someone else, in which case it will be refunded minus an administration fee.

All cancellations must be received in writing.

Smoking Policy

Please note all properties we stay in, follow a strict no smoking policy, no smoking is allowed on or near the properties or whilst in transit from site to site.  Scotland has strict no smoking laws.  It is now illegal to smoke in and around accommodation and public interiors. To make it comfortable for all on our tours no smoking is allowed at the tours sites either.

Travel Insurance

We recommend you take out travel insurance.