Bedd Taliesin (Taliesin’s Grave) part 1

Place names and monuments close to Bedd Taliesin, the bronze age cairn in the Cletwr Valley, could throw a little light on why it bears the name of a popular Welsh folk hero. It’s impossible to tell whether this was originally the grave of the historic Taliesin, chief bard to Urien Rheged, although there’s no reason why (no matter how unlikely) he couldn’t have been buried there at a later date. Such ancient cairns were used time and again throughout long periods of time. But whether or not the historic Taliesin is buried in this ancient monument is of less importance than its association with the legendary figure that the famous Cynfardd became: the accidental child of Ceridwen, the reborn Gwion Bach and bard to the hapless Elffin.

The cairn itself is situated in a place called Pen y Sarn Ddu, or ‘End of the Black Road’, a name still retained by the old farm next to the cairn. It would be easy to assume that this name refers to the old ‘Roman’ road, or Sarn Helen, that runs past the farm following the coastal highland from Machynlleth to Aberystwyth. But that ancient highway doesn’t end at Bedd Taliesin, so why call it the ‘End of the Black Road’?

It’s more likely that the farm’s name refers to the old track that runs at right angles to the Roman road, following the Cletwr Valley east towards Moel-y-Llyn. So if this is the ‘End of the Black Road’, where is its beginning? The present track runs along the south side of the valley through Cae’r Arglwyddes Farm and due east up the slope of Moel-y-Llyn through the pass into the Einion Valley. If the Black Road originally followed a similar path, we can see it takes a straight line from Bedd Taliesin, through Cae’r Arglwyddes Farm to the pass into the Einion Valley. If we extend that straight line down the other side of Moel-y-Llyn we come to a small farmstead called Bronwion, or ‘Gwion’s Hill’. Is this where the Black Road begins?

Bedd Taliesin Map

Gwilmor

Welsh musician and some kind of an academic.

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Maes Gwyddno and the Waters of the Otherworld | The Path of the Awenydd - February 21, 2015

[…] Morus has outlined his own theories about links between this landscape and the Taliesin story HERE. But any attempt to link it with the inundation would place the origins of the legend a lot further […]

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John Morgan - June 8, 2019

Pen y sarn ddu is not best translated as the ‘end of the black road’. Pen in this case is more related to the word ‘top’ and it is more likely to mean ‘to of the black road’ or ‘summit’ or ‘high point’ . This does make sense as the locality is at the highest point of the possible roman road.

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    Gwilmor - June 8, 2019

    Yes, that could be one explanation, but in Welsh we do tend to say things like, ‘pen y lôn’, ‘pen y ffordd’, ‘pen y stryd’, ‘pen y daith’, ‘pen y llwybr’, etc, as in the end of the road or path. Because of that use, particularly with regards to roads, and because Y Sarn Ddu naturally ends at that very farmstead, (which is actually lower than the highest point that’s a few hundred yards away), it makes more sense to translate as ‘The End of the Black Road’. A good example of ‘Pen Sarn’ as a place name relating to a junction as opposed to a ‘penrhyn’ is Pen-Sarn in Ardudwy.

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