EXCALIBUR

The Lady of the Lake takes back Excalibur
Then Sir Bedivere departed, and went to the sword and lightly took it up, and so he went unto the water's side; and there he bound the girdle about the hilts, and threw the sword as far into the water as he might. And there came an arm and a hand above the water and took it and clutched it, and shook it thrice and brandished, and then vanished with the sword into the water. So Sir Bedivere came again to the King, and told him what he saw. -Thomas Malory, Le Morte Darthur, c. 1460

Arthur's mystical sword Excalibur is first mentioned in Geoffrey of Monmouth's The History of the Kings of Britain. In his account, Arthur acquires the sword "Caliburn," which was forged on the enchanted Isle of Avalon. Later legend expands the story, and at Arthur's death at the battle of Camlann, the sword is said to have been returned to the Lady of the Lake by Arthur's favored knight, Sir Bedivere. Throughout the literary tradition, this body of water is never explicitly identified. In our travels we visited six of these reputed Excalibur Lakes--the Lily Ponds at Bosherston, Dozmary Pool, Llyn Llydaw, Llyn Ogwen, Loe Pool, and Pomparles Bridge. In 2001, we visited a lake in Dumfries and Galloway, Loch Arthur, and another in Shropshire, Berth Pool.


Bosherston

Legendary and Literary Background

The proximity of the Bosherston Lily Ponds to St. Govan's Head may have been all that was needed to link them with Excalibur. Aside from local association, there is little to suggest a deeply Looking down one of the finger lakesrooted legend of any sort. In fact, the lakes did not exist until the late 18th century, when the Cawdor family dammed the narrow limestone valleys that the lakes now fill. Before this, there were only small creeks, no worthy dwelling for the Lady of the Lake.

Location and Description

This lake is in the southwestern tip of Wales in the town of Bosherston. The town is not far south of Pembroke on the B4319. From the town, follow the signs to the Bosherston Lily Ponds. The road will be on the left and leads to a parking lot. From there, trails wander around the finger lakes.

Click here to see a Streetmap.co.uk map of the area around the Bosherston Lakes.

The trails around the Lily Ponds are well-groomed and are excellent for hiking and dog-walking. There is plenty of ground to A wide view of the Lily Pondsexplore and each corner turned reveals an incredible view. The water is clear and the lake floor is covered with green plants. And the wildlife is friendly, too. There was one little yellow bird that followed us around wherever we went. There are several bridges that cross the ponds. These are less than a foot above the water and only had a handrail on one side. It almost felt like you were walking across the glassy surface of the lake itself

Journal Reflections

To read Jake's Journal Entry for this day, click here.

For Joe's Journal Entry, click here.


Dozmary Pool

Legendary and Literary BackgroundDozmary Pool

The only support for this site is from local Cornish legend, though it gains strength from surrounding Arthurian connections. One reputed site for the Battle of Camlann is in a field near the River Cam at Slaughter Bridge, which is only ten miles away. Arthur may have held court at the nearby earthenwork fort of Kelly Rounds. The "island" of Tintagel, where Arthur is said to have been born, is a mere twenty miles away. A related legend claims that the pool is bottomless. This sympathetic legend could have arisen to protect the sacred sword from treasure-seekers. During the droughts in 1859 and 1976, however, the pool dried up revealing the relatively shallow floor. No sword was found.

Location and Description

Dozmary Pool is located on Bodmin Moor south of the Cornish town of Bolventor. There is a sign to the pool from the A30, pointing down a narrow potholed road that cuts through the scrubland of the Moor. The pool can be seen from this road, but there is a narrower, more potholed road on the left that leads to a farmhouse and the pool's edge.

Click here to see a Streetmap.co.uk map of the area around Dozmary Pool.

Dozmary PoolWe drove that morning from Andover to Bolventor on nice, well-maintained roads. We entered the town and found the first sign to Dozmary Pool near the Jamaica Inn. We turned down left down this narrow, muddy, potholed road that we were soon sharing with tractors. We stayed on this road for a little less than a mile before turning left on a still worse road to get closer to the pool. We went a very short distance and then turned right. This road took us on the other side of a plot of farmland and led us to the pool's edge and a small rustic farmhouse.

We got out of the car and felt a fairly strong wind immediately. Small ripples made their way across the otherwise calm surface of the pool. The day was cloudy, and the dullness was complemented by the earthy brown grasses and overgrown stone fences that divided the fields. A single hill stood on the other side of the water. The overall weathered look of the area helped us understand why the pool had enchanted the legend-weavers over the centuries.

 

Journal Reflections

To read Jake's Journal Entry for this day, click here.

For Joe's Journal Entry, click here.


Llyn Llydaw

Legendary and Literary BackgroundSnow covered mountains above Llyn Llydaw

Llyn Llydaw suggests a more northerly Arthur. Local legend holds that Bedivere threw the sword into this lake below Mount Snowdon. Some legend even goes so far as to claim the lake as the body of water that the wounded Arthur sails across to the Isle of Avalon. The relative inaccessibility of the lake, however, has caused many to doubt these claims.

Location and Description

This lake is in the heart of Snowdonia National Park, in north Wales. Access to the trail that leads to the lake is off the A4086 in the pass of Llanberis. For a couple of pounds, parking is available in a lot only about a mile from the junction with the A498. It is only about ten miles from Llyn Ogwen.

Click here to see a Streetmap.co.uk map of the area around Llyn Llydaw.

Llyn LlydawThis parking lot does not mention Llyn Llydaw by name; we drove past it several times before we decided that this was the place. In fact, we weren't positive we were in the right place until we had finished the hike up and saw the lake nestled in the mountaintop basin. This hike was along a wide, well-kept trail approximately one mile in length. There were many hikers in the national park the day we were there. The air was crisp; the surrounding mountains were dusted with snow and somewhat obscured by the clouds. The trail continued in a circle around the lake, which allowed exploration of some curious ruins on the opposite shore. There was plenty of high ground from which you could see the lake from an almost aerial perspective.

 

Journal Reflections

To read Jake's Journal Entry for this day, click here.

For Joe's Journal Entry, click here.


Llyn Ogwen

Llyn OgwenLegendary and Literary Background

Deep in Snowdonia sits the mountain of Tryfan. This mountain is said to be the burial site of Sir Bedivere. Interestingly, it is one of the only sites associated with him exclusively. Below this mountain is Llyn Ogwen. Having such as strong tie with Sir Bedivere reinforces the lake's claim. many people believe that this lake, more accessible than Llyn Llydaw, is the more likely Snowdonian candidate.

Location and Description

Llyn Ogwen is an easy to find roadside lake in Snowdonia National Park in northern Wales; there is parking along the A5. It is about ten miles west of Betws-y-Coed and is only about ten miles from Llyn Llydaw.

Llyn OgwenClick here to see a Streetmap.co.uk map of the area around Llyn Ogwen.

This lake is one of the two candidates for the resting place of Excalibur in the Snowdonian mountains. We found it odd that the two candidates were less than ten miles from each other. This one was the easier to find of the two, as the A5 runs right by it. We parked the car on the side of the road and began walking out towards the lake, dodging several hikers. The mountains came to the edge of the water on all sides except the easternmost, where a small stream fed the lake and marshy grassland. There was an old farmhouse in this grassland near the lake's edge. The water had the characteristic clarity of the other mountain lakes of Snowdonia.

Journal Reflections

To read Jake's Journal Entry for this day, click here.

For Joe's Journal Entry, click here.


Loe PoolA reflection in Loe Pool

Legendary and Literary Background
The the bold Bedivere uplifted [Arthur] 
And bore him to a chapel nigh the field 
A broken chancel with a broken cross 
That stood on a dark strait of barren land 
On one side lay the ocean, and on one 
Lay a great water, and the moon was full.                  
                   -Idylls of the King by Tennyson, 
                   "The Passing of Arthur," lines 175-180.

There are many that believe Tennyson had Loe Pool in mind when he wrote these lines on Arthur's death. This is supported by his mention of Lyonesse as the site of the final battle. Lyonesse is a legendary land off the tip of Cornwall that has since sunken into the sea.

In actuality, the lake was only an inlet of Mount's Bay until the thirteenth century, when the sand bar finally closed up the pass.

Location and Description

Loe Pool is located south of the bayside town of Porthleven; there are signs from the B3304 that lead to a parking lot. From there, a trail (popular with dog walkers) goes along the cliff tops and overlooks Mount's Bay. It eventually leads to Loe Bar, the separation of the pool from the bay, and just inland is Loe Pool.

Click here to see a Streetmap.co.uk map of the area around Loe Pool.

Looking down Loe PoolFrom the B3304, finding the parking lot was easy. This lot, however, was not marked as one for Loe Pool specifically, and we were not sure we were in the right place. Then again, the trail leading to the pool is popular as a walking trail with amazing scenery; it is not so much one for tourists going to see Loe Pool. We started hiking with the faith that this was the right trail. We walked for maybe 3/4 of a mile before we came upon a break in the cliffs with Loe Bar cutting through the middle. Behind Loe Bar is Loe Pool. There were two paths to take--the high road (which ran around the pool) or the low road (which led down to the bar and to the foot of the pool). We took the high road and climbed down a steep hillside to a tree trunk that had fallen down near the water. From here we could see down the whole length of the pool. Swans swam on our left and the bay was to the right. And we couldn't have asked for better weather. The sun was out and the clouds reflected off the water. The pool had a more classic beauty than many of the others, but lacked the mysterious character of Dozmary Pool.

Local folklore is still alive and well in the area. We ate lunch at a pub in Porthleven called the Atlantic Inn, which was run by a nice chap named Roger Baker. We began talking to him about the pool. He said that whenever he walks around the pool, he always notices one particular branch sticking out of the water that he likes to fancy is Excalibur being held up by the Lady of the Lake.

Journal Reflections

To read Jake's Journal Entry for this day, click here.

For Joe's Journal Entry, click here.


Pomparles Bridge

Legendary and Literary BackgroundPomparles Bridge

"A mile before [the river Brue] reaches Glastonbury, it comes to a bridge of four stone arches, which is known as Pontperlus, and it was here, according to legend, that King Arthur cast his sword into it"--John Leland's Itinerary

Leland here is referring to Pomparles Bridge; the name comes from the French pont perilleaux, "perilous bridge." While this area used to be underwater, the bridge today only spans a small river. When the low grasslands were covered with water, the tor and elevated areas of Glastonbury became, in effect, an island. Many consider this to be the Isle of Avalon to which Arthur was taken to treat his mortal wounds from the battle at Camlann. Indeed, Glastonbury Abbey claims the best known Arthurian grave site. There is such a strong Arthurian presence in the area that one would expect an Excalibur legend nearby.

Location and Description

This bridge crosses the River Brue just south of the town of Glastonbury on the A39.

The River BrueClick here to see a Streetmap.co.uk map of the area around Pomparles Bridge.

We had forgotten about this possibility for the fate of Excalibur until we spoke with Geoffrey Ashe. We decided to drive by on the way out of Glastonbury and get a picture or two. The bridge is part of a main thoroughfare that goes through Glastonbury, so some of the atmosphere was lost when we had to dodge cars to get the pictures we wanted. Since it is such a main road, though, the bridge is well marked. Whatever atmosphere the traffic takes away from the site, the legends of Glastonbury give back. The tor towers in the background, and the flooded plains around it helped give the Isle of Avalon life. If Arthur was, in fact, buried in the town, then the notion that Excalibur was here returned to the Lady of the Lake is not that far-fetched. We found the possibility of truth almost as inspiring as the isolated mystery of Dozmary Pool.

Journal Reflections

To read Jake's Journal Entry for this day, click here.

For Joe's Journal Entry, click here.


Loch Arthur

Legendary and Literary Background

Loch Arthur is the northernmost of the Excalibur lakes, being situated in Dumfries and Galloway. Some locals will argue vehemently that Arthur's sword rests on the loch's bottom, but there are no detailed stories, only a name. This name, though, has been spread around the immediate area--the loch is flanked by Locharthur Hill and there is a nearby farm called Locharthur. Ms. Bardsley, our hostess at the Rossan B&B, disagrees with her fellow Scots on this point. She maintains that theLoch Arthur true resting place of Excalibur is at Dozmary Pool, in her childhood home of Cornwall (but she is a full-blooded Scot).

Location and Description

Loch Arthur is just outside of the town of Beeswing, which lies on the A711 between the towns of Dumfries and Castle Douglas. There are small pulloffs by the lake on the road from Beeswing to New Abbey. The lake is set in the trees and surrounded by hills, making it a very idyllic place, if unsubstantiated, to cast away the sword.

To see a Streetmap.co.uk map of the area around Loch Arthur, click here.

Journal Reflections

To read Jake's Journal Entry for this day, click here.

For Joe's Journal Entry, click here.


Berth Pool

Berth Pool from the BerthLegendary and Literary Background

Berth Pool is part of Phillips and Keatman's proposed Powysian burial complex, where the pool probably served as a repository for sacred objects and the immediately adjacent hill, the Berth, may have been where the kings were actually buried. This area has not been excavated to speak of, but the only recorded archeological "find" surfaced near Berth Pool in 1906. A man working on the banks of a small stream that drained the pool discovered a bronze cauldron that Phillips and Keatman say measured "some eighteen inches high and twelve inches wide" (175). This cauldron dates from the early first century, and is seen as evidence that pagan Celtic peoples cast religious offerings into this pool. Cauldrons were often used in this mannner, as seen in the Bran legends, and some scholars say that such objects may be precursors of the idea of the Holy Grail. So, Phillips and Keatman say, if sacred objects were cast into this pool, and if the Berth was the burial site of the Powysian kings, then perhaps Arthur's sword was cast into the water at his death and the legend of Excalibur was born.

Location and Description

The Berth and its corresponding pool are just outside the town of Baschurch in mid Wales. From Baschurch, go into Newtown and you will come to a four-way intersection at the north end of the town. Turn right. You will pass a pub called the Boreaton Welcome to Berth PoolArms and then cross the railroad tracks. Take the first left onto an unmarked, narrow, paved road just over the railroad tracks. This is a private farm named Mere Ho. The paved road will turn into a dirt one which leads a short distance to a gate. At this gate is a NO TRESPASSING sign, but you can see Berth Pool and the hill behind it. For directions to the Berth, click here.

To see a Streetmap.co.uk map of the area around Berth Pool, click here.

Visitors to Berth Pool will be greeted by a NO TRESPASSING sign, complements of the Berth Pool Anglers. Perks of BPA membership seem to include a well-stocked fishin' hole and a small mint-green trailer for secret club meetings. Though you can see the pond, any view of it is obscured by the trees that completely encircle it. This is the only site we encountered in our travels that specifically forbade us access. We honored this request and recommend that you do as well.

Journal Reflections

To read Jake's Journal Entry for this day, click here.

For Joe's Journal Entry, click here.


All photographs by Joe Boyles and Jake Livingston.
Top picture Knights of The Round Table, page 25.