A long time ago, in a land not so far, far away, began a tradition of story-telling, poetry and music- making in Wales which lives on to this day – and is a source of national pride and identity.
It is demonstrated at the National Eisteddfod, which as well as being a competition of prose, music and poetry, is also a wider celebration of Welsh achievements. Awards don’t just cover the written and spoken word but also include categories as diverse as Science and Technology, Craft and Design, Architecture, and Welsh Learner of the Year. The annual event is held entirely in Welsh and is a major event in the Welsh cultural calendar, attracting in excess of 150,000 visitors. It stretches over more than a week and across numerous stages and pavilions set up for readings, concerts and exhibitions.
There is much ceremony in the presenting of the awards, including the Chairing of the Bard, presided over by the Archdruid. The chair, which is designed especially for the event each year, represents social status, and has its roots in the awarding of a seat at Lord Rhys’s table from the very first recorded eisteddfod at Cardigan Castle in 1176. At that time, very few people sat at a high backed chair; most sat on lowly wooden stools.
Each year the National Eisteddfod takes place in a different Welsh town and in 2016 it is the turn of Abergavenny in Monmouthshire to host the event. Abergavenny, on the edge of the Black Mountains and close to the Brecon Beacons National Park, is a town with a very long history, dating back to Roman times. Visitors can explore the ruins of the Norman castle and learn about revolt by Owain Glyndwr against Henry IV of England which resulted in the destruction of the town in 1404. In more recent times Abergavenny has built a growing reputation as the foodie capital of Wales, with a strong focus on locally produced food, award winning restaurants and an annual food festival in September.
To visit the 2016 National Eisteddfod, book a B&B in Abergavenny. And to learn more about the event, book a stay at Cardigan Castle in Pembrokeshire, which offers B&B rooms inside the fortress walls and houses a permanent exhibition about the eisteddfod, including a giant bardic chair.