Three Sisters of Plynlimon
Linking both the Visit Wales thematic Year of the Sea (2018) and Discovery (2019) we’ve created a fun project that brings alive the story of the three sisters of Plynlimon - Severn, Wye and Ystwyth
‘High in the black mountains, on the windswept slopes of Mount Plynlimon, three sisters met to discuss the weighty problem of what was the best way to the sea - for, being water spirits, they were fond of the oceans. The first decided to take the direct route, and headed westward. She became the river Ystwyth, and was the first to mingle with salty waters. The second sister had a taste for landscape, and made her way through purple hills and golden valleys - her name was Wye. The remaining sister decided against short-cuts and it took her 180 miles to reach the sea. The Severn, it appears, wished to visit all the fairest cities of the kingdom and never stray far from the haunts of men’
Three Sisters of Plynlimon
Three Sisters of Plynlimon
The Tale | Chapter one
Our story begins long ago, high up in the black mountains, on the windswept slopes of Mount Plynlimon…
One glorious morning, as the sun cast its first light of day upon the grassy valleys below, and birds soared in spirals through the calm summer breeze, Plynlimon couldn’t help but think there was something missing. Settled upon the highest point of Mid Wales, he could see for miles and miles across the beautiful landscapes beneath him. Everything seemed perfect. And then it dawned on him — there was no life flowing through his veins — not a river or water in sight.
Plynlimon pondered long and hard about how he could bring flowing waters to his beloved valleys but could not find the answer. Years went by as he searched for the solution and his eyes filled with sadness at what seemed an unfathomable task. He felt helpless and put his head in his hands for a little while, contemplating what he should do next. But as he raised his head, almost fully composed, he blinked, and with that, three giant teardrops spilled from his eyes, splashing directly into his two palms.
What happened next was quite extraordinary.
Plynlimon stared at the drops of moisture that had settled into small puddles, cradled in the palms of his hands. Warily he slowly began opening his fingers up, wide enough to allow the tears to trickle to the ground. But just seconds after the water had landed, large puddles started to form — three to be precise. The puddles got larger and deeper, muddier and boggier. He stared at the three pools in front of him, bewildered at how his eyes created such masterpieces.
At that moment, Plynlimon understood his fate. He was the source of water; he just hadn’t known it.
Plynlimon made the decision to nourish and care for these water sources with the hope that, one day, they could venture from the mountain in form of rivers and add a splash of life to his beloved land. He claimed the magically formed pools as his offspring and named them Ystwyth, Wye and Severn — three water spirits.
The daughters brought such joy to their father during their lifetime, but eventually the day came when Plynlimon knew that it was time for them to flee the hills and create paths to the sea.
But suddenly it dawned on him. The pools that Plynlimon’s daughters had grown from were drying up, and overjoyed by his daughters’ existence, Plynlimon found he had no more tears left to cry.
There was simply not enough water to form the rivers. He had to think fast.
He gathered the last bit of water in his hand and sat upon his rock. For many days and many nights, the doting father worked tirelessly with a needle and thread, looping, weaving and pulling at the droplets of water until finally, exhausted, he collapsed into a heap — three shimmering bundles in his arms.
Plynlimon beckoned Ystwyth, Severn and Wye and asked them the question they had been longing to hear:
“My daughters… the time has come for you to join with the sea.”
One by one he presented his daughters with their cloaks, gently placing each one over their heads and tying a delicate knot under their chins.
“Armed with these water cloaks, you will create your own paths and fulfil your destiny as water spirits. How will you make the journey?”
Bursting with glee, Ystwyth, the boldest and most fearless water spirit of the three, answered first:
“Father, I have been longing to reach the sea to smell the salty air for so long. I will head west and use the shortest route possible to meet the wide waters.”
With a proud nod of approval from Plynlimon, Ystwyth shot forth from the mountain, gathering pace as her cloak billowed behind her, forming a fresh stream of water. She weaved in and out of the rugged landscapes, meeting rich wildlife on her way before reaching the coast of Cardigan Bay, settling in a little town — which she later named Aberystwyth.
Next up to fulfil their destiny was Severn who was elated at the thought of the fair folk she would encounter on her journey:
“I will not rush to the shore; I wish to take the long route to the sea. For many years I have yearned to experience Welsh charm and wander the people’s great cities, beautiful towns and quaint villages to learn their ways. On my journey, I will water the meadows of the people and nourish their land.”
Her father embraced her and told her that they would meet again. As she said she would, Severn took her time gliding through towns and villages, before she and her cloak eventually flowed into the Bristol Channel.
Lastly, having watched her two sisters burst from the mountain top, creating silver streams in their paths, Wye stepped forward:
“While Ystwyth is wild and Severn seeks culture, I intend to seek beauty and tranquillity by meandering through lush countryside, woodland and forest to make harmony with nature. Creatures will thrive as I flow through the purple hills and golden valleys, creating sanctuaries for them along the way. Wildlife may wander with me, swimming in my path to the sea.”
Plynlimon kissed his daughter and said goodbye. She turned, a pool of water forming behind her as she and began her journey down the mountain side.
She flowed for 185 miles, at one with nature, before uniting with her sister, Severn. They recounted their magical adventures and epic experiences through the fair land.
Satisfied that he’d raised his three daughters with such unique and admirable qualities, but saddened that they had fled, the mighty Plynlimon let out a heavy sigh which trembled through the towns below him. He wondered when they would return to repeat their water cycles again.
To be continued…
Which Sister are you ?
Three Sisters Audio
A companion created for your time outdoors. Taking inspiration from the Welsh myth ‘The Three Sisters of Plynlimon’ this audio experience allows you to hear the thoughts and secrets of the three great rivers in Wales: Severn, Wye & Ystwyth.
'Follow me, Severn, wise and tempestuous. I have a fire in my belly that burns unquenchable and I can guide you today. Oh, dear traveller, the stories I have to share'.
"Run with me, Wye, as I flow, ever being, ever freeing. River of renewal, seeker of answers to life’s great questions".
"Follow me, Ystwyth, I will take you on an adventure of discovery and wonder. I will show you the magic that hides in the everyday all around you".
During your time outdoors, the sisters will be your companions but you are in control of your experience. Each mindful encounter has five parts and we encourage you to take your time between them, to lose yourself in your surroundings and discover the magic that is all around you.
For the best experience use headphones.
Listen on SoundCloud or click the Spotify/Apple icon to listen there:
Apple pod cast
Listen here for the Welsh versions on SoundCloud or click the Spotify icon to listen there.
Apple pod cast
Three Sister Events
rACE TO THE SEA
New ‘breath-taking’ 50km race to put athletes through their paces on an epic journey from land to sea
Race to the Sea will take keen walkers and runners from the slopes of Plynlimon to the coast of Cardigan Bay
Runners, walkers and hikers alike embarked on a brand-new 50km challenge on the 27 October 2018, as a first-of-its-kind race sent hearts racing with the very best Mid Wales has to offer.
Forming part of the Three Sisters of Plynlimon project led by Powys County Council, Race to the Sea treated participants to miles of stunning landscapes and undulating pathways, starting in the Cambrian Mountains and ending on the coast of Cardigan Bay.
The route, which stretches the length of the river Ystwyth, took keen walkers and runners on a journey that can only be made on foot — leading them from the village of Llangurig through hills and valleys towards the finish line at Aberystwyth.
Debuting for the first time in 2018, the race pays tribute to Visit Wales’s 2018 Year of the Sea and the upcoming 2019 Year of Discovery, by offering people from Wales and beyond an epic adventure across land and water.
During the race, participants encountered five checkpoints — Cefen, Ty Mawr, Pont-rhyd-y-Groes, Crosswood and Glynwern — each providing the best spots for spectators to park up and watch family and friends on the day.
The event itself was hosted by Cambrian Mountain Events and makes up one element of the Powys County Council’s Three Sisters of Plynlimon project. Working in partnership with Ceredigion, Mid and North Powys and Dyfi Biosphere Destination Partnerships along with Cambrian Mountain Events, the council’s focus is to engage audiences across Wales with a tale of water spirits said to have formed the rivers Ystwyth, Severn and Wye.
Partners hope that the story can help showcase Mid Wales’s unique cultural offering and promote the region as the ultimate tourist destination.
Wendy Abel from Mid and North Powys Destination Network, said: “We are thrilled to bring the Three Sisters of Plynlimon story to life and create an event that will become a regular fixture in Wales’ sporting calendar”
Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport, Lord Elis-Thomas, said: “As we continue to celebrate our ‘Year of the Sea’ this fantastic new event will help shine the spotlight on some of Mid Wales’s most beautiful scenery and walking routes - both inland and toward our stunning coastline.”
“The tale of the Three Sisters of Plynlimon celebrates both our rich culture and our dramatic landscapes and I hope this year’s event will inspire people from across Wales and beyond to put on their walking boots and explore the region in a way they may not have done before.”
About the Project
Linking both the Visit Wales thematic Year of the Sea (2018) and Discovery (2019) along with our partners we’ve created a fun project that aims to bring alive the story of the three sisters of Plynlimon - Severn, Wye and Ystwyth
Project activity will be taking place from July 2018 to the end of 2019 and will cover the project area of Montgomeryshire, Radnorshire and Ceredigion.
The project is being led by Powys County Council in partnership with Ceredigion, Mid and North Powys and Dyfi Biosphere Destination Partnerships and Cambrian Mountain Events.
This project has received funding via the Regional Tourism Engagement Fund (RTEF) and supported through the Welsh Government Rural Communities - Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Welsh Government, the Fund to improve the visitor experience and create stronger destinations by working together.