WHR Place Names & Pronunciation

Welsh pronunciation is notoriously if not very accurately regarded as "difficult" - for English speakers at least, many overseas visitors to the Principality seem to find it much easier! It also varies not only with region, but even over distances as small as five or ten miles. This page is intended to help anyone having trouble getting their tongue around some of the places on the WHR route from Caernarfon to Porthmadog. Welsh speakers should be aware that although your webmaster is a long-term local resident, he is far from fluent in Welsh - corrections and alternatives are invited, as are your patience and tolerance!

As for the translations offered, remember that place names don't always have to mean anything as such; but Welsh place names have a strong tendency to be either descriptive or religious in character, which is why some of them occur in more than one place. Again, corrections, alternatives and suggestions are invited - but let's not get into the old chestnut of whether Porthmadog (formerly Portmadoc) is meant to commemorate William Alexander Madocks or Prince Madog ap Gruffydd (shall we settle on both?)...

Handy general principles (not a comprehensive list, culled from various sources)

WHR Place Names, from North to South

Place Name Pronunciation Translation, insofar as appropriate (some vaguer than others!)
Caernarfon kye'r'narvon Fortress in the land facing Anglesey
Lôn Eifion loan ay'vyon Eifion lane
Pont Seiont pont sey'ont Seiont bridge (also known as Pont Saint)
Bontnewydd bont'new'ith New bridge
Afon Gwyrfai av'on gwur'vai River Gwyrfai
Dinas din'as Fort
Cae Moel kye moyle Field of the bare hill
Rhostryfan ross'truh'van Tryfan moor
Wernlas Ddu wernlas thee (?) Black blue marsh
Cae Hen kye he'n Old field
Tryfan (as in Junction) truh'van (from name of mountain Moel Tryfan)
Bryngwyn bri'n'gwi'n White hill
Gwredog Isaf gwredog ee'sav Lower Gwredog
Tan yr Allt tan-i'r-acht Under the hillside
Cyrnant cur'nant Beside the valley and/or brook
Waunfawr wine-vow'r Large moor
Betws Garmon bet-oos garmon (St) Garmon's oratory
Bryn Gloch brin gloch Bell hill
Salem sahlem (name of chapel)
Plas y Nant plass-uh-nant Mansion in the valley
Castell Cidwm cast'e'ch kid'oom Wolf's Castle
Llyn Cwellyn thl'in que'thlin Cwellyn Lake
Glan yr Afon glan-urr-av'on Riverside
Glanrafon glan'r'av'on Riverside
Rhyd Ddu rheed-thee Black ford
Pont Cae'r Gors pont kay'r gorse Bridge of the field of the marsh
Hafod Ruffydd havod riffith (?) Griffiths' farm*
Beddgelert be'th'gelert Grave of Gelert (fictional dog), or Celert (Saint)
Bryn y Felin brin-uh-velin Mill hill
Aberglaslyn aberglaslin Mouth of the Glasyn (river)**
Nantmor nantmo'r Stream to the sea
Hafod y Llyn havod-uh-thlin Farm* by the lake
Hafod Garegog havod garegog Rocky farm*
Ynysferlas unus'verlas Short green island
Croesor kroy'sor  
Traeth Mawr try'th mow'er Great sands
Ynysfor unus'vor Sea island (may be a variation on the adjacent "Ynys Fawr" [large island])
Portreuddyn port'roy'thin  
Pen y Mount pen-uh-mount top of the ? (Welsh/English hybrid name?)
Porthmadog porthmadog Madog's harbour

* A hafod, literally a "summer place" is traditionally an upland farm for summer grazing, worked in conjunction with a lowland hendre (home farm) for winter grazing. The application of the term hafod to some of the placenames given here is not entirely consistent with this, as Hafod y Llyn and Hafod Garegog are not far above sea level.

** The references to coast and sea in various place names from here on reflect the fact that before the Cob was built across the mouth of Traeth Mawr, the low-lying land of the Glaslyn Estuary was covered by the sea at high tide.

Back to WHR route page
Authored by Ben Fisher; last updated April 17th, 2005