Sunday, 13 February 2011

Pennard Castle and the Verry Volk

I want to tell you a little about the faeries of the Gower in South Wales, known as the Verry Volk.

Whenever I come across this name it makes me smile. It was recorded by the American anthropologist, Evans-Wentz in his book ‘The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries’ (at the beginning of the 1900’s) and I can’t help thinking that what he heard was simply the local pronunciation of ‘Faerie Folk’ and was ‘pixie-led’ into thinking otherwise. I imagine the fae enjoying a joke at the learned mans expense. Nevertheless, Gower faeries are now the Verry Volk, whatever the origin of the name.

These little faeries are said to dress in red and green and dance under the moonlight. Though they can be mischievous, they are generally benevolent and do not pose a threat to children. If someone wishes to be extra cautious around the faeries they might turn their jacket inside out, making themselves invisible to them. However, it's probably best to keep on their good side, as this story tells us.

The Wedding Feast

Pennard Castle on the Gower was once the stronghold of a successful warrior chief. Our story takes place on the night of his wedding.

Pennard Castle
The wedding celebrations were in full swing and, it has to be said, the chief had enjoyed a little more drink than might be wise, when one of his guards heard mysterious music coming from the castle yard. It was midnight and he was afraid so he called a porter and the two went to investigate. Sure enough there were faeries dancing to the music of tiny harps right inside the castle yard. Well he reported this to his master but the chief, who wouldn't have tolerated faeries in his castle when he was sober, let alone when he was drunk, ordered his soldiers to drive them out.

Three Cliffs Bay as seen from the castle
It is said that the wisest people there that night strongly advised him not to risk the wrath of the faeries but he took no notice. He rushed into the yard swinging his sword in the direction where the faeries had been seen and as he did a voice was heard to say, "since thou hast, without reason, broken in upon our innocent sport, thou shalt be without castle or feast". Immediately a cloud of sand whistled round them until the storm was so strong that it tore down the walls of the castle. They say that Ireland lost a mountain of sand to Wales that night, and to this day the castle ruins stand deep in sand.

Wild Thyme growing inside the castle

There are a couple of routes to the castle but the prettiest is via Parkmill. This route is a bit of a walk but well worth it, if only to see the Blackthorn growing along the way. In case you don't know, Blackthorn is considered to be protected by the Lunantisidhe. These are Irish faeries who, folklore has it, aren't always kindly towards people. When you do arrive at the castle you may also spot Wild Thyme growing on the inside. This is a plant often associated with the fae and one of the main ingredients of ancient recipe entitled 'to enable one to see the fairies'. The day i visited there was a small, and slightly trampled, 'fairy ring' of Puffballs growing inside the castle ruins. It was only when i got home that i found out that Puffballs used to be called Pucks-fist, and in Ireland they are called Cos-a Phooka meaning Pucks Foot. Evidence of the Verry Volk perhaps?
A Fairy Ring


  1. Very interesting! I really do love this blog.

  2. thank you owl dancer - it's great to know you're enjoying these stories.

  3. great blog! really enjoyed reading this :)