The Best Places To Learn The History Of The National Eisteddfod

Today marks the start of Wales’ most famous cultural event – THE NATIONAL EISTEDDFOD.

The Eisteddfod is an annual unique festival here in Wales. A celebration of Welsh language and culture, it provides a national stage for music, dance and the visual arts. This year it is being held in the Ceredigion community of Tregaron.

The History of the Eisteddfod

As you can imagine, the origins of The National Eisteddfod are deeply rooted in Welsh history.

The history of the Eisteddfod in Wales can be traced back to 1176, when the first event was held under the patronage of the Lord Rhys. He invited poets and musicians from all over the country to Cardigan Castle and awarded a chair to the best, a tradition that continues to this day (Eisteddfod literally means a sitting – eistedd means to sit in Welsh).

The modern history of the organisation dates back to 1861.  Since then it has developed into the annual cultural event we see today.

Want to learn more about the history of the Welsh Eisteddfod? Then (apart from visiting the festival every August) visit these places to learn the history of the National Eisteddfod.

Where can I visit to learn more about the Eisteddfod?
  1. The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth

The first stop on your list should be the iconic National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.

‘The Nation’s Memory’ houses several impressive items related to the history of the Eisteddfod in Wales, and currently you can view them in the current ‘A Oes Heddwch‘ exhibition.

To coincide with the arrival of the Eisteddfod in Ceredigion in 2022, the Library looks at the foundations and development of the National Eisteddfod through its diverse collection. From Iolo Morganwg’s manuscripts relating to the establishment of the Gorsedd of the Bards to the poetry and prose of past winners, this exhibition celebrates the history and tradition of the Eisteddfod both past and present.

2. Amgueddfa Ceredigion Museum, Aberystwyth

In addition to the National Eisteddfod, many communities across Wales hold smaller regional and local eisteddfodau – and Ceredigion Museum is a great place to learn more about them.

The redeveloped County museum, housed in the town’s former theatre, is home to a great variety of artefacts that tell the story of local eisteddfodau across the county, including these great examples of Eisteddfod purses. Eisteddfod competition winners were sometimes awarded their prize in a small purse.

3. Cardigan Castle

You have to visit where it all started! On Christmas Day 1176 the Lord Rhys invited poets and musicians to Cardigan Castle to compete. A chair at the Lord’s table was awarded to the best poet and musician. This eisteddfod is widely recognised as the first documented eisteddfod, though it is suggested eisteddfodau may have been held in Wales as early as the 6th Century.

Nowadays, you can visit the castle and grounds, and sit in the bardic chair emblazoned with the arms of Lord Rhys.

P.S. Like Welsh castles? Then check out my blog posts about Hay and Chirk Castle, or this one about the best castles to visit near Bridgend.

4. Yr Ysgwrn, Trawsfynydd

If you only have time to visit one historic place on this list, make it this one!

This Welsh farmhouse was once home to Hedd Wyn, aka Ellis Humphrey Evans, the famous Welsh poet. He won the bardic chair at the 1917 Eisteddfod in Birkenhead, but sadly he had been killed six weeks prior at the Third Battle of Ypres. The chair was draped in black and sent to his parents at Yr Ysgwrn.

As well as focusing on the life and legacy of Hedd Wyn, Yr Ysgwrn also tells the story of the bardic tradition in Wales. Several of the bardic chairs won by Hedd Wyn, including the famous Black Chair, are on display.

Wales’ language and culture has always been firmly rooted in its places, and these are definitely the best places to learn the history of the National Eisteddfod.

Liked this post? Want to visit more historical places in Wales? Then check out my brilliant Welsh history travel guide!

Eisteddfod History Pinterest Cover

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