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When it comes to quirky traditions, Britain can certainly hold its own. It is full of well-preserved customs, the origins of which may have been lost in the mists of time, but the legacy is faithfully carried forward across generations. This gentle eccentricity is apparent in the people and places. Here’s a look at some of the more unique UK villages.
Clovelly is built on a cliffside in North Devon, and is a traditional fishing village that was once the property of the Royal Family. Its isolated position means that it has retained its ancient charm, and to this day the village is closed to vehicular traffic. You need to pay an entrance fee to visit, but it’s well worth it for the journey back in time.
You can pay a visit to an authentic fisherman’s cottage and you may see the famous Clovelly donkeys who were once relied on for transport and now remain as a tourist attraction.
The Isle of Skye is deservedly famous for its beautiful combination of wild rugged mountains and coastline, but it also has a darker history. During the infamous Highland Clearances of the 18th and 19th century, thousands of crofter families were displaced from their homes as landowners wanted to use the land in different ways.
This created whole ghost villages, and the remains of some of these abandoned settlements still exist. Elgol is a fishing and crofting hamlet on the southwest coast of the island, and before the Clearances it was a much bigger village. It is noted for being a place of refuge for Bonnie Prince Charlie, who hid in a nearby cave.
Portmeirion near Porthmadog in north Wales is a ‘folly’ village, entirely designed as a mock Mediterranean Italian village by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in the mid-twentieth century. It is a charming mixture of architectural styles, and has featured in many film and television series over the years.
Staying in north Wales, the village of Bedgelert literally translates as “Gelert’s Grave” and a monument to mark the grave stands in the centre of the village. The name is derived from the legend of Gelert, the loyal dog of the Prince of Gwynedd, Llewelyn the Great, who once had a castle in the village.
When the prince returns home from a hunting trip to find his baby son missing from his upturned cradle, he sees Gelert’s blood-smeared face, and jumps to the hasty conclusion that the dog has savaged his son to death. Llewelyn draws his sword in anger and stabs Gelert through the heart.
As the brave dog lies dying, the prince finds his baby son unharmed under the cradle, beside the dead wolf that Gelert had killed to protect him. Llewelyn is so distraught by his mistake that he never smiles again. However, it is thought the Welsh version of this tale was invented in the 17th century to attract tourists to the inn, and its first origins are uncertain.