Hear the wind whisper in the trees
telling Mother Nature 'bout you and me
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The legendary cottage, c 2016
(thanks, Alex Cantu)
In 1970, following a grueling US tour, the four members of the rock and roll powerhouse Led Zeppelin retreated to a cottage in the serene Welsh woods to write their third album. The cottage, known as Bron-Yr-Aur had no electricity or running water and provided the band with a much needed rest and relaxation they couldn’t find schlepping from hotel to hotel and city to city across the United States.
Bron-Yr-Aur means “golden hill” and is a reference to its location in the mid-Wales countryside in Gwynedd, just outside the small market town of Machnylleth, which claims to be the ancient capital of the country, though there has never been any official record of the title. The land itself feels ancient to the visitor, as there are many medieval cottages and mansions still standing today. Though not quite so old, the 18th century, privately-owned cottage at Bron-Yr-Aur also boasts an other-worldly feel. It’s no wonder that the band composed such tunes as "Over the Hills and Far Away," "Stairway to Heaven," and "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp" while staying at the cottage (they accidentally misspelled the name in the song title).
Lyrically, "Bron-y-aur Stomp" is a country-western style hoedown written about a leisurely stroll through the woods along the golden hill. Use of the word "stomp" in the title suggests a double meaning: the style of song and the topic of the lyrics. Robert Plant penned the words after spending countless days wandering around with his merle dog, Strider – the name comes from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings
character who becomes the eventual king. Much of Led Zeppelin’s music was inspired by Tolkien’s world and staying briefly at the cottage helped fuel this inspiration. Lines like “As we walk down the country lane” and “The road we choose is always right” transport the listener to those very woods, walking along with Plant and his dog.
Page told Uncut
in 2009, “Robert and I went to Bron-Yr-Aur in 1970. We had this time off and Robert suggested the cottage. I certainly hadn't been to that area of Wales. So we took our guitars down there and played a few bits and pieces. This wonderful countryside, panoramic views and having the guitars... it was just an automatic thing to be playing. And we started writing.”
Since 1972 the cottage has been a destination for rock enthusiast pilgrims, some of whom forage for nuts and berries while sleeping in churchyards throughout the United Kingdom. They follow along the path of some of their favorite classic rock bands, Led Zeppelin included. Many make the journey to Bron-Yr-Aur against the better wishes of the cottage’s current owners, who don’t really want hundreds of rock fans traipsing across their private property. But photos are okay, according to those owners. What isn’t okay is what else they take. “We've had more than one break-in and once a photograph was taken near the fireplace and posted on the web. There have been other incidents too, with one quite amusing one where someone removed a piece of cement stuff from the house, but later posted it back to us.”
Rock fans can be quite obsessive. So before you go up to Bron-Yr-Aur and start stomping around, be courteous and considerate of the owners. Why not instead just visit the nearby Snowdonia National Park while listening to some of your favorite Led Zeppelin acoustic tracks and imagine yourself on a quest throughout Middle Earth… with your best friend and pooch. ~ Justin Novelli
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