sits high on a rocky outcrop with commanding views of the Lledr
in Snowdonia, North Wales. It is located 3/4 mile West of the village
of Dolwyddelan in
the shadow of Moel Siabod. Viewed from the road the Castle appears to
consist of a single rectangular tower, but on entering the site the layout
is a lot more interesting with the partial remains of a second tower and
the curtain walls that link the two. There is an interesting display on
the history of Welsh Castles and there is access (via very steep stone
steps) to the top of the Keep for fantastic views of the Lledr valley,
the Crimea Pass, Moel Siabod and the hills of Snowdonia. I found it interesting
to walk past the Castle for a few hundred yards and walk up a small hill
to the West of the Castle to get a good overview of the Castle and its
Click to enlarge the pictures --------------
Originally built by Llewelyn
the Great (Llywelyn ap Iorwerth) sometime between c.1210 and 1240
( rather confusingly it is sometimes said that Llywelyn was born in Dolwyddelan
Castle but this must refer to the now vanished Castle that was on the
top of a rocky knoll on the valley floor below the present Castle). The
Castle was built to guard the road into the core of his kingdom to watch
over his vital upland cattle-pastures. Defended by rock-cut ditches and
a steep drop, the Castle is dominated by a rectangular keep-tower, later
heightened to three stories.
After Llywelyn's death the Castle eventually passed into the hands
of his grandson Llywelyn ap Gruffudd and was used in the wars against
the English King Edward 1. The strategically sited Castle became a prime
target for English attack during Edward's conquest of Wales, and on the
very day of its capture in January 1283 the kings masons began strengthening
it, probably adding its second tower. The fall of Dolwyddelan was a turning
point of the campaign allowing the English army into the heartlands of
Gwynedd. The Welsh built fortress thus became a link in Edwards famous
chain of strongholds around Gwynedd and the English maintained a presence
here until 1290, eventually becoming irrelevant as this inland Castle
did not match Edward's long term strategy of supplying his fortresses
from the sea.
the 15th Century Maredudd
ap Ieuan, a nobleman from the Llyn peninsula occupied the Castle.
Maredudd was the Head of the Royal
House of Cunedda with intentions to expand his territories into the
lawless lands of 15th Century Snowdonia. Maredudd moved to Dolwyddelan
c. 1485 and his descendants were to become the Wynns of Gwydir Castle
Llanrwst. He made alterations
that increased the accommodation including adding a third storey to the
keep, and an external staircase for better access to the upper floor.
After all his works the Castle still remained an uncomfortable home and
Maredudd and his entourage moved to a house in Cwm Penamnen just South
of the village of Dolwyddelan.
The castle fell into decay but with the stunning backdrop of wild Snowdonia
mountains, the picturesque ruins later proved a magnet for Georgian romantic
landscape-painters and tourists. Victorian reconstruction restored the
keep to something like it's former grandeur and today Dolwyddelan Castle
remains a lasting memorial to Llywelyn Fawr's strategic achievements and,
I like to think, to the skills of the men who actually built it.
Directions : [ Map
of Dolwyddelan Castle location ]
OS 115 SH 722523
Dolwyddelan is approx. 5 miles South West of Betws y Coed on the A470.
Travel West out of Dolwyddelan and the Castle is signposted and visible
on the right hand side after 3/4 mile. Park car in car park and walk up
to farmhouse for entrance tickets and the key to the keep. Follow stepped
path up to the Castle.
Click here for pictures of Dolwyddelan