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Dolwyddelan Castle sits high on a rocky outcrop with commanding views of the Lledr Click for enlarged picture of CastleValley 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 curtain walling.

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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 Dolwyddelan Castle from the Eastpresent 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.
Dolwyddelan Castle from the WestIn 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 village >

 

Please --- click on the pictures --- below for more scenes of Dolwyddelan Castle, nr Betws y Coed.
© All pictures copyright Bernard Wellings

The Great Hall showing the entrance to the stone staircase and the Cadw information boards The window seat in the Great Hall
The Great Hall showing the entrance to the stone staircase and the Cadw information boards.
 
The window seat in the Great Hall
View of the keep from the West   View from the Castle of the probable site of the birthplace of Llywelyn the Great
View of the keep from the West
 
View from the Castle of the probable site of the birthplace of Llywelyn the Great
The view from the battlements towards Crimea Pass and Blaenau Ffestiniog  
The view from the battlements towards Crimea Pass and Blaenau Ffestiniog
 
The view from the battlements towards Moel Siabod
View East from the battlements toward Dolwyddelan View from the East through the Rowan trees
View East from the battlements toward Dolwyddelan  
View from the West through the Rowan trees
Click to view information and prices for Dolwyddelan Castle - 2006
Click picture for prices based on 2006

Attractions nearby including a few more ancient sites:

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