Abergwyngregyn (known as Aber locally) is located between the Menai Strait and the foothills of Snowdonia in Gwynedd, North Wales. It sits between the towns of Bangor to the west and Llanfairfechan to the east. The village is best known for the magnificent Aber Falls located at the head of the Aber valley just a short walk from the village itself. The waters from the Carneddau range of mountains drop over 100 feet into the beautiful Aber Valley. The valley is popular with nature lovers, walkers, and especially bird watchers with a range of birds to be seen including buzzards, falcon, sparrow hawk, ravens, redstart along the woodland edge, and pied flycatcher and wood warbler in the oak woods. Follow the Afon Rhaeadr Fawr down the valley toward the Menai Strait and there is an abundance of sea birds to be seen on the Lavan Sands.
Aber itself may not be a one horse town but a two road village is a fairly accurate description. But the size of Aber belies its historical importance. Aber Garth Celyn, as it was known, was of great strategic importance as it controlled the ancient crossing point of the Menai Strait via the Lafan Sands to Anglesey. There are important sites in the Aber valley and the surrounding hills showing evidence of occupation from prehistoric times through the Roman period, the Dark Ages and into medieval times. A walk into the hills reveals Maes y Gaer, a prehistoric settlement, the cairns of Carnedd y Saeson and Meuryn Isaf, the remains of an iron age round house close to the falls, and within the village itself are Llywelyn's Mound and the ancient manor house known as Pen y Bryn. The very roads and tracks echo with the footsteps of early Britons and indeed ancient Romans. The Roman Road, now a popular walk, from Aber to Rowen via Bwllch y Ddeufaen linked Roman Segontium in Caernarfon to the Roman settlement on the banks of the Conwy River.
Castles and Forts
A look into the field behind the houses off the main street in Aber reveals a large grassy mound known variously as "Y Mwd", "Pen y Mwd", or "Aber Castle Mound". Others know it as as Llywelyn's Mound after the Welsh Prince Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, or Llywelyn the Great. The mound is circular, 22 foot high with a flat top 57 feet by 48 feet. Some say it's origin has probably no connection to Llywelyn and it has been suggested that it might be a fifth or sixth century A.D. mound built over the body of a local champion warrior lord. Another field of thought is that it was built by the Welsh prince in the style of the Norman invaders.
But look further across the field and through the trees and you will see the tower known as Twr Llywelyn. The tower, belonging to the house once known as Garth Celyn and now known as Pen y Bryn, is reputed to have been built circa 1200 A.D. Historians again seem to be at loggerheads over the exact history of Pen y Bryn but the latest evidence points to it being the home of both the previously mentioned Llywelyn ap Iorwerth and also Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Prince of Wales and Lord of Snowdon.
The stone walls of Pen y Bryn hold many secrets and sad tales, probably none more pitiful than the story of Joan, wife of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth.
Prince Llywelyn had captured the Norman Lord William de Braose at the siege of Montgomery and brought him to Aber. De Braose fell in love with Llywelyn's wife Joan, the daughter of King John of England, and she with him. Llywelyn knew nothing of the intrigue until after De Braose was set free on payment of a ransom. In 1229, Llywelyn invited De Braose to a banquet to celebrate Easter. As soon as he had him in his power he accused him of the seduction and had him hanged on a nearby hill. The place now remembered as Gwern y Grog (Hanging Marsh).
Joan died at Pen y Bryn in 1237 and was buried at the Priory of Llanfaes on the other side of the Menai Strait. After the dissolution of the monasteries the coffin was lost until in the 19th century it was found in a farmyard being used as a watering trough for animals. The lid on which was carved her effigy was found in a ditch and both parts are now reunited in the church of St Mary's at Beaumaris, within site of the Royal home of Abergwyngregyn.
And if you should see the elderly gentleman who lives in the house that backs on to Llywelyn's Mound ask him about the secret chamber below the tower of Llywelyn's home. He might tell you of the hidden tunnel that runs from Garth Celyn under the Menai Strait to Anglesey, and of the legend that Prince Llywelyn's horse was hitched to a post in the cellar in readiness for an attack from the English King. And that he saw the post still in the cellar to this day.