We’d passed this castle many a time on the road between Betwys-y-Coed and Beddgelert and always intended to stop there someday and explore it. I always prefer exploring these small castles, built by Welsh princes, to the massive edifices built by Edward 1. Built in strategic positions, they now often sit alone in quiet countryside and if you’re lucky there will be no other visitors and you can have the castle to yourself.
There are no written records of the early history of Dolwyddelan Castle but it is thought to have been built in the early 13th Century by Llywelyn the Great, at time when Wales was made up of separate kingdoms ruled by Welsh Princes.
Unlike the great castles of Edward 1, the castles built by the Welsh princes were small, of simple design and usually built on rocky outcrops commanding views over the surrounding countryside. The castle owes its good state of preservation today to major restoration in the 19th century.
Dolwyddelan controlled a strategic pass through the mountains of Snowdonia and was built in a lofty position on the hillside, keeping watch over pastures below and the route through the valley.
It’s a short but pleasant walk from the small carpark up to the castle. The path takes you up to some farm buildings where you have to knock at the farmhouse door to pay the admission charge. From there you follow a path up the hillside to the castle.
I liked these two oak trees growing out of a rocky outcrop
Above – The ruined West Tower, a later addition when the castle was in the hands of Edward 1st. The keep and the ruined west tower are joined by a curtain wall that was built along the top of the ridge
… and up a long flight of steep stairs to the battlements.
Tomen Castell The tree covered mound in the valley below is the site of a tower that pre-dates Dolwyddelan Castle and was probably the birthplace of Llywelyn the Great. It had been a sizeable fortress but fell into ruin after the new castle was built.
A small, fairly inconspicuous cromlech but worth a visit for its setting above Criccieth and the added interest of some cupmarks.
Criccieth is an attractive coastal town on the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales and it is best known for its imposing Welsh castle, perched on a rocky headland between the towns two beaches. At the opposite end of the beach from the castle a short walk eastwards takes you towards the cromlech.
The cairn is in a ruinous state and the relatively slim capstone has slipped and is embedded in the ground.
A slight mound stretches out from the western end of the chamber, presumably the remains of material from the long cairn that would have covered it.
There are cupmarks on two faces of the upright stone supporting the capstone. Four of them are just visible here but they didn’t come out well in the photo. The rest are on the inside of the chamber and although it was easy to feel them when I ran my hand across the stone it was difficult to get a decent photo.
The burial chamber can be accessed from the main road above or from walking along the beach from the seafront.
If walking down to it from the car park on the main road you can see the cromlech from the western end of the carpark. Walk back down the road until you come to a public footpath leading down the hill. The cromlech isn’t far from the footpath.
Stunning views back to the town and castle and R looking across Tremadog Bay and down the coast.
To approach from the seafront, carry on along the beach until you see a public footpath going across the railway line and follow the path up the hill a little way, veering off to the right to reach the burial chamber.
Walking to Caer Dyni across the beach took longer than I expected because I got distracted by geology and beach combing! The beach is strewn with huge glacial erratics that have broken away from the soft glacial till in the low cliffs beside this section of the beach.
Above R – An erratic boulder coming loose from the soft glacial till. This boulder was about a metre high and many on the beach were even bigger.
Wales is better known for all those mighty castles built by Edward 1st – Carnarfon, Conwy, Harlech etc – but there are are also some real gems from a later period, such as Raglan in Monmouthshire and Carew near Pembroke
I was always vaguely aware that there was a castle and a place called Raglan in Wales and was intrigued because the word raglan always made me think of knitted cardigans! I don’t think there’s a connection to a style of knitting but I may be wrong.
On one of our trips through Wales we needed a break and could have stopped at Monmouth Services, but instead, we did what we often do on a long journey and looked for somewhere interesting and more peaceful to visit. Nearby was Raglan castle – only a mile from the dual carriageway but in the quiet of the countryside.
Raglan is a grand Tudor castle, built at a time when castle building in Britain was coming to an end and castles such as Raglan were built as much for show and as a statement of wealth than for fortification.
It was built in the 1430’s and occupied until 1646 when it came under siege during the English Civil War. Its fortifications were still strong enough for it to be able to hold out against Cromwell’s parliamentary forces for almost 3 months, making it one of the longest sieges of the Civil War. It suffered extensive damage and was partly destroyed but there is still enough left of its grandeur and elegance to see today.
The castle was an important social centre during Tudor times. As much a palace as a castle, it was elegantly furnished and held many fine treasures, including paintings and sculptures.
There was an impressive Hall and Long Gallery and also an immense library which contained an important collection of Welsh manuscripts. After the siege the contents of the library were destroyed – a huge loss to Welsh culture and history.
Everything about the castle is very striking, particularly the Great Tower and its surrounding moat. The castle was built from two types of sandstone, old red sandstone and the pale yellowish sandstone that was used to build the tower. The Great Tower was so impressive in its day that it became known as The Yellow Tower of Gwent.
The moat is withing the castle walls and running alongside it is the Moat Walk, where it’s easy to imagine Elizabethan ladies taking a promenade. The Moat Walk
Above – looking down from the Great tower. There was a very good tearoom in the neighbouring farm buildings – much better than stopping at the motorway services!