Secret Castle series. Castell y Bere.Published on 9 Mar 2020 by Gwion Llwyd
It was built by Prince Llywelyn at the start of the 13th century. Eight hundred years on, its remains sit strong and proud under the gaze of Cadair Idris.
Castell y Bere is one of Wales’s few surviving native castles. It was built by Prince Llywelyn Ab Iorwerth (Llywelyn the Great) to protect his homeland of Gwynedd. It would have loomed with a certain amount of powerful intent over the neighbouring lordship of Merionnydd.
Construction began in 1221. It was taken by English king Edward I, in 1283. Edward made alterations to the castle and hoped an English frontier town would grow here. It never happened. The English abandoned the site during an uprising against their rule in 1294, and the castle was never inhabited again.
And wow, what a shame. This is a really fabulous location. Surrounded by the green slopes of Snowdonia’s southern peaks, it is possibly the most superbly romantic castle ruins you will ever have the pleasure of visiting. Castell y Bere is a short walk from the rural Gwynedd village of Llanfihangel y Pennant.
A castle to stand guard over the cows
This isn’t just any old day out to a castle ruins. This is one of the most beautiful places in Wales.
The castle sits along the summit of a remote, rocky outcrop on the eastern side of the Dysynni valley. This is a supremely green and pleasant land, which would have been grazed by significant numbers of cattle in the 13th century. In medieval Wales, cattle were as good as currency, and this castle would have stood sentry over Llywelyn’s valuable herd.
Although much of its strength can be attributed to its commanding location, Castell y Bere’s design is a testament to the ingenuity of its 13th century Welsh architects.
A sophisticated entrance featuring two gatehouses with drawbridges and portcullises was extremely advanced for its time, even by the standards of English fortifications. It would have been a formidable fortress.
Strong natural defences to the north and west were complemented with rock-cut ditches to the south and east. Other distinctive features include the characteristic Welsh apsidal – or elongated D-shaped plan of the south tower.
Today Castell y Bere is almost as wild, remote and beautiful as it was when Llywelyn first arrived to make his mark. The panoramic views across these staggeringly beautiful landscapes are really quite something. It is a must-do secret castle of Wales.
A poet or a mad man
Castell y Bere sits under the watchful eye of the southern Snowdonia peak of Cadair Idris (and maybe the giant Idris himself). It is said that if you spend a night on the slopes of Cadair Idris, you’ll awake either a poet or a madman. Do let us know what happens if you try it! If you’d prefer to stay in a lovely Dioni cottage close by, you can check out some options here.
In one word? Magical. This is possibly the most superbly romantic castle ruins you will ever have the pleasure of visiting. A great place to take a picnic. Or a sketchbook. Try to make your visit on a clear day (it would be a shame if you couldn’t fully enjoy the truly magnificent views). Take your time, open your eyes wide, and breathe it all in. Castell y Bere is a short walk from the rural Gwynedd village of Llanfihangel y Pennant, and within striking distance of Dolgellau, Barmouth and Tywyn.
Visiting Castell y Bere
The castle is maintained by Cadw, the Welsh heritage body, but there is no admission charge. Park at the village of Llanfihangel y Pennant and follow the footpath up to the castle. Be careful as it can be narrow and slippery in places.
Stay near Castell y Bere
Stay in a beautiful Dioni holiday cottage in this beautiful southern Snowdonia landscape near Dolgellau. Take a look at some of our favourites here.