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Secret Castle series. Dolbadarn

Published on 20 Jul 2020 by Gwion Llwyd

The sturdy round tower of Dolbadarn Castle stands a lonely guard above spectacular Llyn Padarn near Llanberis.

It is another show of strength from the mighty Prince Llywelyn the Great, and was built in the early 13th century. Dolbadarn Castle sits at the tip of Llyn Padarn and would have controlled the main routeway from Caernarfon to Conwy as well as the economically important cattle pastures of the area.

If you’ve read any of our other Secret Castle blogs this may ring a bell. Llywelyn also built Dolwyddelan castle and Castell y Bere, which similarly protected strategic Snowdonia trade routes and cattle pastures.

If you have a sense of déjà vu on your first visit to Dolbadarn, that’s because you may well have seen it before. An atmospheric oil portrait of the castle by JMW Turner hangs at the Royal Academy in London.

Its beautiful mountain backdrop makes for a ruggedly romantic setting. It is a must-do visit on your next trip to North Wales.

Secret Castle series. Dolbadarn

Dolbadarn – a family drama

The stout ruins of Dolbadarn Castle perch on a small, rocky hill at the foot of the dramatic Snowdonia mountains. It’s close to Llanberis and Beddgelert, on the shores of Llyn Padarn.

Built by Llywelyn the Great in around 1230, its design was probably inspired by that of similar fortresses built by Llywelyn’s great rivals in the borderlands of the southern Marches.

After Llywelyn died in 1240, the castle played a leading role in a fairly major family bust up. Llywelyn’s grandson Llywelyn ap Gruffudd imprisoned his own brother Owain Goch at Dolbadarn, so that he could seize control of Gwynedd.

After more than 20 years, Owain was released in 1277. Presumably rather irritatingly for all concerned, English king Edward I captured Dolbadarn – and most of Wales – just six years later.

Today, you can still climb the spiral staircase of Dolbadarn’s tower, although the wooden floors have long since been plundered along with many of the castle’s stones. The timbers may have been used in the construction of Caernarfon Castle (Edward I’s rather larger fortress which he started building in 1283 – the same year he captured Dolbadarn).

From the top of the tower it is well worth pausing to take in the view that Owain Goch would have looked out at during his long years of captivity.

Visiting Dolbadarn Castle

Dolbadarn Castle is free to visit. It is a short walk from the car park at the southern end of Llyn Padarn. You need to pay to use the car park.

Stay near Dolbadarn

Stay in a beautiful Dioni holiday cottage near Llyn Padarn and Dolbadarn Castle. Take a look at some of our favourites here.

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