Secret Castle series. Dolwyddelan.Published on 3 Feb 2020 by Gwion Llwyd
A stone fortress built by Prince Llywelyn the Great. Dolwyddelan Castle is as Welsh as the rugged Snowdonia mountains that surround it.
North Wales is well known for its castles: we have some of the most magnificent – and best-preserved – medieval fortresses in the world, including the UNESCO World Heritage sites at Conwy, Caernarfon, Beaumaris and Harlech – all part of English king Edward I’s fearsome ‘iron ring’.
Dolwyddelan Castle is slightly less well known, but that doesn’t make it any less worthy of your time. You’ll find it on the road between Betws y Coed and Blaenau Ffestiniog, close to the village that shares its name.
The castle played a critical part in the story of Wales and is a fantastically atmospheric place to let your imagination run wild. A must-do on your next trip to North Wales.
Dolwyddelan Castle – a turning point in Welsh history
The castle sits in an elevated position on a rocky outcrop, at the foot of Mount Siabod, just outside the village.
Dolwyddelan was built as a fortress to protect mountain passes and critical territory by Prince Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, or Llywelyn the Great. Llywelyn was the undisputed ruler of Gwynedd from 1201 until his death in 1240 (and you can visit his tomb at St Grwst’s Church in the nearby town of Llanrwst if you’re interested).
After Llywelyn’s death, Dolwyddelan held on for another 40 or so years. It was finally conquered by Edward I in 1283 – that’s the very same English king who went on to build Conwy, Caernarfon, Beaumaris and Harlech castles.
Some historians think that Edward signed a deal with the castle’s defenders at Dolwyddelan when it fell. Whatever the truth of that is, the fall of Llywelyn’s castle was a critical victory for Edward and his relentless campaign to crush the Welsh. He started building Conwy Castle the very same year.
Edward’s troops occupied Dolwyddelan until 1290, a couple of years after his castles at Conwy, Caernarfon and Harlech were completed. Edward’s first-born English son was christened as the first prince of Wales at Caernarfon castle in 1284 (a tradition which continues to this day).
By the early 19th century Dolwyddelan was a romantic ruin, popular with landscape artists. More recently it has been used as a backdrop in film and TV.
Was it the camouflage what won it?
You’ll find Dolwyddelan Castle in the picturesque Lledr Valley, in the heart of the Snowdonia National Park – a place that gets a significant amount of snow in the winter. When Edward conquered the castle in January 1283, his soldiers wore white tunics to camouflage themselves against the snow.
Visiting Dolwyddelan Castle
The castle is now maintained by Cadw, the Welsh heritage body. It is open 10am – 4pm most days, and there is an admission charge of £4 for non-Cadw members.
Stay near Dolwyddelan Castle
Stay in a beautiful Dioni holiday cottage in this beautiful Snowdonia landscape. Take a look at some of our favourites here.