Many visitors to Wales are familiar with the Norman and Edwardian castles that are dotted around the countryside, such as Conwy and Caernarfon Castles. These large castles dominate the Welsh landscape, and domination was the reason for their construction – to dominate, intimidate and conquer the local people.
However, the lesser known castles built by Welsh princes’, that can be found around Wales should be celebrated in their own right. These native Welsh castles had a huge impact on the land during the Middle Ages, and have remained a fascinating part of the heritage of the country that visitors can discover when they visit. It is exciting to learn about a part of Welsh history that is frequently overlooked and less known than the conquering invaders, but nonetheless eventful and significant.
Below are three of these native Welsh castles found around North Wales you can visit when buying our North Wales caravans for sale:
Deganwy Castle, located at the mouth of the River Conwy, was a fortress that dates to the Dark Ages. Little remains today of the castle, but the ditches and mounds found on the rocky outcrop near Llandudno hint at what was once an impressive castle for its time. Traditionally, Deganwy Castle was the stronghold of the King of Gwynedd around the years 520-547. The castle was popular throughout Roman times and afterwards, as it was safe from Irish raids, and the area around the rocky outcrop may have been a settlement. The original castle was made of wood and burned down in 812. Deganwy was rebuilt in stone for King Henry III of England, but destroyed by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the Prince of Wales, in 1263. Conwy Castle was later constructed on the opposing side of the estuary, and you can see the castle and views toward the sea from the remains of Deganwy today.
Dolbadarn Castle is a fortification built by the Welsh prince Llywelyn the Great around the early 13th century. It can be found near the base of the Llanberis Pass, and several stone ruins remain. The castle was important for military purposes as it controlled access to the mountain pass and also showed Llywelyn’s power and authority in the area. The castle features a large stone keep, the finest example of a Welsh round tower, built around 1220. From the castle, there are views of Llyn Padarn and Snowdonia. The conflict between the Welsh princes and English kings continued, resulting in Edward I gaining power of the castle and Dolbadarn ended up occupied by Norman forces. Remaining parts of the castle continued to be used as a manor house, but by the 18th century, it was ruined and uninhabited. Today it is maintained by Cadw and protected as a Grade I building.
Dolwyddelan Castle is located near the town of Dolwyddelan in Conwy County. Like Dolbadarn, it is thought to have been built in the early 13th century by Llywelyn the Great. The castle, of which partially ruined remains can be found today, was built using local grit and slate rubble and was a stronghold of the princes of Gwynedd. Originally, the tower was a single storey building with a basement, but a second floor was added by Edward I between 1283 and 1284. The castle was used as a guard post along a main route through North Wales before being seized by Edward I’s forces in 1283. However, some historians think it may have been surrendered due to a deal between the defenders of the castle and Edward I. The castle was occupied until 1290, when control of Wales began to rely on castles near the sea, making inland castles obsolete. Modifications to the castle continued to the 19th century, with an upper storey, drainage system and battlements being added over the years. Today, the remains of Dolwyddelan Castle can be visited, and it is protected by Cadw.
Learn more about the history of Wales with our fun fact series:
Image credit: Mike Searle