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On the Trail of Hidden History in North Wales

Wales is called “the land of Castles” for a reason; it has a rich historical heritage which offers ample days out from Lyons Holiday Parks for families and couples alike. Whilst there are plenty of beautiful castles, museums and stately homes in North Wales that are both well-maintained and well worth visiting, this list looks at the more hidden historical sites – the ruins, monuments and sites that remains as markers for memories now gone.

1. Ruins of Dolbadarn Castle 
Celebrated in swirling colour by the famed romanticist J. M. W. Turner in 1802, Dolbadarn Castle dates as far back as c. 1220, when the castle once kept watch over the Llanberis Pass as a mountain stronghold. The castle was stripped of timber by Edward I to build the great Caernarfon in 1284. Today, the site remains a spectacularly atmospheric monument of both Welsh history and the Picturesque painterly tradition, having been re-imagined in numerous paintings throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

2. Monument to the Dolgarrog Dam Disaster 
The worst dam disaster in Welsh history happened here at the edge of the Carneddau mountains in 1925. In short, the lake of Llyn Eigiau supplied hyrdro-electric power for a local village and aluminium works. The dam was built with poorly constructed materials and broke after 14 years of use. The disaster destroyed the village of Dolgarrog and killing 16 villagers, a death toll that was luckily minimised by the locals gathering to watch a film in the elevated community hall. Today, the dam has a monument to this disaster made from the standing remains of the dam which is both spectacular and eerie, making for a great walk in this beautiful countryside.

3. The Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel, Gwynedd 
Although this area sees the bulk of tourist traffic visiting Snowdonia National Park, this hotel remains unapologetically stuck in the past. Built as a farmhouse in 1810, it was used as a hotel for climbers of the nearby mountains by around 1860. Its historical moment, however, came in 1953, when the hotel was used as a base for Edmund Hillary and company, using Snowdon as training for their famed ascent of Everest. The hotel then served as an annual meet-up for Hillary and his team to commemorate their achievement. The hotel remains steadfastly old-fashioned and is well worth a visit for fans of mountaineering history.

4. Ghostly Abandoned Asylum 
Not for the faint hearted, North Wales’ Denbigh Insane Asylum was once a thriving hospital for mental patients, complete with (supposedly) haunted hallways, lobotomy rooms and creepy cages. At peak, this asylum in Denbigh held as many as 1,500 patients in cramped quarters, before another nearby asylum, Pool Park Asylum, took overflow patients. Both are abandoned, both are supposedly haunted and both provide a hidden history of antiquated hospital procedures. Enter at your own risk as both rest on private property with dilapidated grounds and interiors. It may be best to admire Denbigh Asylum from the outside as a through visit to the nearby Denbigh Castle Ruins.

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