Tradition has it that this is where Llywelyn ab Iorwerth (latterly known as Llywelyn Fawr [Llywelyn the Great]) was born in 1173, but it appears that the square tower wasn't built until the 1220s. At the end of the C15, Maredudd ap Ieuan, an ancestor of the Wynn family of Gwydir, came to live in the castle and he was responsible for re-enforcing local law and order. Latterly, the castle inspired artists of the Romantic Period.
Dolwyddelan Castle (© SNPA)
The castle was built at a strategic position on the road from Conwy to Cricieth, where another castle built by the Princes of Gwynedd is located. It appears that Llywelyn Fawr was responsible for building the large oblong shaped tower which can be seen from the road, but it is unknown who built the other tower. According to some, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd was responsible for it, but others claim that the tower was built under Edward I's orders.
In December 1282, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd was killed and in January 1283, Edward I renewed his campaign against Gwynedd by travelling from Rhuddlan Castle with his army of 5,400 soldiers and seizing Dolwyddelan Castle, forcing Dafydd ap Gruffudd to escape to Castell y Bere. When seizing Dolwyddelan Castle in January 1283, soldiers wore white clothes, to avoid being seen in the snow.
Dolwyddelan Castle was partly restored by Edward I and there is no evidence that the castle was used during the rebellions of Madog ap Llywelyn (1294-5) or Owain Glyndŵr (C14-15).
In 1488, Dolwyddelan Castle was bought by Maredudd ab Ieuan. He commissioned the construction of the church in Dolwyddelan, but due to the area's lack of law and order, he was forced to employ guards to accompany him to the church. Eventually, Maredudd ab Ieuan decided to employ a mercenary army to bring stability to the area, including dealing with the bandits of Ysbyty Ifan. His army succeeded to drive the bandits from the area, but only to Cwm Mawddwy, and this group later became known as the infamous 'Gwylliaid Cochion Mawddwy' ('The Red Bandits of Mawddwy').
Dolwyddelan Castle is located just west of Dolwyddelan on the A470 between Betws y Coed and Blaenau Ffestiniog. It can be approached by parking in the Snowdonia National Park car park approximately 500 metres from the castle itself.
Opening hours vary throughout the year. Get in touch with Cadw for more information.
There is an entrance fee.
Sometimes you may find the site open but unstaffed with no admission charge. www.cadw.wales.gov.uk
Tomen Castell, Dolwyddelan
This castle was one of several early stone castles built in Gwynedd around the end of the C12, in order to re-enforce the Princes' power during the unsettled period following the death of Owain Gwynedd in 1170. During this period, the principality of Gwynedd was shared between his sons, and his son, Iorwerth Drwyndwn was lord of Nant Conwy. It is possible that Iorwerth's son, Llywelyn ab Iorwerth was born at Tomen Castell.
Following excavations in 1962-3, it is thought that this castle measured 8.8m by 9 metres, with walls 2.3-2.95 metres deep.