Dolbadarn Castle

Dolbadarn Castle

Nowadays, the Llanberis Pass in the wondrous Snowdonia National Park teems with tourists. Some seek Welsh mysteries, others hike the craggy peaks, and still others marvel at the scenery from the comfort of a car. The twin lakes of Llyn Padarn and Llyn Peris slash through the mountain range creating the Llanberis Pass, an area noted for its rugged beauty, scarred by slate mining, a crossroads through North Wales. Scores of visitors meet in Llanberis, hoping for a ride on the narrow gauge railway or to tour the impressive power plant and the adjoining lakes. Others speed through the village as quickly as possible swerving to avoid wandering pedestrians, anxious to reach another destination. Indeed, their passage may be so brief that they fail to notice one of North Wales' finest treasures: Dolbadarn Castle. Let’s begin our adventure.

               Dolbadarn Castle stands on a rocky hillock some 80 feet above Llyn Padarn, on the eastern side of the main roadway between Caernarfon and Snowdonia. This castle was hallmarked by a proud tower built by the Welsh princes of Gwynedd, and, as such, is every bit as significant as the more massive Edwardian castles. The castle at Llanberis dates to the 13th century, but remains in solid condition, although a shell of its former self. Dolbadarn consider as one of the finest of Wales' native-built castles. Built by the mighty, Llywelyn the Great, sometime before 1230, the castle not only predates the English fortresses of the Edwardian conquest, it also provides solid documentation of the extent of Llywelyn's influence and ingenuity. Dolbadarn Castle's strategic value is its position at the tip of Llyn Padarn allowed the garrison to blockade anyone's movement through that part of the north, then as now a main link to the rest of Wales. The military world of the spot was evidently recognized as early as the 6th century, but surviving masonry dates no earlier than the 1200's.

Some of view from the castle.

The dominant feature on the site is the impressive round tower, built of slate and rubble. Looks are deceiving, for this great keep encloses a surprisingly complex series of chambers and once rose three stories. Today, the tower reaches 40 feet in the air, is 40 feet in diameter, and is still girded by walls 8 feet thick. The first floor entrance was heavily defended with a portcullis and sturdy drawbars barricaded stout doorways. While all traces of flooring have disappeared, victims of neglect and pilfering over the centuries after the keep fell into ruin, remains of the interior staircase to the upper story may still be climbed. The uppermost story probably supported hoarding, an encircling wooden defensive platform.

The history of the castle did not die with Llywelyn the Great in 1240, but still stand after 40 years. Now the castle is under the care and guardianship of CADW: Welsh Historic Monuments, which maintains the site and its fine keep as a proud and lasting memorial to the native Welsh princes, men who struggled for independence from England, and still inspire current political activity. Despite its central location, the stronghold is nestled off the roadway, and mystically transports us back to the Middle Ages. Seek out Dolbadarn Castle!

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