Criccieth Castle

Follow in the footsteps of the princes of Gwynedd

A land flanked by swathes of coastline, soaring mountains and ice-carved valleys.  Welsh author, Bethan Gwanas maps the places where the princes of Gwynedd sowed the seeds for the Wales we know today…

Tomen Castell, Conwy


View the birthplace of one of Wales’s great rulers from a castle he built to protect his country.

Tomen Castell is Llywelyn the Great’s probable birthplace. It is not publicly accessible but you can catch a good view from Castell Dolwyddelan that perches on a crag amidst spectacular scenery.

Beddgelert, Snowdonia

From St Mary’s Church in Beddgelert, the site of an Augustinian Priory at the time of the princes, follow the Afon Glaslyn through its dramatic gorge on foot or aboard the steam Welsh Highland Railway.

Visit Llyn Dinas, a stunning lake formed by glaciers, or walk the Cwm Bychan valley to explore remains of copper mining. Climb Moel Hebog from Beddgelert to pass Cwm Cloch, the Valley of the Bell, which takes its name from the tolling priory bell.

Nant Gwynant landscape

The story of the Welsh red dragon is rooted to Dinas Emrys.

You can see foundations of a 12th century tower of the princes of Gwynedd. Ramparts of a 2,000-year-old fort surround the hilltop and remains from the early medieval period are a link to the setting of the legend. Is the silted pool below the tower the mythical home of the dragon?

The site and the surrounding Nantgwynant landscape offers visitors a beautiful drive and an even better walk.

Aberconwy Abbey, Conwy

In the town of Conwy, at St Mary’s and All Saint’s Church, is the site of a great monastery – where Llywelyn the Great died. The site is a great base for exploring the walls of Conwy, one of Europe's finest surviving medieval towns.

Castell Dolbadarn

Castell Dolbadarn is famous for sibling rivalry as it is thought Llywelyn ap Gruffudd imprisoned his brother Owain here after he had defeated him in battle for control of Gwynedd.

Occupying a rocky hillock between two lakes, Llyn Peris and Llyn Padarn and right at the foot of Snowdon, it is a must-stop before walking or taking the train ride up Wales’s highest mountain or a boat across the lake.

Deganwy Castle

The dramatic rocky peaks overlooking the River Conwy have hosted some of history’s greatest forces. Romans, Normans and even King Henry VIII’s men all battled for control of this area.

Deganwy Castle offers unrivalled panoramic views of the surrounding mountains including the Great Orme and is near Deganwy, a small village full of antique and curio shops. 

Criccieth Castle

As soon as you arrive here you will know why a 14th century poem describes Criccieth Castle as the ‘bright fortress on the cliff top’. 

Don’t forget your camera when you visit this stunningly situated castle that overlooks Cardigan bay. There are two quiet beaches on either side of the castle to get away from it all, and the nearby town of Criccieth is steeped in history just waiting to be explored. Perfect site for a picnic if it’s not too windy!  

Cymer Abbey

The remains of Cymer Abbey have survived a turbulent history since they were founded in 1198 by Maredudd ap Cynan, a cousin and ally of Llywelln the Great.

A perfect place for a relaxing family walk, you can still get a good idea of the size and shape of this monastery. Look out for the arches and the three tall lancet windows that survive at the eastern end. You can also spot the nearby remains of the cloister. 

Castell y Bere

It’s hard to believe Castell y Bere was born out of a family dispute. Llywelyn the Great was displeased with the way his son Gruffudd was ruling Meirionnydd and Ardudwy, so he took back control. He then imprisoned his son and built a new castle for himself.

This wonderful, extensive ruin is dramatically situated below Cader Idris making it a perfect place to explore with the family after a day in the Welsh mountains.

Llys Rhosyr

Llys Rhosyr plays proud host to the only surviving material remains of a llys, or princely court. A small section of the site was excavated in the 1990s in a project that uncovered the foundations of a series of halls as well as pottery and coins.

You’re only a short walk away from the village of Newborough and Newborough Warren, one of the largest dunelands in Europe, with views across the Menai Straits and Traeth Abermenai.