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Dolwyddelan Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Dolvithalan; Doluithalan

In the community of Dolwyddelan.
In the historic county of Caernarfonshire.
Modern authority of Conwy.
Preserved county of Gwynedd.

OS Map Grid Reference: SH72195233
Latitude 53.05286° Longitude -3.90818°

Dolwyddelan Castle has been described as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are major building remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


Dolwyddelan Castle is believed to have been begun by Llywelyn ab Iowerth in the thirteenth century, and initially consisted of a squat stone keep on a rocky outcrop overlooking the valley of the Afon Ledr. Together with Dolbadarn (NPRN 93541) and Castell Y Bere (NPRN 93719) it dominated the principal routeways through Snowdonia, replacing an earlier fortification nearby, Tomen Castle (NPRN 303046). Following the defeat and death of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in December 1282, the castle fell to Edward I, who ordered that repairs be undertaken. At this time the keep was heightened and a second rectangular tower was added to provide further accommodation; the English maintained a military presence until 1290 but abandoned the site in favour of more strategic coastal strongholds. Dolwyddelan was occupied by Maredudd ab Ieuan ap Robert at the end of the fifteenth century, who added a further storey to the keep, but later it fell into ruin once again. Major restoration was to take place at the hands of Lord Willougby de Eresby, who restored the eastern tower in the nineteenth century in the Romantic style with false battlements visible today. The remains of the castle consist of two rectangular towers linked by an irregular curtain wall, with ditches and banks on the north-east and south-west sides. (Coflein–K Steele, RCAHMW, 4 November 2008)

Strikingly located overlooking the modern road on a dramatic eminence 1.5km W of Dolwyddelan village.
Traditionally taken to be the birthplace of Llywelyn ap Iorweth ('Llywelyn the Great'), though this seems more likely to have been an earlier motte-based castle 'Tomen Castell', some 400m to the SE, probably erected by his father Iorwerth Dryndwn. Instead, it seems most probable that Llywelyn built the present castle, initially as a 2-storeyed keep between 1210 and 1240. Dolwyddelan became one of the chief seats of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (d.1282), grandson of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, and fell to the English under Edward I in January 1283. Following its capture the castle was re-armed and provided with a W tower, seemingly a 'camera', or solar. In August and September 1284 £7 11s 5d (£7.57p) was paid for repairs to 'diverse chambers', and between 1290 and 1292 Robert Belvoir, Chamberlain of North Wales, paid for various unspecified works. It is probable that Llywelyn's original keep was heightened at this stage. In 1488 Maredudd ab Ieuan ap Robert (subsequently of Gwydir and the founder of the Wynn dynasty) purchased the lease of Dolwyddelan from the executors of the Chamberlain of N. Wales, Sir Ralph Birkenhead. Maredudd consolidated the castle, described as being 'in part thereof habitable' and seems to have made some minor alterations and additions. Following the family's removal to Gwydir c1500 the castle seems to have been unoccupied; by the C18 both towers were ruinous and apparently the stone heavily plundered. Finally in 1848-50 Lord Willoughby de Eresby of Gwydir Castle undertook a major restoration programme which involved repairing the keep and adding a crenellated parapet.
2 large chambers, one to each floor, over a basement originally accessed via a trap door. The second-floor ceiling has not been restored, giving at present a double-height room which is deceptive; modern boarded floor and scant remains of orginal internal wall plaster. Wide lateral fireplace with projecting, corbelled breast and flat, depressed-arched slate lintel; this appears to have been partly restored. Wide, deep window splays with pointed inner arches. To the L of the fireplace, a window recess with L-shaped mural stair leading off from the L reveal. This may be an insertion of the late C15, though the presumed second floor entrance is lacking, presumably 'restored away' in the C19; access via this to roof level and battlements. Garderobe passage to SW side with latrine shute in the S corner, visible also externally; plain square-headed entrance to this.
Rectangular storied keep with fragmentary associated curtain walls and a much-ruined rectangular W tower; of local gritsone and slatestone rubble with gently-battered base on rock; renewed lead roof to keep. First-floor entrance to NW side of keep via stone-stepped external access; ruined base of former forebuilding. 4-centered, chamfered arched entrance with modern boarded door. To the R a shallow pointed-arched window with C19 iron grille; 2 similar windows to the corresponding SE face and a further, single window to each of the NW, SE and SW sides at second-floor level, that to the later square-headed. Wide garderobe projection to basement and first floors on SW side. The upper part of the tower is largely reconstructed and has slate-coped crenellations with 'arrow-slits' and a series of distinctive projecting mock slab drains below; projecting square turret at roof-level on NE corner with Tudor-arched slatestone lintels to openings. (Listed Building Report)
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 20/04/2017 03:54:44