Castles built by warring princes during the 13th Century include Castell y Bere (near Abergynolwyn), Castell Dolwyddelan and Castell Dolbadarn (Llanberis). They were taken into Norman hands when Edward I began his determined conquest of Wales during the closing years of the century.
Harlech Castle, built in the 13th Century, is perhaps the most spectacularly situated of all King Edward's castles. His mighty fortresses at Harlech, Conwy, Caernarfon and Beaumaris (Anglesey) were all built to subdue the newly conquered lands of North Wales.
This castle was built between 1283 and 1297 and was designed by the royal architect, James of St George. The original features of the Conwy Castle have survived, including eight round towers, the large hall, the king’s rooms and the royal chapel. The Conwy town walls were built at the same time as the castle, and measure a length of 1.3km. It is said that Conwy is the best example of a walled town in Britain.
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.
In the late 12th century the Cistercians became established all over Wales. The only standing remains in Snowdonia are at Cymer, founded in 1198-9 under the patronage of Maredudd ap Cynan, a grandson of Owain Gwynedd.
Tomen y Mur
One of the most interesting archaeological areas in Snowdonia is the complex of Roman and other remains around Tomen y Mur, near Trawsfynydd. The fort was first built in timber and about 30 years later it was reduced in size and rebuilt in stone. The fort occupies a low rise with commanding views of the surrounding countryside and the same strategic position was used by the Normans for their earthwork castle. There is a tradition, based on the Mabinogion tale of Math fab Mathonwy, that this was also the site of a Dark Age llys, for which there is not yet any archaeological confirmation.
This castle has an unusual location, on a high craggy hilltop overlooking the lower part of the Afon Lliw, near Llanuwchllyn. The badly ruined curtain wall encloses the foundations of a square tower and two semi-circular or round towers. The largest tower was rectangular with an apsidal end. There is no documentary evidence for the building or use of this castle, but it is generally regarded as the work of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth because of the similarity of the apsidal building to examples at Castell y Bere and Ewloe Castle, in Flintshire.
The building of Caernarfon Castle began in 1283, following the Edwardian Conquest of the Principality of Gwynedd. The present castle stands at the same site as an earlier castle commissioned by Hugh of Avanches, Earl of Chester in the 1090s. In 1294, Madog ap Maredudd, a distant relative of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, lead a Welsh rebellion against Edward I and during this rebellion, substantial damage was caused to Caernarfon Castle, leading to extensive rebuilding work in 1296-c.1327.
Harlech Castle was built by the Frenchman, James of St George, as part of Edward I’s campaign to conquer the Welsh Principality of Gwynedd during the Middle Ages. The process of building the castle was begun in 1283, during Edward I’s second campaign against the Gwynedd Principality, and was completed in 1289. In 1286, during the building work, 950 workers were employed at the Harlech Castle site.
Cricieth Castle stands on a craggy hill above the Tremadog Bay. The castle’s internal ward, including two D shaped towers at either side of the entrance were completed before Llywelyn ab Iorwerth’s death in 1240. The external ward, including three oblong shaped towers, were built later in the C13, when Cricieth Castle became one of the bases of the mobile court of the Princes of Gwynedd.
Castell y Bere
Llywelyn ab Iorwerth (Llywelyn Fawr) began to build Castell y Bere in 1221, on lands captured from his illegitimate son, Gruffudd ap Llywelyn. The aim was to protect Meirionnydd from pretenders to supremacy in Gwynedd, including Gruffudd.
Llywelyn ab Iorwerth (Llywelyn Fawr) commissioned the construction of Dolbadarn Castle some time before 1230. The castle is strategically positioned on a mount above Llyn Padarn in Llanberis, and from this position, it was possible to defend Snowdonia from any threats that came from the direction of the Llanberis Pass. The road through the Llanberis Pass was a main route through Wales, and therefore, Dolbadarn Castle enabled the Princes to rule and monitor movements through north Wales.
Yr Ysgwrn is not your typical Welsh farmhouse. the history and symbolism that the place represents is one of the main reasons the Snowdonia National Park Authority bought it in March 2012.