Visiting Snowdonia

Harlech Castle

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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.

Castell y Bere

Castell y Bere (© SNPA)

Following the death of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in 1282, his brother, Dafydd attempted to secure independence from English rule, but Edward I unexpectedly continued his war against Gwynedd. Dafydd ap Gruffudd was forced to flee from Dolwyddelan Castle to Castell y Bere, but Edward I’s army of 5400 men were after him, and Dafydd was forced to flee to Dolbadarn Castle.

Regardless of this, Castell y Bere remained under the control of the Princes of Gwynedd until April 1283, when it was seized by Edward I’s soldiers and this was the last Welsh castle to fall to the English. Following this, the castle was partly restored and an English settlement was built at the foot of the castle’s mount.

In 1294-5, Madog ap Llywelyn lead a campaign to attempt to regain Castell y Bere for his family, but this attempt failed and the castle was never used again and the nearby settlement was also abandoned.

Several of the castle’s features have survived, including its two ‘D’ shaped towers in the traditional Welsh style. The castle has an entrance which is protected by ditches, gate towers and a drawbridge. The castle’s design resembles that of the Chateau Rouillard in the Normandy region of France: a design chosen due to the shape of the rock below.

There aren’t any historical records of the castle between 1294 and 1851, when the site was cleared and Roman pottery and coins were found in the structure of the well.

Castell y Bere, 1997 – Iwan Llwyd

Mae boncyffion y coed yn cofio
sodlau’r milwyr yn gorymdeithio:
mae pob cam yn atseinio’n y co’:

yma, a Chadair Idris yn gwarchod,
mae’n bosib dewis anghofio am gyfnod
y cymylau terfysg i gyfeiriad y môr:

mae’r hen risiau yn dal yno
lle bu breninesau’n dringo,
a’r tir hwn dan nenfwd un tro:

ffermwr yn cyfarth Cymraeg ar ei gwn,
a’r defaid mor styfnig ag erioed, a swn
llif gadwyn o gyfeiriad Llanfihangel y Pennant:

mae Afon Cader yn dal i lifo
a dwyn cyfrinachau’r bryniau heibio,
a mawl y fwyalchen yn deffro’r fro:

tyr crac awyren dros Graig y Deryn
ac o’r ochor bella i’r dyffryn,
am y tro cyntaf eleni clywaf watwar y gog.

This poem reminisces about the abundant history of Castell y Bere: how it was built, captured and re-seized by the armies of the Princes of Gwynedd, Edward I and Madog ap Maredudd and it also ponders Castell y Bere’s tranquil surroundings, which almost obliterate fears for the future of Wales. The poem includes vivid imagery of the castle’s surroundings: Craig y Deryn, Cader Idris, rivers, trees, agriculture and wildlife, who all keep the secrets of the area’s history, but the poem also has a contemporary theme, as the Welsh language and traditional ways of life are alive in the area, meaning that the heritage of Castell y Bere also lives on.

Iwan Llwyd (1957-2010)

The Chief Poet, Iwan Llwyd won the National Eisteddfod crown at Cwm Rhymni in 1990, with his volume of poetry, ‘Gwreichion’ (‘Sparks’). He was renowned in Wales as a highly talented poet, author and musician. Several of his poems link Wales with the rest of the world and the themes of America and the Middle East are prominent in his poems, although he was also passionate about Welsh history and the Welsh language, and took great pride in his roots and surroundings in Wales.