The Princes of Gwynedd exhibition in Conwy is full of excellent interactive displays about the lives and times of these important historic figures. Here’s our guide to some of the best historic sites connected to the Princes of Gwynedd.
When you think of ‘the Royal Family’, chances are you’ll think of an elderly lady called Elizabeth, her husband Philip, their children Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward, and a variety of grandchildren (not to mention a soon-to-be-born great-grandchild).
But long before the Windsors ever sat on the British throne, the Snowdonia region – the old Kingdom of Gwynedd – had its own royal family, whose kingdom and power came to an abrupt end in the 13th century thanks to the English king, Edward I, who decided he would rather like to keep the rule of the whole of the British Isles to himself. Although there was a later claim to the Gwynedd throne (through Owain Glyndwr in the 15th century), and there is a current ‘heir’ who makes no public claim to his title, the Princes of Gwynedd as a ruling power are, sadly, long gone.
At Conwy Tourist Information Centre there’s a year-round exhibition about the Princes of Gwynedd, where a variety of excellent interactive displays will tell you about their lives and times. The exhibition acts as a gateway to a series of sites across Gwynedd, Conwy and the Snowdonia National Park, connected to the Princes of Gwynedd.
The Princes of Gwynedd exhibition is the ideal starting point if you’re interested in the history of the region. But there are of course many historic sites throughout Snowdonia that are connected to the Princes of Gwynedd; here are a few you won’t want to miss.
At the base of the Llanberis Pass and overlooking the lake Llyn Padarn is Dolbadarn Castle, built by Llywelyn the Great in the early 13th century. The castle’s dominating round-towered keep – considered the finest surviving example of a Welsh round tower – still stands up to 50 feet (15.2m) high.
When Edward I captured the castle in 1284, he took some of its timbers and used them in the construction of Caernarfon Castle.
Dolbadarn Castle is maintained by Cadw. You can visit the castle for free – there is no entry fee.
Dolwyddelan Castle was a strategically important mountain fortress for Llywelyn the Great and, later, his grandson Llywelyn ap Gruffudd.
The huge rectangular keep is very distinctive, though a later rectangular tower, added by the English forces, is now in ruins. After Edward I captured the castle in 1283, English troops maintained their presence for a further seven years before abandoning it and other inland castles like it, for the castles more accessible by sea.
Entry fees to Dolwyddelan Castle (maintained by Cadw) are £2.80 for adults, while a family ticket costs £8.40.
That moment when Criccieth Castle comes into view, as you arrive into the sleepy old town of Criccieth, never fails to take one’s breath away. Looming over the sea on its huge rock, it’s a stern yet reassuring guardian, and a building for which the word ‘impressive’ barely scrapes the surface.
Llywelyn the Great started the castle, but as was often the case in those troubled times, it was heavily modified by Edward, under the expert supervision of his architect, James of St George.
Cadw manage the castle – entry is £3.50 for adults, £10.50 for families.
Castell y Bere
Just a ghost of a castle remains at Castell y Bere – but it’s so atmospheric, it’s worth including on your Princes of Gwynedd itinerary.
Another Cadw property (free entry, too) – Castell y Bere is another of Llywelyn the Great’s strongholds.
It’s said that a solitary, shadowy figure is sometimes seen standing at Castell y Bere at sunset. As the sun slips out of sight over the surrounding hills, the figure slowly melts away.
Perhaps one of the most magical sites in Snowdonia, with many links to ancient myths, legends and of course the King Arthur connection that features heavily in this region, Dinas Emrys is an ancient hillfort that has been remodelled and reused many times since its initial construction in the Iron Age.
The Princes of Gwynedd connection isn’t very well documented; however, it’s generally accepted that the stone ruins atop the hill are the remains of a rectangular tower built by the Princes of Gwynedd in the 11th century.
The Princes of Gwynedd Exhibition at Conwy Tourist Information Centre is open daily, all year round. Opening hours during the winter are 10am-4pm, and during the summer 9am-5pm. The Princes of Gwynedd project is led by Conwy County Borough Council in partnership with Gwynedd Council, Snowdonia National Park Authority and the National Trust, as part of Cadw’s £19m Heritage Tourism Project which is largely funded by the Welsh Government and from EU Convergence Funds.