Dolbadarn Castle stands a lone sentry on a rocky crag, keeper of the ruggedly beautiful Llanberis Pass. Overlooking Llyn Padarn, this stronghold is situated between Caernarfon and Snowdonia, and is recognised as one of North Wales' finest treasures.
Built by the mighty Welsh prince Llywelyn ab Iorwerth ('the Great') during the early 13th century, the castle was crucial both militarily and as a symbol of Llywelyn's power and authority. Residing in a spot of great strategic value, it allowed the garrison to blockade movement through that part of the north, not only a passageway into the heart of Prince Llywelyn's rich lands on the Isle of Anglesey, but a main link to the rest of Wales.
Simplistic in its design, this marvelous relic remains in solid condition and predates the English fortifications of the Edwardian conquest, demonstrating the magnitude of Llywelyn's influence and ingenuity. A massive round-towered keep dominates the castle; rising to a significant height of 50 ft. (15.2m), historian Richard Avent considers it "the finest surviving example of a Welsh round tower". This excellent feature encloses a complex series of chambers. The first floor entrance was heavily defended with a portcullis and sturdy drawbars barricaded robust doorways. There were originally two more rectangular towers and a large hall and curtain walling of which little now remain.
Llywelyn ab Iorwerth died in 1240 and, 15 years later, his grandson Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (‘the Last’) gained supremacy over Gwynedd by imprisoning his brother Owain Goch for more than 20 years in Dolbadarn’s tower. Following the death of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, his other brother, Dafydd ap Gruffudd, made one last attempt for independence from English rule, but Edward I’s army captured the castle in 1283. Having conquered Gwynedd, Edward 1 focused his attention on developing his own castle in Caernarfon. The now abandoned Dolbardarn Castle was plundered for its building stone and timber beams. Inspired by the story of Owain’s imprisonment, celebrated Romantic landscape painter JMW Turner made several sketches of the castle during the late 1700’s.
Dolbadarn Castle is free to visit, and only a short climb from the car park located off the A4086, across the road from the entrance to the castle. This car park is also handy for visiting the twin lakes of Llyn Padarn and Llyn Peris and the Country Park, as well as the popular Snowdon Mountain Railway.