Gwynedd Archaeological Trust
Regional Historic Environment Record

Castell Dolbadarn, Llanberis

Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 5550
Trust : Gwynedd
Community : Llanberis
Unitary authority : Gwynedd
NGR : SH5860359791
Site Type (preferred type first) : Medieval CASTLE
Status : Scheduled Ancient Monument , Listed Building I, Cared for by the State

Summary :
Dolbadarn Castle stands in a dramatic location overlooking the lakes of Llyn Padarn and Llyn Peris, almost certainly built by Llywelyn ap Iorwerth to control access through the Snowdonian mountain passes. The castle is believed to be the prison in which Llywelyn ap Gruffudd imprisoned his brother, Owain, for twenty years. After Llwyelyn's death in 1283, his brother Dafydd issued two deeds from the castle, styling himself Prince of Wales and Lord of Snowdon. He was captured shortly afterwards and executed in Shrewsbury. After his death, timber from the castle was removed for reuse by Edward I in Caernarfon Castle.

The castle consists of a strong circular keep surrounded by a curtain wall with another five buildings or towers built into its circuit. The wall and its buildings differ from the keep in that they are built of unmortared stone and survive only as footings. The keep, on the other hand, is well constructed, a smaller version of those being built by the Marcher Lords in South Wales. It was entered at first floor level, originally by means of a wooden stair, now replaced in stone. The entrance was protected by a portcullis and the first floor room had a fireplace and latrine. The second floor had a small bedroom and latrine behind the fireplace and may have been the location for Owain's long incarceration.

Of the external buildings, two are towers (on the south and west sides), one is a hall and the eastern most building is later, probably built by Edward for whom it remained a royal manor.

Description :
Stands on a low ridge overlooking Llyn Peris. It consists of a round tower or keep of moorland masonry, and the ruins of an attached courtyard or bailey of dry stone walling with rectangular wall towers and constituent buildings. There is a suggestion that it is on top of an older site from the C6th built by Maelgwyn Gwynedd, but the present and remaining building dates from the C13th. It has been suggested that Llywelyn ap Gruffydd held his brother Owain Goch there a prisoner (c.1536-9) and that Edward I stayed there. <1> <8> <11> (RCAHMW, 1960)

The site was not cleared and excavated until 1948. <13>

The round tower, which is the best preserved section of the ruin, stands 48ft high and contained 3 floors. There is an enclosing wall or curtain, which follows the edge of a rock platform with the exception of the S, but the curtain probably followed the platform there as elsewhere. The hall and rectangular towers, although architecturally different in design and construction to the round tower, were probably built at the same time or just before the tower. The E building is supposed to have been built later than the other remains because of its oblique construction and is probably the site of the original entrance. (RCAHMW, 1960)

The site is in good condition and is in the guardianship of Cadw. <18>

Sources :
Brodie, H. , 2015 , Apsidal and D-shaped towers of the Princes of Gwynedd , Archaeologia Cambrensis : Vol. 164 : P.231-243
Smith, S. G. , 2014 , Dolbadarn Castle, Caernarfonshire: A Thirteenth Century Royal Landscape , Archaeology in Wales : Vol. 53 : p. 63-72
The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales , 1960 , An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments in Caernarvonshire Volume II: Central
, 1877 , Archaeologia Cambrensis , <1>
Randall, H. J. , 1937 , Archaeologia Cambrensis , <2>
Taylor, A. J. , 1953 , Archaeologia Cambrensis , <3>
Toy, S. , 1960 , The Castles of Great Britain , <4>
Fenton, R. , 1954 , Tours in Wales (1804-13) , <5>
O'Neil, B. H. St. J. , 1953 , Castles , <6>
Hyde Hall, E. , 1907 , A Description of Caernarvonshire (1809-11) , <7>
Ordnance Survey , 1820 , SH55NE , <8>
Wynne, J. , 1878 , History of the Gwydir Family , <9>
Neaverson, E. , 1947 , Medieval Castles in North Wales: A Study of Sites, Water Supply and Building Stones , <10>
Leland, J. , 1906 , Itinery in Wales (1536-9) , <11>
Waters, W. H. , 1934 , Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies , <12>
Taylor, A. J. , 1948 , Archaeologia Cambrensis , <13>
Taylor, A. J. , 1950 , Archaeologia Cambrensis , <14>
Taylor, A. J. , 1951 , Archaeologia Cambrensis , <15>
Ordnance Survey , 1975 , SH55NE 1 , <18>
Taylor, A. J. , PRN 5550 , <17>
Cadw , 1988 , Cn66 , <19>
Avent, R. , 1983 , Castles of the Princes of Gwynedd , <20>
Taylor, A. J. , 1951 , The Archaeological News Letter , <21>
Cathcart King, D. J. , 1983 , Castellarium Anglicanum , <22>
Avent, R. , 1994 , Chateau Gaillard , <23>
Kenyon, R. & Williams, D. , 2010 , The Impact of the Edwardian Castles in Wales , <24>

Events :

Related PRNs : 93541

Compiled date :


Images :



The above data are supplied by GAT in partnership with its Local Authorities (Anglesey, Conwy and Gwynedd County Councils, and Snowdonia National Park Authority), © GAT 2018 (and in part © Crown, 2018 - as indicated)
This information is supplied for the purposes of personal interest only and may not be used as part of a commercial project.

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