Wales has been referred to as the “castle capital of the world” as it has more castles per head than anywhere else in the world, but what many don’t realise is that not all of them are Welsh. Especially the well known and magnificent castles along the north coast, like Beaumaris, Caernarfon or Conwy, are in fact English and built to oppress the Welsh and keep a lid on rebellious activities.
This weekend I set out to take a closer look at one of the native Welsh castles, Castell y Bere. Built by Llewelyn the Great in 1221, the castle sits high on a steep flat topped rock and looks out over the beautiful Dysynni Valley in Gwynedd, near Cader Idris.
Castell y Bere was a remote outpost on Llywelyn’s southern frontier, but it was vital to his security, guarded his cattle range and a major trade route through the nearby mountains, protected the homeland of Gwynedd and dominated the neighbouring lordship of Meirionnydd.
It was one of the last fortresses in which Dafydd ap Gruffudd held out against the advance of Edward I after the death of his brother, Llywelyn the Last, in 1282. The castle fell to the army of Edward I, whilst Dafydd escaped, and was refortified because of its strategic importance. The English held the castle until 1294 when it was abandoned.
Nearby St Michael’s Church commemorates the life of Mary Jones who was christened there. The story goes that 16 year old Mary walked to Bala to buy a Welsh Bible in 1800 and thereby helped the founding of The British and Foreign Bible Society in 1804. Mary’s Welsh Bible is now part of the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.
Unfortunately daylight is a luxury here in autumn so it was soon time to go home.
Spotted this on my way as well, in a way the essence of Wales – beautiful mountains, caravans (although many prefer proper static caravans) and sheep.