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Visited August 2014

Location Near Abergynolwyn
Entrance Fee No
Railway Station Nearby No
Parking Yes
Facilities None


The location of Castell-y-Bere on the road across the  Cadair Idris Mountain in North Wales is as spectacular as it is isolated. We saw no other traffic along the narrow road and apart from the odd farm, there is very little in the way of human habitation.  The scenery is truly breath taking, you could certainly understand if the medieval castle builders chose this spot just for the view. Clearly though,  at the time this castle was built, it was all about controlling strategic locations, and the road which the castle overlooks was once the important main route to Dolgellau.






Once you have braved the roads and admired the mountain scenery from the car park , it is time for the ascent up the rocky outcrop to reach the castle. A path takes you through the woods up to the entrance. These days the entrance is up a flight of wooden steps and across a wooden bridge. In its heyday any visitor (or foe) would have had to cross a  deep stone ditch, enter through solid wooden doors of the gatehouse and then face a second gatehouse with a ramp and portcullis.


The castle was without doubt a solid defensive fortress, but today none of the walls remain to any great height, so it is hard to imagine the castle as it once was. Of all the Welsh castles we have visited, this is the first Welsh built , as opposed to a Norman built example. Reputed to be built by the native King Llywelyn the Great in around 1220, the castle actually had a very short active life. It was at one point captured by the English who made some alterations, but was in Welsh hands again in 1294 during the rebellion of Madog ap Llywelyn, which was then quelled pretty swiftly, leaving the castle abandoned for the final time.






Today the ruins are peaceful, and picturesque. The main attraction is without doubt the mountain scenery, it would be impossible to ignore it even if you wanted to, but it does distract from the castle somewhat. However, there are still some interesting features at the ruins, for example a stone stack, which once went all the way up to the floor above (which is no longer there) so that a fire could be lit upstairs, in the middle of the room. This suggests that the castle was used for domestic purposes as well as military. Hard to believe for a castle whose strength was surely in its inaccessible remoteness. Remains of patterned floor tiles and stained glass windows found at the site add weight to the argument for domestic use at some point.





The castle today is unmanned and open access. There are some steep drops and uneven surfaces, so bear that in mind if you want to take very young children to visit.  There are no real facilities nearby, nearest town is Abergynolwyn. Our drive to the castle took us past the Railway Inn in Abergynolwyn, but we cannot say if it is any good because we did not stop to sample its hospitality. However it was quite a relief to go somewhere that did not have the temptations of the gift shop- so it is a peaceful, cheap day out!





More info:  CADW Castell-y-Bere

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