Tomen y Bala, Bala

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Motte), and also as a Certain Palace (Other)

There are earthwork remains

NameTomen y Bala, Bala
Alternative Names
Historic CountryMerioneth
Modern AuthorityGwynedd
1974 AuthorityGwynedd

A medieval castle mound, one of the largest in Wales, later adapted as a garden feature with a spiral pathway to the summit. This is a steep sided circular mound, about 40m in diameter and 8.0m high, with a level summit some 16.5m across. This would originally have had timber breastworks and perhaps a high timber tower. The mound would have been ditched about. It is not known whether there were any other fortifications. The castle can be associated with a manor or llys, a princely court, the head place of Penllyn commote. Its conquest is recorded in 1202 and it may have remained active into the thirteenth century. Edward I was present at Bala in 1284. In about 1310 a borough was laid out south-west of the mount (NPRN 58040/33151). In the early fifteenth century a garrison was present in the town with no mention of the castle. (Coflein–John Wiles 09.07.07)

Bala is likely to have been the maerdref or administrative center of the commote of Tryweryn, and it was still fortified in 1202, when Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, who was extending his power towards Powys, drove out Elis ap Madog, Lord of Penllyn. Llywelyn reduced the defences and very probably built the more modern castle at Carndochan, but Bala must have retained at least some of its symbolic and administrative importance because an English borough was established beside it in 1310. (Lynch 1995)

The ditch and bailey evidence have been lost beneath the towns subsequent development of this area. All that now remains is a well-defined motte that has been planted with a number of ornamental tree and shrub species and is cared for by the council and used as a public recreation area. (Scheduling Report)

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

The National Monument Record (Coflein) number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSH928360
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  • Morgan, Gerald, 2008, Castles in Wales: A Handbook (Talybont: Y Lolfa Cyf.) p. 242 (listed)
  • King, D.J.C. with Kenyon, J.R., 2001, 'The Castles: a Study in Military Architecture' in Smith J.B. and Smith L.B. (eds), History of Merioneth Vol. 2 p. 410
  • Pettifer, Adrian, 2000, Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties (Boydell Press) p. 119
  • Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles of North Wales (Malvern) p. 49 (slight)
  • Lynch, Frances, 1995, A Guide to Ancient and Historical Wales: Gwynedd (HMSO)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 275
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 324
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 97
  • RCAHMW, 1921, An inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Merionethshire (HMSO) p. 1 no. 1 online copy
  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy


  • Hogg, A.H.A. and King, D.J.C., 1963, 'Early castles in Wales and the Marches: a preliminary list' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 112 p. 77-124
  • Renn, D.F., 1959, 'Mottes: a classification' Antiquity Vol. 33 p. 106-12
  • Clark, G.T., 1889, 'Contribution towards a complete list of moated mounds or burhs' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 46 p. 197-217 esp. 216 online copy

Primary Sources

  • Brut y Tywysogion 1202 (Several transcriptions and translations exist the best being Jones, T., 1952, Brut Y Twysogion (University of Wales, History and Law series 11)–based on the Peniarth MS 20 version. There is a flawed translation Williams ab Ithel, John, 1860, Brut Y Twysogion or The Chronicle of the Princes (Rolls Series) online copy)