Dolbadarn Castle

Has been described as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are major building remains

NameDolbadarn Castle
Alternative Names
Historic CountryCaernarfonshire
Modern AuthorityGwynedd
1974 AuthorityGwynedd
CommunityLlanberis

Probably built by Llywelyn ab Iorwerth ('the Great') early in C13, the castle is dominated by a massive round-towered keep, still standing up to 50 feet high. Welsh princely castle located on a triangular rocky site of moderate strength; one or two small rectangular towers, and a fine round keep on the curtain. Some rebuilding, which may include the keep. First mentioned in 1284 when being dismantled. Said to have been in existence in 1255. The highly developed keep is likely to be the last, rather than the earliest, part of the fabric.

Dolbadarn Castle was one of three castles begun by Llywelyn ap Iorwerth in the early twelfth century to defend the passes into Snowdonia, together with Dolwyddelan Castle (NPRN 952990) and Castell y Bere (NPRN 93719). It sits at the tip of Llun Padarn, which then, as now, was a main throughway of Wales, and thus allowed the garrison to control movement through the north. The castle consists of the finest surviving example of a Welsh round tower with adjoining stone walls. There are two further ‘towers’, but these were never of a great height. By contemporary standards it was a sophisticated example of military architecture, with a portcullis at the entrance and complex stairway in which the spiral reverses direction at the halfway point. It is probable that the tower of Dolbadarn was the site of Owain ap Gruffud’s long imprisonment, from 1255 to 1277. The castle fell into English hands after the defeat of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in 1282 and was soon supplanted by Edward I’s new fortification at Caernarfon (NPRN 95318), and so was partially dismantled and abandoned. Little is recorded concerning the castle after the early fourteenth century, though there is a suggestion that Owain Glyndwr used the castle to imprison captives circa 1400

(Coflein–K Steele, RCAHMW, 4 November 2008)

Situated on a natural rock outcrop in a strategic position at the north-west end of Llyn Peris, the castle forms a prominent feature in the landscape.

Probably built by Llywelyn ap Iorweth (1173-1240) towards the end of his life, the castle was partly dismantled after the English conquest, some of the timber being taken to Caernarfon for use in the royal castle there in 1284. The curtain wall and outbuildings, of which only fragmentary ruins survive, post-date the keep and may have been added by the English. The castle has been painted by many artists, including Turner.

Interior is roofless; internal spiral staircase remains along with the remnants of 2 large fireplaces and empty sockets for joist and beam ends of the former floor structures.

Castle keep. Circular plan surviving to about 14.5m in height. Regularly coursed and tightly-packed slate-stone slabs, now roofless. Original entrance on north-western side with steeply pointed arch approached by wide flight of C20 external steps; another steeply pointed arch directly above. A well-preserved lean-to garderobe tower projects to the left of the entrance and a series of narrow rectangular windows to the right indicates the position of the internal spiral staircase. (Listed Building Report)

The castle consists of a round tower, still standing to almost full height, with walls 2 m thick, and the foundations of several rectangular buildings with walls up to 1 m thick, all fitted on to the top of a steep-sided rocky crag with good views up and down the valley. The remains are well consolidated and in good condition. There is an access from the NE which comes into the large building on the N - this is presumably original. (The main access is from the S). The round tower has a garderobe extension on the N. It is possible to climb to the top, from where the views are spectacular, but the steps on the outside, and their wall, are presumably modern. (Scheduling Report)

Gatehouse Comments

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic Wales CADW listed database record number
The National Monument Record (Coflein) number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSH586598
Latitude53.1164894104004
Longitude-4.11419010162354
Eastings258600
Northings359800
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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 53° 6' 59.76" Longitude -4° 6' 51.12"

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Books

  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 221, 227
  • Kenyon, John, 2010, The Medieval Castles of Wales (University of Wales Press) p. 31-33
  • Butler, L., 2009, 'The Castles of the Princes of Gwynedd' in Willams, D. and Kenyon, J. (eds), The Impact of the Edwardian Castles in Wales (Oxbow) p. 27-36
  • Purton, P.F., 2009, A History of the Late Medieval Siege: 1200-1500 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 43, 83
  • Morgan, Gerald, 2008, Castles in Wales: A Handbook (Talybont: Y Lolfa Cyf.) p. 69-71
  • Davis, Paul R., 2007, Castles of the Welsh Princes (Y Lolfa) p. 53-5
  • Gravett, Christopher, 2007, The Castles of Edward I in Wales 1277-1307 (Osprey Fortress series 64)
  • McNeill, T., 2003, 'Squaring circles: flooring round towers in Wales and Ireland' in Kenyon, J.R. and O'Conor, K. (eds), The medieval castle in Ireland and Wales: essays in honour of Jeremy Knight (Dublin: Four Courts Press) p. 96-106
  • Pettifer, Adrian, 2000, Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties (Boydell Press) p. 33-5
  • Morris, R.K., 1998, 'The Architecture of Arthurian Enthusiasm: Castle Symbolism in the Reigns of Edward I and his Successors' in M.J. Strickland (ed), Armies, Chivalry and Warfare in Medieval England and France: Proceedings of the 1995 Harlaxton Symposium (Stamford: Shaun Tyas) p. 63-81 (reprinted in Liddiard, Robert (ed), 2016, Late Medieval Castles (Boydell Press) p. 349-374)
  • Reid, Alan, 1998, Castles of Wales (John Jones Publishing) p. 76-8
  • Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles of North Wales (Malvern) p. 40-1
  • Spurgeon, C., 1990, 'Dolbadarn: The Castle' in P. Joyner (ed), Dolbadarn: Studies on a Theme (Aberystwyth)
  • Davis, Paul R., 1988, Castles of the Welsh Princes (Swansea)
  • Avent, Richard, 1983, Castles of the Princes of Gwynedd (Cardiff)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 34
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 349
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 168
  • RCAHMW, 1960, A Survey and Inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Caernarvonshire Vol. 2: Central (HMSO) p. 165-8 no. 1132 online copy
  • Neaverson, E., 1947, Mediaeval Castles in North Wales: A study of Sites, Water Supply, and Building Stones (London) p. 33-4
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 3 (London) p. 438-41 online copy
  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy
  • King, Edward, 1804, Munimenta antiqua or Observations on antient castles (W.Bulmer and Co) Vol. 3 p. 124-5 online copy
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathenial, 1774, Buck’s Antiquities (London) Vol. 2 p. 374

Antiquarian

  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1906, Leland's Itinerary in Wales  (Bell and Sons; London) p. 84 online copy

Journals

  • Smith, Spencer Gavin, 2014, 'Dolbadarn Castle, Caernarfonshire: A Thirteenth-Century Royal Landscape' Archaeology in Wales Vol 53 p. 63-72
  • Mesqui, Jean, Renn, Derek and Smals Laurens, 2008, ''The Portcullis in Medieval Great Towers: An Impression' Château Gaillard Vol. 23 p. 289-95
  • Avent, Richard, 1994, 'Castles of the Welsh Princes' Château Gaillard Vol. 16 p. 11-17
  • King, D.J.C., 1979, ‘Dolbadam Castle’ 126th Annual Meeting, Lleyn and Snowdonia, 1979, CAA p. 26-7
  • Rees, D. Morgan, 1976, 'Dolbadarn Castle' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 132
  • Jones, G., 1969, 'The Defences of Gwynedd in the Thirteenth Century' Transactions of the Caernarvonshire Historical Society Vol. 30
  • Hogg, A.H.A. and King, D.J.C., 1967, 'Masonry castles in Wales and the Marches: a list' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 116 p. 71-132
  • 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 (Late–attributed to origin in C12 but regarded as later)
  • Renn, D.F., 1961, 'The round keeps of the Brecon region' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 110 p. 139 and plate
  • Hemp, 1937, Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 92 p. 360-1

Guide Books

  • Avent, Richard, 2004, Dolwyddelan Castle, Dolbadarn Castle, Castell Y Bere (Cardiff: CADW)
  • Radford, 1956, Dolbadarn Castle_ MSO)
  • Radford, 1948, Dolbadarn Castle_ MSO)

Primary Sources

  • TNA: PRO Exch. A/C 351/9

Other

  • Ryder, Charles, 2011, The spiral stair or vice: Its origins, role and meaning in medieval stone castles (PhD Thesis University of Liverpool) p. 175-81 Download via