Dolwyddelan sits within the Snowdonia National Park, in the county of Conwy, North Wales. The village, in the Lledr Valley, is renowned for both Dolwyddelan Castle, and for being the birthplace of the Welsh Prince, Llewelyn the Great.
The village is a peaceful location and is a popular base for hill walkers, climbers, canoeists, mountain bikers, anglers, and horse riding enthusiasts. Dolwyddelan straddles the banks of the Afon Lledr, and the stone bridge of Pentre-Bont unites the two communities. The village boasts a general store, the Spar Shop, a traditional pub, and restaurant, the Gwydir, and both a non-conformist chapel and an historic church. There are two hotels in the village, a Bunk House, and bed and breakfast and self catering accommodation can be found both within the village and on the hillsides nearby. Snowdonia's premier inland resort, Betws-y-Coed is some 5 miles from the village. Betws-y-Coed offers a wide variety of accommodation from luxury hotels to B and B's and a great selection of pubs and restaurants.
The historic church of St Gwyddelan's dates from circa 1500. The original church was on a small hillock on the outskirts of the village and the present church was built in a more protected position by Meredudd ap Ieuan to prevent attacks by the bandits that plagued the countryside during the lawless years following the failed Glyndwr Rebellion. (The Knights of St John hospice in Ysbyty Ifan was notorious for giving sanctuary to robbers and thieves).
There is much of interest in this atmospheric old church: in the East window there are fragments of glass from 1512; on one front pew is carved in Welsh "A bench for the hard of hearing"; the "Dolwyddelan Dragon" is carved on a beam in the North side; the Clock Bell, "Cloch Wyddelan", is 7th century and is thought to have belonged to Saint Gwyddelan and brought by him from Ireland.
Castles and Forts
Dolwyddelan Castle stands on a rocky ridge commanding the Lledr Valley, one of the principal passes through Snowdonia. It was built between c.1210 and 1240, under the command of Prince Llywelyn the Great of Gwynedd. It was built to guard the road into the core of his kingdom to watch over his vital upland cattle-pastures. Defended by rock-cut ditches and a steep drop, the castle is dominated by a rectangular keep-tower, later heightened to three storeys. The strategically sited castle became a prime target for English attack during Edward I's conquest of Wales. On the very day of its capture in January 1283 the king's masons began strengthening it, probably adding its second tower. The Welsh built fortress thus became a link in Edward's famous chain of strongholds around Gwynedd.
In the 15th Century Maredudd ap Ieuan, a nobleman from the Llyn peninsula occupied the Castle. Maredudd moved to Dolwyddelan c. 1485 and his descendants were to become the Wynns of Gwydir Castle Llanrwst. Over many years the castle fell into decay and the picturesque ruins proved a magnet for Georgian romantic landscape-painters and tourists. Victorian reconstruction restored the keep to something like it's former grandeur and today Dolwyddelan Castle remains a lasting memorial to Prince Llewelyn's strategic achievements and to the skills of the men who built it.
Walks, Cycle Trails and Other Activities
Visitors to Dolwyddelan are spoilt for choice when in search for walks, mountain bike trails, and indeed extreme sports. Several walks radiate out from the centre of the village: walks to Dolwyddelan Castle; the Hidden Valley (Cwm Penamnen); the Wybrnant Valley and Ty Mawr; “over the hills and far away” over the hills to Pont Cyfyng near Capel Curig; and “over the hills and far away -two” over the hills to the Machno Valley.
There are a number of Mountain Bike Trails throughout the area: purpose built trails through the Gwydir Forest from the village of Penmachno; from Dolwyddelan “over the hills and far away” - over the hills to Pont Cyfyng near Capel Curig; again from the village “over the hills and far away -two” - over the hills to the Machno Valley.
Extreme sports enthusiasts ride the rapids down the falls at Pont-y-Pant , hmm definitely not recommended! Alternatively and just as crazy from my viewpoint is to paraglide from the summit of Moel Siabod onto the meadowland of the Lledr Valley.
Equestrians are well catered for with the horse riding trails through the Gwydir Forest. One of the trails ventures through the beautiful Wybrnant Valley and along the forest trails to Pont y Pant and the village of Dolwyddelan.