Have you heard of Castell y Bere?
The sheer length of Welsh history means that the land has plenty of sites of interest. For proof, look no further than Castell y Bere, which is a medieval castle that can be found close to the hamlet of Llanfihangel-y-Pennant in Meirionnydd. Said location has been ruined for a very long time. However, our recent visit revealed to us that there is still a very real sense of wonder to it.
- Location: Llanfihangel-y-Pennant, Tywyn, Gwynedd, LL36 9TP. 2 miles north west of Aberglynolwyn, off the B4405.
- Parking on site. Open access.
- Please note: The route into the castle is narrow, the path can be very slippery in rainy weather, not suitable for unrestrained children and not accessible to disabled visitors.
What is so notable about this medieval castle in Wales?
Castles are an iconic symbol of the Medieval era for a lot of people. However, it is important to note that the concept came into existence in the 9th and 10th centuries. In Great Britain, castle-building started up because of the Normans, who built castles for the purpose of cementing their control over the Anglo-Saxons. When the Normans started encroaching upon Wales, the Welsh started building castles as well, which was a significant change from the Welsh princes’ traditional preference for unprotected palaces.
Llywelyn the Great
Castell y Bere was built by Llywelyn the Great in the 1220s. Llywelyn ein Llyw Olaf (Our Last Helm) or just Llywelyn the Last is a legendary and the most powerful of all the medieval Welsh princes – Llywelyn ein Llyw Olaf (Our Last Helm) or just Llywelyn the Last/the Great. Mystery surrounds his last days in December 1282 and a tragic death. It’s said that a solitary, shadowy figure is sometimes seen standing at Castell y Bere at sunset. As the sun slips out of sight over the surrounding hills, the figure slowly melts away.
Llywelyn the Great is famous for being the ruler of the whole of Wales. However, Llywelyn didn’t start out as such. Instead, he had to fight his uncles for the Kingdom of Gwynedd, which was followed by him fighting other Welsh rulers for the rest of Wales. As such, while Castell y Bere was meant to protect his southwest border, it was also meant to cement his control over the locals.
This proved to be useful for a number of rulers that came after Llywelyn the Great. For example, his grandson Llywelyn the Last is known to have added a new tower, which is thought to have been meant to add more accommodations. Likewise, King Edward I of England established a small town by the castle, which was a common practice in those times. However, Castell y Bere was presumably burned by the forces of Madoc ap Llywelyn when the Welsh rose up in 1294, with the result that it was never rebuilt by the English because its inland location meant that it can’t be provisioned with ease through the sea.
Still, when we headed up to the location, even our inexperienced eyes could tell that the hill on which Castell y Bere still sits would’ve been a formidable deterrence to its enemies. For us, the ascent was rather charming because of the natural elements that have reclaimed much of the site, but for those seeking to take the medieval castle in its heyday, that same ascent must have been nerve-wracking. As such, we highly recommend Castell y Bere as a place to check out for anyone with a fondness for either natural beauty, archaeological interest, or even the mysterious feel of a good ruin.
Photography © Gurcan sarisoy