Dolwyddelan Castle, like Castell y Bere, is unusual in a land dominated by fortresses in that rather than built by the English, it was built by a Welsh prince, Llywelyn ap Iorweth (latterly known as Llywelyn the Great) between 1210 and 1240. Llywelyn dominated North Wales, and large parts of the rest of Wales, for a period of 40 years and declared himself the first Prince of Wales, a title formally recognised by Henry III in 1267 in the Treaty of Montgomery.
This is a story about a young girl that walked 26 miles to buy a book. She wasn’t being sponsored. She didn’t have a TV crew in tow. She wasn’t travelling in a group. She was on her own. She travelled 26 miles along paths she had never walked; through villages and settlements that she had never visited. She didn’t have a map: just a rough set of directions. There is precious little that would persuade me to make a similar effort. And she walked all that way for a book.
Cymer Abbey is now a ruined Cistercian abbey near the village of Llanelltyd, just north of Dolgellau. Founded in 1158-9 by Cistercian monks and dedicated to the Virgin Mary under the patronage of Maredudd ap Cynan ab Owain Gwynedd, Lord of Merioneth.
On the monk spectrum the Cistercians were definitely towards the pious end hardly ever eating or sleeping eschewing the material world believing in simplicity in all things. Their lives revolved around the Liturgy of the Hours with a mass at midnight and then prayers every three hours around the clock. This did not leave a lot of time for farming, fishing or hard labour – the traditional pastimes of the medieval monk. To accommodate this schedule they would employ lay people to manage their farm holdings.
When you think of Barmouth, what images spring to mind? Whatever your age there’s a good chance that they’ll include donkey rides, deckchairs, candy floss, wind brakes, sandcastles, crabbing, ice-cream and the dodgems. When we visited in August Barmouth had all that together with yapping dogs, running kids, stressed mums and dive-bombing seagulls.
At the end of the 13th century Edward I invaded Wales determined that the locals would submit to his divine right to rule. He achieved this with stone building a mighty ‘iron ring’ of fortresses with which he encircled the rebellious Welsh princes in their Snowdonian stronghold. This iron ring consisted of Harlech, in the south, and Caernarfon, Colwyn, and a little later, Beaumaris in the north and east.
The Mawddach Trail is a 9-mile sign-posted trail along the river estuary between Dolgellau and Barmouth. The trail follows the route of a disused Great Western railway line and is suitable for walkers, cyclists, wheelchairs and pushchairs. If you don’t fancy the entire trail, or if your visit is short, there are plenty of free car parking places along route (e.g. A493/A470 junction). If you are a keen bird watcher, then the estuary is a real magnet for migratory birds and the trail takes you through RSPB protected areas.
The Church of St. Cadfan is the oldest building in Tywyn with parts dating back to the 12th century although there are records indicating that a church settlement, or clas, was founded around 516 AD by Cadfan, a missionary from Brittany, centred around the nearby well. Cadfan’s church became the mother church for all churches in the region with the monks at Tywyn establishing an ecclesiastical college (the street that runs alongside the church is still called College Green).