Last Photographed: Wednesday 19th May 2021
Castell y Bere sits atop a rocky outcrop overlooking the Dysynni Valley. It was constructed in the 1220s by Llywelyn the Great, Prince of Gwynedd, at a time when the Normans were beginning to make inroads into north Wales and were expanding their territories along the Welsh Marches. The positioning of the castle enabled Llywelyn to control the mountain trade route beneath Cader Idris, as well as securing his south-western border and tightening his grip upon the region of Meirionnydd (and its important cattle) which he'd recently seized from his illegitimate son.
Castell y Bere was constructed in stone, and initially consisted of several towers enclosing an inner courtyard, with its walls following and incorporating the contours of the rock upon which the castle was built. Following Llywelyn's death in 1240AD, his grandson Llywelyn ap Gruff continued to expand the castle, surrounding it with a series of walls and ditches which would make it difficult to attack.
Gwynedd's power had been in decline following the death of Llywelyn the Great, and the English had already captured some of its eastern territories. In 1282AD, Llywelyn ap Gruff was killed in a final battle with the forces of Edward I near Builth. Castell y Bere was seized shortly after.
Edward invested both time and money into Castell y Bere, visiting three times and establishing a small Norman colony town beneath its walls. Improvements and additions to the structure continued to be made, and the external barbican and gate towers are believed to date from this period.
In 1294AD, Madoc ap Llywelyn led a major revolt against the English. Castell y Bere was seized during his campaign and put to the torch. Following this, both the castle and the town were abandoned, with the English focusing their efforts on coastal castles that could be re-supplied by sea. Castell y Bere lay forgotten until the 1850s, at which time the site was cleared of undergrowth and the outline of the ruin revealed.
Today, Castell y Bere survives as an incredibly evocative site, remote and well off the beaten track. It benefits from a stunning setting surrounded on all sides by mountainous views. Although most of the remaining walls and buildings don't survive to any great height, the outline of the castle is surprisingly complete and it's very easy to get a feel for its layout. It's not short of unusual and interesting features, such as its surprisingly large central well and its well-defended entrance. Visit out of season, and there's a good chance you'll have the place to yourself. This is a beautiful location to visit and well worth seeking out.