Dolwyddelan Castle, along with Dinas Bran and Dolbadarn, make up a trio of Welsh castles in North Wales that is not to be missed if you want to avoid crowds and combine your love of history with breathtaking views. Managed by CADW (and the only one of the trio for which one has to pay admission), the castle was built as a fortress and a home for Welsh nobles who were lords of this area of Snowdonia in the mid 13th century. Although the ruined foundations of a curtain wall still exist, the main feature is the square stone keep that reaches three stories. Most of daily living was carried out in the one room of the keep but you can still climb the stone stairs to the battlements for a fine view of the surrounding valleys and hills. Also standing on the hill is the one remaining wall of a second keep built by the English when they took over the castle. The pair face each other in a standoff which the Welsh are delighted to say they are winning since the keep is in much better repair than the English addition. The climb to the castle is up a winding path and some stone steps without handrails, so steady feet or a hiking stick are a great help. Dolwyddelan (and remember the double dd in Welsh is pronounced like th) is a great place to spend an hour in rest and contemplation with only the sheep on the nearby farm to keep you company. The grass is cushiony enough and there are many outcroppings of convenient rocks for sitting if you prefer to rest while you make a sketch of the hill and ruins or write down your impressions in a travel journal (watch out for the nettles, though!). One tip - To pay your entrance fee or show your CADW card, ring the doorbell on the farmhouse. It's signposted (kind of) but the doorbell is not readily visible - don't make the mistake of thinking the farmhouse is also an office for the castle and do like we do - open a door on someone's kitchen. The farmwife must have this happen often and is justly annoyed by it.
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