The Princes of Gwynedd

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Audio trails

A series of audio trails exploring the fascinating story of the Princes of Gwynedd, the most powerful rulers in medieval Wales.

Through the audio trails you can walk in the footsteps of the Princes, and discover how their words and deeds shaped the landscape and culture of the Wales we see today.

The Audio Trails...

Hywel Dda - first Prince of Wales
LysRhosyr.jpg
Llys Rhosyr

Llys Rhosyr is a special place. It is a rare example of one of the royal courts of the Princes of Gwynedd; a home, a palace, a meeting place and a centre of governance.

Its foundations are almost intact, enabling us to imagine, with a little help from the experts, the daily life of a busy court.

Ruins of Lys Rhosyr
Llys Rhosyr (English): 1Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Llys Rhosyr
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Llys Rhosyr (English): 2Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Llys Rhosyr
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Llys Rhosyr (English): 3Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Llys Rhosyr
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Llys Rhosyr (English): 4Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Llys Rhosyr
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Llys Rhosyr (English): 5Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Llys Rhosyr
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Llys Rhosyr (English): 6Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Llys Rhosyr
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Llys Rhosyr (English): 7Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Llys Rhosyr
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Abergwyngregyn

Abergwyngregyn, ‘estuary of the white shells’, lies between the Menai Strait and the foothills of Snowdonia. It’s best known for the magnificent Aber Falls and the Coedydd Aber National Nature Reserve, both just a short walk from the village. 

Llywelyn the Great, one of the most powerful figures in Welsh history, and his grandson Llywelyn the Last, the last sovereign prince of Wales, both had their llys, or court in Abergwyngregyn. The princes stayed here often as they moved around their kingdom and the probable site of the llys can still be seen in the village.

Ruins of Abergwyngregyn
Abergwyngregyn (Engish): 1Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Abergwyngregyn
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Abergwyngregyn (Engish): 2Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Abergwyngregyn
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Abergwyngregyn (Engish): 3Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Abergwyngregyn
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Abergwyngregyn (Engish): 4Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Abergwyngregyn
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Abergwyngregyn (English): 5Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Abergwyngregyn
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Deganwy Castle

For centuries, Deganwy has been a place of settlement, siege and warfare.

Most of the ruins that are visible here today are those of the castle built by Deganwy’s last occupant, the English king, Henry III, in 1245. And it was while he was building his castle that Henry’s troops shivered and starved in their tents.

Ruins of Deganwy Castle

But Deganwy’s history goes back a lot further than that. Having been occupied and later abandoned by the Romans, it then became a stronghold of the kingdom of Gwynedd. 

Deganwy (English): 1Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Deganwy
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Deganwy (English): 2Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Deganwy
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Deganwy (English): 3Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Deganwy
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Deganwy (English): 4Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Deganwy
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Deganwy (English): 5Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Deganwy
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Deganwy (English): 6Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Deganwy
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Deganwy (English): 7Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Deganwy
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Deganwy (English): 8Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Deganwy
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Deganwy (English): 9Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Deganwy
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Cymer Abbey

After the Romans left Wales in the 5th century, Wales was a land of small kingdoms. One of these was Gwynedd. The ruling princes of Gwynedd grew more powerful with each generation, defying both Saxon and Norman invaders. Today, the remains of their castles, courts and abbeys, together with the music and poetry they inspired, are still very much at the heart of Welsh culture.

Ruins of Cymer Abbey

The best known Prince of Gwynedd was Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, or Llywelyn the Great. As an outward-looking leader, Llywelyn supported the monasteries of Wales, and by so doing he linked Gwynedd to the wider religious and cultural scene across Europe. With a combination of shrewd diplomacy and warfare, he dominated Wales for 40 years.

Cymer Abbey (English): 1Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Cymer Abbey
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Cymer Abbey (English): 2Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Cymer Abbey
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Cymer Abbey (English): 3Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Cymer Abbey
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Cymer Abbey (English): 4Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Cymer Abbey
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Cymer Abbey (English): 5Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Cymer Abbey
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Cymer Abbey (English): 6Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Cymer Abbey
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Cymer Abbey (English): 7Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Cymer Abbey
00:00 / 03:59
 
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Dolbadarn Castle

Before King Edward I of England invaded Wales and built his formidable iron ring of coastal fortresses at Conwy, Caernarfon, Harlech and Beaumaris, the Welsh built lesser known but equally significant castles.

Prince Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, Llywelyn the Great, the mighty Prince of Gwynedd, demonstrated his own power by establishing a series of castles which took into account some of the very latest ideas in castle construction. These native-built structures took advantage of the landscape on which they stood, using rocks and ditches for natural vantage points and defences.

Ruins of Dolbadarn Castle.

They were skilfully built, often using stone without mortar, providing solid proof of the Prince’s ingenuity. And one of the finest examples of his castles is Dolbadarn.

Dolbadarn Castle (English): 1Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Dolbadarn Castle
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Dolbadarn Castle (English): 2Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Dolbadarn Castle
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Dolbadarn Castle (English): 3Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Dolbadarn Castle
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Dolbadarn Castle (English): 4Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Dolbadarn Castle
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Dolbadarn Castle (English): 5Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Dolbadarn Castle
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Dolbadarn Castle (English): 6Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Dolbadarn Castle
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Dolbadarn Castle (English): 7Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Dolbadarn Castle
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Dolbadarn Castle (English): 8Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Dolbadarn Castle
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Dolwyddelan & Tomen Castle

Dolwyddelan Castle is traditionally regarded as the birthplace of Wales’ most powerful medieval prince, Llywelyn Fawr, or Llywelyn the Great, Prince of Gwynedd and eventual ruler of a large part of Wales.

But it was almost certainly Llywelyn himself who built Dolwyddelan, some time between 1210 and 1240. Dominating the surrounding landscape, this was one of several mountain fortresses in Snowdonia with which Llywelyn established his dominance over the region.

Ruins of Dolwyddelan Castle

It was an important strategic spot, controlling one of the main routes through Snowdonia, but it also protected a vital part of the royal economy – cattle.

Dolwyddelan Castle (English): 1Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Dolwyddelan Castle
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Dolwyddelan Castle (English): 2Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Dolwyddelan Castle
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Dolwyddelan Castle (English): 3Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Dolwyddelan Castle
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Dolwyddelan Castle (English): 4Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Dolwyddelan Castle
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Dolwyddelan Castle (English): 5Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Dolwyddelan Castle
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Dolwyddelan Castle (English): 6Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Dolwyddelan Castle
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Dinas Emrys

This trail takes us on a journey to the very top of Dinas Emrys, a medieval hill fort which, as well as the setting for myth and legend, has been a place of settlement and fortification dating back to the Iron Age.

But it was after the end of the Roman occupation of Britain that the strategic significance of Dinas Emrys came to the fore, as a centre of control during the time of the Princes of Gwynedd. 

Runis of Dinas Emrys
1: Dinas Emrys (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Dinas Emrys
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2: Dinas Emrys (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Dinas Emrys
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3: Dinas Emrys (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Dinas Emrys
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4: Dinas Emrys (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Dinas Emrys
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5: Dinas Emrys (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Dinas Emrys
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6: Dinas Emrys (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Dinas Emrys
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7: Dinas Emrys (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Dinas Emrys
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8: Dinas Emrys (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Dinas Emrys
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Castell y Bere

The lonely fortress of Castell y Bere was once a stronghold of the mighty Princes of Gwynedd. Gruffudd ap Cynan, Owain Gwynedd, Llywelyn the Great, Llywelyn the Last – a lineage of proud warriors and generous patrons of literature & architecture.

After the Romans left Wales in the 5th century, the princes of Gwynedd grew more powerful with each generation.They faced frequent attacks from outside Wales, including the formidable Normans, who had already conquered England but whom the Welsh were determined to repel.

Ruins of Castelly Bere

The long and successful reign of Gruffudd ap Cynan was a golden age in Gwynedd’s history. The prosperity and political stability that Gruffudd nurtured continued with his son, Owain Gwynedd. Two generations later, Owain’s grandson proved to be the most outstanding native statesman that Wales had ever seen. His name was Llywelyn ab Iorwerth, Llywelyn the Great.

1: Castell y Bere (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Castel y Bere
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2: Castell y Bere (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Castel y Bere
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3: Castell y Bere (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Castel y Bere
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4: Castell y Bere (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Castel y Bere
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5: Castell y Bere (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Castel y Bere
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6: Castell y Bere (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Castel y Bere
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7: Castell y Bere (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Castel y Bere
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8: Castell y Bere (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Castel y Bere
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Conwy Town Walls

Following his victory over Llywelyn the Last, Edward I set about colonizing Wales. He summoned French master-builder and military architect James of St George to design a series of new towns fortified by imposing castles.

In just 20 years he had completed his ‘ring of steel’. The castles were of a new and distinctive design, using some of the most advanced defensive features of the time. 


One of the most successful new town ventures was Conwy.

Ruins of Conwy Town Walls
1: Conwy Town Walls (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Conwy Town Walls
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2: Conwy Town Walls (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Conwy Town Walls
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3: Conwy Town Walls (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Conwy Town Walls
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4: Conwy Town Walls (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Conwy Town Walls
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5: Conwy Town Walls (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Conwy Town Walls
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6: Conwy Town Walls (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Conwy Town Walls
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7: Conwy Town Walls (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Conwy Town Walls
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Aberconwy Abbey

After the Romans left Wales in the 5th century, Wales was a land of small kingdoms and one of these was Gwynedd. The ruling princes of Gwynedd grew more powerful with each generation, defying both Saxon and Norman invaders. 

The best known Prince of Gwynedd is Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, or Llywelyn the Great. 

Aberconwy Abbey
1: Aberconwy Abbey (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Aberconwy Abbey
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2: Aberconwy Abbey (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Aberconwy Abbey
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3: Aberconwy Abbey (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Aberconwy Abbey
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4: Aberconwy Abbey (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Aberconwy Abbey
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5: Aberconwy Abbey (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Aberconwy Abbey
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6: Aberconwy Abbey (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Aberconwy Abbey
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Gwydir Chapel & St Grwst’s Church

According to local legend, Saint Grwst founded the ancient market town of Llanrwst in the 7th century. Many leaders and noblemen travelled to Llanrwst to visit the saint and ask him for spiritual guidance. 

Around 500 years later, a church was built here to honour Saint Grwst’s memory. Close to the peacefully flowing River Conwy, it provides a tranquil place to stop and reflect. 

But the church’s story has not always been a peaceful one.

Gwydir Chapel
1: Gwydir Chapel (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Gwydir Chapel
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2: Gwydir Chapel (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Gwydir Chapel
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3: Gwydir Chapel (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Gwydir Chapel
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4: Gwydir Chapel (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Gwydir Chapel
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5: Gwydir Chapel (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Gwydir Chapel
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Criccieth Castle

Criccieth Castle occupies a commanding position, high up on an isolated rocky crag, towering above the town, with stunning views across the Llŷn Peninsular to the west, the peaks Snowdonia to the north and the deep blue waters of Tremadog Bay below.

This was once a stronghold of the mighty Princes of Gwynedd, the first Princes to claim the title “Prince of Wales”. Gruffudd ap Cynan, Owain Gwynedd, Llywelyn the Great, Llywelyn the Last – a lineage of proud warriors who for centuries defied both Saxon and Norman invaders.

Criccieth Castle

Here at Criccieth, a native-built fortress of the Princes of Gwynedd, the Welsh dragon pitted its wits and its strength against the English lion.

1: Criccieth Castle (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Criccieth Castle
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2: Criccieth Castle (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Criccieth Castle
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3: Criccieth Castle (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Criccieth Castle
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4: Criccieth Castle (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Criccieth Castle
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5: Criccieth Castle (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Criccieth Castle
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6: Criccieth Castle (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Criccieth Castle
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7: Criccieth Castle (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Criccieth Castle
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8: Criccieth Castle (English)Princes of Gwynedd Audio Trail: Criccieth Castle
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