If climbing one of the many peaks in Wales doesn’t take your fancy, then why not explore one of its historic sites? With literally hundreds of remains spread across Snowdonia National Park, and some in remote areas, it is easy to channel your inner Indiana Jones and head into the hills.
Using Wild Ruins as our ‘treasure map’, we first journeyed to Llanberis, an area with prestigious history linked to Llewellyn the Great, the prince renowned for uniting Wales. In fact, it was one of his ruins we were searching for – Dolbardarn Castle. Built during the 13th century, this castle/fortress sits on a dramatic spot, overlooking Llyn Padarn and Llyn Peris, and offering panoramic views of Glyder Fawr, Snowdon and other ridges.
A short walk through a footpath led us to its ruins. While much of the castle is little more than foundations, its most dramatic feature, the round tower-keep, remains and is open to explore.
Taking great care, we walked up the slippery, shadowy steps and peered out the windows…
And spied something else in the distance.
Just opposite Dolbadarn Castle, shrouded in the woodland, lies Barics Mon, or the Anglesey Barracks.
Once housing the workers at Dinorwic Quarry, the series of terraced slate houses and tramways to transport the material have long since been abandoned. Nature has begun to take over in some areas, and walking up the steep, quiet path, the area had a disquieting atmosphere to it…
Which was only exacerbated when we came across this little guy!
Dinorwic Quarry was once the second-largest slate quarry in the world, and hired thousands of workers. Many of the workers came from further afield, travelling to the area for work. Wandering through the barracks now, it is difficult to imagine that up to four workmen were housed in each unit, with no running water, electricity or toilets.
Exiting the Instagram-worthy doorway, the trail turns left and leads behind another building and follows a slate wall. Here lies the original tramways, which were used to transport slate down the vertiginous hillside. A towering mass of slate is perched just behind the slate wall, and with the wind billowing down the hillside it is easy to imagine an avalanche of slate heading your way!
For our last visit we once again consulted our trusty ‘treasure map’, and headed into the countryside for Castle Dolwyddelan.
Today the only occupants of the castle are sheep, but back in the day the area was an important fortress and look-out point for Llewellyn the Great. Having huffed and puffed our way up the hill, and avoided the most boggy parts of the landscape, it’s fair to say Llewellyn knew what he was doing when we constructed the castle at that vantage point. Look at the views!
Having conquered the castle in the pouring rain that Wales is renowned for, we huddled under the arch and gazed upon our winnings:
We were feeling mightily smug, having Dolwyddelan Castle all to ourselves, until we realised that the door to the main fortress was locked. With our tail between our legs, we surrendered and slinked off down the hill, eager for the warmth (and food) awaiting us in the car – and what adventure awaited us next.