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Introduction ~ General Castles ~ Castell-y-Bere ~ Castell-Carreg-Cennin ~ Castell-Dynefwr

Today an artist wishing for an idyllic scenic landscape to paint, has been provided with one in north Wales. Situated north of Abergynolwyn at the upper end of the Desenni valley, is the serene and picturesque ruin of Castell-y-Bere.

One however should not be fooled by today's peaceful and tranquil scene, for that was certainly not the case back in days of which I tell: for then Castell-y-Bere was both a bastion of the Welsh way of life and a operational Welsh fortress.

Castell y Bere September 1282

Nestling under the folds of Cader Idris to the north and its lesser mountainous cohorts to the east and south, the castle was protected to a certain extent from any surprise attack because of its location.

The central keep, allowed the lookouts standing on its turreted top allowed a view of both the entire valley and the passes leading into it. However, it was also a place which provided sanctuary in times of danger, not only for the people of the valley, but also for those living in the nearby mountains.

It was from Bere that " Llywelyn the Great " set out south to meet with all the free princes of Wales near Machynlleth, his aim was to set up a governing body for Wales, which on achieving succeeded for just a few short years.

It was from Bere that Llywelyn issued his call to arms for his campaign of 1231. The campaign followed closely upon the heels of another, which had occurred following a dispute with Hubert de Burgh the Justiciar of England. In 1228 on a battlefield near Ceri in Montgomeryshire Llywelyn's lightly armed infantry and highly mobile mountain cavalry heavily defeated De Burg's forces.

It was during a campaign in 1231 that Llywelyn became determined that there should be no further gains in Wales by English forces, with that view firmly in the back of his mind he led his troops into parts of the nation where a Welsh army hadn't been seen for almost a 100 years.

Before 1231 had ended he had burnt the border town of Brecon almost to the ground, crossed the mountains into Glamorganshire were his army razed many towns to the ground by means of fire, physically destroyed many more stone by stone, none suffered the rigours of war more than the major town of Neath which he destroyed beyond all recognition.

  Where the drawbridge once stood   Looking south down the valley

Before his death on the 11th of April 1240 " Llywelyn the Great" called for all the princes in Wales to meet at the Abbey of Strata Florida, there to pay homage to his son David. However, David was soon in conflict with England's king Henry III, when Henry marched against him David withdrew into hiding and died childless.

Despite the fact that when Llywelyn died Wales had lost perhaps one of the greatest princes it had ever had, life at Bere continued as it had always done. Justice was reeked upon those who had done wrong, and the small garrison continued to hold the castle on behalf of the princes of Gwynedd.

When Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the grandson of Llywelyn the Great, gained Gwynedd by the power of the sword, Castell-y-Bere was once again back in the limelight. Once more it became campaign headquarters as Llywelyn swept through Wales in his campaigns of 1257 and 1258. During the years that followed, to this small castle, situated under the glare of the ever watchful Cader Idris mountain, came every prince in Wales; there to pay homage to their Sovereign leader. Sometimes the minor Princes were summoned, sometimes they came of their own free will. How long it may have continued to be that way I don't know, but when the snow caused the river Desenni to flood in the early spring of 1282 and Llywelyn began an advance to the south once again, the life of Castell y Bere was being shortened by every passing day.

When twelve months later, following the defeat and death of Llywelyn at Builth in December 1282, two English armies began to advance through the mountains one from the south one from the south east, it signaled the beginning of the end.

On April 25th 1283, when the small garrison of the castle marched out to surrender, they found that facing them on the Desenni plain were some 10,000 English troops camped in the snow. That my friends for Castell-y-Bere, was the

Good Bye Bastion of the North

It was from Castell y Bere in the spring of 1282
With an army of men from Wales all good and true
That the Prince of Wales did march south with his host
To advance upon his enemies along the Cardigan Coast

He left behind in that picturesque valley of Desenni
Those that were to guard the castle, they weren't many
But they diligently walked the ramparts by day and by night
Their aim: to make sure that the security inside was always tight

Under Cader Idris for ten months things remained just the same
Then from Builth Wells down in the south the disastrous news came
There had been a crushing defeat, a devastating blow, call it what you will
No more would Llywelyn return to Bere, there to eat and drink his fill

With the news except for the garrison to the mountains everyone went
For two English armies were advancing from the south each one hell-bent
To capture that castle situated there on that flat Desenni river valley floor
So that from then on, there would be no resistance from there for evermore
Graphics by Ole R.D. Copyright © 1999-2005 / All Rights Reserved
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