The princes of Gwynedd traced their royal line back to ancient times and became the most powerful dynasty in medieval Wales. Their kingdom stretched from the fertile lands of Anglesey to the soaring peaks of Snowdonia and at one point expanded to cover much of Wales.
For more than 800 years, the princes fought with one another and the English Crown to secure their positions of power. But this was not just a time of war and turmoil - the princes also forged strong cultural and religious links with continental Europe and were patrons of beautiful architecture, music and poetry.
Their legacy can be found today throughout the north west of Wales. Why not follow in the footsteps of the princes, and discover hidden castles, royal residences and tranquil churches set in breathtaking landscapes?
Planning to visit some of the princes most iconic sites? Download our Princes of Gwynedd Guidebook containing helpful information, suggested itineraries and maps.
Aberconwy Abbey The present-day site of Conwy’s parish church once hosted the grand Cistercian Abbey of Aberconwy. Llywelyn the Great was a great supporter of the monks of Aberconwy, granting them over 40,000 acres of land throughout Gwynedd. Llywelyn spent his final years in the peaceful surroundings of this abbey, and was originally buried here.
Abbey Cwmhir "The Abbey in the Long Valley” – was the largest of several Cistercian monasteries established in Wales in the medieval period. Only a few sections of the wall of the great 13th-century church still stand today, but this wonderfully peaceful spot on the north bank of the Clywedog Brook, north of Llandrindod Wells, is well worth a visit.
Bangor Cathedral On this spot in the 6th century, St Deiniol constructed monastery buildings and surrounded them with a wattle fence. The Welsh name for this enclosure, ‘bangor’, gives the modern city its name. The magnificent Bangor Cathedral now occupies the same spot. Parts of the building date to the 12th century.
Cricieth Castle The iconic ruins of Cricieth Castle offer a glorious vista over the waters of Tremadog Bay. The castle was probably built by Llywelyn the Great in the 13th century. When Edward I conquered Gwynedd, he adapted the north tower to accommodate a great catapult. In 1404 Owain Glyndŵr captured the castle, leaving the magnificent shell that you see today.
St Mary’s Church, Beddgelert Christians have worshipped at this peaceful spot since the 7th century. In the 1230s the monastic community here was reorganised to form an Augustinian priory. A large church was built to reflect this new status, probably under the patronage of Llywelyn the Great. St Mary’s has twice been burned; once by Edward I’s army in 1283, and again in the 15th century, but traces of the 13th-century building remain.
Abergwyngregyn Aber was home to a favourite royal court (llys) of the princes, thanks to valuable royal pastures (friddoedd) above the modern village. The motte (mound) at the village centre was once the site of a castle, probably built by the Normans in the 11th century. On the slopes above the village look out for 13th-century long huts occupied by the men who tended the cattle. A walk through Royal Aber - John G. Roberts, from the Snowdonia National Park Authority, leads us on a walk with tywysog and taeog (prince and serf) through thousands of years of history in Abergwyngregyn.