Dolbadarn Castle: J. M. W. Turner

Dolbadarn Castle: J. M. W. Turner

Dolbadarn Castle is an 1800 painting by the English Romantic painter, printmaker and watercolorist J. M. W. Turner. This work is located in the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, Wales.

The History of Dolbadarn Castle

Constructed in the early 13th century, Dolbadarn Castle is the brainchild of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, better known as Llywelyn the Great, the Prince of Gwynedd. Its strategic location was carefully chosen to oversee the Llanberis Pass, a crucial mountain route. The castle’s name, “Dolbadarn,” is said to derive from the Welsh words “dol” (meadow) and “badarn” (hard or strong), a fitting descriptor of its imposing presence.

At its core, Dolbadarn Castle exemplifies the Welsh native castle archetype with its stone construction and circular design. The castle comprises a central stone tower, or keep, enveloped by a circular curtain wall. The keep is an impressive structure, towering approximately 50 feet, boasting formidable stone walls that served both as protection and an elevated vantage point. It is a testament to the medieval Welsh mastery of engineering and architecture.

The castle’s primary role was defensive, acting as a bastion against potential threats and rebellions. Its strategic positioning allowed it to control access to and from the fertile Llanberis Valley, a vital hub for agriculture and trade. Dolbadarn Castle played a central role in the power struggles and conflicts that defined medieval Wales, particularly during the reigns of Llywelyn the Great and his grandson, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd.

One of the most pivotal chapters in Dolbadarn Castle’s saga unfolded during the Welsh Wars of Independence in the late 13th century. In 1284, Edward I of England embarked on a campaign to subdue Wales, and Dolbadarn Castle became a focal point of resistance. Despite its valiant defense, the castle ultimately succumbed to English forces, marking a turning point in Welsh history as Wales was subsequently incorporated into the Kingdom of England.

Over the centuries, Dolbadarn Castle’s significance dwindled as it fell into disuse and disrepair. Its strategic importance waned as the political landscape of the region evolved. By the 18th century, it had transformed into a picturesque ruin, captivating the imaginations of artists and travelers as they explored the romantic landscapes of Wales during the Picturesque movement.

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