Visit castles, stately homes & historic places

Explore the rich heritage of North Wales while staying at Abercelyn, Bala

North Wales is the place to visit for castles, stately homes and historic houses and Bala is an ideal centre. At Abercelyn there are comprehensive guides available including "Wales Castles & Historic Places (CADW, Wales Tourist Board), Plas Mawr (CADW), Powis Castle Garden (National Trust) and more.

Some gems:


Around Bala

Bala has a rich history going back to pre-Roman times. The trunk road (A494) linking Bala with Dolgellau follows the route of a Roman road at Caer Gai, near Llanuwchllyn, and Llanfor, near Bala, are the remains of a Roman forts. In and around Bala are several 11th C Norman earthworks notably Tomen y Bala and a 13th C castle (Castell Carndochan) on an impressive crag near Llanuwchllyn, only accessible by a strenuous walk.


Further Away

There are many examples of Welsh classic castles, many were built by the English (Edward I) but now serve as important Welsh monuments. The “Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site - this includes Caernarfon, Conwy, Beaumaris and Harlech Castles, and are outstanding examples of medieval military architecture and planning. The Welsh also built castles such as the group known as "The Princes of Gwynedd". There are many historic homes in the area such as Erddig Country House and Plas Newydd House (Llangollen), while Powis Castle and garden are a little further away.


Medieval Castles
In Bala there is the 11th C Norman earthworks mound or "motte" known as "Tomen y Bala", which is 40m diameter and 9m high. At Pen-y-bont, where the River Dee flows out of Bala Lake, is a similar mound which is the remnant of a 13th century motte and bailey castle – probably constructed to guard the river crossing. It is known locally as Tomen Ronw (Gronw’s Mound). At Llanfor, to the north of the church, is a "ringwork" and adjacent to the A494 an earthworks known as Tomen y Castell.

Castell Carndochan is a ruined 13th C Welsh castle near Dolhendre (Llanuwchllyn). It was built on an on its impressive igneous crag forming a natural defence. Note that the ruins can only be visited by a strenuous walk, without paths in places. It is related to the castles at Castell-y-Bere in the Dysynni valley and Dolwyddelan, both of which are open to the public. It is thought that all three castles were built by Llywelyn ap Iorwerth.


Castles and Forts to visit near Bala:

  • Tomen y Bala, a Norman motte in Bala, other earthworks are (Llanfor) and
  • Castell Carndochan , a Welsh fort perched on a crag, near Llanuwchllyn
  • Caer Euni (iron age/Roman hill fort) near Sarnau
  • Castell Dinas Bran (Llangollen) a steep climb will be rewarded by the views and the fortifications
  • Tomen y Mur remains of a Roman fortification and amphitheatre (near Maentwrog)


World Heritage Site: The “Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd”:

  • Harlech Castll "the battlements spring out of a near-vertical cliff-face"
  • Caernarfon Castle "a brute of a fortress" and fortified town
  • Conwy Castle and fortified town - "one of the finest surviving medieval fortifications in Britain"
  • Beaumaris Castles (Anglesey) "the most technically perfect castle in Britain"


The Princes of Gwynedd:


Historic homes, gardens and more:

  • Bodelwyddan Castle and Park: a magnificent, restored Victorian mansion, set in magnificent parkland; is also the home of the National Portrait Gallery
  • Chirk Castle: a magnificent medieval fortress of the Welsh Marches (National Trust)
  • Erddig: Erddig is a fascinating 18th-C country house reflecting the upstairs downstairs life of a gentry family over 250 years; featuring a country park and formal walled garden (National Trust)
  • Plas Newydd House (Llangollen): the home to the "Ladies of Llangollen"
  • Plas Mawr (Conwy): An Elizabethan gem worth its weight in gold. The finest town house of its period in Britain (quote from CADW).
  • Powis Castle and garden: a medieval castle rising dramatically above the celebrated garden (National Trust)


Combined visits:

  • Chirk Castle and Erddig (Wrexham)
  • Chester Castle, walls and shopping
  • Harlech Castle and the beach
  • Llangollen: Castell Dinas Bran, Plas Newydd House, explore the town and eat in the Corn Mill
  • Plas Mawr and Conwy Castle
  • Visit the coast and Harlech or Criccieth Castles


Walks to a castle or fortification:

More information: