On a narrow slice of land between the A525 to Ruthin and the B5341 to nowhere in particular; we found the remains of Tomen y Rhodwydd. No visitors centre, no interpretation boards, no signs marked the glorious remains of this castle, and cars raced on oblivious to the history flying past their windows.
We climbed through a holey rusted metal gate, and crossed a small field of rather sad looking sheep, being followed all the way by an incredibly tame and friendly little lamb. Through another gate tied up with string were the castle remains. Once home to Owain Gwynedd, Prince of Gwynedd from 1137 to 1190, was now home to nothing more than another flock of sheep.
What remains are the earthworks from a massive 12th century Motte and Bailey castle – the scale of the manmade hill from moat to keep is still impressive, and from the top the massive area enclosed by the outer walls can be appreciated.
Owain Gwynedd succeeded his father to a kingdom that covered much of North Wales, his reign marked a period of peace and learning in North Wales. Owain naturally was involved in warefare, he was forced to defend his territory against a number of onslaughts from Henry II and the English, and at the same time was able to extend his own territory to the east. Owain tried to negotiate with Louis VII of France, and could have set up a powerful Franco-Welsh axis. Under owain churches and monasteries developed He left behind himself a reputation of wisdom and magnanimity.
The sad thing was that his sons who succeeded him returned the region to warfare, they disagreed, split the kingdom between them and thus weakened the ability of Gwynedd to protect itself against the English. Owain was one of the great rulers of independent Wales, and it’s sad that his home here at Tomen y Rhodwydd, that 900 years ago must have been a place of learning, of feasting, of gallantry, of warfare, is now just a sheep fold on the road to Ruthin.
North Wales has so many fabulous castles, we think of Conwy, Harlech and Caernarvon, but for all those under the protection of CADW or the National Trust, with their guidebooks and ice creams, there are so many more, just as grand, just as important, but almost totally forgotten.