Norse To Late Norman 1: Wales

1. CASTELL Y BERE- One of the best of the 'native' castles, which tended to be hidden in hard-to-get-to backwaters (for good reason); this one sits under Cader Idris, one of Wales's famous mountains [a mountain in Wales, or anywhere in Britain, is any eminence over 2000 feet high, paltry stuff by American standards, or any other, but dammit these ARE mountains and each one has a true 'personality'--every single little hill or tor has a name in these parts, and deservedly so].

2. DENBIGH- Dominates this small walled town that has more pubs per capita than any other place I've been (had a memorable pub crawl here on a Saturday night, and the same people kept showing up at different places-- got to be a 'fancy seeing you again, thought we got rid of you at the last place' type of affair, and ended up at this fine coaching inn we were staying in where, after hours--as 'residents' you can drink as long as the staff hangs out--I got into a long discussion with a pair of lesbian feminists); the castle is badly ruined, but looks like it would have been quite impressive, with its huge three-towered gatehouse. Wonderful place: but you can't re-create such moments, because we went back a few years later and it was inutterably depressing--this is a pocket of poverty, the people are great, but there is absolutely nothing going for them except the endless dole.

3. DOLBADARN- This was a 'native' castle, too; it sits on a lake below the Llanberis pass under Mt. Snowdon, and is basically just a fairly large round tower keep with a few (now ruined) outbuildings.


Like other 'native' castles, this is nice and small and remote; beautiful setting in Snowdonia; smallish square keep and not much else (except when we went there, the most devastating gale in recent history was blowing and we had to form a human chain of hand links to rescue some children who were literally being blown off the exposed staircase to the keep).