North West Wales

Conwy and Gwynedd history trails link to Welsh princes

Criccieth Castle
Image caption Criccieth was one of the most substantial of Llywelyn the Great's castles

The stomping grounds of the old Welsh princes are to be celebrated in tourist trails around Gwynedd and Conwy.

Llywelyn the Great and his family built many forts, courts and churches in and around Snowdonia between the 11th and 13th Centuries.

£450,000 will be spent on linking the historic locations in driving and walking trails.

"We're going to create three tourism hubs for the princes' history," said Anne Lloyd Jones from Conwy council.

Caernarfon, Conwy and Betws-y-coed tourist information centres will have exhibitions and areas where tourists will be able to download apps of the trails, or pick up leaflets.

The project hopes to capitalise on the enthusiasm of fans of author Sharon Penman's The Welsh Princes trilogy, who often come on literary pilgrimages to north Wales.

"Llywelyn the Great, the best known of the princes, built a number of monasteries like Aberconwy and Cymer abbeys," said Ms Lloyd Jones.

"His sarcophagus is in St Grwst's Church, Llanrwst."

The prince and his grandson, Llywelyn the Last [or ap Gruffydd], built castles in Criccieth, Dolwyddelan, Dolbadarn and Deganwy to protect their lands from the English.

Fighting dragons

The trails will point out hidden gems like Llanrhychwyn church, the oldest church in Wales which is known locally as Llywelyn's old church.

Llywelyn the Great also built St Mary's Church near his Trefriw hunting lodge for his wife Joan, daughter of King John, so she could avoid the trek up to Llanrhychwyn.

Image caption Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, grandson of Llywelyn the Great, died in 1282, the last prince of an independent Wales

The £450,000 funding is part of £19m the Welsh Cadw is spend on their Welsh heritage tourism initiative

Part of the funding will also go on building a visitors centre at Craflwyn, beneath Dinas Emrys.

This is near the Snowdonia village of Beddgelert, said to be named after Gelert, Llywelyn's favourite dog.

Mythology says this is where the white dragon of England fought and lost to the red dragon of Wales.

"Llywelyn the Great built a castle up there to prove that he was also one of the greats," explained Rhys Ifans, who manages the site for the National Trust.

"Archaeologists have excavated the site and found the cellar of the castle and the foundations of the wooden towers."

The Gwynedd Princes Project is also backed by Gwynedd Council and the Snowdonia National Park Authority.

It is hoped the first tourist hub at Conwy visitors' centre will be ready by summer 2012.

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