Llywelyn The Great

Today, the 11th of April, is the anniversary of the death of one of the most important Welsh Princes. I am not going to be writing about him in detail. I have written about his wife before and that can be found here.

Llywelyn succeeded in almost uniting much of Wales and in holding off the English. Sadly his dream of a united and independent Wales was not to last. Wales was largely conquered by the English under the reign of Edward I, little more than 40 years after Llywelyn’s death.

He died on the 11th of April in 1240 and was buried beneath the high altar of Aberconwy Abbey, but about forty years later Edward I wanted the land the abbey stood on to build Conwy Castle. So the monks moved the coffin containing Llywelyn’s body by river to the newly built abbey at Maenan. During the dissolution of the monasteries the coffin was moved for safe keeping to St Grwst’s church where it was forgotten about and was found covered with rubbish some 200 years later. It was then moved to the chapel in Llanrwst parish church. No one knows what happened to Llywelyn’s body.

You can see Llywelyn’s coffin below. When I saw it in 2012 it was located in a chapel out the back of the church and was quite difficult to find. There were no directions to it at all and nothing except a small sign propped up inside to distinguish it from the other random monuments in the room.

llew coffin 2llew coffin 1

Many castles you see today in Wales were in fact built by the English. Castles such as Pembroke, Manorbier, Cilgerran and Carew.  There are, however, Welsh built castles and Llywelyn was responsible for part of several of them. Such as:

Criccieth 2CricciethCriccieth Castle


Dolbardarn 2DolbardarnDolbadarn Castle

DolwythenDolwythn 2Dolwyddelan Castle

Llywelyn  truly made a mark on Welsh soil and was a great Prince who deserves to be remembered.


Statue of Llywelyn in Conwy, which is much smaller than it appears and much smaller than it should be.



The photos are all my own.

Incidentally I discovered Llywelyn many years ago in Sharon Kay Penman’s fabulous book Here Be Dragons.  As this blog is largely non fiction I don’t usually recommend historical fiction. I am making an exception in this case. Here Be Dragons is a truly wonderful book and everyone should read it.

Temple Cronan and The Burren

Temple Cronan is a small church dating to the 12th century in the unbelievably beautiful region of Ireland called The Burren.

IMG_3061Part of The Burren.

The Burren is on the West Coast of Ireland in County Clare and Temple Cronan stands just out of a very small town called Carran. Temple Cronan was part of a small monastic enclosure. While much of the remains of the church are original to the 12th century the doorway with the pointed arch that you can see in the photo below was added in the 15th/16th century

IMG_3160Temple Cronan

The original doorway can be seen blocked up in the photos below.


The church at Temple Cronan measures just 6.5 by 3.1 m and it is built of local Burren stone. A significant amount of decoration survives, which is especially unusual in the such a small church. You can see some on the edge of the window frame in the photo below. IMG_3170IMG_3172Standing beside Temple Cronan and dating to an earlier period are two stone tomb shrines. One is thought to be the grave of St Cronan who was the founder of the small monastic settlement possibly in the 7th century. Both tombs would have been sites of prayer and pilgrimage. It is unknown who the second tomb belonged to.

IMG_3182IMG_3184One of the tombs, possibly St Cronan’s

My favourite part of the Temple Cronan is the carved human heads and faces that adorn the corbels of the church. They are most likely Romanesque in origin and as they have weathered they have become surprisingly haunting.


Temple Cronan stands in The Burren, which is one of the most magical places I’ve ever been. The Burren is a landscape of limestone which was laid down 340 million years ago and has weathered significantly in this time. It has in fact also been shaped by glacier movement. The glacier movement helped to create the ‘grykes’ or cracks that you can see in the photos below. It is an area of 250 square km and in some places the limestone is 17m thick.IMG_3258IMG_3242

Where the ‘lunar’ landscape of The Burren meets the coast.

This unique landscape creates the perfect conditions for an astounding array of flowers with 70% of Ireland’s native plant species found there.





For more on the plants of The Burren  http://www.pennywoodward.com.au/burren/#more-2454

Temple Cronan is not the only historical site on The Burren. In fact the region is liberally dotted with ancient tombs and and ruins.  The best known is probably Poulnabrone which dates to the Neolithic period and can be seen in the photo below. I hope to write about it and some of the others in the future.


The Burren is truly beautiful and Temple Cronan not only stands in its midst, but is built of the stone that has shapes it. Below are some photos of the enthralling landscape.


IMG_6144IMG_3071References: Site visit in 2015 and visit to The Burren  area in general in 2012.



All the photos are my own.