Monday, 16 July 2018

Tywyn to Nefyn (Gerald’s Journey Through Wales 1188)

This is a series about the journey that Archbishop Baldwin and Gerald of Wales took in 1188 to preach the crusade throughout Wales. Gerald kept a detailed account of the journey and their surroundings, which he later published. The series began with some background posts about Gerald. If you want to read the series from the beginning, go here.

Towyn to Nefyn

When Archbishop Baldwin’s party left Tywyn they were faced with two rivers to cross: the Mawddach and the Wynion. Most of the group crossed by boat, but Maelgwn ap Rhys (the reluctant crusader from Strata Florida) daringly forded the Mawddach estuary near the sea. The party then continued northwards to the little village of Llanfair in Ardudwy, where they stayed the night.

Gruffudd ap Cynon, Lord of Merioneth, had sent his younger brother Prince Maredudd to assemble the men of the region, and the next morning the first sermon in Gwynedd was preached from a bridge. Many men responded to the call and took the cross, including one of Maredudd’s closest friends from his warband. As the cloth cross was about to be sewn on his friend’s cloak, Maredudd noticed how thin and threadbare the cloak was. He burst into tears and threw his own fine cloak around the man’s shoulders.

This probably happened near Harlech, where the magnificent castle would be later built by King Edward I. There were, however, two new castles in the region, both of which were remarkable (and Gerald noted this) in that they were a) built in stone, and b) built by Welshmen. The Welsh did not usually build castles and traditionally built in earthworks and timber, but they were learning from their Norman enemies.

The first stone castle was Deudraeth (‘two sands’), later called Castell Aber Îa (‘Aber ice castle’) near Portmeirion, which once guarded the spit of land between the two tidal sands of Traeth Mawr and Traeth Bychan (‘great sands’ and ‘small sands’), which the party crossed as they journeyed onward. The second castle was in the Lleyn peninsular, where the party headed next. Carn Fadryn (‘Fadryn hilt’) stood within the defences of an ancient hillfort above the hamlet of Dinas.

They didn’t turn down into the peninsular, but crossed it to Nefyn on the north coast, the main town and princely court of the region. They arrived the day before Palm Sunday, so Baldwin preached the cross on the Sunday, with a great response.

[Adapted from A Mirror of Medieval Wales by Charles Kightly]

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Follow her at

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