It isn’t just the still-standing stones of Criccieth that tell us about life in this magnificent medieval fortress. We also have poetry.
The best-known poem about Criccieth was written in the 14th century by the Welsh bard Iolo Goch. He celebrates ‘the bright fort high on a rock’ and the sophisticated court of Syr Hywel y Fwyall – Sir Hywel of the Axe.
Knighted for his bravery in the Hundred Years’ War, Sir Hywel was one of the first Welshmen to be made constable of a castle in north Wales.
Iolo Goch seems delighted that Criccieth is back in Welsh hands at last. He portrays Sir Hywel and his golden-girdled wife dispensing hospitality while beautiful maidens weave bright silk in the great hall.
Sir Hywel was castle constable for more than 20 years until his death in 1381 – long remembered as the heyday of Criccieth. But its decline was also marked in verse.
After the attack by Owain Glyndŵr, the poet Owain Waed Da writes that the ‘creigiog fain caregog fur’ (‘rocky stones of the stone wall’) have fallen and the castle is useless.