Dunstaffnage

Dunstaffnage is a medieval castle located in Western Scotland near Oban above the Firth of Loin. It was built some time before 1240 by the MacDougall clan. The height upon which Dunstaffnage is located has been occupied since as early as the 7th century, but only became the seat of the MacDougalls in the 13th. The current stone castle was begun by Duncan MacDougall and then enlarged by his son, Ewen, who styled himself “King of the Isles”. He built the three round towers and enlarged the hall that are among the features of the castle still visible today. Also still standing are the walls, including some restored parapet walks, the round towers, the gatehouse, the internal range, and a free-standing chapel that also dates to the 13th century. In the 14th century, the MacDougall’s made the mistake of backing Read more…


Caerhun (Canovium)

Canovium is located on the Conwy River, at what is known now as Caerhun. It was a Roman fort built to guard the northernmost ford across the Conwy River. The road associated with this ford ran from Holyhead to Llanfaes, across the Menai Strait via the Lafan Sands, to Garth Celyn (Aber), and then over the Bwlch y Ddeufaen to Caerhun and points east. Rather than build a brand new road, the Romans improved this ancient pathway. (And we have made videos of many of these places) The fort was originally built around 75 AD in timber, to house upwards of 500 men. The fort was rebuilt in stone in the 2nd century and acted as the Roman administrative headquarters in this area. In addition to a headquarters building, granaries, and barracks, the fort also included a bathhouse outside the Read more…


Stott Park Bobbin Mill

The Stott Park Bobbin Mill is a working museum located on the shores of Lake Windermere in Cumbria. The mill is the only functioning bobbin mill in the Lake District. Begun in 1835, the mill produced millions, if not hundreds of millions, of bobbins for the Lancashire spinning and weaving industry. At its height, over 250 boys and men produced over a quarter of a million bobbins a WEEK. The mill is situated amidst the birch forest harvested to produce the bobbins through a practice called ‘coppicing’, which means repeatedly felling trees at the base and allowing them to regrow, in order to provide a sustainable supply of timber. Bobbins are produced at the mill today through the same methods as two hundred years ago at the height of the industry. It is possible to tour the factory and see Read more…


The Menai Strait

The Menai Strait is the narrow body of water, approximately 16 miles long, between mainland Wales and the island of Anglesey, called Ynys Mon in Welsh. At its center point, the Strait is roughly 1600 feet from shore to shore, widening to over 3000 feet at either end of the Strait. The Strait was formed through glacial erosion of the bedrock and was flooded after the end of the ice ages. Before the Strait was dredged in the modern era, it was possible to walk across the Lavan Sands, located to the east of Bangor, at low tide. Llanfaes, the town King Edward destroyed to build Beaumaris Castle, was the largest commercial center in North Wales prior to the conquest, and it was located along this ancient pathway, which went from Holyhead, through Anglesey to Llanfaes, across the Lavan Sands Read more…


About The Last Pendragon

The ‘Dark Ages’—the era in which The Last Pendragon is set—were ‘dark’ only because we lack historical material about the period between 407 AD, when the Romans marched away from Britain, and 1066, when William of Normandy conquered England. For Wales, the time was no more or less bright than any other. The relative peace the Romans brought was predicated on the brutal subjugation of the British people. When the Romans left, the Britons faced the Irish from the west, the Scots from the northwest, the Picts from the northeast and ‘Saxons’ (who were Angles and Jutes too, not just ‘Saxons’) from the east. To a certain degree, it was just more of the same. The Britons had their lands back—the whole expanse of what is now Wales and England—for about five minutes. It does seem that a ruler named Read more…


Flint Castle

Flint Castle is located in far north eastern Wales on the Dee Estuary, one of the first castles built by King Edward I in 1277 at the end of the first Welsh war as part of his conquest of Wales. Like its brother castles throughout north Wales, Edward saw Flint as a foothold for his conquest, which was to be cultural as well as military. To that end, he established an English town at Flint, associated with and protected by the castle. Even today, it’s possible to discern the medieval street system he established. The castle was mostly completed by 1282, at which point Prince Dafydd, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd’s younger brother, whose castle of Caergwrlie is nearby, rose in rebellion and besieged it. After the final defeat of Wales six months later, Flint was rebuilt. During the rebellion of Madog Read more…


The Druid’s Circle

The Druid’s circle is an ancient stone monument located on Penmaenmawr, the larger headland to the west of the town of Conwy in north Wales. Despite the name, this stone circle predates the druids and the Celtic religion by millenia and may be up to 5000 years old. Known as Meini Hirion in Welsh, meaning long stones, several prehistoric trackways run past the site. This area was important because the type of rock at Penmaenmawr, augite granophyre, was ideal for making stone axes. Axe heads from Penmaenmawr have been discovered around Britain including in Scotland, Yorkshire and the Thames Valley. Modern quarrying destroyed the remains of a large prehistoric settlement on the mountaintop west of Penmaenmawr, although some archeological studies were undertaken before the evidence was lost. Excavations conducted in 1957 at the druid’s circle itself discovered the cremated remains Read more…


The National Slate Museum of Wales

The National Slate Museum is located in Llanberis, in the mountains of Snowdonia at the foot of the Dinorwig mine, one of the largest slate mines in Wales. The museum is set up as if the workers walked away yesterday and will be returning tomorrow. I recommend a visit to anyone who spends any time in North Wales. The slate mines of Snowdonia, including the Dinorwig mine, in 2021 were named a World Heritage Site. People have been quarrying slate in Wales at least since Roman times. Just in Caernarfon, we know slate was used to build the Roman fort of Segontium and King Edward’s castle a thousand years later. With the industrial revolution and the growth of factories and towns, the demand for slate for roofing material–went through the roof. By 1870 the Dinorwig mine employed 3000 men. The Read more…


Dinas Emrys

Dinas Emrys is a medieval castle that overlooks Llyn Dinas in Snowdonia near Beddgelert. The current castle was built over the top of an ancient hillfort and sits on a strongly fortified rocky outcrop. The castle started out as an Iron Age Hillfort. According to Welsh mythology, it was here that King Lludd ab Beli buried two dragons, one white and one red, which were to fight each other for all eternity. Modern archaeology reveals that Dinas Emrys was reoccupied in the late Roman period, since the rough stone banks around its western end date to this time. With the departure of Rome, chronicles from Nennius and Geoffrey of Monmouth tell the story of King Vortigern retreating into Snowdonia during his wars against the Saxon invaders and choosing this location as the place to build his seat. Unfortunately for him, Read more…


Segontium

Segontium is located in the town of Caernarfon in western Gwynedd. It was a Roman fort, which was inhabited right up until the end of the Roman occupation of Wales, and was garrisoned for most of that time by Roman auxiliaries from present-day Belgium and Germany. Segontium was the most important military base and administrative centre in this part of Britain. The fort of Segontium was established by Agricola in AD 77 or 78 after he had conquered the Ordovices people of North Wales. The original timber defences were rebuilt in stone in the first half of the 2nd century. Archaeological research shows that, by the year 120, there had been a reduction in the numbers of men serving at the fort, and the size of the garrison continued to decrease through the 3rd and 4th centuries. Coins found at Read more…


Holyhead Mountain Hut Circles

The Holyhead Mountain Hut Circles are located in the northwesternmost corner of the isle of Anglesey and include foundations of prehistoric roundhouses and other buildings. When it was occupied, it would have been a sizable agricultural settlement. The hut circles were originally thought to date from the time of the Roman occupation of Wales. Roman coins and pottery have been found here and the huts closely resemble those at Din Lligwy in southeastern Anglesey. More recent excavations, however, have unearthed far older artifacts, including a stone axe, flint arrowheads, and pottery fragments. These finds date to the late Neolithic or early Bronze Age periods, indicating that the site was occupied for a much longer period of time.\ About 20 of an estimated 50 original buildings survive, mostly as circular hut foundations. Some huts include traces of internal divisions, storage areas Read more…


Pen y Castell

Pen y Castell has been called “a primitive castle of unknown history”. It is located in North Wales, about 7 miles upstream from the town of Conwy, on the east bank of the Conwy River, near Cadair Ifan Goch and above the village of Maenan. During the medieval period, it would have guarded an important river crossing. The castle was constructed similarly to that of Garn Fadryn on the Llyn Peninsula. In his 12th century chronicle, Gerald of Wales indicates that in 1188 Garn Fadryn was newly built, likely by the sons of Owain Gwynedd. It is possible that Pen Y Castell was built by them at the same time. Still visible today, if you beat a path through the woods, are the remains of walls and a keep, all almost entirely overgrown with vegetation. It is particularly beautiful in Read more…