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Castles in Snowdonia

 

Mighty Caernarfon is possibly the most famous of Wales's castles. Its sheer scale and commanding presence easily set it apart from the rest, and to this day, still trumpet in no uncertain terms the intention of its builder Edward I.

Begun in 1283 as the definitive chapter in his conquest of Wales, Caernarfon was constructed not only as a military stronghold but also as a seat of government and royal palace.

The castle's majestic persona is no architectural accident: it was designed to echo the walls of Constantinople, the imperial power of Rome and the dream castle, 'the fairest that ever man saw', of Welsh myth and legend. After all these years Caernarfon's immense strength remains unchanged.

Standing at the mouth of the Seiont river, the fortress (with its unique polygonal towers, intimidating battlements and colour banded masonry) dominates the walled town also founded by Edward I. Caernarfon's symbolic status was emphasized when Edward made sure that his son, the first English Prince of Wales, was born here in 1284. In 1969, the castle gained worldwide fame as the setting for the Investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales.

History comes alive at Caernarfon in so many ways - along the lofty wall walks, beneath the twin-towered gatehouse and within imaginative exhibitions located within the towers. The castle also houses the Regimental Museum of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, Wales's oldest regiment.

Caernarfon's position of pre-eminence in historic rankings is recognized in its status as a World Heritage inscribed site.

At Conwy, the mighty 13th Century castle presides from its perch above the estuary, and walking the ancient town walls gives commanding views of the estuary and town.

On a headland separating two beaches stands the ruined walls and ragged towers of Criccieth Castle. The castle began life as a stronghold of the Welsh native princes and has survived the after affects of many battles.

Spectacularly sited Harlech Castle seems to grow naturally from the rock on which it is perched. Like an all seeing sentinel, it gazes out across land and sea, keeping a watchful eye over Snowdonia.

The English monarch Edward I built Harlech in the late 13th century to fulfil this very role. It was one of the most formidable of his 'iron ring' of fortresses designed to contain the Welsh in their mountain fastness.

Ironically, in 1404 it was taken by Welsh leader Owain Glyn Dwr who proceeded to hold a parliament here. A long siege here during the Wars of the Roses inspired the stirring song 'Men of Harlech'.

Although an imposing edifice, Harlech is at at one with the surroundings a quality rare in the great Edwardian castles. There is a sense of harmony here, created by the way in which the castle builders took care to exploit the sites natural advantages.

Front of Caernarfon Castle Conwy Castles Bridge
Left Caernarfon Castle - Right Conwy Castle

 

 
 

Looking seawards, Harlech's battlements spring out of a near vertical cliff face, while any landward attackers would first have to deal with a massive twin-towered gatehouse. The sea, like Snowdonia, is one of the keys to Harlech's siting. Seaborne access was crucial in times of siege, and although the waters of Tremadog Bay have receded over the centuries, they may originally have lapped the cliffs beneath the castle.

The fortress's massive inner walls and towers still stand almost to their full height. The views from its lofty battlements are truly panoramic, extending from the dunes at its feet to the purple mass of Snowdonia in the distance.

Harlech, a combination of magnificent medieval architecture and breathtaking location, is an unmissable castle, a fact reinforced by its status as a World Heritage Inscribed site.

The native princes of Gwynedd are remembered at atmospheric, mountain-locked strongholds such as Dolbadarn, Dolwyddelan and Castell-y-Bere. Built to guard a mountain pass through Snowdonia, the single square tower of Dolwyddelan Castle is a prominent site for miles around, and also worth a visit is Dolbadarn Castle, a tall round keep in a dramatic location overlooking Lake Padarn in Llanberis.

Gwydir Castle, a grand Tudor manor built on a historic site of great antiquity in Llanrwst is also worth a visit.

At Caernarfon, the Romans built a fort known as Segontium in AD78, the excavated ruins of which are open to the public, together with a museum.

You can also follow the Pilgrims Route from Bangor along the Llyn to Bardsey Island, the "Isle of 20,000 Saints" established at a time when three pilgrimages to this holy island equalled one to Rome. 

 

Harlech Castles Side ViewFront  of  Harlech Castle
Two views of Harlech Castle

 

 


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Telephone: 01341 422269

FAX: +44(0)1341422481

Address: Dolgun Uchaf, Nr Dolgellau,
Snowdonia, Gwynedd LL40 2AB

E-mail: dolgunuchaf@aol.com

 

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