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
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
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.
Left Caernarfon Castle - Right Conwy Castle