Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle


Location: Gwynedd, Wales Map

Tel: 01286 677617
Admissions: Adults £5.10
Family £15.00
Open: 1st Apr.- 31st Oct. 9 am- 5pm daily
1st Nov- 31 Mar 9:30am- 4 pm Mon- Sat, 11 am- 4 pm Sun
Closed 24- 26 Dec, 1st January


Description of Castle of Caernarfon

Caernarfon Castle (also Caernarvon, Welsh Castell Caernarfon) is a ruined castle in Gwynedd in Wales. Classified as a Grade I cultural monument and protected as a Scheduled Monument, the ruin is considered an outstanding example of European military architecture of the late 13th and early 14th centuries and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.



Caernarfon castle stands at the southern end of the Menai Strait between North Wales and the island of Anglesey. Together with Beaumaris Castle on Anglesey, which lies at the northern end of the Menai Strait, the castle was able to control this strategically important waterway between the West and North Wales coasts. Anglesey was also the granary of Wales, supplying all of North Wales, so in the event of a Welsh rebellion the two castles could cut off North Wales's grain supply. The castle is located north of the mouth of the River Seiont in the Menai Strait, due to its location it could be supplied with ships in case of defense. North of the castle is the walled city of Caernarfon, also founded by Edward I.



According to tradition, the residence of Rhodry the Great was already in the 9th century in the Welsh settlement called Caer Seiont. A first castle was built as a moth around 1090 by Hugh d'Avranches. In 1115 the castle was conquered by the Welsh, after which it remained in the hands of the princes of Gwynedd.

During his second campaign against Gwynedd, the English King Edward I reached Caernarfon from Chester in May 1283. Construction work on the new castle and the new town began as early as June 1283. The previous Welsh settlement was destroyed and the residents expelled. The new town and castle would become the capital of the new Wales, ruled by English princes, and form a focal point for English settlement in what had previously been the Welsh heartland. In choosing the location of the new capital, Eduard was probably influenced by the nearby Roman fort Segontium, which is closely linked to the Roman emperor Magnus Maximus. The castle received further symbolic meaning through the birth of Edward's son Edward, who was probably born in 1284 in the castle and thus in Wales. The king made his son the first English Prince of Wales in 1301, thereby confirming his claim to the conquered Welsh principalities.

The plans for the castle were drawn up by James of St George, who was also the master builder of the other new royal castles in Wales. In the first construction phase, which lasted until 1294, the moat was dug and the Eagle Tower, the city walls and the southern outer wall of the castle were completed. The north side facing the town was only protected by the wide moat when, during the Welsh Rebellion of 1294, the rebels led by Madog ap Llywelyn overran the town walls and then the moat, taking the castle. They savagely murdered the castle's constable, Roger de Pulesdon, burned down the castle and damaged the city walls. After the rebellion was crushed, the castle was back in English hands in the summer of 1295, and further construction began on November 11, 1295. The damaged walls were repaired and the missing north wall with the King's Gate was built. With an interruption from 1300 to 1304 because of the war against Scotland, construction continued until 1330 before being abandoned. Since then the castle has remained almost unchanged. Of the £80,000 spent on building Edward I's Welsh castles, over £25,000 was spent on Caernarfon Castle by 1330.

Contrary to the plans of Edward I, however, the castle never served as the residence of the English princes of Wales, only Otton de Grandson, the Justiciar of North Wales used the castle as a temporary residence. Edward's son Edward II never returned to Caernarfon as an adult. In the mid-14th century the castle was garrisoned by a 36-strong man but otherwise served only as a storehouse for the other royal castles in Wales. During the rebellion of Owain Glyndŵr, the garrison was able to hold the castle despite the conquest of the entire surrounding area and repelled two sieges by the rebels in 1403 and 1404. Contrary to most other Welsh castles, the castle was maintained after the end of the Rebellion and the Wars of the Roses, only falling into disrepair towards the end of the 16th century.

During the English Civil War the castle was occupied by Royalist troops. The castle was conquered by parliamentary troops, recaptured by the royalists, and it was not until 1646 that the royalist garrison finally surrendered to the parliamentary troops. A demolition of the castle ordered by King Charles II in 1660 was not carried out, presumably only the buildings in the courtyards were demolished. In the following centuries the castle continued to deteriorate. Restoration work began in 1840 under the supervision of Anthony Salvin. From 1870 the Well Tower and other parts of the castle were restored and further work was carried out from 1908 to prepare the castle for the first investiture of the heir to the throne Edward as Prince of Wales. This took place on July 13, 1911. The second formal investiture of Prince of Wales took place at the castle on 1 July 1969, when Prince Charles received this title.

Caernarfon Castle and Walls were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1986 along with three other castles and the town walls of Conwy. The castle is now managed by Cadw and can be visited.



Built from 1283, the new castle was built as a symbol of English rule over the defeated Welsh. By not having a double ring of walls, its defensive strength is not as evident as at Harlech Castle or Beaumaris Castle, but architecturally it is one of the most impressive castles in Wales.[6] The city walls and the fortifications of the castle formed a unit, with the castle playing a key role in defense as the seat of the governor and the garrison.

The floor plan of the mighty, elongated complex is reminiscent of an hourglass. The more than 160 m long castle was originally divided at its narrowest point by a transverse wall into an upper and a lower courtyard. The 11th-century moth was incorporated into the structure of the castle, giving the eastern courtyard its shape. It was not until 1870 that the old castle hill was removed and the courtyard leveled. As a result, the eastern courtyard is higher than the western courtyard. The partially at the foot of the wall more than 6 m thick, about 18 m high ring wall contains on the south side two overlying battlements with numerous loopholes, the north wall built later is somewhat thinner, simpler in design and has no battlements within the wall. The masonry made of light gray limestone was elaborately designed, especially on the north side, with narrow strips of red sandstone, based on the model of the city wall of Constantinople. In contrast to the other new royal castles in Wales, Caernarfon was not given round towers for reasons of representation, but a total of seven large and two smaller octagonal towers. The twin towers of the two gate castles also have a polygonal floor plan. The main entrance to the castle is the King's Gate in the north wall, facing the city. The mighty complex with double towers, drawbridges, several gate wings and casting holes was never completed, the second floor is open. The gate castle is decorated with a sculpture depicting Edward II. The Queen's Gate at the south-east corner of the complex was not as heavily fortified, but this gate castle also has twin towers, two drawbridges and casting holes. Today the gate can only be reached via a ramp that leads to the level of the former moth. Like the King's Gate, the Queen's Gate was never completed. There is another entrance in the basement of the Eagle Tower, through which the castle could be supplied from the river.

The palas was on the south side of the west bailey between the Queen's and Chamberlain Towers, and only the foundations remain of it and the opposite kitchen buildings on the north side, but the main living quarters were in the Queen's Tower and Chamberlain, North -East, Granary and Well Towers. Other buildings, some of them wooden, were attached to the walls and some of the towers from the inside, but are no longer preserved. The castle's main residential tower, the Eagle Tower, is located at the west end of the castle. The tower, which is over 28 m high at the top of the battlements, has four floors and is crowned by three turrets decorated with stone eagle sculptures as a symbol of royal power, giving the tower a total height of 39 m. The tower has its own small gate to the sea, but the associated quay was probably never completed.