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Great Castles of Britain

Caernarfon Castle

CAERNARFON, GWYNEDD, NORTH WALES

This updated article first appeared in MAY, 2003.                                   MOST RECENT UPDATE: 2014.

        The classic castle, like great art, is difficult to define. Ask anyone to describe his or her idealized castle and you may get the same answer you commonly hear for great art: "I know what I like, and I’ll know it when I see it."
        We love castles — of all shapes and sizes and all states of repair. We have our favorites, too, just like we have our favorite music and painters. In this series we present castles we have enjoyed and hope our enthusiasm compels the reader to make their own pilgrimage to these great shrines of history and monuments to imagination.

 

Caernarfon Castle

CAERNARFON, GWYNEDD, NORTH WALES


        Caernarfon (or "Caernarvon") Castle — was built (1283–1330) on the orders of English King Edward I as part of a great chain of castles along the northwestern coast of Wales. The great fortress at Caernarfon did not serve to protect the Welsh but to remind them of the power of the English Crown, and to dissuade the conquered — or at least contained — Welsh princes from further rebellion. Ironically, Edward I’s son was declared "Prince of Wales" himself at Caernarfon Castle, a title later identified with the Crown Princes of England.
        Caernarfon Castle still dominates the town that grew up around it like it used to dominate the Welsh. Oddly,

Caernarfon Castle, Snowdonia, NW Wales. Photo © Home At First.
CAERNARFON CASTLE
Photo © Home at First

Caernarfon town is one of the most Welsh of places. Welsh
Gaelic — not long ago considered likely to be a dead language within a couple of generations — is alive and well here. Now visitors are more likely to hear the unusual Gaelic language spoken among locals — even teenagers — than English.
        Edward I had it right — Caernarfon was a gateway town, and its suppression helped England suppress Wales. Caernarfon Castle once "protected" the English garrison and their Welsh subjects from Celtic raiders from the peninsular and island territories, from the sea, and, most prominently, from the mountainous wilds of Snowdonia. Today, Caernarfon remains a gateway town, but as one that welcomes invading English and other foreigners to the beautiful northwest coast of Wales, the

 

neighboring Lleyn Peninsula and Anglesey Island, and —

 

 

most importantly — to the impressive Snowdonia National Park.
         Caernarfon has seen battle, and — for a brief time in 1294 when it was overrun and partially burned by Welsh nationalists, and in 1646 when it surrendered to Cromwell’s troops during the English Civil War — has proven vulnerable to attack. The great edifice — Caernarfon has all the classic features of a medieval fortress — never gained the importance King Edward I imagined for it in 1284, when his son and successor (Edward II) was born there and named first English Prince of Wales. Instead, Caernarfon was allowed to fall into a dilapidated state until the twentieth century. In 1911, the future King Edward VIII (better known to history as the Duke of Windsor after abdicating the

 

throne to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson in

1936) became the first British Prince of Wales to be invested at Caernarfon Castle in over 600 years. The current Crown Prince, Charles, son of Queen Elizabeth II, was also invested Prince of Wales upon turning 21 years old in 1969 in an elaborate ceremony in the castle, the walls of which had been largely restored.
        While it is possible for visitors to imagine life in the castle, Caernarfon’s apartments and interiors remain unfurnished except for several interesting displays and exhibitions, especially the military Museum of the Royal Welch Fusiliers. A visit to

the castle isn’t complete without a walk

 

along the extended town walls (with 8 towers) and through the old town, which provides a better appreciation for old Longshanks’ original design concept from the 13th century.
         Along with 3 other castles built by Edward I to fortify North Wales (
Conwy, Beaumaris, and Harlech), Caernarfon has been listed as a World Heritage Site by an agency of the United Nations.
        Caernarfon Castle is within easy day-

 

CAERNARFON CASTLE – WORLD HERITAGE SITE

trip range of Home At First’s cottages in SNOWDONIA (less than 60 minutes west).

 

 


Map © Home At First.
 

 

        The castle is at the harborside of Caernarfon's old town center. The castle towers are visible as you enter the town. Caernarfon has other attractions, too. The Welsh Highland Railway (one of the Great Little Trains of Wales) has its northern terminus just southwest of the castle. Caernarfon's Segontium museum (and the site of Roman fort that was garrisoned for 400 years) is about one mile from the town on the A4085, the road to Beddgelert.
        Caernarfon Castle is operated by
CADW Welsh Historic Monuments, an agency of the Welsh government.

 

OPENING TIMES:
   July—August: 9:30AM - 6PM daily

   September—October: 9:30AM - 5PM daily
   March—June: 9:30AM - 5PM daily
   Nov—Feb: 10AM-4PM Mo–Sa; 11AM-4PM Su
   Closed: 24-26DEC & 1JAN

ADMISSION: (subject to change; see CADW)
   £6.75
/adults
   £5.10
/children (6–15), seniors (over 59) 
      and students (16 & up with ID)
   £20.25
/families (up to 2 adults + 3 children)
   PARKING: Pay & Display lot nearby.

 

You can visit all kinds of castles as easy day trips
from Home At First lodgings throughout Wales.
Our exclusive "Wales Activities Guide" has over
100 pages of suggestions for things to see and
do when you travel with
Home At First to
:
WALES.
 
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HOME AT FIRST offers travel to two great regions of WALES. Have your own cottage in
MID-WALES OR NORTHWESTERN WALES Minimum rental is one week, and you can mix and
match with other HOME AT FIRST destinations throughout
ENGLAND, IRELAND, and SCOTLAND.
Or, for complete information about travel with
HOME AT FIRST to Britain & Ireland, see:
BRITISH ISLES.


VISIT OUR

 

HOME PAGE

        You can visit castles in all parts of Scotland, Wales, and England
as part of your trip with Home At First. Our exclusive Activity Guides
tell you all about how to do it well. Start planning your next visit
to Britain with a visit to Home At First.

 

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