HOME AT FIRST's
Castles of Britain
CAERNARFON, GWYNEDD, NORTH WALES
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
Ill 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.
"Caernarvon") Castle was built (12831330) 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 Is 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,
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
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,
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 Cromwells 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, Caernarfons 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
Heritage Site by an agency of the United Nations.
Caernarfon Castle is within easy
WORLD HERITAGE SITE
of Home At First’s cottages in
(less than 60 minutes west).
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.
JulyAugust: 9:30AM - 6PM daily
SeptemberOctober: 9:30AM - 5PM daily
March—June: 9:30AM - 5PM daily
NovFeb: 10AM-4PM MoSa; 11AM-4PM Su
Closed: 24-26DEC & 1JAN
(subject to change;
£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
Our exclusive "Wales Activities Guide" has over
100 pages of suggestions for things to see and
do when you travel with Home At First
HOME AT FIRST
offers travel to two
great regions of WALES. Have
your own cottage
Minimum rental is one week, and you can mix and
match with other HOME AT FIRST destinations
Or, for complete information about travel with
HOME AT FIRST to Britain & Ireland, see:
You can visit castles in all parts of Scotland, Wales, and
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.