Caernarfon Castle – a very royal residence

Undoubtedly one of Wales’ most impressive historical landmarks, Caernarfon Castle is also one of the region’s most visited attractions. Instantly striking, this is a fantastic option for a family day out, but history buffs will be captivated by this amazing structure too.

Plus, did you know that this national treasure is only around twenty minutes away from our hotel? Caernarfon Castle is just a 20-minute drive along the A4086 from our hotel. Ask at Reception and we’ll be happy to provide directions.

Read on to discover more about the long and storied history of Caernarfon Castle…

Formidable fortress

Caernarfon was created and built as part of Edward I’s infamous ‘Iron Ring’, a stretegic move designed to threaten and intimidate the native Welsh people. Castles at Harlech, Beaumaris, Conwy and Caernarfon effectively formed a circle around Snowdonia; the project is believed to be the most expensive military building project of the medieval era.

The site that Caernarfon Castle sits upon was previously the site of a Norman castle, and the location is also very close to the remains of a vast Roman fort (which you can also visit) – so this is clearly a place of some prestige! A commanding view of the surrounding area plus close proximity to the sea (and critical supply lines) made it the ideal site for a fortress.

Master James of St George was Edward’s architect in chief, and under his guidance Edward’s castles evolved from the traditional square-shaped fortresses previously built, and become more intricate and sophisticated. Circular or multi-sided lookout towers and concentric walls demonstrate his keen focus on strength and protection, and further illustrate the military-mindset the castles were influenced by.

Caernarfon was constructed in the 1280s and came at no inconsiderable cost. Caernarfon, Harlech and Conwy were all built at roughly the same time, and cost a jaw-dropping 90% of the national income!

At its peak, the castle boasted glass windows, vast murals and exterior limestone and sandstone decorative elements. The castle’s distinctive rose-tinted walls are believed to have been inspired by the formidable fortress of Constantinople (now Istanbul), one of the most powerful cities of the Middle Ages.

Royal pedigree

The castle was built by Edward I, but its association with royalty doesn’t stop there. Edward’s son, Edward II, was born within its walls. Edward I installed his son as the first English Prince of Wales to further cement his dominance over the natives, beginning a tradition of the monarch’s eldest son holding this title that was only briefly broken by Owain Glyndwr in the early 1400s. Today the title is held by HRH Prince Charles and will presumably pass down via William to his son, Louis, in future.

In 1911, Prince Edward (who later became King Edward VIII) was invested as the Prince of Wales in the castle at the suggestion of David Lloyd George, who was then the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Charles, the current Prince of Wales, also held his investiture for the title at Caernarfon. The ceremony was held on the first of July, 1969, in front of thousands of people within the grounds.

Today’s castle

Despite its advanced years, Caernarfon is still one of the most striking, intimidating and impressive historic monuments in the UK. If you have a head for heights, visitors can ascend the towers for 360 degree views of the surrounding area – Snowdonia in one direction and Anglesey in the other. It’s not hard to understand the significance of Caernarfon’s strategic location with views like that.

Wandering the ramparts and walking the walls here you’ll also come across many informative and educational exhibits; this is a fantastic family day out that combines history with lots of exploring!

While you’re here, make sure to set aside some time to visit the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum, which you’ll find inside the castle’s towers – entry is included in your admission to the castle. It’s a great snapshot of the history and daily life of Wales’ national regiment.

Even if you aren’t a military enthusiast, there are lots of interesting artifacts, photographs, models and film charting the regiment’s history. The museum tells the story of the battalion’s 300 years of service, from the reign of William III to the present day. Along the way, Royal Welch soldiers were awarded 14 Victoria Crosses, and counted famous names including Siegfried Sassoon and Hedd Wyn among their ranks.

Cadw

Cadw is a historic preservation service that’s part of the Economy, Science and Transport Department of Wales. In Welsh, the word ‘cadw’  means ‘to protect’, making it a very apt name. Cadw works to maintain and conserve the most important and significant historic sites in Wales. Preserving artifacts, sustaining Welsh culture and improving wellbeing in Wales all fall under Cadw’s remit, and Caernarfon Castle is also under their care.

The Explorer Pass is a great option for visitors who want to make the most of Wales’ many cultural sites. Passes come in either three or seven-day versions, and offer the chance to explore dozens of North Wales’ landmarks, including the ‘Iron Ring’ castles at Caernarfon, Conwy, Beaumaris and Harlech and the Tudor townhouse of Plas Mawr in Conwy.

The more you use the pass the more you’ll save, so you’ve got no excuse to skip North Wales’ cultural gems! Discover more about Cadw here.

Keen to immerse yourself in North Wales’ incredible historical heritage? Our hotel is ideally located in Llanberis, in the heart of beautiful Snowdonia.