Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle (photo by John)

With its distinctive polygonal towers and an impressive double-towered gateway it is perhaps unsurprising that Caernarfon Castle is universally recognised to be one of the finest examples of medieval military architecture anywhere in Europe and one of the most impressive castles anywhere in the world. Built between 1283 and 1330, the castle served both a military and a political purpose. It was meant to be an imposing symbol of English power, of forts “the fairest that man ever saw”, with walls resembling those of ancient Constantinople. But, as well as looking impressive it also had to be able to defend against the continuing threat of rebellion from the Welsh. As such it contained sufficient firing galleries to make it capable of becoming one of the best defended plots of land in the entire Middle Ages at short notice.

Later in its history, Caernarfon came to be the administrative centre of North Wales and a power-base for England in the country. This led to the castle’s becoming a target during the famous revolt of Owain Glyndwr, the last true Prince of Wales, who attempted to seize it for the Welsh. The revolt failed and, within a few generations, the Anglo-Welsh tudor family ascended to the English throne calming ethnic tensions and reducing the need for Caernarfon Castle to be used as a military fortification.

After this point is was allowed to fall into disrepair until the British government began rescuing the building from a state of dilapidation in the nineteenth century. Since then it has been named a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd” on the grounds that it “represents a masterpiece of human creative genius.” Most people who already know of the castle, however, will probably associate it with its use as the place of investiture of the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, in 1969.

Currently, visitor prices are at £5.25 for a single adult and £15.35 for a family ticket which admits two adults and all children under the age of 16. Senior citizens, students, and children under 16 can purchase individual tickets for as little as £4.85 and disabled people receive free admission along with their companion. Overall, not a bad entry price for what was possibly the most expensively built castle of the medieval period. Once you’re in there is adequate disabled access to the castle grounds as well as a museum-style exhibition explaining the castle’s architecture and relation to Welsh history. Opening hours are between 9.30 am and 5.00pm with the last admission being half an hour before the castle closes. Before visiting if you have any special concerns about accessibility or whether or not the castle is open you should contact Cadw, the governmental organisation responsible for the conservation and maintaining of Welsh environmental heritage.

Generally, visitors report that the castle is large enough to be a day out in itself and well worth the entry price. Children tend to enjoy running around the battlements and those with an interest in history will be captivated by the exhibition and information video. One downside may be the lack of any sort of coffee shop or restaurant within the premises but overall the site represents