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Harlech Castle is a World Heritage site, which reflects it's importance and remarkable state of preservation. It sits high on a cliff top and as with most of King Edward's iron ring of Castles in North Wales completely dominates the small town. I have to admit that the day I visited it was Harlech Castlesuch a nice day we abandoned plans to visit the Castle and instead chose to take the grand children to the beach just a half a mile away. The beach at Harlech is fantastic and we spent a good few hours sunbathing and swimming in the waters of Cardigan Bay.
But to get back to the Castle I am afraid I only managed to get a few pictures and will have to make a return visit soon.

Edward I set about building Harlech Castle immediately after his successful campaign against the Welsh in 1283. As usual the overworked Master James of Saint George undertook the design of the Castle but he was rewarded for his efforts by being made constable of the Castle and would have lived in the fine apartments he had designed in the gatehouse. It's position on the top of the cliffs made three sides of the Castle practically invulnerable. But the landward eastern wall would have been considered at risk and considerable works were undertaken in building the massive D shaped towers flanking the gatehouse.

On it's completion the Castle would not only have been the height of achievement of medieval warfare but also a truly impressive work of art, which it still is to this day.

But Harlech Castle proved itself to be more than just a good looking building, and within a few years it had withstood attack from the Welsh when Madoc ap Llywelyn began an uprising that spread quickly through Wales. Several English held towns were razed and Harlech (along with Criccieth Castle and Aberystwyth Castle) were besieged. It was entirely cut off by land, but survived by receiving food shipped from Ireland.

This seems surprising today as the sea must be some half a mile away, but up to the 19th Century the sea lapped the base of the cliffs.

The Castles fortunes changed however during another Welsh uprising in 1404 and it fell to Owain Glyndwr. Owain held the Castle for more than 4 years and it became the residence of his court and family and indeed it may have been in Harlech castle that he was formally crowned Prince of Wales.

Harlech was eventually reclaimed by the English under the future Henry V who laid seige using heavy artillery, and the Castle again saw service in the Wars of the Roses. In 1468 it was the last Lancastrian stronghold to fall but this was after withstanding a seven year seige. Once again King Edward 1's original strategy of reinforcement from the sea had proved successful.

In the 16th Century most Royal Castles were ruined but Harlech was still in use as the local assizes, and by the 17th Century the Castle was able to be used by the Royalists in the Civil war, again withstanding a long seige and Harlech was again the last Castle to be lost.

In 1660 the government ordered the defences to be destroyed but luckily for us nothing was done. The Castle has survived the passage of time and to this day stands proudly as a monument to the works of those men of the 13th Century.


Directions :    [ Map of Harlech Castle location ]

You can't miss it. Drive into Harlech and it is on top of the hill overlooking the Golf Course.


Click here for pictures of Harlech town >

 

Please --- click on the pictures --- below for more scenes of Harlech Castle,
© All pictures copyright Bernard Wellings

   
Harlech Castle and Beach
 
Harlech Castle opening times and entrance fees based on 2006
   
   

Attractions nearby including a few more ancient sites:

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