Caernarfon is situated in Gwynedd, North Wales. It's location on the Menai Straits close to Snowdonia National Park makes it ideal for touring both the Snowdonia National Park and the Isle of Anglesey. Scroll down the page for a few snapshots of Caernarfon where you will find plenty of things to do and places to see in Caernarfon, Wales.
Caernarfon, situated between the picturesque Menai Straits and Mount Snowdon is a busy Welsh market town and a major tourist centre. Renowned for the World Heritage Site of Caernarfon Castle, the most famous of Wales' castles, and the investiture in 1969 of Prince Charles as the present Prince of Wales.
Indeed the town is dominated by King Edward I's impressive medieval fortress and town walls, built as part of the iron ring of castles to secure his English foothold in Wales after the death of the last Prince of Wales. But the town is older than its medieval castle would suggest. Much older.
The Romans built the fort of Segontium in Caernarfon in the first century A.D. It followed the successful campaign by the roman commander Suetonius Paulinus to remove the threat of the ancient British Druids by invading Ynys Mon (Isle of Anglesey). Faced with the superior power of Rome's elite legions the Druids fled or were massacred and the sacred groves of Ynys Mon were destroyed. The Roman fort of Segontium was built soon after in what is now Caernarfon, circa 80 A.D. The fort housed a detachment of some 800 men, and from here the Romans were able to keep a watch over both Ynys Môn and the Llyn peninsula to the west. The Romans would later strengthen the original fortifications and occupy Caernarfon for over 300 years.
After the departure of the Romans came the "dark ages" and by definition one can only guess about the occupants of Caernarfon until the Norman invasion of England in 1066.
From then it is known that William the Conqueror was eager to conquer Wales and his man Hugh of Avranches conquered much of North Wales, establishing a motte and bailey castle in Caernarfon in 1088 - 1098. However, the Norman occupation of North West Wales was short lived, ceasing circa the end of the eleventh century. From that time Hugh's castle became one of the courts of the Princes of Gwynedd. It was during this era that the name 'Caernarfon' came into being. Giraldus Cambrensis (Gerald the Welshman) states in his "Itinary" that he passes through "Caer-yn-arfon" on his tour through Wales (1188) preaching the crusades.
The Welsh had retaken the original motte and they retained control until the English King Edward 1's invasion and colonization in 1283. Thus Edward took control and Caernarfon was granted its foundation charter in 1284. Caernarfon Castle and the Town Walls were substantially completed by late 1285.
Surprisingly today you can still walk in the shadows of those medieval walls. Many so called castles are little more than ruins ..piles of stones, the castle walls being robbed over the millennia by the locals to build their own houses and farmsteads. This is why Caernarfon has earned its World Heritage Status.
For some reason the town and castle walls are still substantially intact! Walk alongside the harbour; stroll through the ancient Gateways and along the narrow streets. Enjoy a meal or a pint of beer in an old welsh pub or a tarted up "bistro.” Rejoice that this old town and castle has survived the ravages of time and is still here for us to enjoy and to appreciate the craftsmanship of the thirteenth century workmen whether they be Englishmen, Welshmen, or Frenchmen / Normans.
Castles and Forts
Caernarfon Castle with its seven polygonal towers (including the great Eagle Tower), two gatehouses, and walls of colour-banded stone, was built by King Edward I to be a royal residence and seat of government for north Wales. Begun in 1283 under the direction of Master James of St George, the King's mason-architect, it has been
continuously in Crown possession ever since. It has been a scene of much recent royal pageantry, including the 1969 Investiture of the Prince of Wales. Caernarfon Castle is a World Heritage Site. There is a complete circuit of Town Walls, including eight towers and two twin towered gateways, surviving in places to battlement height.
The Segontium Roman Fort and Museum sits some half a mile to the east of the Castle. The fort was an auxiliary fort built by the Romans when they spread their conquest of Britain into Wales, and dates back to 77 AD. Although it was a remote outpost, it is one of the most well known Roman sites in Britain and attracts thousands of visitors each year.
The Welsh Highland Railway terminus lies on the banks of the River Seiont, a few hundred yards east of the castle walls. Take a trip behind the most powerful 2' gauge steam locomotives in the world through the fabulous scenery of the Snowdonia National Park. The railway runs from alongside the awe-inspiring Caernarfon Castle, snaking around seemingly impossible bends, up hard gradients and around the foothills of Snowdon to arrive at Porthmadog on the Cardigan Bat coast.
The Galeri Caernarfon can cater for live Theatre Shows, Films, Exhibitions, and Conferences with the theatre holding a capacity of 400. A separate gallery space houses frequent exhibitions by local and national artists.
There are many other attractions including a Floating Restaurant, Exclusive Craft shops, fine Restaurants, and many traditional public houses.
Walks, Cycle Trails and Other Activities
Several walks, trails and bike routes converge on Caernarfon including the Llyn Coastal Path, a National Trail. An alternative is to take the Welsh Highland Railway as far as Rhyd Ddu at the base of Mount Snowdon. Rhyd Ddu is some 12 miles from Caernarfon and high up in the Snowdonia mountains. The railway links to some tremendous walks, including the Rhyd Ddu path up Snowdon, the Nantlle Ridge or Mynydd Mawr.