Castles in Wales
Criccieth Castle was built by Llywelyn the Great in the 1230s on a headland overlooking Tremadog Bay, the castle was taken by English forces in 1283 under Edward I. Edward’s famous castle builder, James of Saint George, remodelled parts of the castle and added another two storey tower. Owain Glyndŵr sealed Criccieth’s fate when his troops captured and burnt the castle in the early years of the 15th century.
This was to be the last major Welsh rebellion against the English. On a bright, cloudless day, anyone standing on the hilltop can see as far as Snowdonia to the north, the entire Lleyn Peninsula to the west, and even make out neighbouring Harlech Castle to the southeast. Its romantic ruins have attracted artists such as JMW Turner, who used the castle as a backdrop for his famous painting of storm-wrecked mariners.
Harlech Castle is built on top of a spur of rock close to the Irish Sea. It was built by Edward I during his invasion of Wales between 1282 and 1289 at the substantial cost of £8,190.
Over the next few centuries, the castle played an important part in several wars, withstanding the siege of Madog ap Llywelyn between 1294–95, but falling to Owain Glyndŵr in 1404. It then became Glyndŵr's residence and military headquarters for the remainder of the uprising until being recaptured by English forces in 1409.
During the 15th century Wars of the Roses, Harlech was held by the Lancastrians for seven years, before Yorkist troops forced its surrender in 1468. The siege was memorialised in the song ‘Men of Harlech’. Following the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642, the castle was held by forces loyal to Charles I. It held out until 1647, when it became the last fortification to surrender to the Parliamentary armies.
Edward I replaced the existing motte and bailey castle with an impressive stone castle to act as his administrative centre of north Wales. The castles of Caernarfon, Conwy and Harlech were the most impressive of their time in Wales, and their construction – along with other Edwardian castles in the country – helped establish English rule.
The castle's walls bear a striking resemblance to the walls of Constantinople. For around two centuries after the conquest of Wales, the arrangements established by Edward I for the governance of the country remained in place.
During this time, Caernarfon Castle was constantly garrisoned and it was effectively the capital of north Wales. The last time the castle saw fighting was when Parliamentary forces besieged the Royalist castle in 1646.
Dolwyddelan Castle was built in the 13th century by Llywelyn the Great, Prince of Gwynedd and North Wales, as one of the Snowdonia strongholds of the princes of Gwynedd. Along with nearby Dolbadarn and Prysor, it formed a collection of strategically important mountain fortresses for the Welsh ruler.
The castle consists of two rectangular towers linked by an irregular curtain wall set on the highest point of a narrow rocky ridge. It guarded a main route through North Wales.
The castle was captured by Edward I of England's forces in 1283 during the final stages of his conquest of Wales. Edward’s troops maintained a military presence here until 1290. As the long-term strategy of control in Wales began to rely on military and administrative centres accessible by sea, the inland castles became obsolete.