On our recent October half term visit to Wales, we planned a visit Caernarfon Castle, which is recognised around the world as one of the middle ages most magnificent buildings and one of the most famous historic buildings in North Wales. Grouped with Edward I’s other castles – Harlech Castle, Beaumaris Castle and Conwy Castle, Caernarfon Castle on the banks of the River Seiont is classed as a World Heritage Site.
In prime position at one end of the Menai Strait, Caernarfon Castle is steeped in history. Originally a motte-and-bailey castle from the 11th century, King Edward I of England began to replace it with the current stone structure in 1283. This castle became the administrative centre of North Wales and as such, the defences were built to be grand and imposing. Town walls were also built around Caernarfon until the work ended in 1330.
As active English Heritage members, we were given free entry and a free guide book too as compensation because the regular entrance through the King’s Gate is currently closed for vital restoration work. It just means we’ll have to visit again to see every part of the castle!
The entrance when we visited is also the exit, through the gift shop. Once inside, we were blown away by the size of the place, with a huge courtyard type area from which different parts of the castle are accessible. We were met just inside by a friendly member of staff who gave us a recommended route around the castle towers and rampart walls.
We made our way into the Eagle Tower and to say it is impressive inside is an understatement. The interactive exhibits and historical artefacts on show really bought the castle to life. We even got to see the throne and matching stool that HM The Queen used in the Investiture of Prince Charles as the Prince of Wales in the 1969 ceremony, held at the castle. A video display was also playing TV footage from the day and it is incredibly well preserved.
With so many chunky, spiral staircases in all of the towers, I can safely say that Caernarfon Castle is probably the most castley castle we have ever been in! The view from the top of the Eagle Tower was stunning, with views of Anglesey in the distance along with the historic town of Caernarfon behind.
As we made our way around the battlements, we got to see the old County Hall from a unique perspective. The whole castle is very well kept and with constant preservation works, it will be well looked after for years to come.
The outside tour of Castle Caernarfon carries on with the Well Tower – a really deep well – plus the Granary Tower and the ruins of the Great Hall, part of which houses the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum. There was also a very interesting video presentation about the castle through the years that kept the children’s attention in the North East Tower, and there is also a stone plinth on the Upper Ward where the Investiture took place in 1969. Our self guided tour finished with the Queens Gate that overlooks the harbour side.
We had a great few hours at Caernarfon Castle and if you don’t mind lots of spiral staircases, this is one castle that is worth visiting if you find yourself in North Wales. You can find out more over on the Caernarfon Castle website.
You can see a video of our trip to Caernarfon Castle over on Instagram here: