Caernarfon Castle (alternatively the English spelling is Caernarvon) is one of a number of the castles that Edward I had built in Wales, as part of his so called ring of iron, a series of castles designed to crush and subdue the rebellious Welsh Princes.
Castell Caernarfon (as it is referred to in Welsh) is situated between mainland North Wales and Anglesey (Ynys Mon), in Caernarfon, Gwynedd. Its strategically chosen location, at the southern end of the Menai Straits, allowed for sea access between the north and western Welsh coasts.
The site of this great castle wasn’t chosen by accident. It had previously been the location of a Norman motte and bailey castle and before that a Roman fort stood nearby. The lure of water and easy access to the sea made the banks of the River Seiont an ideal spot for Edward’s monster in masonry.
Many of Edward’s castles in Wales were similarly located near to water or along the coast, permitting travel between them and resupplying by water rather than overland (which was risky and vulnerable to interception and ambush by the Welsh).
However, the castle and town walls were not only built here for strategic purposes. The location was a site of an existing Welsh settlement that was destroyed to make way for Caernarfon Castle and its town walls. A town that was to be populated entirely by English settlers once it was completed.
A brute of a fortress. Caernarfon Castle’s pumped-up appearance is unashamedly muscle-bound and intimidating. Picking a fight with this massive structure would have been a daunting prospect.
By throwing his weight around in stone, King Edward I created what is surely one of the most impressive of Wales’s castles. Along with his other castles in Gwynedd – Beaumaris, Harlech and Conwy – they have been deemed worthy of World Heritage status by UNESCO.
As with the other castles of Edward, it was designed by Master James of St George.
Classed as King Edward I’s grandest castle it took almost 50 years to build at a cost of nearly £25,000. It is one of the best externally preserved fortresses in Britain.
Caernarfon Castle’s Towers
The castle comprised 4 main towers; The Black Tower, Chamberlain Tower, Eagle Tower and Queen’s Tower. Unusual polygonal towers were the order of the day here, with the Eagle Tower being the most impressive of these. You will also note the colour-coded stones carefully arranged in bands.
These were originally used as accommodation blocks. There were also two halls and two gateways with strong gatehouses.
The walls of the castle were up to 20 feet thick in places. The intention was for Caernarfon to be the Royal Palace in Wales and the home of the Prince of Wales, his family and attendants.
The two gateways; the King’s Gate and the Queen’s Gate were never fully built. However, even in an incomplete state they provided good defences for the castle, both being twin towered.
The town walls provided the main defence. They stretched for 800 yards and had 8 towers and 2 twin towered entrance points. The East Gate formed the main entrance whilst the West Gate overlooked the Menai Strait.
The Regimental Museum of the Royal Welsh fusiliers is housed within the castle.