“The goal is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with nature.” Joseph Campbell
There are no words for how beautiful Harlech is, in fact, I would say it is the most beautiful little towns in the UK and I have been to a lot. Just under 2 and a half hours drive from the house it has the most golden softest sandy beach I have ever felt. A castle with glorious views over the coast and some of the best ice cream I have ever tasted and we all know I have tried a lot! But even before you get to Harlech the drive through Snowdonia is stunning. So it took a little longer than normal as I kept stopping to jump out and take pictures of the beautiful views.
“Weekends are about replenishment and rejuvenation. Time in Wales would definitely be part of my ideal weekend, at my own hotel, set in 72 acres of absolute gorgeousness. I can already feel the air working its magic, with the sea breeze drifting over us.” Neil Morrissey
On previous trips to Harlech I have always just headed to the beach as I love sleeping in the sea there but this time I thought I would explore a little more of the town, starting with the castle! Also who, the heck expected a British bank holiday to actually be sunny!!
Perched on top of a rocky crag and towering over the North Wales countryside, Harlech Castle is one of the country’s most impressive medieval castles. It was built by Edward I in the 13th century during his invasion of Wales. He chose a spot at the top of an almost vertical cliff with the sea below and had it heavily fortified with two rings of walls and towers, so there was no chance of anyone sneaking up on him. There was even a 61-metre-long secret staircase from the castle down into the base of the cliff so that when the castle was under siege supplies could be carried up from the sea without being seen – very crafty.
But Harlech Castle’s clever design features didn’t stop Owain Glyndwr capturing it for the Welsh in 1404 – and the English capturing it back five years later. It was besieged by the Lancastrians in the Wars of the Roses and was the last castle to surrender to Parliamentary armies in 1647 in the English Civil War. So much history in one castle, but after that a lot of it was destroyed and it ended up a ruin. But it’s unusual location up on the hill made it a favourite with artists like Turner, and in the 19th century it was restored.
Today the internal wooden floors of the castle have rotted away and years of coastal deposits mean rather than being right on the coast, the water’s edge is a few hundred metres away now. But the secret staircase is still there, even if you don’t need a boat to reach it any more. The stone battlements are still standing too, and the castle has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. You can climb to the top of the towers and walk the same ancient walls that soldiers used to patrol back in the 13th century, with panoramic views out to the coast in one direction and towards the mountains of Snowdonia in the other direction.
A new visitors’ centre has been built with a ‘floating’ bridge to connect it to the castle, and there are five new apartments in an old building just outside the castle entrance. So if you’re a castle fan then you’ve got a perfect vantage point to catch the sunrise or sunset over the ruins. Beyond the castle, Harlech is a pretty town built of grey stone (a fair bit of it repurposed from the castle over the years), with cute little shops and cafés
With every trip I take to Wales I am utterly blown away by its beauty and I swear with every visit I fall a little more in love with it. It is like an old friend that I have been visiting forever, Wales is familiar and comforting to me from trips as a child but holds mystery and excitement to my adult self. I hope it keeps surprising me for the next 50 years, I hope to keep discovering beautiful little spots and returning to the places that stole a piece of my heart.
Trying to pose in a cute, hey I am just relaxing next to this stunning view way!
Naturally, I can’t visit anywhere without tasting the local ice cream, I believe it is the law or something! With my vast knowledge of good ice cream locations, I can safely say that Hufenfa’r Castell ice cream is in my top five! Right next to the castle this little ice cream shop is worth the drive alone. A must stop if in the area!