“I have to be alone very often. I’d be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That’s how I refuel.”
― Audrey Hepburn
Despite spending all my childhood holidays in North Wales we never visited Caernarfon and as an adult I assumed there was a reason for that! Thus never visiting it myself, well never visiting it until last weekend! And apparently I should have stayed away after slipping and hurting my ankle, luckily it would seem it was more shock then injury but it did make me go home and see my papa bear! But back to Caenarfon, it would seem with age has come a love of history (I used to come up with hundreds of excuses about why I couldn’t go to history lessons at school.) and with a love of history comes a love of castle. I always knew that Caenarfon had a castle I just realised how beautiful it was.
One bit of good luck came in the form of sunshine! After a morning of getting soaked in the lovely May rains and a quick clothes change in my car I was ready to enjoy some sunshine and a lot of history!
Caernarfon is located at the southern end of the Menai Strait between north Wales and Anglesey, 8 miles south west of Bangor. During Edward I’s invasions of Wales, this was strategically an excellent place to build a castle; Anglesey was referred to as the garden of Wales, providing agriculturally rich land close to the poorer land on north Wales. The Menai Strait also allowed speedy access between the north Welsh coast and the western coast, and was therefore important for Edward to control for supplying outposts such as Harlech and Aberystwyth.
As with all of the castles of Edward’s Iron Ring, Caernarfon was built on the shoreline (as alluded to above, supplies came by sea due to the Welsh prowess in convoy ambush over land. At Caernarfon, Edward also built a town, destroying the original Welsh settlement beforehand. Therefore as the entirety of the new settlement was of English origin.
The design of Caernarfon Castle is a little unusual when compared to other castles in the region. It is best to imagine the structure as a figure of eight; at the middle of the castle, the walls narrow into each other, effectively forming two large and symmetrical courtyards. Surrounding the central courtyards are thick, reinforced walls on all sides. The walls extend back from the bay, and wrap around the old town of Caernarfon, meaning the whole place is securely held within the stone castle.
The cost of building Caernarfon Castle also indicates it was the biggest in the area. Edward I spent around £22,000 on building it, which was more than what he would have taken in tax in one year. Hundreds of tradesman and craftsman worked on the castle, with timber shipped from Liverpool and Anglesey, and labourers even coming from London! It wasn’t just the huge cost that makes Caernarfon impressive; it was also completed within five years – incredibly quick for the 1200s!
One of Caernarfon Castle’s appealing characteristics is its 12 octagonal towers. The style of the towers is different to the others in the area built by Edward I and were much harder to build. It is thought the design was chosen to evoke Constantinople, what is now Istanbul in Turkey, and even used multicoloured stone to mirror the Byzantine city. The towers are large; the Eagle Tower measures 10m across at the base.
Fun Fact- The UK still has a Prince of Wales, namely Prince Charles, and the investiture, or ‘coronation’ which is the ceremony that gives the Princes his official title, took place at Caernarfon Castle in 1969, and where Edward VIII was given his title in 1911. It is more than likely Prince William will be ‘crowned’ Prince of Wales at Caernarfon too!
I visited half way through the umbrellas being erected, I believe now there is a rainbow of colours (i’m in the area this weekend so plan on stopping by to take a picture). The canopy has been installed over Palace Street in the town, and is set to remain in place for the summer. There’s over 170 umbrellas in different colours, Eight rainbow colours in total running all down the street. The installation is the first part of Arloesi Gwynedd Wledig’s Unique Streets Project which will also see initiatives in Nefyn and Criccieth in the coming months. The project aims to combat the decline of town centres by encouraging visitors through unique experiences. I am going to try as visit as many as possible so will keep you updated when I see them. If you see any please let me know in the comments below.
The Aber Swing Bridge is a pedestrian bridge across the River Seiont between the Watergate entrance to Caernarfon Castle and the Aber Foreshore. The current swing bridge was built in 1970, and replaced an earlier bridge which dated back to 1900. While I was in the castle I did see the swing bridge open and close a couple of times, as it happens crowds still gather around to watch.
Naturally I couldn’t visit Wales without stopping for an ice cream, I believe it is the law or something. I sat and watched the boats go by (god I sound really old) and played with a little dog called Igor while eating a quickly melting Mr Whippy! In the nicest way Caernarfon really has shocked me and while reading up on the area a lot of sites describe it as not a seaside town or a main tourist attraction and honestly I have no idea why! I am planning a second trip to see exactly what there is to do in the area and how to spend a day out there, because I feel it is really underrated as a welsh town.
Before I knew it and with a limp I decided to head home, well to my papa bears house for some TLC! I was truly shocked by how beautiful Caenarfon is, I will be making more of a point to stop by in the future and hopefully get to explore a bit of the area surrounding it.