Caernarfon Castle is a magnificent medieval fortress located in the town of Caernarfon in Gwynedd, North Wales. Built by King Edward I of England during the late 13th century, the castle is not only a symbol of military might but also a statement of English dominance over Wales. With its impressive architecture, rich history, and cultural significance, Caernarfon Castle has become one of the most iconic and visited castles in Wales.
Construction of Caernarfon Castle began in 1283, as part of King Edward I’s ambitious campaign to establish English control over Wales. The castle was strategically positioned on the banks of the River Seiont, overlooking the Menai Strait and providing a strong defensive position. Its primary purpose was to assert English authority and serve as the administrative centre for the newly created county of Caernarfonshire.
The design of Caernarfon Castle is attributed to the esteemed architect and engineer Master James of St. George, who was also responsible for other notable castles such as Conwy and Beaumaris. The castle follows a concentric layout, featuring two rings of walls and a series of powerful towers. The outer curtain walls, flanked by polygonal towers, enclose an area of approximately 8 acres.
Entering through the main gatehouse, known as the King’s Gate, visitors are greeted by a grand and imposing entrance. The King’s Gate features multiple portcullises, drawbridges, and murder holes, demonstrating the castle’s formidable defensive capabilities. Above the gatehouse is a large three-story tower, known as the Eagle Tower, which served as the royal residence and administrative center of the castle.
The inner ward of Caernarfon Castle is dominated by the impressive polygonal towers, including the Black Tower, the Queen’s Tower, and the Chamberlain’s Tower. These towers served as accommodation for the castle’s garrison and provided additional defensive positions. The centerpiece of the inner ward is the magnificent Great Hall, a vast and ornate structure that would have hosted grand feasts and important ceremonies. It was an architectural marvel of its time, featuring an intricately decorated ceiling and large windows that provided ample light.
One of the most iconic features of Caernarfon Castle is its series of polygonal towers, known as the “Eagle Tower” or “Queen’s Tower.” These towers rise above the curtain walls, adorned with decorative battlements and stone carvings. The Eagle Tower, in particular, stands out with its majestic appearance and symbolic significance. It was designed to evoke the image of an eagle spreading its wings, representing the might and authority of the English crown.
Caernarfon Castle played a significant role in Welsh history and witnessed several notable events. It was here in 1284 that King Edward I’s son, Edward of Caernarfon, was born, later becoming the first English Prince of Wales. The castle became the traditional seat of power for the Prince of Wales, and subsequent Princes of Wales were invested within its walls.
Throughout the centuries, Caernarfon Castle faced periods of neglect and decay. However, it gained renewed attention and preservation efforts in the 19th century, especially during the Gothic Revival movement. The castle’s grandeur and historical significance captivated artists, writers, and architects, including the renowned architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, who conducted extensive restoration work.
Today, Caernarfon Castle is managed by CADW, the historic environment service of the Welsh Government. It is open to the public, allowing visitors to explore its towers, walk along its battlements, and immerse themselves in its rich history. The castle also houses informative displays and exhibits, providing insights into the lives of its inhabitants and the castle’s role in Welsh history.
Castle Ditch, Caernarfon. LL55 2AY
- Monday9:30 am - 6:00 pm
- Tuesday9:30 am - 6:00 pm
- Wednesday9:30 am - 6:00 pm
- Thursday9:30 am - 6:00 pm
- Friday9:30 am - 6:00 pm
- Saturday9:30 am - 6:00 pm
- Sunday9:30 am - 6:00 pm
These are the Summer opening times.
Winter times may vary. For full details please visit the CADW website.
Last admission 30 minutes before closing.
Free street parking is available for up to 6 cars at the front of the castle. A long stay public car park is located at the waterfront at the rear of the castle.