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Introducing Caernarfon

Wedged between the gleaming Menai Strait and the deep-purple mountains of Snowdonia, Caernarfon's main claim to fame is its fantastical castle. Given the town's crucial historical importance, its proximity to Snowdonia National Park and its reputation as a centre of Welsh culture (it has the highest percentage of Welsh speakers of anywhere), parts of the town centre are surprisingly down at heel. Still, there's a lot of charm in its untouristy air, despite the many boarded-up buildings, and a tangible sense of history in the streets around the castle. Within the cobbled lanes of the old walled town are some fine Georgian buildings, while the waterfront has started on the inevitable march towards gentrification.

Caernarfon Castle was built by Edward I as the last link in his 'iron ring' and it's now part of the 'Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd' Unesco World Heritage site. In an attempt by the then–prime minister, David Lloyd George (himself a Welshman), to bring the royals closer to their Welsh constituency, the castle was designated as the venue for the 1911 investiture of the Prince of Wales. In retrospect, linking the modern royals to such a powerful symbol of Welsh subjugation may not have been the best idea. It incensed fervent nationalists, and at the next crowning, that of Prince Charles in 1969, the sentiment climaxed with an attempt to blow up his train.

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