Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle information

Caernarfon , Wales
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adult/child £6.75/5.10
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Majestic Caernarfon Castle was built between 1283 and 1330 as a military stronghold, a seat of government and a royal palace. Like the other royal strongholds of the time, it was designed and mainly supervised by Master James of St George, from Savoy, but the brief and scale were extraordinary. Inspired by the dream of Macsen Wledig recounted in the Mabinogion, Caernarfon echoes the 5th-century walls of Constantinople, with colour-banded masonry and poly­gonal towers, instead of the traditional round towers and turrets.

Despite its fairy-tale aspect it is thoroughly fortified with a series of murder holes and a sophisticated arrangement of multiple arrow slits. It repelled Owain Glyndŵr's army in 1404 with a garrison of only 28 men, and resisted three sieges during the English Civil War before surrender to Cromwell's army in 1646.

A year after construction began, Edward I's second son was born here, becoming heir to the throne four months later when his elder brother died. To consolidate Edward junior's power he was made Prince of Wales in 1301, thus creating the tradition of English kings conferring that title on their heirs. As King Edward II he came to a very nasty end, possibly via a red-hot poker; his much-eroded statue is over the King's Gate. However, the first investiture that actually took place here (rather than in London) was that of his namesake, Edward VIII, in 1911 (coincidentally his reign was also cut short, albeit less violently).

Caernarfon Castle is a large, relatively intact structure. You can walk on and through the interconnected walls and towers gathered around the central green, most of which are well preserved but empty.

Start at the Eagle Tower , the one with the flagpoles to the right of the entrance. On the turrets you can spot the weathered eagle from which it gets its name, alongside stone-helmeted figures intended to swell the garrison's numbers (they're easier to spot from the quay). Inside there are displays on Edward I and the construction of the castle, as well as a short film, The Eagle & The Dragon , which screens on the half-hour.

There is an exhibition on the Princes of Wales in the North East Tower , including video footage of the 1969 investiture of Prince Charles in that role. In the Queen's Tower (named after Edward I's wife Eleanor) is the Regimental Museum of the Royal Welch Fusiliers , which is filled with medals, uniforms, weapons and historical displays.