Image by Visit Wales Image Centre
Caernarfon is more complete, Harlech more dramatically positioned and Beaumaris more technically perfect, yet out of the four castles that compose the Unesco World Heritage Site, Conwy is the prettiest to gaze upon. Exploring the castle's nooks and crannies makes for a superb, living-history visit, but best of all, head to the battlements for panoramic views and an overview of Conwy's majestic complexity. Its role – to overawe and dominate the recently subjugated Welsh – couldn't be clearer.
At around £15,000 (over £45 million in today's money), Conwy was Edward I's most costly Welsh stronghold. And if its crenellated turrets and towers call to mind romance and fairy tales rather than subjugation and oppression, that certainly wasn't the intention of its builders.
Constructed between 1283 and 1287, Conwy rises from a rocky outcrop with commanding views across the mountains of Snowdonia and the mouth of the River Conwy. With two barbicans (fortified gateways), eight fierce, slightly tapered towers of coarse dark stone and a great bow-shaped hall all within the elongated complex, it's very solid indeed.
After the Civil War in the 17th century, the castle fell into some disrepair and the Council of State ordered it to be partly pulled down. But today it lives on and is a must-visit for anyone with an interest in Welsh history. The admission price includes a helpful audioguide; combined entry with Plas Mawr is £11.50/6.90 per adult/child.