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Conwy Castle

Top choice in Anglesey & the North Coast

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.

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1. Town Wall

0.06 MILES

The survival of most of its 1300m-long town wall, built concurrently with the castle, makes Conwy one of the UK’s prime medieval sites. The wall was…

2. Mill Gate

0.15 MILES

The twin-towered Mill Gate, one of two gatehouses in the southern stretch of Conwy's town wall, was built to allow access to the royal watermill, outside…

3. Aberconwy House

0.17 MILES

Timber-and-plaster Aberconwy House is the town's oldest, built as one of 20 merchants' houses when the town was fortified around 1300. Over the years it…

4. Lower Gate

0.17 MILES

Conwy's High St heads through this gate in the medieval wall to the quayside. Its twin towers and portcullis allowed it to command access from the town to…

5. Plas Mawr

0.19 MILES

Completed in 1585 for merchant and courtier Robert Wynn, Plas Mawr is one of Britain's finest surviving Elizabethan town houses. The tall, whitewashed…

6. Smallest House in Great Britain

0.21 MILES

The Smallest House in Great Britain is a curiosity with dimensions of 72 in by 122 in and a mention in the Guinness Book of Records. On the quayside, its…

7. Royal Cambrian Academy

0.22 MILES

Founded in 1881, given the royal imprimatur by Queen Victoria in 1882, and still going strong, the Cambrian runs a full calendar of exhibitions by its…

8. Upper Gate


The entrance to the largest section of town wall starts from the station and heads up to the Upper Gate (where there are great views over the town to the…