Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle

Looking over the mouth of the Afon Seiont to Caernarfon Castle, built by Edward I in the late 13th century


2 January 2015

Caernarfon, Gwynedd

SH 47827 62667; 53.13935°N, 4.27639°W


Caernarfon has had a long history as a military stronghold and administrative centre. Around the year 77 CE the Romans built Segontium fort in a strategically important position close to the Menai Strait and between the natural boundaries provided by the rivers Seiont and Cadnant. The fort served as a base for a large administrative district in north-west Wales and was occupied until the late 4th century. In 1090 the Norman Earl of Chester, Hugh d’Avranches, built a motte-and-bailey castle on the banks of the strait not far from the site of the Roman fort. The area was regained in 1115 by the Welsh, who held it until the 13th-century English invasion of Gwynedd. Following the 1282-83 war between England and Wales, Edward I (1239-1307) set about constructing an imposing stone castle symbolic of English rule as a successor to the previous Norman timber-and-earthwork fortification.

Edward destroyed the existing Welsh settlement and in 1285 started building the new town and castle as a royal palace and seat of government for north Wales. The first phase of construction was overseen by Master James of St George (c 1230 – c 1309), a master mason from Savoy who was also responsible for the design of many of Edward’s castles, including Conwy, Harlech and Beaumaris in Wales. The castle was designed with large polygonal towers connected by immense curtain walls, 20 feet thick at the base. The banded stonework was a decorative feature copied from the great walls of Constantinople.

The castle was occupied by Madog ap Llywelyn during the Welsh uprising in 1294, but was re-captured by Edward in 1295. These events provoked a second phase of construction in which the north wall was built – the castle had previously only been protected to the north by a ditch and by the town walls. Although construction came to an end around 1330, the castle was never fully completed.

The castle was besieged by Owain Glyndwr’s forces in the Welsh revolt of 1400-15 and the last time it played a role in an armed conflict was during the English Civil War (1642-51). The castle was held then by Royalists until it was surrendered to Parliamentarians in 1646.

Caernarfon Castle was abandoned following the Civil War and fell into disrepair until being restored in the 19th century. It has been part of a World Heritage Site since 1986 and is currently in the care of Cadw.

Edward I’s son, who in 1301 was created the first English Prince of Wales and who later became Edward II, was born in Caernarfon Castle in 1284. The castle also played a symbolic role in the 20th century as the site for the investiture of two Princes of Wales: in 1911 Prince Edward, later Edward VIII who in 1936, less than a year after taking the throne, abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson; and in1969 the current Prince of Wales, Prince Charles.

Further Reading

Caernarfon Castle

City Walls

City Walls

Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle over the Afon Seiont. From left to right: Eagle Tower, Queen’s Tower, Chamberlain Tower, Black Tower, Cistern Tower and the side of the Queen’s Gate.

Aber Swing Bridge

Aber Swing Bridge over the Afon Seiont linking Caernarfon Castle with Coed Helen. The current bridge was constructed in 1970 and replaced a previous one built in 1900, which in turn had superseded a ferry crossing. The illuminated windows at the far right of the image are those of Aber Ferry House, a Grade II listed building erected in 1822.

Looking along Aber Swing Bridge towards Caernarfon Castle

Looking across Aber Swing Bridge to the triple-turreted Eagle Tower (L) and Queen’s Tower (R)

Caernarfon Castle

Eagle Tower door

Caernarfon Castle

View over the Seiont. Eagle Tower – the first part of the castle to have been completed – on the left, Queen’s Tower (middle), and Chamberlain Tower and Black Tower to the right.

14 thoughts on “Caernarfon Castle

  1. impressive!! I love the images with the castle and the boats… interesting contrast there between the old and the new:) and I can see why you’ve chosen to photograph the castle at low light, it’s so beautifully lit … gorgeous captures, Graham!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Caernarfon Castle | GeoTopoi

  3. Pingback: 2015 Retrospective | GeoTopoi

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