After a grey day on Wednesday, Thursday was forecast to be a scorcher, and so it transpired. We’d decided to drive over the Menai Straits and make use of our Cadw memberships by visiting Caernarfon Castle. This is probably the most impressive of all the castles that Edward I had built following his subjugation of Wales. It was built to intimidate, impress and also to act as the main administrative centre for North Wales. Some say it was meant to look like the walls of Constantinople with bands of different coloured stone and multi-sided, rather than round, towers. Like Beaumaris and the other main castles in North Wales it was built by the sea to make it easy to reach and supply. A bastide was also constructed, surrounded by walls that even today are pretty much complete.
Edward’s son was born here and he had him crowned as Prince of Wales, again as a mark of authority and to consolidate his rule over the conquered territory. Two other Princes have been invested there, In 1911 and again in 1969.
Having navigated our way through the old town, we parked up in the quayside car park which is right under the massive walls of the south side of the castle.
We walked round to the entry on the north side, flashed our Cadw cards and entered the courtyard. Unlike Beaumaris with it’s double ring of curtain walls Caernarfon has only perimeter wall. But there were still lots of towers to climb (up spiral staircases) – nine in all not counting the gatehouses with their barbicans – rooms and passages to explore and battlements to walk around.
This is the Eagle Tower, the fanciest of all of them, with its triple cluster of turrets (you can only see 2 of them in my photo as the third is obscured by one of the others).
Some views along the battlements
Looking over the ward
Views over the town towards the mountains
And over the Menai Straits to Anglesey.
A number of the towers had had floors restored, which is unusual , which gave a feel of what it was like to live in the castle.
Inside a Garderobe
Some of the exhibits in the towers
After spending a few hours looking round the castle it was time to explore the old town. It was getting quite hot (this was the hottest day of the year so far and temperature records had been broken in the south of England – it was not quite as hot here) so some of us were starting to flag a little,
so we stopped for a brew in this rather nice little deli / cafe.
before wandering around the streets. There are a few interesting shops including an excellent independent bookshop (where we ended up treating ourselves to a few volumes) and a gift shop selling interesting artistic objects rather than the usual sort of tourist tat.
The old walls are still pretty much complete, but they can only be viewed from the ground.
I wanted to get a shot of the castle and the best viewpoint is from over the other side of the river, which meant crossing over the swing bridge.
As I was snapping my photos the bridge opened to allow a tour boat out of the harbour.
After it had passed the bridge swung back round. But although it looked as if it had closed, it looked like something had gone wrong as the gates didn’t open. After a wait of several minutes the operator walked over and told the crowd waiting to cross that the gearbox had broken and that he had phoned somebody but it would be several hours before it would be fixed. Now it’s a major detour to the next crossing point – several miles – so especially as the bridge was to all intents closed (but not quite engaged) – there was, to say the least, something of an uproar. There were clearly no contingency plans to get people back across to the other side. So it was a case of “people power” as those able to do so climbed over the fence and walked over the bridge. There was nothing the operator could do to stop them. But some elderly people were stuck and would apparently have to wait in the hot sun until ether the bridge was fixed or arrangements were made to get them back over to the other side.
So, a little crisis to end what had been a good day in Caernarfon!