Harlech Castle – The Medieval Sentinel of Wales (History & Travel Tips)

-

Immerse yourself in the grandeur of 13th century Welsh architecture with a visit to Harlech Castle. Situated atop an elevated hill overlooking the spectacular Irish Sea, this location will leave you thrilled and absolutely mesmerized.

The location of Harlech Castle has a popular folktale tie to a Welsh princess named Branwen.

Harlech Castle on its hilly perch.
Harlech Castle on its hilly perch. Peter Broster, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Frequently Asked Questions

FOR HISTORY | BEAUTIFUL IMAGES | INTERESTING FACTS | TRAVEL TIPS

Early History

The Inception

King Edward I invaded North Wales in 1282 following a conflict between the crown of England and the (at that time, independent) Princes of Wales. Edward ordered the construction of a castle at Harlech. Fifteen feet of the inner walls were built by the winter of 1283, making the castle a guarded structure. A small-scale town was also established in the vicinity of the castle.

A portrait of Edward I.
A portrait of Edward I. Dulwich Picture Gallery, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

British knight Sir John de Bonvillars was posted as the constable of the castle shortly after construction began, but he died after just two years. His widow, Agnes, took up the responsibility and held the post till 1290. The castle continued to be built under the direction of architect and engineer James of St George, it was completed by the end of 1289.

The First Siege

In 1294, Welsh protester Madog ap Llywelyn revolted against the rise of English rule spreading in Wales, and several English-held territories including Harlech Castle were besieged. The uprising was suppressed with aid from Ireland, and the castle’s defenses were reinforced afterward. Further modifications to the defense structures were made between 1323 and 1324 after the Despenser War

An aerial view of Harlech Castle in a 1610 painting.
An aerial view of Harlech Castle in a 1610 painting. John Speed, 17th century cartographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Under Glyndwr (15th Century)

A revolt, headed by Owen Glyndwr, against English rule broke out in the 1400s in North Wales during which the castle was captured. Glyndwr started living in the castle and made it the military headquarters. In 1408 The forces of Henry V besieged the castle but were unable to capture it. A year later the castle ran out of supplies and was finally captured in February 1409. 

A view of the structure of Harlech Castle's turret.
A view of the structure of Harlech Castle’s turret. Harlech Castle, Wales flickr photo by megoizzy shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Harlech Castle During the Civil War

In the 15th century, the castle was involved in a series of civil wars between the House of Lancaster and the House of York. It became a center for Lancaster’s military operations across the territory. In 1468, Edward IV ordered William Herbert to mobilize an army to seize the castle, which he did after a month-long siege.

The embrasure of the walls of Harlech Castle.
The embrasure of the walls of Harlech Castle. DSC_3387_DxO_raw flickr photo by pyntofmyld shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Another civil war broke out in the 1640s, during which the castle was brought under a long siege before it surrendered. The Parliament ordered Harlech’s demolition but only the gatehouse staircases were destroyed to make it unusable.

Current Times

The ruins of the castle began to attract prominent artists in the late 18th and 19th centuries. In 1914, control of the castle was given over to the Office of Works, which began a renovation project following the first world war. In 1969, the castle was handed over to the CADW, who turned it into a tourist attraction and are currently administering it. 

The entrance of Harlech Castle.
The entrance of Harlech Castle. Harlech Castle 16 flickr photo by Jambeau images shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Currently, the castle is a popular tourist destination attracting a big crowd of tourists each season. You can enjoy an immersive tour of the place and invest in cute souvenirs from a shop at the site!

Interesting Harlech Castle Facts

  • The location of Harlech Castle has a popular folktale tie to a Welsh princess named Branwen.
  • Considered the best example of medieval military architecture in Europe, this castle is revered by UNESCO.
  • It is said that when the castle was first built, the sea would lap at the base of its structure, allowing supplies to be easily delivered to the castle from the sea.

Visiting Harlech Castle – Tips and Tricks

Harlech Castle is an architectural jewel that should be on your must-visit list when you’re in Wales. Here’s everything you need to know about planning an easy visit:

A view of the inside of Harlech Castle grounds.
A view of the inside of Harlech Castle grounds. Harlech Castle flickr photo by wwarby shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

How to get to Harlech Castle?

From Cardiff, the capital of Wales, you can get to Harlech Castle via train, bus, or car. Going by train is the cheapest option. Ticket fares range from £107-£152 ($148-$330 USD). You would board the train at Cardiff Central and get off at Harlech, from where the castle is a 2-minute walk. The whole journey would take around 7 hours and 12 minutes. 

By bus, the route is 7 hours and 56 minutes long. You would board at Cardiff Central Station and get off at the railway station at Harlech with several stops in between. From the station, the castle is a 2-minute walk. Bus fares for this journey can vary. 

By car, it would take you about 3 hours and 17 minutes, with an approximate fuel cost of £23-£33 ($31-$45 USD)

Ticket Prices, Visiting Hours & Travel Tips

The ticket pricing is as follows: £7.40 ($6.25 USD) per adult, £24.40 ($21 USD) per family, and £5.20 ($5 USD) for children and military personnel. The entrance fee for disabled people and their companions is free. 

The opening hours from March to the end of June as well as September and October are 09:30 am to 17:00 pm. From November till the end of February, the timings are from 10:00 AM to 16:00 pm, all week round except for Sundays. From July to August, timings are 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Timings for Sundays during these months are from 11:00 am to 16:00 pm.

Harlech Castle's view at night.
Harlech Castle’s view at night. Harlech Castle flickr photo by itmpa shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

How Long Will It Take to Tour Around?

It would take you around an hour and a half to tour the whole castle.

Some words of advice and tips: 

  • Make sure to pay a visit to the gift shop and cafe near the castle!
  • If visiting in the summer, you can take a relaxing walk on the sandy coast of the nearby sea. 
  • Take a walk around the village downhill for a fulfilling experience. 
  • Parking space is limited, so make sure you arrive early!

Quick Video Tour of The Main Harlech Castle Areas

Zunaira Ghazal
Zunaira Ghazal
Zunaira is an architect and designer on paper, but a writer at heart. She’s got a Bachelors in Architecture and a passion for traveling, both of which combine in her writings about timeworn castles and fortresses that have withstood the tests of time and stand proud to this day.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

FOLLOW US

26,021FansLike
4,329FollowersFollow