Featured image of Harlech Castle

Harlech Castle: A Historic Medieval Fortress

LocationHarlech, Gwynedd, Wales (Google Maps Location)
Open for VisitorsYes
Owned byGovernment of Welsh
Rooms AvailableNo

Harlech Castle was a part of the famous defensive ‘ring’ of castles built to strengthen the English desire to control Wales. It crowns the sheer rocky crag overlooking beautiful dunes far below. It is a classic example of concentric medieval castles skilfully built using local topography, the sea, and imposing towers to handle attacks. This castle is known to be one of the best-preserved castles in Wales and is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It is open for visitors to explore.

Harlech Castle History

Harlech Castle
Harlech Castle, by Eli Duke, is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

In the 1070s, the kings of England and the Welsh princes had conflicts related to control of North Wales. In the late 13th century, these conflicts were renewed, leading to Edward I, king of England, intervening in North Wales. His forces advanced down the Conwy valley onto Harlech. To enhance his defensive system, Edward I ordered the construction of Harlech castle, one of the seven castles built in North Wales. Its construction started in 1282. In 1285, John de Bonvillars was appointed as the castle’s constable. In 1287, he died and his wife, Agnes, took over the role. The overall construction of the castle was completed in 1289.

Over the few centuries after construction, this castle played some major roles in several wars. In 1404, it was besieged by Owain Glyndwr, the Welsh leader. The castle was used as his residence and military headquarters till 1409, when English forces recaptured it. In the 15th century, it was besieged by Lancastrians, but a few years later, Yorkist troops forced it to surrender. During the English Civil War in 1642, the castle was held by forces loyal to Charles I. They kept the castle until 1647, when it was surrendered to the Parliamentary armies.

In the 21st century, the castle is ruined because of being a part of several wars and attacks. It is managed by Cadw, the Welsh Government’s historic environment service, and is a tourist attraction.

Harlech Castle Architecture

Harlech Castle
Harlech Castle, by Peter Broster, is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Harlech castle is built on the rocky promontory with 60 metres high steep and inaccessible edges. It is the finest example of medieval military architecture of the 13th and 14th centuries. The square floor plan with massive towers on the corner of the inner wall makes it edgy. The castle’s surroundings have significantly changed in the past few centuries because the coastline moved several hundred metres away.

The castle’s structure is built from local grey-green sandstone, whereas softer yellow sandstone has been used for the decoration work. The main entrance of Harlech castle was attached to the stone bridge in the past. You can see the little remains of the bridge tower today, which is now replaced with the timber entranceway. Also, you will notice a water gate that overlooks a protected stairway of 127 steps that runs down to the cliffs.

Even though this castle is ruined, the beautiful surrounding and remarkable structure make it a must-visit place in Wales.

Harlech Castle
Harlech Castle, by Megan Eaves, is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Inside Harlech Castle

The gatehouse of the castle follows the Tonbridge design. Two D-shaped defensive towers flank it. The gatehouse has two upper floors with various rooms containing large windows.

The inner ward of the castle is guarded by four large towers. Several buildings are built around it, which include service buildings, a chapel, a kitchen, a great hall, and a granary. Little remains of battlements with triple finials can also be seen in this modern era.

The overall interiors of Harlech castle have close links with the “Kingdom of Savoy.” It includes semi-circular door arches, window styles, positioning of putlog holes, and corbelled towers. You will get a wonderful sense of history and heritage inside Harlech castle.

Harlech Castle Tickets

Harlech castle tickets and entrance fees are as follows:

  • Adults: £7.40 ($6.25)
  • Family: £24.40 ($21)
  • Children and military personnel: £5.20 ($5)
  • Disabled people and their companions: Free

Harlech castle opening timings are as follows:

  • March to end of June: 9:30 am to 5:00 pm
  • July to August: 10:00am to 6:00pm
  • September to October: 9:30am to 5:00pm
  • November to end of February: 10:00 am to 4:00 pm

Note: The castle is open on all days of the week except for Sundays (from November to February)

Harlech Castle Facts

  • The Harlech Castle’s location is popularly tied to the folktale of a Welsh princess named Branwen.
  • This castle is reserved by UNESCO and is counted as one of the finest examples of medieval military architecture in Europe.
  • The Song and military march ‘Men of Harlech’ was written about the siege of Harlech Castle.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is Harlech Castle?

Harlech Castle is located in the town of Harlech, Gwynedd, on the North West coast of Wales. It is about 5 hour drive away from London.

When was Harlech Castle Built?

Harlech Castle was built between 1282 and 1289 by King Edward I during his invasion of Wales.

Have you visited this castle before? If yes, why not share some beautiful pictures with us!
You can email us your pictures of the castle at castrumtocastle@gmail.com. Please use the name of the castle in the subject line.
Also, don’t forget to mention your name and social media profile link if you want the credits!

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