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Edward I's most impressive castle: a superb tourist attraction
Caernarfon Castle (Caernarfon)
Member Name: markos9
Caernarfon Castle (Caernarfon)
Advantages: The castle is awesome and has some excellent historical displays.
Disadvantages: Passageways and stairways can be rough and poorly lit.
Edward's castles were, at the time, marvels of technology, and struck fear into the hearts of his enemies. The magnificent monuments were designed for the purposes of both defence and attack, and saw many bloody battles. Nowadays, they all form part of one of Britain's few World Heritage Sites: "Castles and Town Walls of King Edward I in Gwynedd".
Caernarfon is easily the most impressive of Edward's castles. The site was intended as the centre of government in Wales as well as a castle and was designed in imitation of the walls of the ancient town of Byzantium, with walls of different coloured bands of stone (Edward I, apparently saw himself ruling over an empire like Rome).
The title of "Prince of Wales" was created by Edward I, when he gave it to his son Edward (who would later become Edward II), after completing the conquest of Wales in 1301. More recent Princes of Wales, including the present, Charles, were also invested at Caernarfon.
Although modern weapons rendered castles like Caernarfon obsolete, the castle is still magnificently impressive today. The limestone walls stand almost 100 feet high and the various towers and walls stand solidly, almost as if time itself could not affect them.
Today, it is, of course a tourist attraction. A family ticket costs £14.60, with an adult ticket being £4.60. There is plenty of parking in (pay and display) car parks close to the castle, so little walking is required to get there.
Kids will love the castle, but adults should get even more out of a visit here. When I visited last year, with my niece, we passed through the massive entrance gate (which must be around 15 feet tall), through the thick stone wall, and into the first courtyard.
We paused here; my niece looked around in awe, whilst I gazed at the ancient, solid, limestone walls and reflected on the weight of history bearing down on the massive stone structure; almost 1,000 years of intrigue, murder, war, as well as pomp and splendour. Living in today's world where things are constantly changing, it was humbling to be present in a place that had not changed significantly in hundreds of years.
There are two different visitor attractions in Caernarfon Castle. The castle itself, and the museum of the Welch Fusiliers.
The castle walls are honeycombed with tunnels, and there are several towers, which means that visitors can explore for hours, winding their way through the cramped, dimly lit passageways, and climbing the steep spiral staircases to reach the tops of the towers. Climbing the towers (especially the impressive Eagle Tower) gives commanding views over the surrounding town and the estuary that the castle is situated on.
It's worth knowing, however, that some of the floors of the passageways are uneven. It is easy to miss your footing and the stone floor will be very unforgiving to a person falling on it. The poor lighting does not help, either. This is not a criticism of the castle (concreting the floors and putting up florescent lighting would destroy the mood of the place), merely advice to be careful.
The central courtyard is grassed, and in good weather makes a superb picnic spot; eating a meal whilst staring at the large iron cannons dotted around is different to usual picnic sites.
There are various displays around the castle showing the history of the monarchy (and particularly Prince Charles), as well as the construction of the castle. These displays are made all the more impressive by their setting; large stone rooms, bare of furnishings.
The museum of the Welch Fusiliers is held at Caernarfon Castle, too. The fusiliers are the oldest regiment in Wales and the museum tells the story of over 300 years of campaigns and duties. The story of this old regiment is told using modern technology. The museum takes up several rooms in the castle and is well laid out and imaginatively lit.
Clearly, the story of a fighting regiment is not always going to be a happy one and some of the tales described are pretty brutal. Audio visual displays enhance the visitors' experience and bring the story of the Fusiliers to life.
The displays are laid out in chronological order, showing the regiment's uniforms, weapons, and kit, as well as letters and other personal items from soldiers who lived and died so long ago.
The museum is not the usual sort of attraction I'd visit, but I must admit to being impressed at how the regiment's story was told.
There is no restaurant in the castle grounds (there are, of course, plenty of places to eat in the town), but there is a small shop. This sells the standard tourist fare as well as some unusual local items (food, chocolate, and clothing, etc.). The prices are not cheap, but that's to be expected in a tourist attraction. The shop is worth a browse around, you may find something of interest.
Caernarfon Castle is, apparently, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Wales. After visiting it, it's easy to see why. The castle is in good condition for its age and is being sympathetically looked after and displayed. Any visitor interested in history will learn a lot. More casual visitors will be able to marvel at this magnificent structure, and explore its dark, stony depths.
If you're visiting North Wales and are looking for places to go, put Caernarfon Castle on your list, I doubt you'll regret it.
The following website has a good description of the castle, and links to how to get there:
Summary: One of Wales' biggest attractions
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