Newest Review: ... who was Secretary of State to the King for £100. He then adopted the title of Viscount Conwy of Conwy Castle. During the reign of Ch... more
T'was once a place for Cons
Conwy Castle (Conwy)
Member Name: arnoldhenryrufus
Conwy Castle (Conwy)
Advantages: An Historic Castle steeped in history and a lovely walled town
Disadvantages: A steep climb to get to it .
On a weekend break in November 2010 we decided to have a drive out to Conwy to see if the castle would be open and to my delight it was. The castle itself looks very impressive as you drive along the road; on our first attempt we missed the entrance and started to drive out of the town. It is a walled town so this in itself gave me plenty to get excited about as we drove around the wall, before turning back to find the car park and entrance to the castle.
~~A Touch of History~~
The castle was commissioned by King Edward I as part of his plan to encircle the area of Snowdonia with English fortresses. The new site for Conwy Castle was established in 1283, it was to be a new castle and town which was to take its name from Aberconwy Abbey; yet it has been known as Conwy right from the beginning. It was the start of May when they started work on the building of the castle in the high rock facing the river estuary. King Edward I hoped that after the long battles with the Welsh were finally over that Aberconwy would become the administrative centre of the new country, but the Statute of Wales issued at Rhuddlan on March 19th 1284 that the North Wales Territories which had been conquered during the recent war, were now to become three counties known as Anglesey, Merioneth and Caernarfon, the latter being the one to be the administrative centre, which also had a new castle and town under construction.
Pulling resources and master builders from all over Wales and England the castle and the town walls went up in just a few years and was completed by 1287 the total cost came to a staggering £15,000 which is the equivalent to £45 million in today's money; probably still cheaper than the silly money spent on some buildings today. Would you believe it, after spending all this money King Edward I only ever stayed at the completed castle once and that was not by choice, he was forced to spend Christmas here in 1294 due to local flooding.
During the reign of Edward II the castle started to slip into decline and by the time of the reign of King Edward III it was like many other Royal Castles in North and South Wales it was showing lots of decay both in the building and its supplies of weaponry and food storage; by the early 1330's it was actually declared unfit for the King to stay should he wish to visit. Although mid century repairs were made and by the end of the century it had started to decay once again; yet this did not stop Richard II and his courtiers seeking refuge here back in 1399. It took another attempt of restoration around 1520's - 30's under the rule of Henry VIII, again this was not inhabited by royalty although there were plans to use it. It was used for a time as a prison for petty felons and debtors and also an armament store.
Although the castle seems to lack the warmth of being regularly habituated the town seemed to attract well to do families as its residents. Sadly the castle continued to decay and by 1627 it had lost a lot of its lead roofing and a lot of its wooden flooring was deemed unsafe. On June 26th of this year it finally left Royal ownership and was sold to Edward, first Baron Conwy, who was Secretary of State to the King for £100. He then adopted the title of Viscount Conwy of Conwy Castle.
During the reign of Charles I some repair work started again, but by 1645 conflict began, starting with soldiers storming the castle. The conflict between royalists and parliamentarians went on until its conclusion during November 1646 when Charles I permitted its garrison to surrender, Conwy was one of the last three castles which were taken.
It was 1665 when Conwy Castle faced even more ruin, when it came into the hands of the third Lord Conwy who did not want it, so he set about getting its valuable materials like its lead roof removed; after a few months everything was removed and just the shell was left.
Over the centuries since new bridges have been built to join the town walls, the first one of these was the Thomas Telford suspension bridge built in 1826, which holds the main Chester to Bangor road through the town. New roads were developed taking you through the town and in 1953 the castle and town walls came under the care of the Ministry of Works with a 99yr lease.
Reading about the history of this castle I felt quite sad for it, such a majestic building that has stood for centuries, but has never truly been loved especially during its first few centuries. From what I read now it appears that its historic value and the building itself are finally getting the love and attention it should have got from the beginning. I do feel that some historic royals built for the sake of building and sadly leaving them to rot; which is such a shame.
I do love old buildings whether it is a small house or a large stately home or castle; so I was really looking forward to our visit. The road was a duel carriageway and there were no problems reaching Conwy, I was so interested in looking around at the lovely views and seeing the castle in front of us that I missed seeing the turning for the entrance and we ended up continuing along the road following the town walls. It is quite a majestic sight, very beautiful as you approach it, I love the way the bridge actually becomes part of it.
The castle itself dominates the entrance into Conwy and once we turned around we made our way back to the car park and the entrance to this lovely castle. The car park is not that big and although it was very much outside the tourist season it was still full, we managed to find a space and made our way to the gift shop, which doubles as the entrance and exit to the castle grounds. Once we had purchased our tickets we went through the glass doors onto a pathway which led you up the steep incline taking you to the castle entrance. Hubby, bless him always worries about me being able to walk and the incline here did concern him, but my shear bloodymindness and the adrenaline rush from seeing an old building got me to the top albeit a little breathless when I got there. The pathway was quite smooth going up the incline was quite smooth, unlike the pathways on the actual castle grounds which were very uneven, large cobblestones and could be quite dangerous for someone with walking problems. I did trip once or twice, but I tend to shuffle when my legs and back get tired and sore.
The North West tower is a great example of some of the architecture of the time, you can see how each room had a large airy window where you could sit, and these were to allow light and air into the rooms. These would have had iron bars on them as well to keep unwanted visitors out. There are also very small narrow slits which were barred and known as 'loops', again these were here for added security and sadly they didn't let in much light. On this side of the castle is a very good example of the masonry cover to one of the 'latrines' which they would have used in their day.
'Put holes' can be seen where the builders would have secured the wooden beams. It is totally amazing to look for these as you go around the castle ruins, letting yourself imagine what it must have been like to have built this. I mentioned loops before; there are bigger ones as well which they call 'arrow loops' so you can imagine what these were used for, obviously the defence of the castle.
It is quite impressive as you walk around the ruins, and look around the rooms letting your imagination try to see how they would have looked in its day. There are plaques around and pictures to help you see what it would have been like, you also have your guide book to help you. I loved the beautiful arches you saw, they always make me think of the skills that went into constructing them.
There were parts of the castle that I couldn't physically get to as for one reason, my hubby won't let me risk trying to climb naturally uneven and worn staircases and a lot of these were extremely narrow as well. So for the majority of our visit we stayed on the one level, only occasionally going down wide and few stairs to some sections because hubby could help me and stop me from falling. I noticed that the prison tower was very narrow and there were large ledges leading to the window, you could get a few bums side by side on the ledges.
I am always amazed by the kitchens in old buildings and here was no exception where you can see holes in the walls, which would have been for storing food. The guide book informs me that the kitchen and kitchen tower would have also included a brew house and bake house all under the same roof.
I am like a child let loose in a sweet shop looking in every room and reading any boards that are available feeding my mind with information as I drag my poor husband around with me. He would prefer to see a stately home which is furnished rather than the ruins of a castle. I love to see how such an old building is still standing, even though it is just a shell now, with the help of guides and the information at hand I can see and sense what it would have been like.
The chapel was lovely and to me it still had a regal and spiritual feel to it with its large lancet windows, the roof above these windows was amazing. The castle and the wall contain a massive 22 towers, I know you can go up some of these, I am not sure if you can climb all 22 or even it you would want to. Sadly I didn't go up the towers, but as the castle is on a hill you still got some spectacular views without going up a tower.
We only spent a few hours walking round the castle grounds, but I enjoyed looking out for the little signs of how it had once looked and enjoyed the ruins; the walks back to the gift shop was down hill so wasn't too bad for a tired body.
The gift shop was just like most gift shops selling over priced gifts and memorabilia to encourage you to part with your pennies. It was very warm in the shop which was nice on a cool November day.
After our visit we both needed to use the toilets before heading back to our hotel, the toilets were down a long set of stairs and there was no lift, so I used the disabled toilet which was outside the main entrance. Personally I was extremely disappointed in the toilet facilities, it was as bad as a lot of public toilets with the metal bowl and I think (if I remember correctly) it had no seat on it. I know I was very uncomfortable and if I could have waited I would not used it. My husband wasn't that impressed with the gents toilets either.
There was a little cafe next door to the castle as you came out onto the car park, I cannot comment on it though as we didn't stay to try it.
~~Opening Times ~~
1st April - 30th June - 0930 - 1700 daily
1st July - 31st Aug - 0930 - 1800 daily
1st Sep - 31st Oct - 09.30 - 1700 daily
1st Nov - 28th Feb - 10.00 - 1600 Mon - Sat
11.00 - 16.00 on Sundays
1st Mar - 31st Mar - 09.30 - 17.00 daily
It is closed on 24th, 25th and 26th December, also closed on Jan 1st.
~~ How much? ~~
Adults - £4.80
Concessions - £4.30
Child - £4.30
Family Ticket - £13.90 admits 2 adults and up to 3 children under 16yrs.
~~ Directions ~~
You can get to Conwy via the A55 and the B5106; it also has its own railway station which is next to the castle grounds if you prefer to go by train; which maybe an idea as someone actually reversed into our car on the car park knocking our bumper out.
For your Sat nav the address is
5 Rose Hill St
~~ Overall ~~
I am glad I didn't read up on the castles history prior to going, as I mentioned earlier this castle had quite a sad history and that would have spoilt the fairy tale image I had of the wonderful medieval castle. It is in ruins and has been for many hundreds of years, but it still contains many years of history and can you imagine the stories it would tell and the things it has seen in its life time, if only it could talk. In a way it can talk, the ruins of the castle and the little bits of wood and the holes where the beams would have fitted all tell a story of the work and craftsmanship that went into making this building, that with the help of the boards and the guidebook telling you about its history you soon build a picture of how it once was. So as you look around the grounds remember the castle is speaking to you and sharing with you its history and how people would have lived all those years ago.
If you like history and architecture then this ruined castle is a must visit.
Everything true as of May 2011
Thank you for reading
Lyn (Arnoldhenryrufus) xx
Summary: An Historic Castle steeped in history and a lovely walled town
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