Harlech Castle commands a cliff-top position looking out across the Irish Sea. Designed by Edward I’s master military architect, the Savoy-born James of St George, the castle was built with incredible speed between 1283 and 1295.
The concentric ‘walls within walls’ design meant that it was virtually impregnable from every angle. Though it has since retreated, the sea once lapped at the base of the cliff, offering a route for vital supplies at times when the castle was besieged.
In 1404 the castle fell to the Welsh Prince, Owain Glyndwr and for the next four years it became the headquarters of his rebellion against English rule. Eventually forces under the control of the future Henry V starved the garrison into surrender and Harlech was retaken in 1409.
When the Wars of the Roses broke out between the houses of York and Lancaster, Harlech again found itself besieged, this time by the Yorkist king of England, Edward IV. He mustered a huge army for the task, said to have been 10,000 strong, and his ultimately successful month-long siege is said to have inspired the famous song Men of Harlech.
In 1642 civil war broke out between the king and Parliament, and Harlech was occupied by forces loyal to Charles I. Once again the castle proved incredibly resilient, so much so that, upon cessation of hostilities, Parliament ordered its ‘slighting’ or destruction.
That order was only partially carried out, and today Harlech Castle enjoys UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
The recently installed ‘floating’ bridge at Harlech Castle makes access to the castle truly available for all. The bridge connects the castle with the brand new visitor centre in the former Castle Hotel building.