Easily one of the most recognizable castles in the United Kingdom, Conwy Castle in Gwynedd, Wales, is one of the most well-preserved and beautiful castles in the world. King Edward I built this castle in the mid to late-1280s under the supervision of James of St. George, who eventually went on to become Edward’s Master of the King’s Works in Wales.
Conwy Castle was part of an “iron ring” of castles, so to speak, whose purpose were to subdue the Welsh and maintain an English presence in the area. Other such castles include Rhuddlan, Caernarfon, Harlech, and Beaumaris. Edward implemented heavy-handed tactics and exploitation on the Welsh in order to control England’s western neighbors. He was the first English king to successfully bring the Welsh into the English fold and influence, but rebellions continued throughout the medieval period.
There are several reasons that these castles were successful. Some of them were built in concentric circles to provide greater defense for the castles. Others, like the castle in Conwy, were built firmly into the rock; thus, their strength came from their foundations. Conwy Castle fell under numerous ownerships during its extensive lifetime. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about it is the simple fact such a great castle has been kept in phenomenal condition and remains in use for historical interpretive purposes even now.When my friend and I toured the castle in October of 2010, we were surprised (and entirely pleased) to find demonstrations about life in medieval Wales going on. From hawking to music to arms demonstrations, we learned a little Welsh culture.
The next couple of pictures show some of the events that were going on. It really was rather spectacular to see some of these, especially since I’m a medieval/early modern English historian at heart. I kid you not, part of me really wanted to join the re-enacters at their game. Had I not been on a tight schedule that weekend, I might have just stayed a little bit longer! But in any case, my time spent in Conwy was very well worth it. The little town itself is gorgeous, and it is here where you truly get a sense of what it means to be Welsh. Everyone was extremely friendly and willing to share their knowledge and help if needed. And, even better, the poor American girls were mistaken as Canadians (well, by OTHER Canadians, that is!).
Overall, with the relatively low admissions cost of around £5, Conwy Castle is definitely a must-see if one is traveling in the United Kingdom at all. If you end up traveling to Conwy Castle, make sure to climb the towers. The sights from the tops (all 8 of them) is simply astounding!
For more information, visit:
The Castles of Wales’ Website Entry for Conwy
Tourist Website with Hours, Cost, Contact Info, and Other Information on the City of Conwy
A Short History of Conwy Castle