Conwy Castle was built in Northern Wales in the town of the same name during Edward I’s conquest of the country during the 13th century and was built to stand the test of time.
The site overlooked an important passage on the River Conwy that led from the coast inland to the northern counties and was protected by Deganwy Castle for many years. The castle was razed, and Conwy Castle constructed nearby right on top of the high-status Welsh area in order to assert English dominance over the region.
The castle, and its grounds inside the protective walls, have been declared “the world’s finest example of 13th century militaristic architecture” by UNESCO, who govern World Heritage sites throughout Europe.
AN ARCHITECTURAL MASTERPIECE
In comparison to other Edwardian castles of the time, Conwy Castle is a very straightforward construction, a testament to the strength of the site and the assuredness of the protection it offered its occupants. The walls that protect the old town of Conwy measure almost a mile long and are guarded by no less than 22 individual watchtowers along the perimeter, making it one of the most defensible towns in Wales.
The castle itself features eight intimidating 20-metre-tall towers, capable of housing a garrison of 30 soldiers, including a dozen crossbowmen, at a time as well as providing service facilities such as kitchens and infirmaries. During the 19th century, 600 years after the castle’s original construction, several bridges were built across the River Conwy to connect the castle and its town to Llandudno thus improving access and greatly increasing tourist numbers.
WEATHERING THE STORM
The castle has withstood multiple rebellions, revolts, uprisings and sieges over its 800 years of existence, proving the integrity of its design and strength time and time again. In 1294 the castle suffered its first attack at the hands of Madog ap Llywelyn’s rebels, during which time Edward I himself was staying at the castle. The walls withheld the attacks and Edward’s forces were relieved in 1295 by his navy.
Just over 100 years later, a second rebellion engulfed the castle, driven by Rhys and Gwilym ap Tudur who gained entry by pretending to be carpenters and then killing the watchmen at night, letting the rest of their men in. The brothers held the castle for almost three months before negotiating a surrender with the King.
During the first English Civil War, the castle was put under the charge of a Royalist supporter, John Williams, the Archbishop of York. In 1645, Sir John Owen was appointed governor of the castle, leading to a bitter dispute between the two men which resulted in Williams defecting to Parliament and selling out the weaknesses of the castle’s fortifications. In 1646 the castle was taken by Parliamentary forces after a substantial siege which ruined major parts of the fortress, leaving it then to be slighted and thus put beyond military use. By the mid-18th century, the ruins were considered “picturesque” and began to attract a large number of visitors.
Conwy castle is said to be one of the most haunted places in Wales and unexplained bumps in the night are considered a matter of course. Visitors and citizens of Conwy have, over the years, claimed to have seen a black figure watching the town from the battlements and a monk that mysteriously appears in the corridors. There have been many sightings of ghostly beings dressed in period costume including one that was dressed in full battle armour. A strong smell of incense is often detected in the old chapel area even though none is being burnt.
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
Crynierth Caravan Park, Cefn Ddwysarn (Road), Bala
Gwynedd, Wales, LL23 7LN
+44 (0)1678 530 324
- Address: Conway Road, Conwy, Conwy LL32 8BD, UK
- GPS: 53.28030905767192,-3.8258263481322956
- Phone: 0044 (0)1492 592 358
- Part of UK: Wales
- Sat Nav Postcode: LL32 8BD
- Entrance Fees: Charges Apply
- Disabled Access: Good
- Visibility from Road: Good
- Image Credits: Gail Johnson