on the Isle of Anglesey and stands on Conwy Bay opposite
Bangor across Lafan Sands. It is 6 km north-east of Menai
Bridge on the A545 road.
The most technically perfect medieval castle
in Britain. Beaumaris was the last link in the chain of
coastal fortresses built by King Edward I to control Wales.
The site of the castle, on level ground not far from the
water's edge, enabled its archirtect, Master James of St.George,
to invest its concentric layout with a degree of symmetry
not attained at any of its predecessors and to fill the
encircling moat with a controlled supply of tidal water.
However, the visitor may find the castle disappointing:
it is visually less impressive than Harlech or Conwy because
it fails to dominate its surroundings. The cause of the
squatness of its skyline is that the castle was never completed:
the great towers of the inner ward were still without their
top storeys, while the turrets, which seems to have been
intended to rise here in even greater profusion than at
the earlier castles, were never so much as begun.
Beaumaris was begun in 1295 in reaction to
a Welsh rising on a site, midway by sea between Conwy and
Caernarfon, commanding the old ferry crossing to Anglesey.
The new castle was given the French name of Beau Mareys
(Beautiful Marsh). At first work progressed with speed.
Two thousand labourers dug the encircling moat, materials
poured into the site and hundreds of masons, smiths and
carpenters began raising the six towers and two huge gatehouses
of the inner ward, surrounded by sixteen towered defences
of the outer ward. In this time the castle had connections
with the sea, the old tidal dock can still be seen, though
the short channel which gave seaborne access has long since
disappeared. Any attack on Beaumaris would have presented
formidable problems: the original water filled moat forms
the first line of defence, followed by a ring of outer walls
and a series of evenly spaced towers. Should the attackers
overcome these obstacles they would then be caught in deadly
crossfire from archers and crossbowmen positioned on the
next series of walls and towers protecting the central core.
But soon the King's attention was distracted
and funds and supplies faltered. When work petered out some
thirty years later, Beaumaris was in the state that we can
see today: a magnificent incomplete white elephant and the
ultimate memorial to master James of St.George. With its
fourteen successive barriers between outer gate and inner
ward, its hundreds of cleverly positioned arrow slits, its
'murder-holes', wall passages and uniquely designed latrines,
Beaumaris is perhaps the most fascinating of all Edward's
castles to explore. The castle is on the World Heritage
Site list and in the cure of CADW.