town of Conwy with its castle is on the main coast road
(A55) from Chester to Holyhead.
Conwy castle is one of the most picturesque
of Welsh castles and a masterpiece of medieval military
architecture. The castle and town walls, now in the UNESCO
World Heritage List as site of outstanding universal value,
were built by Edward I between 1283 and 1289 and helped
to complete the conquest of the Welsh princes in North
Throughout the 13th century, the tides
of war between the Welsh and English swept first one way
and then the other: Gwynedd (native name of North Wales
region) reached new heights of power and influence in
the 1260's under the leadership of Llywelyn ap Gruffud
but in the war of 1282/83 Edward I undertook to end the
independence of the country. Methodically he conquered
Gwynedd and the English castles still proudly standing
here are a testimony to the fear and respect in which
the Princes and their people were held by their conquerors.
In Conwy, the castle's commanding position
on a rocky outcrop overlooking the estuary dictated its
very size and shape and gave it great military might.
Tools and labors were commandeered from Chester to assist
in its construction and the design and direction of the
building were undertaken by James of St.George, the greatest
military architect of the day. Taken toghether the castle
and the town walls of Conwy, planned as a single unit,
are the most impressive of all the fortresses raised by
King Edward I to subdue Wales. Over 1,2 km. long, the
town walls defended the largest of Edward's Welsh frontier
towns with their 21 towers and 3 gateways ingeniously
served as a circuit breaker, allowing attackers who scaled
the intervening walls to be cut off and slain. The town
walls also acted as the outermost defenses of the royal
castle, an imposing compact eight-towered stronghold surrounded
by water on three sides. Nearest the town, the castle's
own outer ward housed the garrison then, doubly
defended by town wall and outer ward, came the king's
private apartments in the castle's inner ward, its tower
still crowned by turrets for the royal standards.
In the 15th century the castle was taken
for a short period by the Welsh when two of Owain Glyndwr's
lieutenants captured the town, but it was later recaptured
by Lord Herbert during the War of the Roses. During the
Civil War, the castle was garrisoned for the King in 1646
but after a siege of three months it was taken by the
Parliamentary army. In 1685, Charles II granted it to
the earl of Conwy who subsequently ordered all the iron,
timber and lead to be taken down for sale.
Today the castle is in the care of CADW.
We can walk along the town walls and admire the breathtaking
views of the castle in its idyllic setting between
the blue waters of the river Conwy's estuary and the mountains
of Snowdonia, that has attracted the attention of visitors,
artists and writers for centuries: Conwy's triumph of
medieval fortress-building is not to be missed by any
visitor to Wales!